The latest bit of news coming out of EvPsych is a perfect distillation of the field. To wit:
Love songs may rhapsodise “something in the way she moves”, but a sexy walk is not a sign that a woman is ready to become pregnant. In fact, a new study suggests that the way a woman walks changes during her monthly cycle, and that the most seductive wiggle occurs when she is least fertile. As such, a woman’s walk is just another of her feminine wiles, experts say, designed to put off unsuitable partners from a distance.
If she flaunts herself too openly at fertile times, she could be made pregnant by an unsuitable man, so women may have an evolutionary interest in sending out mixed messages, says Meghan Provost and her team, from Queen’s University, Ontario.
So what do I find amusing about this? Well, consider what the story would have been if the findings had been the opposite.
Not getting it? Okay, let me try: "A new study suggests that the way a woman walks changes during her monthly cycle, and that the most seductive wiggle occurs when she is most fertile. As such, a woman's walk is just another of her feminine wiles, experts say, designed to attract suitable partners from a distance."
You see? It's perfect! No matter what the results, they can be skewed to show that women were using their gait to unconsciously attract men! Never mind that, since walking is partly a learned behavior, gaits actually differ across cultures. And never mind that the study doesn't actually show anything at all -- women must be sending coded signals about their availability in everything they do, and those signals must be tied to fertility. It's EvPsych 101.
But what you've really got to love here is the idea that this is a defense about rape. Didn't quite catch that? Well, they left it subtle -- simply mentioning "undesirable mates." After all, a woman should, in principle, be able to avoid undesirable mates by spurning their advances. So why would a woman need to repel men who were "undesirable?" Why, to keep rapists from raping them when they were fertile, of course! Oh, sure, rapists would rape them at other times, but it wouldn't be as successful.
It almost makes one wish women had simply evolved the vagina dentata and been done with it.
In the end, this is a silly, pointless, and unconvincing study that doesn't really prove anything, save this: it reinforces the idea that women are sexual objects, there literally for the taking, and that their only recourse against rape is subterfuge; the study, taken directly, says that women are going to get raped, and the best they can hope is to not conceive due to rape.
In short, like all pieces of EvPsych, this study reinforces patriarchal norms. And the beauty is no matter what result they'd come up with, it would have done so.