One of the topics that comes up the most often when it comes to dating advice is, paradoxically, the one that folks get wrong the most often: “what do women find attractive in men?”
This is an evergreen subject (ahem), in no small part because of how often guys buy into mistaken ideas about what women find attractive… ideas that are spread by other men. Whether it’s the idea that only men who’re 6′ tall can get dates, the myth of “attraction switches” that were installed by evolution or even just the idea that only the most jacked, alpha males get laid, guys are more prone to listen to other straight dudes about what women want than they are to listen to actual women. Even when women have said “no, actually, we like these things,” men disregard them because… well, because it doesn’t line up with their ideas about attractiveness.
Then on Sunday, Brendan Fraser started trending on Twitter, just because people wanted to gush over the actor and his movies, which immediately pivoted to discussions of The Mummy and George of the Jungle and just how damn hot people thought he was.
The discussion quickly moved to the topic of himbos and the women who love them, in no small part because George of the Jungle is the platonic ideal of the himbo, in a movie that has absolutely no shame in catering to the female gaze. But the discussion covered far more than just how good Brendan Fraser looks…
…but about the reasons why so many himbos are beloved.
Of course, not being one to miss an opportunity to instantly date a column by tying it to a trending topic, I have thoughts on this topic. Because once you get past the initial thirst-posting and memes, there are valuable lessons to learn about what women actually value in a man… if guys are willing to listen.
It’s About The Contrasts
At first glance, himbos seem like a fairly simple concept. They’re the Rule 63 version of the bimbo: hot and dumb, end of story.
Except, that’s not really the case. After all, if it were, this would be a very short column. Instead, the appeal of the himbo is that they’re a study in contrasts, and it’s the dissonance between those contrasts that make them interesting in the first place. In fact, himbos are closer to characters like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde than they are to, say, Suzanne Summers in Three’s Company or Marilyn Monroe in… well, 90% of her career.
The attractiveness of these contrasts is actually very simple: himbos represent a rejection of toxic and restrictive forms of masculinity. They’re men who resemble a toxic masculine ideal but whose behavior and innate nature as a man is far more wholesome.
Let’s start with the most obvious factor: himbos are classically handsome. More often than not, they’re the classic “jock” type — tall and athletically built, frequently but not always muscled to an absurd degree. Chris Hemsworth, for example, has played multiple variations on a himbo type. His role as Kevin in the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot is a prime example. He’s a golden retriever of a human being: handsome, sweet, eager to please and oblivious to the point where you’re amazed he can walk and remember to breathe at the same time. The light in his eyes is very clearly shining through the hole in the back of his head.
Thor is another prime example. While not as dim as Kevin, his earnestness and charming lack of complication mark him as a himbo-type. He’s not a character that does complexity; he, like his hammer, is the definition of a blunt instrument. But despite being a jock type, himbos don’t act like stereotypical jocks. Himbos tend to be more submissive characters; even when they’re the main character — as in George of the Jungle — they’re often the second banana1 to other, more assertive characters. Frequently, himbos will be flunkies performing a service, rather than a leader of men. But rather than chafing under somebody else’s leadership, himbos seem perfectly happy to be the gofer; they’re there to help, not to dominate.
It’s the contrast between the looks and the behavior that makes them interesting. While they look like a stereotypical “alpha male”, in personality, they’re softer and more accomodating. They’re very rarely leaders, and when they are, it’s often not a role they sought out.
By that same token, their jock-ish looks play against their sexuality. Himbos maybe sexy, but they’re rarely sexual in the way that you would expect.
(Joey Tribbiani is an obvious exception.)
While it’s vanishingly rare to find a himbo who’s completely asexual (though, amusingly, Kevin comes close), they are frequently the more passive partner. They’re interested in sex, but they are often the one who’s acted on, rather than who initiates. In the movie Roxanne, for example, Chris — played by Rick Rossovich — is passive almost to the point of absurdity. Despite being incredibly handsome, he’s so intimidated by women that he can barely talk to them. Steve Martin’s C.D. has to talk for him, while it’s Roxanne who ultimately takes the initiative and invites Chris up to her room.
