By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 2 February 2012)
What do women find attractive in a man? A number of researchers have tackled this question, with some surprising results.
A Men’s Health Survey of more than 1,000 women between the ages of 21 and 54 found that when it comes to “hotness,” the top five physical traits were:
- Sense of style (30%)
- Handsome face (26%)
- Height (15%)
- Muscular build (13%)
- Overall fitness (12%)
Style was described essentially as wearing good clothes and touchable fabrics. This characteristic may be more important than muscles to many women because it reflects a man’s socioeconomic status. However, it should be noted that personality traits such as sense of humour (77%), intelligence (55%), passion (46%), confidence (41%), and generosity (38%) were sexy to a greater percentage of the women than any particular physical characteristic. Skills such as listening (53%), romancing (48%), and being good in bed (35%) also received top marks, as did characteristics such as faithfulness (84%), dependability (75%), kindness (67%), moral integrity (66%), and being a (potential or actual) good dad (51%).
What else do women find attractive in a man? Research indicates that the nonphysical characteristics that make men more attractive to women include:
- Kindness (Sprecher & Regan, 2002)
- Agreeableness (Jensen-Campbell, Graziano, & West, 1995)
- Intelligence (Hatfield & Sprecher, 1995)
- High status (Townsend & Levy, 1990)
- Emotional stability (Buss et al., 1990)
- A good-humoured nature (Bressler, Martin, & Balshine, 2006)
Whelan (2010) found that women’s top-10 traits (ranked in order of importance) for choosing a male partner are:
- Love and mutual attraction
- Dependable character
- Emotional stability, maturity
- Desire for home, children
- Education, intelligence
- Pleasing disposition
- Ambition, industriousness
- Good health
- Good financial prospects
As for the purely physical, an amusingly thorough series of studies conducted by Dixon et al. (2010) found that women prefer men with average to muscular builds, find men with less body hair more attractive, and prefer the appearance of average-sized penises to larger-than-average or small genitalia. However, it should be noted that the women were simply rating men using two-dimensional images – much of what people find physically attractive stems from the ways in which people move, speak, and interact, so it’s possible that some of the less-liked men would have been viewed more favourably in real life, and that some of the preferred males would have been far less attractive in a real-world interaction.
- Bressler, E.R.; Martin, R.; & Balshine, S. (2006). “Production and Appreciation of Humor as Sexually Selected Traits.” Evolution & Human Behavior, 27(2), pp. 121-130.
- Buss et al. (1990). “International Preferences in Selecting Mates: A Study of 37 Cultures.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21(1), pp. 5-47.
- Dixon, B.J.; Dixon, A.F.; Bishop, P.J.; & Parish, A. (2009). “Human Physique and Sexual Attractiveness in Men and Women: A New Zealand-U.S. Comparative Study.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(3), pp. 798-806.
- Hatfield, E., & Sprecher, S. (1995). “Men’s and Women’s Preferences in Marital Partners in the United States, Russia, and Japan.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 26(6), pp. 728-750.
- Jensen-Campbell, L.A.; Graziano, W.G.; & West, S.G. (1995). “Dominance, Prosocial Orientation, and Female Preferences: Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(3), pp. 427-440.
- Jones, L. (n.d.). “The Top 20 Traits Women Want in a Man.” Men’s Health, MensHealth.com.
- Sprecher, S., & Regan, P.C. (2002). “Liking Some Things (in Some People) More Than Others: Partner Preferences in Romantic Relationships and Friendships.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19(4), pp. 463-481.
- Townsend, J.M., & Levy, G. (1990). “Effects of Potential Partner’s Physical Attractiveness and Socioeconomic Status on Sexuality and Partner Selection.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19(2), pp. 149-164.
- Whelan, C.B., Dr. (2010). “Rank Ordering of Mate Preferences Across 7 Decades, by Participant Gender.” ChristineWhelan.com/research.