There are few questions more frustrating than “What’s he got that I ain’t got?”
It’s a long-running complaint amongst some men that only “certain” guys get all the women1 – the so-called “alpha males” who are tall, dark and handsome assholes with lantern jaws, fast cars, a six-pack and seven figure salary. All other men are just shit out of luck and may as well jump off a cliff; they’re evolutionary dead-ends, forever doomed to be unable to spread their seed and carry on their genetic lineage.
Women, others insist, are interested only in hypergamy; only men who offer some means of rising socially or economically are the ones getting all the sexing. Others will say that geeks are shut out because of a prejudice against brains or the socially awkward. Still others have equally arcane ideas of what women – apparently a monolithic entity of vast and unimaginable social power - want.
The common denominator in all these ideas boils down to “something other than me”. The rest of it tends to be a mishmash of theories on what women want (or actually want, rather than what they say they do..) that explains why someone who isn’t them is getting all the sexing. I can relate; God knows I spent enough time in my youth believing that there were two types of dudes in the world: the ones who women found attractive and everybody else. And I was very firmly in the latter category.
Of course, this begs the question of “if only a certain percentage of men get the majority of the women, why haven’t we died out as a species?”
Wait: wrong question. The question is: “How do you know that this is what women find attractive?” The answer is usually a variation of “this is what the media tells me” or “this is what I see all around me every day.”
The problem with this is that, frankly, the plural of “anecdote” isn’t “data”. People are prone to blind spots when it comes to a deeply held beliefs, an intellectual fallacy known as “confirmation bias”; that is, we’re only seeing the things that back up what we already believe and dismissing (or simply not seeing) everything else.
So rather than going on about Studly Good-Night at the club with his Maserati and $4,000 suit is the only one women like, I wanted to get down to what women really find attractive. So I asked them.
Flipping The Attraction Switches
Over on the Dr. NerdLove Facebook page and Twitter feed, I put out the call for women to weigh in on what they found attractive in men – not just in looks but in personality, behavior and lifestyle. Now while I’ll be the first to say that this was not by any stretch of the imagination a scientific study or formal poll, the results are, I think, fairly indicative of what women – predominantly 18-34 and cutting across many ethnic and religious demographics – like.
Now obviously there was a fairly wide variety in what people liked; after all, aside from some baseline factors built in that encourage survival of the species – facial symmetry, outward signs of physical health and ability to sire/bear offspring – what we find attractive tends to change based on cultural and emotional influences.
But there were certain areas – call them attraction switches – that came up over and over again. The men who successfully hit these switches are the ones who are most often seen as “attractive”.
Women are drawn to men with passion in their lives. Too many people are content to simply exist, following a routine of “wake up, eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat” day in and day out, living out Thoroeu’s “lives of quiet desperation”. People with passion in their lives are driven. They don’t just meander or float through life, they have purpose. They have something they live for, something they care about with an intensity that you just don’t see often. There’s a part of their life that brings them fulfilment, that pushes them on and inspires them.
People who have passion are interesting. They have a certainty and assuredness about them because they love what they’re passionate about whole-heartedly and don’t worry about “maybe I shouldn’t get this excited over my favorite bands” or “maybe I should act my age instead of waxing rhapsodic about the power that books have over me”
Even if it’s not a passion that they both share, when someone is passionate about something and knows how to express that passion in a clear and attractive manner, it’s very hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm and carried along by it.
OK, we’ll get it out of the way now: confidence is the #2 cliché of what women find attractive in men2. Even so, the fact that it’s included in the list almost reflexively does not in any way diminish the fact that confidence is a universally attractive trait. The problem is how many men seem to mistake arrogance or obliviousness for confidence. The so-called “alpha” behavior that men often mistake for confidence tends to be selfishness and a lack of respect for others, not the knowledge of one’s own abilities and value.
Confidence is, ultimately a belief in oneself; the knowing what you’re worth and what you’re capable of even in the face of people who belittle or demean you. It’s knowing that you are equal to the trial at hand and the correctness of one’s path. Someone who is confident is tempered by self-awareness and humility; it’s less of an the idea that you can’t fail but the knowledge that you can succeed if you work hard.
A confident person knows what he’s worth and is willing to work to get what he’s worth rather than to assume that he just deserves it by virtue of existing. A confident person doesn’t cringe or whine at the first sign of trouble; they grit their teeth and push through it. A confident person in a relationship doesn’t let his partner walk all over him or expect her to be a substitute mother, telling him what to do and how to do it.
True confidence – that feeling of certainty and potential that comes with knowing to your core who you are and what you’re worth – is magnetic.
- and by women they mostly mean “sex”, although there are some who will claim that only alphas get the girlfriends too [↩]
- just after “a sense of humor” [↩]
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