Women Like Men to Win Fights, Say Some Fish

by Liz Colville

Female cichlid fish show signs of anxiety when a male suitor loses a fight with another male, and the parts of their brain associated with pleasure and reproduction light up when their preferred suitor wins the fight. Why is this news? Who are fish, in the grand scheme of things? Anyhow, in a world where physically defending yourself is sometimes the only way to survive, isn’t it perfectly reasonable that these lady fish would be concerned if Their Man cannot win a fight? Do the lady cichlids ever step (paddle) in and help the guy out, or break it up? What areas of her brain light up when that happens? Feminism clearly has not yet reached the African lakes where these creatures live. Then the lead author of this study said something kind of odd: “It is the same as if a woman were dating a boxer and saw her potential mate get the crap beat out of him really badly. She may not consciously say to herself, ‘Oh, I’m not attracted to this guy anymore because he’s a loser.’ But her feelings might change anyhow.” Huh. I can see why they probably don’t want to perform the same study on humans, but come on! It’ll be fun!