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Some time ago, I read a Time magazine article on the science of romance that referred to several scientific results seeking to explain the mating rituals of the human species. One of those was published in the journal of “Evolution and Human Behavior” that I now decided to look for. Fortunately this work, included in the November 2007 issue, is available for free.

It is a fascinating work. Researchers at the University of New Mexico proposed to register the tips received by lap dancers along the days of their menstrual cycle. As the authors assume that the scholars are unfamiliar with the gentleman’s club subculture, they begin by describing the operation of these clubs and what the dancers have to do to bring customers to spend the usual US$10 tip for lap dance in the main room or US$20 for the comfort of a VIP room.

For this study 18 dancers were recruited for 60 days, covering a total of 5300 dances, on 296 daily shifts lasting for an average of 5 hours. The woman’s hormonal cycle was divided into 3 phases: the menstrual phase (days 1 to 5), the fertile phase (days 9 to 15) and the luteal phase (days 18 to 28). The results show that the dancers that were not taking the pill received on average US$335 per shift in the fertile phase, 260 in the luteal phase and 180 in the menstrual phase. The dancers taking the pill had significant difference between the income in the fertile phase and the luteal phase. These results contradict the view that the human estrus have evolved to be lost or hidden from males as a result of the monogamous social organization that characterizes our species. Furthermore, these results are particularly relevant for being based on the economic value assigned by the customers.

In addition to the various issues raised in the article, an additional got my attention: how to justify the costs of a such a study to the funding entity? I can imagine the astonishment of the auditors of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology while examining the eligibility of the receipts of payment to gentleman’s club dancers. Anyway one thing seems certain to me: there would be no difficulty in finding research assistants to work in the project.