Figuring out what men are attracted to is relatively easy. Men assess attraction primarily visually: we are (generally) attracted to younger women with pretty faces, bigger and shapely boobs, some curves, and thinner and fitter 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 what I just said. 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.
Men who dress sharply? Yes.
Bad boys? 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, even the strongest of feminists, 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 charismatic 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 a guy is a “man in uniform”or a rugged country boy.
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 sexual partners for men than being classically good looking. So, let me repeat: 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 controversial attitude, goofy comb-over, and ugliness, dates models that would never give nicer and more attractive guys without a goofy comb-over the time of day.
While fairly normal throughout most of history, relationship and attraction age gaps are a controversial topic these days. Sometimes society barely bats an eye, like when young women swoon over hot older celebrities. In other instances, the reaction may be creepy, like when a fat old guy gets caught checking out a college girl.
I’m not going to tackle the question on whether large age gaps are natural here in depth (even though I think, based on strict evolutionary psychology and biology, they are). However, I do want to provide some background research and highlight a recent study.
An OKCupid analysis showed that men of all ages (yep, all ages) find women in their late teens and early twenties the most attractive, and guys regularly message women much younger than their “looking for” information suggests (see Dataclysm by Christian Rudder). Guys still, however, generally date women closer to their own age. So apparently most older men would gladly enter into a relationship with a much younger woman if given the chance.
One recent large, cross-cultural study showed the concept of “cougars” is largely a myth, and that women still prefer dating older men, and men prefer younger women. And, common experience is that women are more likely to date much older men than men are much older women, although large age gaps in general are pretty rare.
So, it seems that age gaps in attraction and even relationships aren’t going away any time soon. None of this shocks me because it makes sense when understanding the evolution of human attraction. Women prefer men with status and power, and a quality older man (in shape, confident, in a good job, etc) will naturally have more of this than most younger guys. However some people like to shame women who like older men as having “daddy issues.”
Well, a new study suggests women who date much older men have no “daddy” issues, and have the same type of attachment women in similar-age relationships have. In fact, I believe that the whole “daddy issues” put down is usually used by older women and younger men who are jealous. Older women get jealous because a quality older man isn’t dating them, and younger men are because an older man has taken a younger girl from the dating scene.
So, ladies, keep crushing on Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt. It’s perfectly natural, and not a reflection on you or your relationship with your dad. Although if you are twenty and start dating a ninety-year old, I admit, I might at least give you a slightly shocked look.
When I was younger, I dated a girl named Abby (not her real name). She was beautiful, and also extremely flirtatious. Sometimes the things that would come out of her mouth that surprised my younger self. Even though I had a sense that she liked me (she did tell me that), at other moments it seemed like she didn’t, since she would blurt out phrases that seemed designed to get a rise out of me.
The reality is that she wasn’t trying to get a rise out of me so much subconsciously evaluating whether or not I was worthy of her romantic energy. Even if she didn’t know why she was doing it, she was. Why would a woman test a guy she seems to like in this way? And why do some guys seem so taken aback by it?
To understand, let’s get out of our modern world and go back in time to when our brain structures that handle attraction evolved, hundreds of thousands of years ago. In the jungle, desert, or wherever your ancestors lived, life was different. This was before police forces, government welfare programs, and daycare services were there to take care of people.
In terms of human reproduction, women have evolved to thoroughly evaluate a man before committing to him. The common saying is “eggs are expensive; sperm is cheap.” If a woman commits to a guy, she is gearing up for nine months of pregnancy followed by even more years with the guy providing for her and their child. If a guy isn’t able to provide and protect, then neither of their genes survive, and survival is what evolution is all about. Men and women are both wired to find traits in people attractive that promote reproductive success.
So, to simplify things, if a guy can’t handle a little “shit” (or for those in redneck areas like mine, “sheeeeitt”) from a woman, then he certainly isn’t tough enough to provide for her. This is why women’s tests are often called “shit tests” or less crudely, “congruence tests.”
Examples of these tests include statements like:
You know, I just realized how short you are.
