Women Who Wear Red Are Seen As More Sexually Threatening

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Photo: Monalyn Gracia/Corbis

Red is a color with quite the lusty reputation. From Jessica Rabbit’s iconic gown to the alluring undersides of Louboutin heels to the red light district, there’s no other color that screams seduction so loudly.

Past studies have suggested that women who wear red are seen by men as more sexually attractive, and women, in turn, are more attracted to men who wear red or who are seen in front of a red background. A new one published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin points to a not-so-shocking side effect: Red also affects how women perceive other women.

Female participants in the study were asked to compare photos of a woman wearing red, white, or green. They were then asked to rate how strongly they agreed with statements about the woman's sexuality (such as “This person is interested in sex”) on a sliding scale, from “not at all” to “definitely,” as well as to rate statements about how faithful the woman seemed, how likely they (the respondents) would be to let their significant others spend time alone with her, and how financially stable she appeared.

Turns out, the woman in red was rated considerably higher on the sexuality scale. (Whether or not the participant was in a relationship had no significant effect on their responses.) She was also seen as less faithful, and as more of a threat to the respondents’ relationships with their significant others. (For whatever reason, there were no differences on the financial measures.)

Researchers aren’t sure exactly why red is such a sexy color. This question has tended to attract psychologists’ attention mostly because red has such a strong association with sex elsewhere in the animal kingdom — female baboons’ red bottoms, for instance, signal readiness for breeding.

Whatever the reason, though, one thing’s for sure: You’ll turn heads in that red dress, but don’t be surprised if you make a few enemies, too.