Red Heads


Many features of humans are sexually dimorphic, that is very different between male and female (size, facial shape, hair growth, etc). We have the oft complained about double standard between expected and rewarded male and female behavior.

One of the less acknowledged differences is the relative attractiveness of male and female red hair.

While not universally admired to the degree blonde hair is, Many men consider female red hair an attractive feature. While individual men may not be particularly attracted to redheads, few would have revulsion towards an otherwise attractive female.

For men, however, red hair seems to be a negative. I have never heard of a red-haired fetish amongst women. I am not sure if there ever has been a red (gingery not light brown) haired male sex idol. Why is this? Naturally, I have some theories (I often have theories).

Fair Ladies and Tall, dark strangers.

While blonde and gray haired men can find favor with the ladies, I presume there is a reason for the “tall, dark, and handsome” meme. If we consider fair skin more ladylike then perhaps there is a negative association with fair skinned men. Perhaps darker skin was a sign of rugged, outdoors, warrior type (the opposite to the genteel indoors female). Some studies have shown that (for White males, at least) brown eyes appear more dominant. Some studies have also linked blue eyes with greater inhibition, obviously not an attractive trait in a male. Perhaps it is not the hair color, but that traits that accompany it that lead to the discrepancy; red hair is brings with it less “alpha” traits.

Sensitive Souls?

Although the Mythbusters “busted” this, other studies have shown that red heads are more sensitive to pain. The brain processes physical and emotional pain in the same place. I wonder (I can point to no studies) if this greater pain sensitivity might also lead to greater emotional sensitivity on the part of red heads. If it did that would be bad for males while being attractive (or at least acceptable) for females.

Genetic Freaks?

Red hair comes from a recessive gene that causes a mutation on the M1CR protein. If we notice and are attracted features related to health, then perhaps we notice and are repulsed by features that reflect abnormalities. In the same way that small asymmetries unconsciously (I doubt we could point them out, even if we notice them) affect how attractive we find people, perhaps signs of inbreeding or genetic mutation are unconsciously unattractive. Men may tend to more out group breeding while women tend to be more risk averse in this regard. Such differences would account for the difference in relative attraction.
[Of course, the above is wild speculation. I am not implying that all red heads are inbred (the various royal families are probably worse), only that it may have once signified some kind of clannish or outsider status.]

Sum Up.

This does break the general principle that to be attractive, women need to be near average (other than appearance) while men need to be different than average (stand out). I really do not know why there appears to be a discrepancy in the attractiveness of male versus female red hair.


Brown eyes make men appear more dominant

Red heads feel more pain

The link between emotional pain and physical pain.

Red heads and pain, busted?

Wikipedia entry on red hair (describes its genetic origins)

Hair Raising Poll

While the totals are (of course) public, nobody can see who chose what option. If you have gone gray, please use your original color. Pick the option that seems closest. For women, please choose your natural color (remember nobody can see your choice).

The Guys

The Gals


11 Responses to “Red Heads”

  1. brightstormyday Says:

    I used to have brown hair with bits of red in it. I was a redhead for a few months as an infant. Then it all fell out and grew back dark.

    I’ve recently dyed it so it’d be like my hair when I was a lot younger, brown w/ red.

    My mom has a theory that there’s a chance of a redhead child being born if a brunette and a blonde have a kid. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’ve seen it, along with other variations (black haired father, redhead mother, all blonde children). I’ve found some men with red hair attractive. I also like blonde men.
    [DU: If red hair is carried by a recessive gene then anyone could be a carrier but not have red hair themselves. Anyone with any North European heritage is more likely to have red hair somewhere in his family tree. I know some kids that started blond but had it darken as they got older (by six or seven).]

  2. namae nanka Says:

    “Women have a higher pain tolerance than men.”

    no. mythbusters need to use some logic with their results here:

    and apparently it’s only the red headed women who are different:

    “It turns out that processing pain involves a receptor which, when mutated, produces red hair and fair skin, among other changes. This receptor—the MC1r receptor— was initially thought to occur only in the skin. However, it has now been found in the brain, and there, in women, it’s part of the pathway that processes pain.”

    It’s MC1R protein.

    [DU: Even if I enjoy the show, I never take Mythbusters too seriously. With two red heads (Adam Savage and Kari Byron) on the team, we have to take their red hair and pain result with a grain of salt.]

  3. namae nanka Says:

    I can’t recall crying due to pain, not even when a brick opened a gash on my head and a green nurse had to undo the stitches on my head and she screwed up royally. I had to calm her down, and I was barely 12 ffs.

    That BBC article had an interesting bit:

    “Thinking he would go mad with grief, he sought help from David Alexander.”

    sorry, but I couldn’t help laughing.
    [DU: LOL. You know I had not noticed. I had seen other articles, but that was the first one I found searching for a reference to list. I just skimmed it. The article goes on: “David warned me against golddiggers and explained that my problems related to me being, what he called, ‘beta’.”]

  4. namae nanka Says:

    and some testimonials by gingers themselves:

    and caligula was a ginger too? gingers do some funny shit, no wonder they are treated so. 😀

  5. Ulysses Says:

    I’m dark headed and married to a dark headed woman. We have a really redheaded daughter and a strawberry blond. (My mom is a redhead and my dad’s side apparently carries it as I have some redheaded cousins. My wife has redheads on her side as well.) Even with the genetic probability not that unthinkable, I’m still shocked that we produced two who display that recessive trait.
    [DU: Less than seven percent chance, if I am correct (.25 × .25). I do hope that an understanding recessive traits save you some embarrassing moments :>]

  6. brightstormyday Says:

    Well yeah, anyone with the recessive gene can have it, but my mom seems to think the dark hair/blonde pairing is more successful (only second to actually having a redhead parent).

    I think because redhair can show up if you have a blonde gene and a red mutant gene or something like that.

    I’m not sure.
    [DU: That makes sense. Both blond(e) and red hair relate to levels of various melanins.]

  7. namae nanka Says:

    The article goes on: “David warned me against golddiggers and explained that my problems related to me being, what he called, ‘beta’.”

    haha he can cure a lot of men, by the depressing the hell out of them.

  8. Ulysses Says:

    Nah, no embarrassing moments, though I did almost have to explain it to the anasthesiologist in the delivery room when our first was born. Too much else was going on for me to bust out a Punnett square.

  9. chicnoir Says:

    I don’t hear this sort of talk about red among blks. I think this hatred of red heads comes from England. You can find a few red head African-Americans(and some albino Nigerians), I’ve never seen or heard blk women “throw salt” at blk men with red hair. I’m sure you guys have seen blk women wearing red hair. I’ve been a red head before.

    *chic noir growls at default*
    [DU: There are also a Jewish people with natural red hair (ethnically Jewish, not converts). I think the anti-ginger sentiment in England revolves around the fact that they associate red hair with Scottish and Irish heritage, so it is partly in the form of an ethnic joke. Due to the Celtic influence, red hair is more prominent in Britain than many other places. There is far less anti-ginger sentiment in the US but I still think general opinion would put it as less attractive than other hair colors.]

  10. Bhetti Says:

  11. Default User Says:

    @Bhetti and Chic

    Bhetti: 🙂

    Chic: Didn’t you post a video of “gingers” being rounded up as if in some kind of police state? I cannot remember the title though.

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