Player or Boyfriend? It’s Written On His Forehead

July 31, 2009

Wouldn’t it be great if you could take one look at someone’s face and know if they were relationship material? It turns out that people are remarkably accurate at predicting just that. A study at Durham University in England showed that Boyfriends look significantly different than Players. Check out this example:


At first I thought these were pics of the same guy, with the one on the right having been altered in some way. Actually, they are both composites of 17 different people. Lefty is made up of guys who are only interested in a long-term relationship. Righty includes men who are looking for a one-night stand.

The study asked 700 heterosexual college students to separate the Keepers from the Throwbacks, and found that they got it right 72% of the time. The implications of this are dramatic:

The face a man is born with reflects his level of interest in commitment. Why? Testosterone.

Men with higher testosterone are more interested in no-strings sex. And they have markedly different facial characteristics, including:

  • larger foreheads
  • pronounced brow ridges
  • smaller eyes
  • larger noses
  • squarer jaws

These are the traits often associated with masculinity. A featured specimen:

Clive Owen

Clive Owen








Men with softer features are more likely to be interested in relating emotionally:

Matthew Fox

No woman in her right mind would turn down either one of these guys for a Hit and Run, but I would definitely choose Jack/Matthew Fox to be the father of my babies!

Here are the female composites:









In this case, the men overwhelmingly preferred the photo on the right, who they correctly surmised was more interested in a fling. Apparently, large, wide eyes, large lips and small jaws correlate to interest in short-term sex. They also correlate to modern cultural standards of beauty. It may be simply that for women, the more attractive you are, the more sexual opportunities you have.

Some other interesting findings:

  • Men nearly always picked the Party Girl, regardless of what kind of relationship they were seeking.
  • Women are much more interested in the male who appears to be seeking a long-term relationship.
  • Women found promiscuous looking guys unattractive for both long and short-term relationships.
  • Women are quite good at predicting which female composite is looking for NSA sex.
  • Men showed little ability to differentiate between the preferences of the two male composites.
  • The study confirmed previous findings that women are more likely to consider masculine men cheaters or bad parents.
  • High estrogen loves high testosterone. Just before ovulation, women have higher estrogen. During this time, they might feel more attracted to high-testosterone men.

What does this mean for you?

1. You can, and should judge a book by its cover.

2. Female intuition is real and powerful.

3. Steer clear of jocks, frat stars and other meatheads if you’re looking for love. Theoretically, they may be good at passing strong survival genes on to your potential offspring, but are less likely to stick around and help raise them.

4. It’s more proof that geeks make good husbands.

5. Emo/sensitive guys are better relationship risks.

  • “Jay”

    The pictures say a lot… that I mean they are VERY similar….meaning you CAN’T judge a book by it’s cover….I’ve been surprised by many women on their sexual habits/morals. I’m glad to find a blogger that actually writes about something interesting though. I think this is my third article I’ve read from you and have found them all to be interesting although I think you’re missing some male sided info…..

    • Hi Jay, welcome, and thanks for leaving a comment. Yes, the pictures are very similar, and most women have no idea what clues to even look for, so it probably has no real significance for behavior. In general though, the highest testosterone guys are pretty obvious, and women should be at least aware that these men are not as oriented toward commitment, and are much more inclined to demand sexual variety.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts. As for male sided info, I’m working on that. Writing more posts for guys, and also learning a great deal from men in the comments. Please do keep commenting, I really appreciate learning how men feel about sex and relationships.

  • Vegas Vic

    In your article you state that, “Steer clear of jocks, frat stars and other meatheads if you’re looking for love. Theoretically, they may be good at passing strong survival genes on to your potential offspring, but are less likely to stick around and help raise them.”

    First of all, I am in a fraternity and am extremely popular. However, I am also jewish and if I was a father I would NEVER leave my wife and children because it’s important that children have a strong family base they can rely on. Without my parents, I don’t know where I would be today.

    Second, just because someone is part of a group doesn’t mean they’re behavior is going to lean one way or another. Tell me, is every jew rich? Is every black person in a gang? Does every chinese person know to fix a computer? The answer to these questions is NO!