Without that dichotomy of expectation vs. reality, you don’t have a himbo. Chris Evans as Lucas Lee or Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, for example, meet most of the elements of what makes a himbo: the looks, simplicity or stupidity, and so on. But because they are just as shitty as one would expect from a jock stereotype, they aren’t himbos; they’re just assholes who are tall, good looking and kinda dumb.
In fact, while we’re on the topic, let’s look at one of the main reasons why women find himbos so appealing.
The Magic Appeal of Authenticity
Part of what people often get wrong about himbos is the idea that they’re stupid. This isn’t strictly true; while bimbos are defined by their lack of intelligence, the core to a himbo is simplicity. Some himbos, like Jason Mendoza from The Good Place are as dumb as a box of particularly stupid rocks. Others, like Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove are clearly intelligent, but mostly oblivious. Still others are an example of what TVTropes calls the Cloudcuckoolander; their thoughts and actions have a consistent internal logic, but one that doesn’t make a lick of damn sense to anyone else. In gaming terms, himbos tend to be a low-intelligence, high-wisdom character; they may not have book or street smarts, but they’re often capable of moments of surprising insight.
But whether they’re dumb or book smart, himbos are simple. They lack guile and complexity, and they have next to no skill for lying or dissembling. What you see with a himbo is what you get, in part because they literally can’t be anything else.
That lack of complication is precisely what makes them appealing. It’s not about liking ’em big, smart and dumb; the attraction of a himbo is that they’re authentic. Everything about them is right there on the surface. There is no pretense in them, even when they’re flunkies for would-be evil overlords. You are never unsure about where you stand with a himbo… not the way you would be with a lot of other guys.
One of the issues that guys run into when it comes to attraction is that they spend more time treating women like opponents, rather than people. It’s inherent to the commodity model of sex and sexuality; when women are seen as the gatekeepers of sex and the ones who determine the “price” of a relationship, it creates an inherent conflict between men and women. And because so many men buy into the idea that women are both less sexual and choose partners based on (bullshit) metrics, they are incentivized to try to obtain sex by any means possible. This leads to weird status games ranging from pretending to be less emotionally invested in order to “keep the power” to straight up attempts at mind control.
Himbos, on the other hand, don’t play games — not just because they’re bad at them, but because they don’t know how. Himbos simply don’t understand them in the first place.
They stay true to that genuineness, even when it hurts them. Part of the tragedy of Thor is how much he truly loves Loki and wants nothing more than for them to be brothers. Despite how often it enables his sudden and inevitable betrayal, Thor is always upfront over the fact that he wants to believe Loki.
Similarly, himbos as a whole are characters who are comfortable with vulnerability… in part because it never occurs to them that there’s any other way to be. If left to their own devices, they’re quite happy to be their authentic selves. They aren’t worried about whether something is suitably “cool” or following other people’s ideas of what a man’s supposed to be. While they’re capable of being embarrassed, it requires someone else who actively shames them. Otherwise, they’re almost oblivious to the idea that they’re not “supposed” to feel the way they do or to express themselves in the way that feels most appropriate to them.
But the himbo’s simplicity is also important for another reason…
Kindness is Key
One of the most important factors when it comes to attraction is one that is often the most misunderstood: kindness. In fact, studies have found that prosocial behaviors like kindness, agreeableness and conscientiousness are among the strongest predictors of relationship satisfaction. Higher levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness correspond, amongst other things, with better sex and being less likely to cheat or to engage in riskier behavior with regards to sex. They’re also indicators of higher levels of social and emotional intelligence — qualities that correlate strongly with social cohesion.
This is important because humans are inherently pack animals; our entire survival as a species is predicated on the idea that we’re all in it together. People who are more altruistic tend to work more towards the benefit of the group — sharing resources, helping others — are more valuable because of how much they contribute to the overall success of the whole. This, in turn, makes them more valuable as romantic or sexual partners, both in terms of helping provide for the raising of future children and because those attitudes tend to also correlate with being better in bed.
