Violence & The Pill

Angela Lanfranchi, M.D.

~ “there is evidence that use of oral contraceptives alters a woman’s baseline preferences for men such that Pill users prefer men who are relatively genetically similar to them in the loci of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC).”

Implicating the Pill, ie. oral contraceptives, in the violent deaths of women by their intimate partners will raise eyebrows and hackles no doubt.  That is why medical references are included in this post.  A large body of scientific literature supports just that: the reality that the Pill by altering a woman’s choice of intimate partners leads to a higher risk that she will die a violent death.  Look it up.  It’s sad but true.

A 1992 article in the Journal of Trauma reported that the most common cause of non fatal injury among women was violence by an intimate partner.  More disturbingly, intimate partner violence accounted for one third of the women murdered in the United States.

We have known since the 1980s that violence and accidents was the second leading cause of death among women who take the Pill.  In 2010, the Hannaford study published in the British Medical Journal that women on the Pill were more likely to die a violent death than those women not taking the Pill.  They also found that the longer a woman took the Pill the higher her risk of a violent death.

Although the authors of the study could not explain these findings, a letter to the editor published March 13, 2010 by S.Craig Roberts of the University at Liverpool  shed light as to the reason for this disturbing result.  He stated, “I suggest that recent evolutionary insights into human partner choice provide a clue.”  He stated that there is evidence that use of oral contraceptives alters a woman’s baseline preferences for men such that Pill users prefer men who are relatively genetically similar to them in the loci of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). In other words, they prefer men who are genetically very similar to them.  These are the same genes tested to see if a person is similar enough to someone who needs them for a transplant.  They choose men who could be a very close relative.

The unions of MHC closely related couples were studied and it was found that the women rejected sexual advances from their partner more frequently than couples who were MHC dissimilar.  Another consequence of being partnered with relatively MHC-similar men is that women expressed lower sexual responsivity toward their partner compared to women in relatively MHC-dissimilar couples and they reported having more “extra-pair partners”. In other words, in their relationships they had fewer sexual encounters, wanted sex less and were more likely to engage in infidelity or adultery.  Less sex, bad sex and infidelity is a recipe for a bad relationship and conflict that could easily lead to even deadly violence.  It is not a surprise that the leading cause of death of pregnant women is homicidal violence.

Another stressor on these MHC similar unions is that they are less fertile and the children they have were found to have more health problems, just as is found in populations that marry close relatives.  Costly prolonged fertility treatments and the care of a sick child can also wreck havoc on relationships.

Conversely, other studies have shown that men find women who do not take the pill more attractive.  When asked to rate a woman’s attractiveness from pictures while experiencing the scent obtained from women on and off the Pill (using arm pads in open glass jars placed near them), men consistently rated the women more attractive if they were off the Pill.  That could explain why young women feel the need to dress more and more provocatively.  An intern remarked that now she had an explanation for a saying:  “I got on the Pill when I became sexually active.  Now I take the Pill and don’t have sex.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, 82% of women in the U.S .are taking or have taken the Pill.   This is a huge problem. Perhaps, the use of the Pill should be reconsidered.


Kellermann AL, Mercy JA (1992) Men, women and murder: gender-specific differences in rates of fatal violence and victimization. Journal of Trauma 33: 1-5.

Ramcharan S et al J Reprod Med. 1980 Dec;25(6 Suppl):345-72 The Walnut Creek Contraceptive Drug Study. A prospective study of the side effects of oral contraceptives. Volume III, an interim report: A comparison of disease occurrence leading to hospitalization or death in users and nonusers of oral contraceptives.

Hannaford PC, Iversen L, Macfarlane TV, Elliott AM, AngusV, Lee AJ. 2010. Mortality among contraceptive pill users:cohort evidence from Royal College of General Practitioners’ Oral Contraception Study. British Medical Journal 340: c927

Roberts, S Craig, BMJ March 13, 2010 Rapid Responses available at:

Roberts SC, Gosling LM, Carter V & Petrie M (2008) MHC-correlated odour preferences in humans and the use of oralcontraceptives. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 275:2715-2722.

Alvergne A, Lummaa V (2010) Does the contraceptive pill alter mate choice in humans? Trends in Ecology & Evolution25: 171-179.

Garver-Apgar CE, Gangestad SW, Thornhill R, Miller RD & OlpJJ (2006) Major histocompatibility complex alleles, sexual responsivity, and unfaithfulness in romantic couples. Psychological Science 17: 830-835.

Havlicek J, Roberts SC (2009) The MHC and human matechoice: a review. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34: 497-512.

Kyriacou DM, Anglin D, Taliaferro E, Stone S, Tubb T,Linden JA, Muelleman R, Barton E, Kraus JF (1999) Risk factors for injury to women from domestic violence. New
England Journal of Medicine 341: 1892-1898.


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