Everybody thinks they know what women are looking for physically in a man. NZ MEN blows the lid on the myths with the help of science to reveal what women are really looking for in a man.
Women are after a tall, dark and handsome man, right? Or was it air-haired and chisel-jawed? And then there's that geek-love thing, isn't there?
In fact, what women go for in men can be as confusing and counterintuitive as what men go for in women, but science has uncovered a few pertinent clues and general truths. They're not the be all and end all, but read on and we'll show you a few traits that, to different degrees, most women go for most of the time, so you can emphasise what you've got and make up for what you haven't.
Ditch the smile
Okay, don't ditch the smile altogether you won't get far in any social situation without showing a sunny side but don't plaster on the cheesy grin and think 'friendly and approachable' is all women want.
That's because a study published earlier this year in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion
found that women who viewed hundreds of pictures of men were more sexually attracted, in general, to male shows of pride and power, and even moodiness and shame, than joy. Shiny happy types came bottom of the pack.
There's an important caveat. "The study explored first-impressions of sexual attraction to images of the opposite sex," said Alec Beall, one of the researchers. "We were not asking participants if they thought these targets would make a good boyfriend or wife."
In other words, this was about pure carnal desire and it didn't measure the interplay of physical traits and personality. But it did show pretty clearly that men who look a little serious might have some serious short-term success with the ladies.
According to popular perception, the most handsome men are clean-shaven. But that's not what science says most women go for. Psychologists at Northumbria University asked British women aged 18 to 44 to rate men with different states of facial hairiness.
Stubbly men came out a clean (sorry) winner, considered as tough, mature, aggressive, dominant and masculine and thought to be the best romantic partners, either for a fling or a long-term relationship. Stubble was considered more attractive perhaps because it emphasises the size of the lower jaw, a masculine feature. But don't let your own facial undergrowth get out of hand. Full beards didn't rate highly either.
It's often said that women go for tall men, and if you're a little height deficient the bad news is that it is, to some extent, true. Researchers at the Open University studied the lives of 10,000 people born in the same week in 1958, and found that the taller the men were, the less likely they were to be unmarried or childless 42 years later in 2000.
The study published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B
showed that an averagely tall 1.77 metre (5ft 8ins) man was less likely to have children than a man with a height of 1.83 metres (6ft). According to Dr Daniel Nettle, one of the researchers: "In choosing a husband, size matters."
Make the most of your face
A strong jaw is associated with masculine good looks, and that is exactly what lots of women go for some of the time. Research by psychologists at the University of Stirling in Scotland found that women do indeed prefer more masculine looking men, but only when they are fertile and looking for a fling.
That's probably because they want to have sex with someone who will give them the healthiest, strongest children, and chiselled jaws and hard bodies indicate youth, health and vitality. But other studies show that women are pulled two ways by their evolutionary biology. They may want a rugged masculine guy for his genes, but they want a softer, kinder face for the long term.
That's because the more handsome the man, and the more testosterone as shown by his rugged features that cascades through his system, the less chance he'll stick around when the hard job of child rearing kicks in. Studies show that women are happy with less masculine faces at less fertile times of the month.
What good is this knowledge? Well, rounder-faced men can assume a more masculine jawline with a layer of stubble (see above) if they're looking for a quick fling. And whatever you look like, don't give up on her after one rejection make at least one more approach at a different time of the month.
Exude high status
But short men needn't despair. The research also found that women want a husband taller than themselves, so given that men are, on average, taller than women, you still have a large pool of potential wives to pick from.
And there's another reason to stay happy. Women may like tall men because, in evolutionary terms, height was a symbol of status and dominance. Women fall for dominant men because they're more likely to have the resources to protect and provide for themselves and their future children. The thing is, physical traits other than height can also suggest high status. A number of studies have shown that the people who tend to touch other people most (in appropriate and non-sexual ways) also tend to have higher status.
And at least one study has shown that we regard people who touch others as having more power in society. Women are attracted to powerful men, and power can be shown by the simple practice of putting a friendly arm around the shoulders of another man.
Emphasise your good bits
As a dating strategy, it's not a bad idea to emphasise the physical advantages you have, while covering up those you don't. If you're not tall, for instance, you might want to sit up straight and try not to slouch. If you have a weak jawline, you can always make it stronger with a smattering of stubble.
But most importantly, notions of beauty in both sexes are really notions of health and status. An attractive person is simply one that evolutionary instincts tell us is likely to produce strong, resilient children, and be around to look after them. Emphasise your own good health by eating well and exercising and you're halfway to 'good catch' status already.
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