And kindness in and of itself is an attractive trait; people who are kind and sweet make us feel good. That triggers what’s known as The Reward Theory of Attraction: we instinctively prioritize relationships that make us feel valued, appreciated and wanted. We like the dopamine hit that comes from being in their presence and we want to feel more of it, so we spend more time with them.
Of course, the dichotomy of seeing kindness or nurturing behavior from unexpected sources is incredibly appealing. The contrast of someone who seems scary or intimidating with an unanticipated sweet side creates a sort of cognitive dissonance; the external indicators that this person would be cruel or mean contrasts with the softness and kindness in a way that draws us in. The combination of strength and nurturing is welcoming to a level we don’t expect. We’re surprised in a good way, making us wonder what other unexpected depths they may have.
Himbos excel at this; after all, the juxtaposition of strength and kindness are a definitional trait. But part of what makes himbos especially attractive is that their simplicity means that their kindness and openness is genuine. Unlike Nice Guys, himbos aren’t faking kindness in order to get into somebody’s pants, it’s intrinsic to who they are. That simplicity means that there aren’t strings or ulterior motives; they aren’t complicated enough to have them.
Thor genuinely likes and respects the people he’s met while exiled on Earth; he treats them with the same regard that he does his fellow Asgardians. Kazuma Kiryu isn’t pretending to be accepting of trans people for “woke points”, he’s genuinely trying to understand this new person he’s met. Jason’s instinct is to help his friends to the best of his ability, no matter what; it’s just a damn shame that his ability is limited by his intelligence.
Because that kindness comes without hesitation or strings, it’s that much easier to trust a himbo and let your guard down around him in ways that you couldn’t with other people.
Speaking of which…
Attraction Can’t Exist Without Comfort
You can’t have a discussion about what women find attractive in men without touching on the idea of alpha males. After all, women tend to be drawn towards confident, assertive men; why wouldn’t alphas get the first pick? They’re dominant, forcing their way to the top of the heap, helping them cultivate that all important status that women find so desirable2.
Except… not so much. While women are generally more attracted to confidence, assertiveness and more outgoing men, that isn’t the same as being attracted to dominant men. In fact, that very dominant behavior and aggression tends to be a turn off to women. Women are less likely to feel comfortable around men who trend towards higher levels of dominant and aggressive behavior in part because of the very understandable worry that that same behavior may be part of their relationship. Even if toughness, domineering and policing other men were attractive, there’s every chance that those men would use the same aggression to keep her in line.
Himbos, on the other hand, tend to be confident and assertive, but less dominant. That same easy-going nature that makes himbos more likely to be aides rather than masters or leaders means that, more often than not, himbos are willing to follow someone else’s lead. This doesn’t mean that himbos are passive or submissive, mind you; it just means that when someone else knows what they’re doing, the himbo is happy to go along with it.
George may be the jungle king, but he recognizes when he’s out of his element and is more than happy to let Ursula set the tone. Thor, likewise, is quick to adapt when he realizes that he doesn’t understand the local customs. He has no compunctions about letting Jane put him in his place. While he may well be a prince where he comes from, he was clearly in the wrong and he accepts this without question.
These may seem like small things, but they’re vastly important to the women in their lives. They demonstrate through their actions, that they acknowledge and respect not just the competency but the authority of others. That’s huge, on many levels. Recognizing that others may have expertise, knowledge or experience that they don’t and respecting that knowledge is a sign that the himbo respects them as people. That respect, in turn, indicates a respect of their autonomy. Again, Thor may be a prince, but he doesn’t automatically assume that this entitles him to dominate others. And his respect for Jane’s intelligence and knowledge is a compliment that most people would never give her.
That willingness to let others drive things applies to sex as well. One the most important observations that Tumblr user Ms_Demeanor made in their thread (which helped kick off himbo discourse) is how unthreatening George is. He’s not aggressive, he doesn’t loom or take up her personal space. He gives her room allows her to feel safe and be vulnerable.
