Why Are Guys With Deep Voices So Sexy?

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Every year on Valentine’s Day, radio stations put Barry White and other deep-voiced male musicians in heavy rotation with the hope of getting their listeners “in the mood.” This is perhaps not surprising, given all of the research indicating that heterosexual women find deep voices to be a real turn-on. Not only do women typically rate men with lower-pitched voices as being more attractive than men with higher-pitched voices [1], but women also seem predisposed to pay more attention to deep voices. In fact, research finds that women actually have an easier time remembering things when they are said by a man with a low-pitched voice [2]. But why is this the case? What’s so compelling and sexy about a deep voice anyway?

Most research addressing this question has pointed to an evolutionary explanation.  The basic idea is that having a deep voice may be a sign that a guy is good baby-making material. The reason for this is because deep voices (which typically coincide with having a more muscular body shape [3]) result from exposure to high levels of testosterone, and high levels of this hormone are linked to better health. Specifically, guys who were exposed to more testosterone tend to have stronger immune systems. Thus, it is thought that women have evolved a preference for guys with low-pitched voices and other masculine features because those men's genes can help produce children who are more likely to survive.

So having a deep voice is an adaptive advantage, right? Well, yes and no. One the one hand, research has found that men with lower-pitched voices report having had more sexual partners than their higher-pitched counterparts [4]. At the same time, however, other research has found that having a deep voice is linked to lower quality semen (specifically, a lower sperm count per ejaculate) [5]. Thus, while having a deep voice may make you appear more attractive and potentially help you get more action, it will not necessarily translate to a boost in your fertility. As with most other things in life, it seems as though no one can have it all.

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[1] Collins, S. A. (2000). Men’s voices and women’s choices. Animal Behaviour, 60, 773-780.

[2] Smith, D. S., Jones, B. C., Feinberg, D. R., & Allan, K. (2012). A modulatory effect of male voice pitch on long-term memory in women: evidence of adaptation for mate choice? Memory & Cognition, 40, 135-144.

[3] Evans, S., Neave, N., & Wakelin, D. (2006). Relationships between vocal characteristics and body size and shape in human males: an evolutionary explanation for a deep male voice. Biological Psychology, 72, 160-163.

[4] Hughes, S. M., Dispenza, F., Gallup, J. G. G. (2004). Ratings of voice attractiveness predict sexual behavior and body configuration. Evolution and Human Behavior, 25, 295–304.

[5] Simmons, L. W., Peters, M., Rhodes, G. (2011). Low pitched voices are perceived as masculine and attractive but do they predict semen quality in men? PLoS ONE 6(12): e29271. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029271

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (user King William)

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