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Do Our Facial Features Say Anything About Our Sex Lives?

Psychoanalysis and animal biology might have something to say about it

There have long been myths about how one can guess what another person’s genitals look like without actually seeing them — via hand or shoe size, for example. Analyzing facial features, however, has been used as a method of determining various aspects of one’s sex life for decades, as well. Some studies have linked specific facial characteristics with sex drive, while others link shared features to mutual attraction. 

But does the face really say anything about how we have sex, or is it just pseudoscientific bullshit?

Depends on who you ask. In a 1959 issue of The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, psychoanalyst Nathan Ross proposed that in the unconscious mind, the entire face could serve as a symbol of the genitals. Both, he wrote, have the display and release of feelings and the discharge of libidinal tensions among their primary functions. More modern psychological interpretations of face-genital connections discuss how people tend to be more attracted to those who look like their own parents, or moreover like themselves. While this could easily be given a psychoanalytic reading of its own, evolutionary psychologists assert that it’s the product of sexual imprinting. Among animals, sexual imprinting is the process by which sexual preference is developed at a young age, with primarily family and parents as models. 

Numerous studies over the last decade on how this plays out in humans have asserted our attraction to ourselves, finding that people tend to match more with those who share similar facial features as them, and that people display preference toward photos of others edited to look more like themselves. 

But what does any of that actually say about our genitals? Well, probably just as much as our hands or feet do. We know that genital size is broadly determined by genetics, but there’s no concrete connection between that and other genetic features. Other studies, however, have discovered that broad facial characteristics can be correlated with sex drive. One, published in 2017 in Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that those with shorter, wider faces tend to have stronger sex drives and be more sexually motivated than those without. 

Based on what we know about sexual imprinting, it’s possible then that people who share these qualities would indeed be more sexually attracted to each other. With their similar sex drives, they could also end up being an appropriate sexual match. 

Like the whole hand-foot-penis theory, there’s not much evidence to say that the face will really reveal much about the finer details of how we have sex. And why exactly should that matter, anyway? Seeking mates based on the width of their face or thinking too much about which person in the bar looks most like your mom or dad will surely take the joy out of it. You can confront the horrifying realization that all of your partners look exactly like your short-faced siblings later.