There’s a similar vibe for the arguably less-himbo-y role that Fraser plays in The Mummy; after rough initial moments with Evie, Fraser’s O’Connell treats Evie with respect and care. He’s not the leader, he’s the muscle and he knows it. Evie’s the leader and he not only respects her expertise, but her leadership… even at times when it goes against his ego or when it seems absurd. And while she’s clearly into him — including blatantly hitting on him while drunk — he holds back; it’s never an appropriate time for him to make a move, and so he gives her space until later.
Even the himbo platonic lifemates Bill and Ted are quintessentially safe to be with. When they remark how chaste their girlfriends are in Bogus Journey, it’s not a matter of being upset or frustrated; they’re just stating a fact. Their girlfriends don’t want to be that physical before marriage, and they both accept it without question. That’s what their girlfriends want, so that’s how they roll. The biggest give-away that something was wrong with the Evil Robot Bill and Ted were their demands that the princesses put out.
This mix of comfort and respect is vital because attraction can’t exist without comfort. If Ursula felt like she always had to be on her guard around George, then she wouldn’t have felt safe enough to fall for him. Evie, likewise, wouldn’t be interested in O’Connell if she felt like she could never let herself be alone with him.
The idea of a man who’s attractive, confident and utterly safe to be around is huge… and that speaks to just why the himbo is so attractive.
Now with these traits in mind, that brings us to the important question:
How Do You Put This Together?
The interesting thing about the attractiveness of himbos is that most of it is very attainable… assuming that you don’t get hung up on the wrong details.
Plenty of people will immediately zoom in on the physical attractiveness of himbos and reject everything else from that point on. It’s an extension of the meme that it’s not creepy if you’re hot; not only is this wrong on its face, but people miss why himbos are appealing. It’s not about movie-star good looks, it’s about the himbo’s behavior and attitude and the way they make women feel. As I said: it’s the contrast of a person who benefits from toxic masculinity and yet whose behavior is the opposite is what makes them appealing. Without those positive traits — the honesty, vulnerability and comfort — they wouldn’t be desirable, regardless of how they look.
Similarly, it’s not about whether they are dumb or not; it’s the fact that their simplicity makes it easier to trust them. Women are able to trust and rely on them because of the bone-deep certainty of how straight forward and genuine they are.
This is why incorporating what makes himbos attractive isn’t about being stupid, it’s about internalizing the intangible qualities. Being assertive and confident doesn’t translate as aggressive or dominant, just as being willing to let others take the lead doesn’t mean being a needy push-over. It’s finding the balance of respecting other people’s skill, experience and expertise without being passive or needing someone else to do all the work. A himbo isn’t a man-child — in fact, they’re usually competent (often incredibly so) in their particular arena. They’re just willing to let others set the pace and direction.
By that same token, the lack of pretense or games doesn’t mean that they’re passive when it comes to relationships. Himbos flirt and tease, they initiate where appropriate. What they don’t do is play head games or complicate things. They’re straight-forward, not hiding their feelings or their interest, but also not vomiting their feelings or demanding that women manage their emotions for them. The lack of complication makes for a refreshing change from relationships where women never feel secure or sure of what’s going on. The appeal of the himbo is that things are as they appear. That doesn’t mean that they lack depth; it just means that they don’t obfuscate or present a false front.
Just as important is the genuine sense of safety and respect. The appeal of George — especially in contrast to Lyle — is how much he listens. He pays attention, he gives Ursula space to express herself and pays active attention when she talks. The same is true of O’Connell; he doesn’t understand everything that Evie or Jonathan talk about, but he’s happy to listen because of how passionate Evie is on the subject.
And of course, there’s not just the kindness, but the unselfconsciousness of it. Himbos aren’t concerned about being too manly or macho to have a softer side, nor are they embarrassed by it. That lack of concern for, say, geeking out over an adorable dog is part of what makes them special. It’s a sign of just how authentic that kindness and softness is.
Internalizing those behaviors and attitudes will make all the difference. The willingness to buck the restrictive narrative of what a man is “supposed” to be, without becoming a bad parody of “a sensitive man” speaks volumes of a man’s the confidence and self-assurance. You don’t need to be the suave charmer or the player to be beloved by women. It’s the genuineness and authenticity that they want. That refreshing change from the other men in her life is what will make you stand out… and help build the connection you’re both looking for.