'Deep and manly, gentle and breathy – killer voice combo'

What makes a voice sexy?

By asandil Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 07:30
A sexy voice is a breathy one – a man’s or a woman’s. That’s where similarities end about what’s hot in a male or female voice. We find some voices sexy because they give us clues about the speaker’s looks, according to a British study.

Men are turned on by women’s voices that are breathy and high-pitched. More technically, the voices have lots of space between what are known as ‘formants’ – the peaks of energy in speech.

In the study, men and women listened to different voice recordings of members of the opposite sex and then rated them for attractiveness.

When men hear a breathy, high-pitched female voice, it triggers an image of a woman they’d probably be attracted to. They imagine a person with a small body in a cheerful mood.

Manly but gentle

Women also find men with a breathy voice sexy. This came as a surprise to researchers. The other things that make a man’s voice attractive – a low pitch and not a lot of space between formants – are characteristics linked to a large body size and also to anger and aggression. Breathiness, on the other hand, pretty much signals the opposite traits – small and friendly.

The researchers reckon breathiness could be desirable in men because it makes them seem less threatening. The killer combination is deep and manly, but breathy and gentle.

Voice is what science calls a secondary sex characteristic – it gives us all sorts of information about the person speaking. In other Love Matters’ stories we looked at whether you can tell a cheater by their voice, and what a man’s voice says about his sperm count.

Animal attraction

The latest British study was the first to provide important clues about why some voices are more attractive than others. The animal kingdom can help explain why – breathiness aside – what’s hot in a man’s voice is not in a woman’s. Animals and birds get information from the sounds made by other creatures. Low-pitched, harsh sounds signal a big aggressive animal. High-pitched, pure sounds imply submissiveness.

Men might have evolved longer vocal folds and vocal cords – which give them characteristic low-pitched voices with little space between formants – to make them sound bigger and tougher so they’d have a better chance at competing for females.

Women, on the other hand, might have evolved in the opposite direction, with their vocal cords and vocal folds getting smaller and smaller to make high-pitched voices with widely-spaced formants. This creates the image of a small, submissive person that would attract males, the study’s researchers explained.


What kind of voice do you find sexy? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.

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