If a recent study in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology is any indication, researchers have been trying to uncover the link between male facial attractiveness and fertility (assuming there is one) for a while now, and the results have been mixed. This new study, though, suggests that (1) yes, overall, more attractive guys have healthier semen, but that (2) the more conventionally masculine a guy’s face is, the less healthy his semen.
This was a big, messy study that involved taking sperm samples from students, measuring the quality of said sperm samples, and having a bunch of other students — some in Colombia, some in Spain — view photos of the donors and rate how attractive they found them to be as a potential long-term partner. (Guys were asked to rank how attractive they thought the faces would be to a straight female, since everyone involved in the ranking was heterosexual.)
All in all, the researchers found the attractiveness-sperm quality link that some past research and certain theory (basically, that women are to a certain extent subconsciously attracted to fertile guys — which, yes, problematic and an oversimplification in certain contexts) suggests. But they also found that a strong proxy for facial masculinity — cheekbone width — was negatively correlated with sperm quality: more masculine face, lower quality sperm, although that relationship dropped out of statistical significance when researchers excluded from the data the handful of unlucky dudes with truly unhealthy semen.
The researchers don’t offer any definitive explanations for this connection. They suggest that it could be that more masculine-looking guys have more sex and therefore don’t need as high sperm quality to get someone pregnant (the ultimate goal in the we-are-all-animals context in which this research exists), whereas less masculine guys have fewer opportunities and need to make the most of them. But that only makes sense if you assume that masculine guys but not handsome guys are having more sex, because again — handsomer guys did have higher sperm quality.
There were a couple of other interesting tidbits: Guys ranked the faces significantly more highly than women did — more evidence for the established idea that guys overrate others guys’ attractiveness to women. Also, “Spanish raters gave significantly higher attractiveness ranks than Colombian raters.” So adjust your vacation plans accordingly.