All the nice girls love a sailor, as the old ditty taught us. And for sailor, also read soldier and airman - or frankly any chap in a uniform exhibiting a spot of derring-do.
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For a study by the University of Southampton, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, has found that women are more likely to find war veterans the most attractive when presented with hypothetical male profiles representing heroism across different scenarios.
Those who boasted humanitarian endeavours were not rated as highly, nor mere jocks. For all their posturing on the sports field, odiferous Lycra has nothing on a starched dress uniform or a pair of well-filled combat trews.
Alas, this was found to apply only when said chap wasn't a chapess. When the tables were turned, heroism was not found to be a sexually attractive trait in women. Joost Leunissen, one of the study's authors, remarked: "This provides evidence for the hypothesis that gender differences in inter-group conflict can have an evolutionary origin, as only males seem to benefit from displaying heroism."
Translation: despite having moved on from our cave phase, men still score points by hitting each other with rocks, while women are expected to swoon.
Both genders clearly harbour something of a weakness for uniforms, as anyone scanning the shelves of the nation's fancy dress shops will ascertain. A friend who was a lavatory attendant tells me the penchant did not extend as far as his overalls, however, while the number of women who lust after a man in a traffic warden's outfit also seems strangely limited.
My brother's fawn suede slacks and green-shirted rig-out when a gamekeeper certainly attracted a good deal of feminine attention, on the other hand. Still, add a military dimension and the allure of a man in uniform goes off the scale.
Armed and dangerous
Leunissen and Co may be on to something when they maintain that there is something profound and atavistic underpinning such an appeal. An otherwise cool-headed lawyer friend, who has had more than one run-in with Her Majesty's Armed Forces, sighs: "I don't say this sort of thing out loud, but I love the idea of someone who can look after himself - and me - should the situation arise. Plus there's the 'throw down' aspect of being with someone who's able to pick you up and carry you off to bed, a la Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman. Mortifying to admit, but totally hot."
A hot-as-Hades former Royal Marine tells me: "I once went out with a girl I'd met at a comrade's wedding. There were six of us in our No.1 uniform with swords and peaked caps and we formed the usual guard of honour outside the church. She was later reported to have eyed us and declared: 'I want one of those.' I like to think she got what she wanted."
Another dashing warrior reports: "Girls are always tucking their numbers into mounted dutymen's jackboots. I once had one try to break into the Captain of the Queen's Life Guards' flat. I'm sorry to say, we gave her marching orders."
Even those of us who lack the requisite Tarzan and Jane fantasies can have nothing but admiration for the superior stuff of which military types are made. Now that National Service is a thing of the past, our Armed Forces really are a species apart in terms of maturity, experience and situations encountered.
I took a look at a soldier friend's resume recently and was in awe of how much he had achieved by the age of 28. Kevin from Accounts may think he has transferable skills, but Kevin from "a regiment in Hereford" is a rather more imposing package.
Men - straight ones included - are not immune to such appeal, either. The 1986 film Top Gun retains a slavish male following, with its bromance-cum-homoeroticism that sees fighter pilots talking about riding each others' tails while striding about in leather.
I once took a general in dress uniform to a party and he was mobbed by men and women alike, drawn like magpies to his shiny buckles and buttons, much to the chagrin of the many urban warriors in combat gear.
So why, then, do men not fall for the superheroism exhibited by serving women? Clearly a sense of emasculation is the reason, to which I have a one-word answer: evolve. Not that our amazons care one jot.
A retired RAF officer - and one of the most stunningly beautiful women I have ever encountered - confirms that a girl in uniform inspires not lust, but castration anxiety. "Still," she laughs, "given that we represented 30 per cent of the force, dating civilian boys really wasn't something I needed to do. I had my pick of rather more impressive types. It was like shooting fish in a barrel."
The Telegraph, London