I have a boyfriend.
I don’t know if I like you.
You’re too old for me.
You seem like a fuckboy/player.
My younger self didn’t know how to respond to these tests, and at times I couldn’t handle Abby. My older self can. So, here is how you handle these tests and end up coming across as attractive.
1. Control Frame
You control your emotions. While it is beyond the scope of this post, I firmly believe that it isn’t outside events that control your feelings, but your response to those outside events. This is a hallmark principle of both neurolinguistic programming and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
Controlling frame is setting the tone for a situation. Let’s take a day when it starts raining. If you are a farmer in the middle of a drought, rain probably makes you happy. If you were going to an outdoor concert that day you might be sad. Same event, different frame.
So how could the guy disappointed about the concert “control frame?” Well, some of the most fun concerts I have been to were in the rain, so he could decide to enjoy the experience and remind himself that he’ll look back on how cool it was to watch a band while turning into a wet, muddy, mess with a bunch of cool strangers.
In reality, these tests aren’t anything personal. In fact, I view them as basically flirting, albeit more extreme than some guys prefer. You should keep them in that frame. These tests are actually fun. Why? Because you’re going to pass and have some fun flirting.
You pass by not being fazed. You pass by not showing you are bothered. If you get angry, sad, bitter, quiet, etc., guess what? You’re weak and you fail. She will find another guy who doesn’t fail. So, how do you pass? Well, for one…
2. Stay Confident
With past girlfriends and potential dates, I would often let these tests make me insecure. Why would she say I was short? Why would a girl I was getting along with at a club suddenly throw out something about her boyfriend?
My internal mental state was one of dejection, and I’m sure it showed as outward insecurity. I was showing that a little sentence from a woman worked me up. That’s not a good response. Instead stay confident, especially by keeping your body language confident, and your vocal tone consistent. If you do feel dejected, don’t let it show. Just keep going like nothing happened. After a while of faking confidence, you’ll naturally start caring less and less about what a woman says to you.
3. Stay Detached
Detachment is doing what you know to be right and not getting worked up emotionally by the outcome. This is being “outcome independent,” which is to say you remain relaxed and unfazed in your interactions even if something happens you don’t particularly like.
So if “I have a boyfriend” comes out of her mouth, then your attitude should be the same as if she just said, “It’s room temperature in here.” Just keep doing the things you know that are right, like remaining confident, funny, etc. Detachment shows she can’t work you up in a negative way. However, there is nothing wrong with getting worked up in a positive way, i.e….
4. Stay Charming
A lot of guys react to tests by showing sadness (“Oh you have a boyfriend? Thanks; sorry to take up your time”) or anger (“Why did you waste my time?”). Some just go silent or trip over their words. That’s no fun, trust me.
Showing sadness or anger isn’t really attractive, and neither is just sitting there showing awkwardness. All of those reactions show you are bothered. And, those reactions aren’t exactly flirtatious. And, as I mentioned, many times these tests are a type of flirting, or at least can be turned into that very easily.
So, the key is the always stay charming and funny. No matter what comes out of her mouth, stay charming. You pass these tests through charm and flirtatious humor. Some of the responses below show how to respond with some charm.
“I have a boyfriend”: Well I thought you looked like the type who could use two.
“You know, I just realized how short you are”: That’s great, and next time I buy high heels I’m totally taking you along.
“You seem like a fuckboy” : Yeah, and I’m taking applications for fuckgirls, but I don’t like you very much, so you may have to put some work in to qualify.”
“You’re too old for me”: I really am too mature for you. I couldn’t take all the Justin Bieber music you’d make me listen to.
Some of these responses use a technique called “agree and amplify,” when you take her test and respond in a way that agrees with her and then amplifies the comment to the point of absurdity. This is a great way to respond because it shows total detachment, confidence, and charm.
So, yeah, women throw out tests. Passing them is both easy and fun. Every woman worth your time will do it. Abby did it, and I’m sure still does. Her current man knows how to handle her I am sure, and her tests are likely viewed as flirtatious fun.