    One study is not representative of the entire male population, and in addition, is not indicative whether or not they will make good partners for they’re wifes, and vice versa. You can’t tell by looking at someone what kind of person they are without getting to know them first, let alone, whether or not they would make good partners.

    • @Vegas Vic
      A generation ago, before the advent of no-strings sex as the norm, frat guys and athletes were highly desirable mates and were willing to be in real relationships. Today most of them use their status as a convenient shortcut to pump and dump. And the numbers don’t lie – 85% of sexual assault claims on campus are aimed at these two groups of men. This doesn’t say anything about you personally, but surely you know that many of your peers fit this description.

  • Driven

    So glad you have the guts and gall to say it like it is Susan….”Vegas Vic” isn’t living in reality, like so many these days….poor parenting will the the downfall of our civilization…..

  • Tom


    I know you think the nice guys have to wait in line for 2nd and 3rd marriages, but I think that’s a gross exaggeration. Nearly ALL of my women friends married good guys the first time around, though they played around with a lot of One Nighters first.

    Wait I thought sluts didnt have a good chance at good guys???…Now I am confused.

    • @Tom

      Wait I thought sluts didnt have a good chance at good guys???…Now I am confused.

      Don’t forget, Tom, I’m 54. I was coming of age at the dawn of the Sexual Revolution. Many, if not most women experimented with the newfound freedom, and men generally didn’t hold them accountable – free love was politically correct.

      35+ years later, the SMP has changed dramatically. In my recent post about losing out by putting out, the young guy is rather typical today. It really, really bugs him that the girl had sex with him on day one. As women become more and more promiscuous, men become more and more uncomfortable about it. And the men who don’t have the opportunity to be promiscuous are the most judgmental of all – research clearly shows that men do not want partners with more sexual experience than they have. It’s a non-starter. That’s why I’ve said that alpha guys are most likely to be OK with a high number of previous partners – for some of these guys, it’s rounding error compared to their own exploits.

  • Tom

    I agree with Vagas Vic…..

    Not all athletes are sex maniac pump and dumpers…A stupid few spoil the image of many. I WOULD say that there are probably more bad boy athlete alpha types than in the general population percentage wise….But by no means does that include ALL.

  • Ellen

    I’m confused by the female facial composites. The eyes and lips look the same size to me, and the girl on the right actually appears to have a notably larger jaw and chin, not smaller.

    I also would have guessed that the face on the left was more closely aligned with current standards of beauty. Mostly because of her smaller chin.

  • WERw

    I just wanna say I hate when people read some scientific papers and make life revelations about what they (and others) should do now:
    “3. Steer clear of jocks, frat stars and other meatheads if you’re looking for love. Theoretically, they may be good at passing strong survival genes on to your potential offspring, but are less likely to stick around and help raise them.”

    It’s just insane how naive is that and its just pure strenghtening of stereotypes. It reminds me of a movie Gattaca: a movie that answer the question what happens when people believe in science too much and design their choices according to it.

    How about next year you read some more complex study, actually questioning this nr3 statemens ? then you will recommend complete opposite ? fortunately people have their own minds and dont change opinions with the wind so easily.

  • blah

    you know what i find frustrating- i work as a stripper and at work guys are always telling me i look “innocent” and that i look like “relationship material” or “marriage material” and even get turned down for dances because they “respect me too much.” and guys want to know my freaking life story before they spend any money on me. Oh and they always assume i MUST have a boyfriend, as if it was sooooo easy to get a guy to commit to you. they even go as far as saying they would LOVE it if i stalked them or acted needy towards them.

    Yet in REAL life, i have NEVER heard “i love you,” not even as a lie to get me into bed, NEVER been proposed to, have had few boyfriends and they have NEVER lasted longer than a year, and most men arent interested in getting to know me, they just want to rush into bed with me. I dont know if the dim lighting at the strip club is just making me look “less slutty” whereas natural light makes me look “more promiscious” but i am fed up with all the contradictions.

  • Famly Values Meathead

    I like to lift weights and I look a bit like a caveman, but I was raised with traditional values. It has been my experience that girls are more interested in me for one night stands than for a relationship and it kind of sucks. I’d prefer to settle down, but it seems the only young girls that are interested in that are fundamentalist Christians.