Sarah E. Johns, evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Kent, who led the study, said: "Our results really challenge the commonly held view that the colour red promotes sexual attractiveness by acting as a proxy for female genital colour."
"However, we found that men showed a strong aversion to redder female genitals. Our study shows that the myth of red as a proxy for female genital colour should be abandoned," said Johns, the journal Public Library of Science ONE reports.
"This view must be replaced by careful examination of precisely what the colour red, in clothing, makeup, and other contexts, is actually signalling to men.
What it isn't signalling is female sexual arousal," added Johns, according to a Kent statement.
A team from Kent's School of Anthropology and Conservation including Lucy A. Hargrave and Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher, generated 16 images of female genitalia by manipulating four photographs of the human vulva to produce four subtle, yet different, colour conditions ranging from pale pink to red.
These images were then presented to 40 heterosexual males with varying levels of sexual experiences who were asked to rate the sexual attractiveness of each image.
The results showed that the men rated the reddest shade significantly less attractive than the three pink shades, among which there were no significant differences in rated attractiveness.