One of the hardest parts of learning how to get better at dating is, ironically, learning how to get out of your own way.
Men, especially men without much social experience, have a tendency to sabotage their own progress. The single biggest culprit that stands in the way between guys and romantic success? Buying into myths about what women want — especially about what women find attractive in men. In fact, the most pernicious myths tend to be spread by other men… often with neither basis in reality nor a single woman backing it up.
To be fair: it’s easy to talk about these myths and why they’re not real. However, part of the reason why it’s so easy to buy into these self-limiting beliefs is because they play into men’s anxieties. When you worry that you’re “not good enough” or that you don’t measure up to what you think other guys have to offer, these beliefs act as confirmation of what you already believe. They’re hard to shake because of how well they line up with what you’re already afraid of. You may not want to think that you’re too short/nice/unattractive to date, but hearing someone else say “women only want X” is enough to trigger that part of your brain that wants to leap up and down and scream “I KNEW IT!”
(Especially if, for example, you’re already buying into ideas like “sexual market value”…)
But what can help is to have some concrete examples to look at — people who not only disprove these myths, but also provide a map towards what women actually do want. And since we’re all stuck at home during quarantine, it’s also the perfect time to watch some quality trash while you learn.
Enter Too Hot To Handle — a Netflix reality show about hornt-up hotties who’re duped into taking part in a show that isn’t about banging but learning how to love instead.
Now let’s be clear: this is a show with a lot of problems — something that I discuss in depth with my friend Dr. Liz in a series of Patron-exclusive videos. However, it is also a great example of how many myths there are surrounding attraction, why they’re wrong, and what actually matters instead.
(Obligatory spoiler warning: we’re going to discuss the entire series, including who gets together and who doesn’t)
Let’s get into it, shall we?
It All Comes Down To Looks… Or Does It?
The idea that looks matter above everything else is possibly one of the most pernicious myths out there when it comes to dating. You can’t chuck a metaphorical rock without hitting a dozen dudes insisting that women only want guys with perfect lower-thirds and six pack abs or random “social experiments” to “prove” that nothing is creepy as long as the dude is hot enough.
The hot dude just needs to show up, if he’s got the right cheekbones and facial symmetry then, boom, job’s done. Doesn’t even have to say a word, just look around and wait for the sex to come to him.
The nice thing about Too Hot To Handle (besides the eye candy) is that it lets us get this myth out of the way, right at the jump. I mean, look at that (initial) cast:
These are ten objectively hot men and women of multiple types; even more hotties (and Bryce) get brought in as the season goes on. They’re whole purpose of being there is to spend three weeks mostly naked, drink like fish and try really really hard to not fuck like greased up weasels on meth. You would be forgiven for thinking that this would be a constant fuckfest, with everyone pairing off and banging like rabbits in twosomes, threesomes, foursomes and moresomes.
And you’d be wrong.
Despite early drunken shenanigans before the twist is revealed, there’s a shocking dearth of sexy-times — or even sloppy make-outs. The majority of the cast gets no action whatsoever, and very few people couple up at all. And while there’s quite a bit of flirtation — both strategic (looking at you Francesca) and sincere, most of it goes absolutely nowhere. In fact, Chloe — the dating addict from Essex — tries to find a spark with multiple guys, only to end up not liking any of them.
It isn’t just a case of guys who barely qualify as “good looking” either or who just don’t have the “right” body type. It ranges the gamut from Sexy Jesus to “what would happen if Tom Holland got bit by a radioactive bottle of Axe Body Spray”. And yet, only two couples emerge from the show: Sharron and Rhonda and Harry and Francesca. Kelz, David, Matt and Bryce are all left high and dry and very, very frustrated.
(In fairness: David eventually finds something with a contestant introduced later. In the second to last episode. As far as I’m concerned, this barely counts. But I also like David, so good for him!)
