FOR WOMEN: The Problem of a Woman in Red

Woman red dress portrait isolated on white background. SmilingWe all know the old folklore about a woman in red. Men love her. In fact, plenty of research supports this and explains why. When dressing to meet a man they are attracted to, women are most likely to wear red, and men perceive women in red as more sexually receptive.

But new research looks at mate-guarding and the color red, and the story is a little different. First of all, “mate-guarding” is a term coined by evolutionary psychologists and it simply means protecting one’s mate around potential suitors, or “mate-poachers.” Research has also shown that the best way to mate guard is to devalue a competitor. Women will say awful things about even their closest girlfriends if they think their boyfriend or husband thinks she is attractive. It’s called trash talk, ladies and it’s an age old human mating strategy. And there are two ways that women are particularly adept at devaluing other women. They either call her a slut, implying that she wouldn’t be a loyal mate for a long term relationship, or they call her frigid, implying that I guy will waste his time and his money and not obtain sex. Of course, the risk for women is calling a woman a slut when their boyfriend might only want a short-term affair!

And all this happens more when women wear red. A new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows that women with partners are particularly threatened by a woman wearing red and will trash talk her more. My advice? If you are about to meet your best friend’s new man, wear black or white. But definitely not red.

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