Redheads have more romantic partners, says a new study by Czech researchers

Research seems to indicate that expectations of potential partners, based on stereotypes, play a role in the romantic life of redheads.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 18.10.2021 18:00 (updated on 19.10.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Researchers at Charles University in Prague have determined that some stereotypes about redheaded women are true, but that a form of social feedback – and not a genetic component – is likely responsible for the situation.

Redheaded women tend to be the subject of various stereotypes about their supposed sexually liberated behavior, according to the authors of a study called by the unwieldy name “Redheaded Women Are More Sexually Active Than Other Women, But It Is Probably Due To Their Suitors.”

“Similar to other minorities, redheaded people are subjected to various stereotypes. Redheaded women are thought of as being more temperamental than other women and, unlike redheaded men, they are often stereotyped as sexy, passionate, sexually liberated, or promiscuous,” the researchers stated, citing several previous studies.

Women with red hair – sometimes called gingers, though the term can be seen as derogatory – account for up to 9 percent of the female population in Europe, with the highest ratio in Britain.

Red haired woman. (Photo: iStock, CoffeeAndMilk)
Red haired woman. (Photo: iStock, CoffeeAndMilk)

The study tried to first determine whether a connection between red hair color and higher sexual behavior really exists, and then find an explanation. The researchers – Kateřina Sýkorová, Vojtěch Fiala, Jana Hlaváčová, Šárka Kaňková, and Jaroslav Flegr – looked at the behavior of 110 women with a mean age of 27.3, of whom 34 percent were redheaded, and 93 men with a mean age of 31.8, with 22 percent redheaded.

The main part of the research took place in late 2018, so the Covid pandemic was not a factor in people’s behavior.

They found that redheaded women did show higher sexual desire, higher sexual activity, earlier start of sexual activity, and have more sexual partners over the past year. Redheaded men, though, saw no boost in their sex lives based on hair color.

The reasons behind the higher sexual activity for redheaded women were the main focus of the research. It could be something inherent to being a redhead, such as a genetic factor linked to hair color, or it could be an external factor.

The research team looked at several possible scenarios such as different hormone levels compared to women with other hair colors, specific health factors related to red hair, redheads’ own perceptions of stereotypes about them, and redheads’ responses to outside factors such as the amount of attention they received from potential partners, who in part based their behavior toward redheads on stereotypes.

But the effects of hormones, health factors, and self-perception weren’t supported by other data. The researchers went on the state that the higher sexual activity and higher number of sexual partners of the preferred sex in redheaded women were not driven by their higher sexual desire.

“These results indicate that the apparently more liberated sexual behavior in redheaded women could be the consequence of frequent attempts of potential mates to have sex with redheaded women,” the researchers stated.

The model looking at potential mates, usually men, taking the active role seems to explain the link between women’s redheadedness and their higher sexual activity. “If men preferred redheaded women or, based on prevailing stereotypes, anticipated greater likelihood of success in their attempts to have sex with women with red hair, they would do so relatively more frequently,” the study states.

“It would automatically lead to a higher sexual activity and a higher number of sexual partners of redheaded women even if their sexual desire was average or even lower than average,” the study added.

Another possible explanation relies on social feedback to explain the higher sexual activity in redheaded women. “If potential mates tried to have sex with women with red hair often on the first date or early on in the courtship, redheaded women could start to consider it a social norm and begin to respond more positively to such behavior or even initiate sexual activity themselves,” the researchers stated.

“Because redheaded women would perceive such behavior as a social norm, they might be more sexually active even if they did not like it and were unfamiliar with stereotypes about more permissive redheaded women,” the researchers added.

The researchers, though emphasized that the sample was small and possibly not fully representative. “Our observations should be generalized with caution,” they concluded.

Worldwide, red hair is the rarest hair color. It is found in 1 percent to 2 percent of the population, with greater frequency in Northern and Northwestern Europe, and much less in Southern Europe. In the Czech Republic, red hair is more common in the northwest of the country, near the border with Germany.

In Italy, for example, it is in about 0.6 percent of the population. Red hair is associated with fair skin, and a higher likelihood of contracting melanoma, a type of skin cancer.  

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