This is literally less than half of the men in the cast. If looks were all that mattered, then shouldn’t this have been a non-stop fuckfest for all of them? Clearly there must be other factors involved…
Which actually brings us to our next point:
You Must Be This Tall To Ride
Let’s talk about the second most common self-limiting belief men deal with: the idea that height matters most and women only want tall dudes. This is actually fairly understandable, to a certain extent: after all, it’s a little demoralizing to see “if you’re not 6′ don’t bother” on Tinder. Except — as I’m sure you could see coming — that ain’t always the case.
One of the issues here is that this idea isn’t just spread by men, it was basically created by men:
once again men are to blame for their own pain pic.twitter.com/OKuxWLIj2s
— shar (totes out now in bio✨) (@sharloola) September 13, 2020
While it’s true that there’re women out there who prefer dating taller men, one of the reasons why this belief is so common is because of how many (insecure) dudes equate height to power and masculinity. Women being taller than them — even just in heels — leaves them feeling emasculated. And since nobody lives in a vacuum and nobody is immune to propaganda or marketing: the idea that “man must be taller” gets absorbed by many as gospel, same as different beauty standards get absorbed through constant repeated exposure. This includes women, who are taught that they need to be petite and “ladylike” and are mocked for being above a certain height.
And of course, while those “if you’re under six feet, swipe left” remarks may hit you right in the insecurities, the truth is that you’re only noticing them because of that insecurity. Confirmation bias causes you to notice the accounts that specifically exclude you; you never notice the hundreds of accounts that don’t. Or that don’t mention height at all. The biggest issue people have with height has less to do with how tall you are and more to do with how small you feel.
But once again, let’s look back at Too Hot To Handle.
Of the male cast, Kelz was the tallest at 6’6″, followed by Harry and Matt (AKA Sexy Jesus — and no we’re not skating past that any time soon) at 6’5″. David was 5’11”, Bryce was 5’10″… and Sharron was 5’8″. Out of all of them, only Harry and Sharron got lucky — literally and figuratively. Kelz went on a date, singular, with Francesca, and while Francesca proposed that they lose a little money in the shower, it was made abundantly clear that she wasn’t interested in Kelz so much as she was in punishing Harry for being a lying little shit.
(We’ll get to that whole saga in a bit. Suffice it to say that Harry and Francesca are the worst and thoroughly deserved each other.)
David and Bryce both went on dates (again, singular, each) with Chloe and only got the “it’s not you, it’s me” for their trouble. Sexy Jesus got so little attention that he left the show early.
Sharron, however, was with Rhonda the entire time. While their relationship wasn’t without its own drama…ish… there was never a point where Sharron was in danger of being edged out by anyone else. While Rhonda didn’t lack for attention, especially in the beginning, she and Sharron were functionally the power couple of the season… despite “only” being 5’8″.
And yet the tallest of the men — and including the men who many would argue are the best looking of the bunch — got nowhere. What gives?
Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?
Another classic — seemingly unending — attraction myth is the idea of the “alpha male”. The idea of course, ties into the ever popular meme that women prefer “bad boys” — tall, muscular Chads who stride the earth with two arms like Donald Sutherland, leaving trails of satisfied women wherever they go. These are the men that men admire and women desire, to the exclusion of all else. The alpha gets to spread his seed where he pleases, leaving those beta cucks behind to clean up his mess and raise his kids.
Or so the theory goes, anyway. In practice… not so much.
Part of the problem, of course, is that the idea of the “alpha male gets all the women” is, at best, a naturalistic fallacy. It doesn’t map to human behavior at all, especially how people meet and choose partners. The concept itself came from flawed science — scientist David Mech making observations about wolf pack dynamics while studying captive animals. The dominant male wolf only holds his position until another wolf challenges him and — if he wins — controls the pack and gets the females. Except… that doesn’t happen in nature. In nature, the “alphas” of the pack are also known as “parents”. Wolf-packs in the wild are family units, not collections of different wolves that came together. The wolves that Mech studied were all from separate packs, forced to live together in unnatural circumstances.
Small wonder, then, those wolves were aggressive and violent. For all intents and purposes, they were stuck in prison. Trying to divine models of human behavior from this is the equivalent of basing assumptions about human society off the social dynamics in maximum security prisons.
