What Do Women Find Attractive in Men?

Good looks? Uh-uh. Big muscles? No way. A macho mystique? Never! So what do they want?

 Condensed from

“How to Make Love to a Woman”

by Michael Morgenstern

If you asked men at random what it is that women find sexy about them, a typical answer would be, “They’re looking for Paul Newman.”

It is true that some women find good looks exciting—but they’re decidedly in the minority. A typical woman’s reac”hat it is that women find sexy about them, a typical answer would be, “tion is, “Good-looking men are so into themselves, they don’t have anything left over for someone else,” Or, “There’s no connection between how a man looks and how he loves.”

When I asked women what they do find most sexy in a man, the answer was almost always the same: self-assurance. Not good looks, not muscles, not a macho attitude. Just self-confidence.

Attitude, it is said, is the soul of self-confidence. When man feels comfortable with himself, he is relaxed around women. For most women, that in itself makes him attractive. “If he thinks he’s sexy,” says one, “he’s sexy.”

On the reverse side, a middle-aged Dallas woman declared herself fed up with insecure men. “You have to make them feel stronger and smarter than you are,” she explained. “I used to spend my time trying to be less than the men I was involved with.”

Another thing women are unanimous about is their distaste for overconfidence. “The Cult of the Lady-killer,” as one woman calls it, is probably the most misguided male myth of all. “There’s nothing more obnoxious than a so-called Don Juan,” says a New York woman. “If he acts like a seducer, you end up wondering, ‘How many other women has he pulled these lines on?’ I’m not interested in becoming the latest link in a long chain.”

If good looks are relatively unimportant, what physical characteristics do women consider most attractive in men? In a recent Esquire poll, eyes were ranked as a male’s sexiest part. My own research supports this. “One look in a man’s eyes,” said a Vanderbilt student, “and I know if I’m interested.” Adds a doctor from Pittsburg, “If his eyes dart around nervously, that’s a sure sign that he’s not self-confident. A man who can’t sustain eye contact is a wash-out—with me, at least.”

However, when the New York Village Voice asked a large sample of women what they considered to be the sexiest part of a man’s body, the landslide winner was the buttocks. Coming in a distant second was a flat stomach. This is good news for men, because buttocks and stomachs are things they can do something to improve—through regular exercise.

I’m not sure whether women are turned on by well-groomed men, but they are definitely turned off by sloppy ones. That doesn’t mean a man has to look flawless; indeed, many women repelled by a man who primps constantly. Says a secretary from Seattle, “I can’t help thinking that he’s examining my appearance to see if I measure up to him. It makes me nervous.”

Even when women talk about male sex symbols, they are full of surprises. When Self magazine recently published a list of the men that women “dream about,” some of the chosen were predictable: “jocks” like Bruce Jenner and Joe Namath, “tough guys” like Clint Eastwood and Larry Hagman, “heartthrobs” like Richard Gere and Marcello Mastroianni.

But the list also included “Ivy Leaguers” like cartoonist Garry Trudeau, “intellectuals” like columnist William Buckley and even “irresistible lunatics” like Woody Allen. Indeed, Allen has a special characteristic that most women find sexy: a sense of humor. “I like men who can make me laugh,” says a student at large Midwestern state university.

What startled me more than anything else in my discussions with women was the frequent comment that most men basically feared being closed to women. Said one young woman author in Boston, “When they’re with their close male friends, they concentrate on group activities. They play basketball, watch a basketball game or go out for some beers. They don’t talk about their troubles. Women discuss issues close to their hearts all the time, and they expect the same kind of intimacy from the men in their lives.”

One woman told me, “A sexy man is one who likes women and enjoys their company.” Another said, “Men should learn to be friends with women. We make such good friends.”

There is one final essential that women look for in men—passion. A college professor in Maryland told me she was attracted most by men who had “zest for life.” “If a man has a lot of interests and enthusiasms,” she said, “he’ll be enthusiastic in his relationship with me.” Says another woman, “Sexy men are men who feel passionately about everything they do. Their attitude toward life spills over into love. No woman is immune to it.”



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