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Men think women who have a tattoo on their lower back are more likely to have sex with them, according to selfless French researchers who studied human mating habits on a beach in the south of France using attractive women in bikinis as their test subjects.

The brave researchers carried out two separate experiments using 11 women considered to be of above-average attractiveness. The "confederates," as the study refers to them, lay face down on the sand wearing a bikini and reading a book.

Each woman visited the beach 20 times for one hour at a time, but for half the visits they had a temporary tattoo emblazoned on their lower back.

The results were categorical: More men approached a woman when she had the tattoo than when she didn't, and the approaches happened sooner during the one hour the woman was on the beach.

In a subsequent experiment, the women lay on the beach while researchers approached passing males, pointed to one of the women, and asked the men what they thought. While the men said the women were equally attractive with or without a tattoo, they thoroughly believed that a woman with a tattoo on her lower back was more likely to say yes to a date, and more likely to have sex on that date.

The lead researcher, Nicolas Guéguen, told Pacific Standard magazine that the study raises further questions, because previous research has shown that adults who get tattoos and piercings tend to be more sexually active that adults who don't.

"As [Guéguen] notes, this raises a chicken-and-egg question," the magazine reports: "Does a tattoo really signal greater openness to sex, or do tattooed women simply get solicited more often, increasing the odds of them becoming sexually active?"

Or are men just idiots who buy into media stereotypes about "tramp stamps?" Looks like the researchers will have to spend more gruelling hours on the beach.