What about apes? There are definitely dominant alphas who rule the harems in ape colonies! And yes there are… among chimpanzees. But then again, not only do chimps not have sex outside of estrus (the way humans do), but the dominant male keeps other males from breeding by killing them. So unless you’re actually advocating for a murder-based relationship model, it doesn’t track either.
But not only does the over-aggressiveness of some male primates have drawbacks, it still doesn’t mean that only the alpha fucks. The female chimps mate quite happily with the less-dominant males as soon as the dominant’s back is turned.)
And just as importantly: nobody can actually agree on what being “alpha” actually means. The guy who’s large and jacked vs. someone who’s slimmer and leaner? The loud, aggressive guy vs. the quieter, more soft-spoken one? How about the guy who makes a big deal out of how much he fucks?
In Too Hot To Handle, we get a panoply of macho drama, and would-be alphas. Kelz and Harry, for example, both described themselves alpha males”. This, admittedly, is kind of hilarious, considering that that Harry is about as hard as a marshmallow. However, one of the ongoing points of contention was the rivalry between Kelz and Harry over Francesca. After it was revealed that a secret stolen kiss between Harry and Francesca cost the cast several thousand dollars, Harry first bragged about it to his bros, lied about it when confronted by the group, then immediately threw Francesca under the bus.
This lead to Francesca ditching him, making out with Haley and then — in a bid to sting Harry back — going on a date with Kelz. When Kelz refused to lose more money via a romp in the shower, Francesca ditched him too. This, however, didn’t stop Kelz and Harry from butting heads constantly over her.
However, in the end, Francesca couldn’t deny her attraction to Harry. Kelz — who was far closer to the more stereotypical idea of “alpha” — didn’t make the cut.
The same was true for Kori — a “grenade” brought in to shake things up late in the game. Kori is — to put it mildly — a fuckboy of the first order. Kori rolls around like someone composed of Axe and torn out pages from The Game, flirting with the various women, particularly with Chloe. But while Chloe kind of appreciated the “banter”, which regularly verged on negging, she ultimately gave him the old heave ho. For all that “bad boys” are supposed to be so desirable because of their unavailability, Kori alienated pretty much everyone. First, he lead a smitten Chloe on, which lead to another thousand dollar mistake. But when given the opportunity to take someone on a romantic date he immediately pics… Francesca. Who — despite having just declared her love for Harry (again) — agreed. She felt she needed to explore her options, after all.
But rather than setting up a “jealousy plotline” in PUA parlance, Kori instead managed to just piss everyone off. Francesca went back to Harry, because they deserved each other. Chloe told him to fuck off as far as a fuckboy could fuck… and laid into Francesca for violating Girl Code. Kori, rather than proving himself to be a big swinging dick, just ended up showing his ass instead.
So if it isn’t looks, height or swagger, then what’s the secret ingredient? Why was Sharron (and Harry… I guess) more attractive than everyone else? Why were they more successful than the rest? Well, I’m glad you asked, convenient rhetorical device.
It’s the Vulnerability, Stupid
Early on in Too Hot To Handle, we discover that Sharron likes to keep women at a distance. He’s a little cocky and a lot funny, but it’s very clear that he’s not being genuine. In fact, Rhonda asks him, straight up, if he’s going to be real with her… and he says no. See, Sharron has been hurt before. He’s been betrayed by his best friend and now he’s afraid to let himself feel.
And in fairness: that’s a great line. That’s just the right amount of pathos and tragedy to inspire feelings of “I MUST FIX HIM,” in a certain kind of woman. I’m not gonna lie: this is legitimately a brilliant fallback for when women don’t go for the “funny player” persona he puts forward most of the time. I suspect that if you asked for a show of hands of folks who sleep with men who HADN’T fallen for a line like that, you’d have a room full of folks with their hands in their pockets.
But to her credit, Rhonda does not let him skate on this. He’s hot and she legitimately likes him but she also knows what she’s worth. And one thing that she is not willing to do is hook up with a guy who’s not going to open up, let her in and form a real connection with her.
