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Do redheads really have more sex?

August 16th, 2006

Dr Petra

We all know the saying that blondes apparently have more fun, but today a new catchphrase for hair colour was born: ‘redheads have more sex’.

This is according to research from a Hamburg sex researcher Dr Werner Habermehl who studied the sex lives of German women and compared sexual activity with hair colour.

He claimed that redheaded women were more sexually active, had more partners and more frequent sex. He also added women who dyed their hair red were signalling they wanted a sexual partner, with the rather worrying comment: “Even women in a fixed relationship are letting their partners know they are unhappy if they dye their hair red. They are saying that they are looking for something better”

Predictably the press picked up on this story, but is it as scientific as it seems? Well possibly not. For a start, whilst we’re told in media coverage a ‘professor’ completed this research we’re given no indication of where the professor works, how the research was completed, or who was selected for study. It also seems to be a ‘straight to media’ story – so not something that’s being published in any reputable peer reviewed journal.

Press coverage also mentions the research involved studying ‘hundreds’ of German women – but how many exactly? That remains a mystery. In order to make sense of this research we really need to know how many women were studied, how they were sampled, and what proportion of them have red hair (natural or dyed).

The study’s reported as a ‘survey’ in some of the press, but again that’s not really clear. Were the participants asked to comment on their sex lives in a survey – and if so, how? Did they reflect on their current or past sex lives, and how were they asked about hair colour? The questioning over hair colour and when it appeared in the research could have an impact on priming participant answers.

Finally the researchers appear to have taken frequent sexual activity for pleasurable or good sex that may not be the case. You can have infrequent and fantastic sex, or be at it a lot but not enjoy it too much. And since this study was only limited to women we can’t really conclude that redheads have better sex – only that a subsection of German women with natural or dyed red hair report more sexual activity than other German women.

There’s something ethically very dodgy about a scientist that jumps way beyond their data to claim that dying your hair signals a relationship crisis.

As someone who’s dyed her hair all shades of red and ginger in the past (ranging from pinky-red to bright orange) I can’t say that it made a huge difference to the amount of sex I had. And this study comes as a real disappointment to my partner – a natural strawberry blonde – who hadn’t noticed that hair colour was a passport to passion.

It’s interesting since historically red hair has a mixed reaction. Whilst it has connotations of passion and a fiery nature, it was seen as unlucky in the past – and still viewed with suspicion in some cultures today.

And what do they mean by ‘redhead’? Red can run the spectrum from bright ginger to deep auburn – with the former often viewed negatively and a source of teasing for ‘gingers’. This study clearly didn’t account for these factors. In fact, I can’t really work out the purpose of the research at all.

Nevertheless this seems scientific enough to persuade journalists and already I’ve had several women’s magazines get in touch to report on this new finding. Good news for hair dye specialists, great content for lifestyle features, and bad social science overall.

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