Love & Sex

Women Can Put on a Sexy Voice, Men Can’t

Pin it

She's (vocally) hot. He's (vocally) not.

Woman can intentionally modulate their voices to be sexier, (well hello there, Scarlett Johansson) but according to new research, published yesterday in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, dudes don’t have the same gift. When ladies were instructed to “speak as if they were trying to impress someone with whom they were romantically interested” — to flirt, as we call it in the wild — they had no problem sexing up their voices to be more appealing to male subjects. Almost uniformly, they got low and husky. Almost uniformly, it worked: women’s ability to manipulate their voices to seduce potential mates seems to cut “across cultures and time,” says Susan Hughes, Albright College psychology professor and lead author of the study.

When men tried to dial up their vocal charms to impress the ladies, though, things didn’t go so well. If anything, dudes’ conscious attempts to enhance their vocal sex appeal made them less alluring to female subjects. “It got a bit worse,” Hughes says, tactfully. Sorry, gentlemen.

Or maybe not so sorry, because the study suggests that men have other vocal tactics to woo potential mates. While women are better at making their voices sound attractive, guys are better able to make their voices sound “confident” — at least, to female listeners. And according to Hughes, that might fill the same evolutionary niche. When dudes are looking for potential partners, they’re placing a lot of emphasis on women’s attractiveness. One sign of that attractiveness? A hot voice, which apparently “predicts attractive body and face characteristics.” Meanwhile, women looking for love “place an emphasis on a prospective mate’s earning potential,” and earning potential, the researchers say, relates directly to confidence. Women are sexy if they sound attractive. Men are sexy if they sound rich. (The findings of this study sound like relics from a previous era.)

This newfound knowledge, researchers say, has potential to be useful “in the professional fields of public speaking, acting/entertainment, customer service, and advertisement.” Also, vocally seducing people at bars? The Journal of Nonverbal Behavior seems to have left that one out.

Image via Dan Queiroz