Listen, we get it. Dating in the digital age isn’t always easy. What men want from women and vice versa only seems to be getting more and more complex as our needs and desires evolve. And it seems like everyone out there — from the experts to family and friends — have a different idea of what those desires really are.
Instead of getting frustrated or overwhelmed by all of the conflicting advice out there, we turned to science to find some answers. What better way to get rock-solid information is there?
Surprisingly, there’s a lot that men agree on that you might not have expected — and it turns conventional wisdom on its head. Traits that everyone thinks men want, such as a buxom figure or flawless skin, might not be as important as everyone thought. So without further ado, here are the traits you think men find attractive but they actually don’t!
A super straight and skinny frame
You can never be too rich or too thin, as the old adage goes. And given that the diet industry is worth $66.3 billion, according to Time, a lot of folks believe that, and they are willing to spend whatever it takes to slim down. So all men must want their ladies to be as skinny as possible, right?
Well, as it turns out, that’s not really the case, according to a theory by Professor Devendra Singh of the University of Texas that The Independent reported on in 1994. The study, which examined how male and female bodies store fat, found that there’s one thing that’s the most reliable indicator of what men find attractive: a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of between .67 and .8.
Singh and her colleagues noted in an 2010 article for Evolution and Human Behavior that body mass index, or BMI, wasn’t a big influence for men regarding female attractiveness. So no matter what your BMI is, whether it’s low or high, if you have that magical, low waist-to-hip ratio, men are more likely to find you smoking hot.
Someone who always plays it safe
When it comes to picking a stable partner, men want someone they can count on all the time, right? Someone who follows all of the rules and never gets into risky situations. A girl who will eschew dangerous sports like snowboarding and bungee jumping in favor of hanging out at home binging Netflix.
Not quite, according to science. In a 2014 study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, scientists analyzed how men and women perceive a variety of risk-taking behaviors, such as handling fire, interacting with dangerous animals, and skateboarding. And what they found was that men (and women) are attracted to people who participated in what are called hunter-gatherer risks — risks similar to those our ancestors would have faced. So you can keep that bungee jumping trip in New Zealand on your bucket list!
However, men (and women) did not find taking uniquely modern risks (like not wearing a seat belt) sexy at all.
A husky, sexy voice
While you might think that all men love a sexy, husky voice — think of the smoky cadence of Kathleen Turner or the sultry speech of Lauren Bacall — science came to a different conclusion. In fact, men prefer women with higher-pitched voices, according to a 2013 study by University College London. Specifically, men prefer breathy voices that are high in pitch and have a wide formant dispersion, which they associate with a smaller body size.
Interestingly enough, the researchers also saw parallels between this study’s results and results from other studies about animals. This allowed them to conclude that men are attracted to higher-pitch voices as they signal submissiveness and low potential for confrontation. We’re not so different from our furry friends after all, then!
Don’t run out to buy a helium tank just yet though, ladies. When men heard voices that were super high in pitch, the attractiveness began to wane.
A partner who can make them laugh
If you’re going to be in a relationship that’s happy and healthy, you need to be able to laugh with your significant other. And really, who doesn’t put "a good sense of humor" on their dating profile wish list?
Of course, it’s not that simple when you get into the specifics. While women desire a mate who can crack them up, science tell us that men aren’t looking for the same thing. According to a study in Evolution and Human Behavior, men aren’t so attracted to women who make them laugh — they’re attracted to women who find them funny and laugh at their jokes. So while he wants you to share in his sense of humor, he wants to be the comedian in the relationship.
Additionally, it’s even more important to men that you find them funny in long-term relationships. Funny women are more likely to be relegated to short-term relationships or platonic friendships.
A very large bust
If you were to gauge the ideal bust size based on the availability of bras out there, you’d likely assume that the bigger, the better. From padded bras and push-up bras to corsets and bustiers, there’s no shortage of garments designed to both perk up and push out your bust line. Couple that with the rising popularity of breast augmentation surgeries, and it seems like a no-brainer: Men must find large breasts the most attractive.
Surprisingly, science has demonstrated that this isn’t the case, as crazy as that may sound. In spite of the stereotype, men are more attracted to women with medium-sized breasts — "not too big, and not too small" — according to Falling in Love: Why We Choose the Lovers We Choose by Ayala Malakh-Pines, a "clinical, social, and organizational psychologist." With quite a few celebrity sex symbols out there with ample bosoms, who knew men don’t always go for bigger boobs?
A youthful, unlined face
Aging isn’t easy. Not only do you start to feel differently, but also you start to look differently. And despite our best efforts, it’s inevitable that gray hairs appear, as do lines in our faces, even if we have an arsenal of anti-aging skin creams. Surely once the crow’s feet set in dating will be impossible, right? Wrong!
Fear not, ladies! Believe it or not, having a perfect, unlined, youthful-looking face isn’t always what men find the most attractive. In fact, according to a study in The Royal Society, some men prefer women with a more mature appearance when it comes to selecting a long-term partner. The reason? Men who are born to women over 30 tend to find older ladies more attractive than younger ladies. The exact reason isn’t fully known, but it’s likely that the bonding experience they had with their mothers is responsible for it. So those men get warm fuzzies when they see mature women as adults. Rejoice!
No resemblance to their parents
As much as we love our parents, we don’t want to marry them. By extension, you would think we wouldn’t want to marry people who look like them — that would be weird!
But, of course, when you look at the data, it’s not nearly that simple. For example, in a study published in Evolution & Human Behavior, researchers found that men are overwhelmingly attracted to women who have the same color hair and eyes as their mothers. So next time you meet your date’s family, take a look at his mother and see if you notice any resemblance. Wild, huh?
That’s not all, either. In another study — this one in the journal Annals of Human Biology — scientists found that men are more likely to be attracted to women who are the same height as their mothers. So you don’t have to stress about being too tall or too short for your man — for him, you’ll be just right.
Never going out for girls’ night
There’s nothing quite like a girls’ night out with friends, when you can relax, unwind, and watch whatever corny movie you want and not be judged for it. But if you’re out a lot with the ladies in your life, won’t that be kind of a turn-off to the dudes around you? Maybe not, as there’s good evidence that having a squad can surprisingly make you more attractive to men.
According to a study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, men (and women) have a tendency to find a group of people more attractive than any of its individual members. That means if you spend time with your besties on the reg, you will appear more attractive to others than you might if you were just going it alone. All the more reason to maintain your squad goals, even when the demands of life make it tougher to go out very often.
No tattoos or facial/body piercings
It seems like everyone has a tattoo or body piercing these days. But are men attracted to women who would put the proverbial bumper sticker on the Bentley?
Surprisingly, men are overwhelmingly okay with both tattoos and body piercings — though some more than others — according to a survey by AskMen.com and HuffPost. Overall, 69 percent of men like it when someone they’re attracted to has a tattoo, and 55 percent like it when they have a body piercing. As for location, men most like tattoos on women’s shoulders/upper backs and hips, and like belly button piercings the most, with nose rings coming in a distant second. What’s also interesting is that of the over 1,300 men who were surveyed, 32 percent of them have tattoos, and 13 percent of them have a body piercing. Clearly then, having a tattoo or piercing is not nearly as taboo as it once may have been!