And to Sharron’s credit: he listens. It becomes pretty clear that he really values his burgeoning relationship with Rhonda. It comes down to either hanging onto his pride and his self-serving narrative that lets him keep his walls up… or letting someone in and trying to build a genuine connection with her. And so he opens up to her. He lets himself be vulnerable with someone in a way he hasn’t been in years. This ultimately solidifies his connection with Rhonda and leads to another genuinely sweet moment from the show: the moment when Rhonda feels secure enough with Sharron to tell him about her son and introduce the two.
That vulnerability comes up with Harry (ugh) as well. As much as I hate to give him credit — because he’s the worst — Harry actually made some progress.
One of the “lessons” — which Dr. Liz and I clowned on repeatedly — was about vulnerability and accepting responsibility. While I remain rather dubious about… well, pretty much everything… about the lessons being taught to the participants, it has to be said that Harry took them to heart. His willingness to at least own up to how badly he fucked up is part of why Francesca is willing to take him back. He also makes a big point about wanting to take the whole process seriously and not break any more of the rules.
Of course, they both immediately turn around and have sex in the privacy suite after promising not to, and have a middle-of-the-night blowjob that costs the contestants even more money. But hey, baby steps.
They’re still the worst, though.
But let’s take a moment to talk about the VIP of the show — the person who illustrates what men should learn about attraction.
What Makes A Man Attractive? Strength, Confidence, Vulnerability, Humor and Emotion
Let’s talk about David.
David was, in many ways, the emotional heart of the show. While he never connected with the women on the show until almost literally the last minute, he was perhaps one of the most beloved of the audience. This is in no small part because of how genuinely sweet and good-hearted he was throughout. Despite his initial interest in Rhonda, he quickly backed off when he saw how strong the connection was between her and Sharron. But rather than becoming bitter or butting heads over her, David and Sharron bonded early on. In fact, their bromance through the show was one of the feel-good highlights. To see him having fun and forming solid bonds with almost everyone 1 made the whole thing that much more delightful.
But part of what made him so beloved of the audience — and especially the women watching the show — was how open he was. Despite being surrounded by would-be alphas and macho dudes, David was free with his emotions. He had the courage and the vulnerability to let himself tear up on camera, without being ashamed. He didn’t make excuses for it. Just as importantly, David didn’t try to pass it off as a momentary weakness. He was willing to be in his feelings, without concern about whether it marked him off as weak, feminine or as a sissy.
Another mark in his favor was how supportive David was of all of his bros and sisters. He was even willing to help Sharron strengthen his relationship with Rhonda. It’s also notable that David took the process seriously — from the bizzare rules to the hackneyed lessons — with a willingness to engage with good faith. While he may not have clicked with Chloe — chemistry is still important, after all — it was abundantly clear that she legitimately liked him. And in his favor: while being rejected obviously stung, he never let it make him bitter. In fact he kept that positive attitude and open heart throughout the show, even when it seemed like he was going to be going home single.
Small wonder that so many people developed crushes on him.
In his own way, David was possibly one of the best illustrations of what makes a man attractive. David’s heart, his sense of fun and his openness made it easy for people to connect with him. His vulnerability and emotional intelligence demonstrated both appealing confidence and inner strength. His friendliness and kindness drew people to him, while the strength of his character made them value him. And his unwillingness to let disappointment break him or ruin his good time made him someone that people genuinely wanted to spend time around. Not only was he enjoying himself, but he was helping other people feel good. And as I’ve said many times before: when you make people feel good, they’re going to prioritize their relationship with you.
It’s very easy to assume that attraction is all about looks. It’s even easier to let your anxieties tell you that you couldn’t possibly measure up to others and that there’s no point in trying. But at the end of the day, the physical is only a part of what makes someone attractive… and not even the most important. Being tall or good looking wasn’t enough to help Matt, Kori or Kelz. A luxury lifestyle didn’t help Bryce2. In the end, it came down to vulnerability, confidence and the quality of their hearts.
And that’s something women really want men to understand about what makes them attractive.