Figuring out what men are attracted to is relatively easy. Men assess attraction primarily visually: we are attracted to younger women with pretty faces, bigger boobs, some curves, and fit bodies. Sure, a few guys have fetishes for other stuff, or some “nice guys” might deny it. But, science, polls, raw online dating data (see Dataclysm), the behavior of women (make up, photo tricks to look thinner with bigger boobs, etc) and uninhibited private male behavior (i.e. the extreme popularity of 18-21 year old thin girls in pornography) all confirm it. I’m not making a case that this is moral, right, or leads to quality relationships: I am just stating the facts of raw, initial attraction. And, men can certainly grow to like a woman based on personality traits.
What women find attractive in guys is an altogether different matter. It seems like women are more confusing about what they prefer. Do women prefer physically attractive guys like David Beckham or Chris Hemsworth? Yes. Or do they prefer certain personality traits like confidence over looks? Yes. Or do they like guys with money? Yes. Famous guys? Yes. Manly men? Yes. Metrosexuals? Yes. Bad boys? Yes. Felons? Yes. Tall guys? Yes. Who the heck knows??? Yes!!!
The unifying factor seems to be that women find guys attractive that have power, or “status,” “social dominance,” or “the ability to provide and protect.” I (kind of) made this connection to power in a past article directed to shorter guys when I mentioned women probably are really looking for testosterone instead of height, but that height may be a “quick indicator” for high testosterone. It is very possible that the “power” I am going to discuss is simply a synonym for a man with a lot of testosterone (and low levels of the stress hormone cortisol), since leadership and testosterone seem to go together.
Heather Remoff, who wrote about her own research in the book “Sexual Choice: A Woman’s Decision- Why and How Women Choose the Men They Do as Sexual Partners,” agrees that power is the main factor women find attractive in a man. This may sound shallow or antiquated from a female perspective, but it really isn’t. Replace the general term “power” with traits like “independent,” “not a mama’s boy,” “well-educated,” “in control of his life,” “confident” and suddenly I think many women will nod their heads in agreement that they like men like this. In fact, many of these traits were specifically mentioned in Remoff’s research.
The attraction to power explains why women’s sexual preferences are so elusive. According to Remoff, “power” is subjective, and it depends on what an individual woman associates with power. I believe this is a mix of biology and social factors.
So for some women, it could be a man’s age, but for others it could be his income. Some women may associate power with a guy being a daring bad boy in a leather jacket, or even a criminal, while others see their stable professors or teachers as the ultimate sources of power. Still others may view fame as an ultimate source of power, or a man’s marriage, or perhaps him being her manager at work. Some guys can go from “friend” to “crush” in her mind through a one-off act that signifies power, like standing up to an authority or being heroic under pressure. Other women are attracted simply because he is a “man in uniform.”
This also explains why certain male physical traits are preferred among women. In the older parts of the brain, men seem to be attracted based purely on visual input, whereas women take visual inputs as indicators of a guy’s power. For example, masculine faces (signaling strength), pretty eyes (think eye contact), a deep voice, charm, tallness, and being muscular are all good indicators of power, since these help a man achieve power.
The desire for power may be why women are more attracted to images of guys looking serious as opposed to smiling, or even why a book like Fifty Shades of Grey is so popular despite being taboo for a variety of both conservative and liberal reasons.
Why power? Power indicates a man has the ability to care for the woman and her offspring. Evolution seems to have worked to ensure that men are attracted to fertile women (young women with a .70 waist to hip ratio are more fertile than fifty year old overweight women) and women are attracted to men that can ensure she and her child are protected in the wild. This all may seem crazy in a modern egalitarian environment where women don’t need “protected” from much of anything, but in the context of hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution, it makes perfect sense.
Most of these desires aren’t even consciously considered, since they are seated in older parts of our brains, making the reality of attraction seem even more irrational. No wonder the ancient Romans viewed romantic attraction as the result of getting randomly shot by a mischievous baby-god.
The biggest male losers in this “game of attraction” are low-status men, or even guys with status but who fail to convey it. The quiet and passive guys who are simply “cogs in the machine” of life and at work (or aren’t even that) lose out. Even some high-status guys can be pretty poor at actually conveying power, which is why some millionaire nerds can’t get a date, despite waving their money at women.
So, while we suggest guys look their best, increasing their perceived power is a better strategy for becoming more attractive and admired. In fact, a recent study confirmed that a dominant personality was a better predictor of the number of male sexual partners than being classically good looking. So, let me repeat that: being powerful is a better strategy for getting a date than looking good (for guys at least). I should note that neither we nor this study are suggesting rape or sexual assault is power or a dominant personality. Physically forcing yourself on a woman, i.e. acting without consent, is illegal and immoral.
If we had to describe how we help guys, it is really helping guys increase their status and power. Truthfully, since attraction happens in older parts of our brains, a guy doesn’t even have to actually have power; he just has to project it. This is why we suggest guys “fake it until they make it,” through body language changes and development of their “avatar,” discussed in Chapter 6 of our book Be Popular Now.
Faking power is easy really, with certain body language and attitude modulations (intelligence, charm, humor, etc). This is why a bad-boy Wal-Mart stock-boy could come across as more attractive to his female co-workers than a socially awkward millionaire tech start-up owner awkwardly asking for her help in the automotive department. However, the best strategy to project power is to fake it and make it, by actually getting accomplishments. The millionaire tech nerd who develops some social skills will ultimately be more attractive long-term than the reckless Wal-Mart stock-boy who will be burnt out (or dead) by thirty, neither very attractive to women.
So guys, you have to have power and convey it to ultimately be a master at dating. And, the more angles of status and power you can work (physical, income, authority), the more likely you are to succeed with a diverse group of women.
Step one is to develop general displays of power, like assertiveness, confident body language, dressing sharply, and being charming. Step two, done concurrently with step one, is to cultivate positions of power and status within your social, hobby, and career circles.
This combination of self-development will have women practically throwing themselves at you. If you don’t believe me, think of Justin Bieber, who despite being shorter than average and slightly awkward looking, represents power to millions of pre-teen and teen girls, or even Donald Trump, who despite his goofy comb-over and obnoxious attitude (and ugliness) dates models that would never give most guys the time of day.