What Do Women Find Attractive?

For so long, popular culture, various media outlets, and our very own High Schools have taught many of us that the people who are seemingly the most ‘attractive’ are also the most ‘popular’.

As women, we’ve also been taught that in order to lead our own narrative, we should always strive to somehow improve our ‘look’ to get the attention of the most popular and attractive guy that we can possibly ‘score’.

Don’t believe me? Spend some time watching: Can’t Buy Me Love, Mean Girls, She’s All That, Legally Blonde, The Breakfast Club, Grease, and of course, Cinderella.

And with all of these arguably problematic messages for women, I’ve got a few burning questions on my mind about what straight women actually find attractive in a man:

  • Must they truly be rich, good-looking, and drive a nice car?
  • Do they have to be buff and athletic – the quarterback of the High School football team?
  • Are we all just looking for a boring Prince Charming?
  • What actually makes someone attractive?

Well, I’d argue it’s a combination of a whole lot of things – things that aren’t totally as superficial as white, Western media has us believing. I’d also argue that no matter which generation you come from, there can be a lot of commonalities as to which qualities and physical forms women find attractive.

Testing My Theory

To get some answers, I decided to scratch the surface by asking four straight white women to answer the same questions. Here’s what they each had to say:

What is the first thing you notice about a person?

  • 13 Year Old: If it’s a good-looking boy, I’ll be like oh, he’s pretty cute. If he’s not cute, I’ll be like mehh. I think I notice their eyes and their teeth first.
  • 25 Year Old: Their body size. If he’s taller or larger than I am.
  • 51 Year Old: I notice their smile. If it’s warm and genuine.
  • 77 Year Old: Kind eyes.

Are you more attracted to the way a person looks or the way a person acts?

  • 13: I’m more attracted to the way someone acts. Like if they’re polite to people. If they aren’t rude. Although most boys act different around their friends.  
  • 25: I’m usually attracted to traditionally ‘good-looking’ people, but the older I’ve become, the more I’ve realized that I’m also attracted to guys who are funny, kind, considerate, family-oriented, thoughtful, and intelligent. Making me laugh is a big one. Showing respect to my family and me is huge. The qualities I look for have changed a bit over time.
  • 51: They way they act – if they’re communicative, personable, respectful, polite. How they carry themselves – that they’re confident but not cocky.
  • 77: Acts. No question.

Are you more attracted to someone who is extroverted or introverted?

  • 13: Extrovert mostly, because they might play sports and be active and have lots of friends. But introverts can also be pretty cool because they like to talk about real things and they’re usually smart.
  • 25: I’d say I’m most attracted to those who are sociable, funny, and have an adventurous side. I like to be around people who embrace and enjoy life – who make the most out of a bad situation – who are kind to others, even strangers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can also be attracted to introverts. I love spending time alone – writing, reading, meditating, etc. However, for me, extroversion is important when it comes to my partner getting to know and spend time with my family and friends. I’m most attracted to those who make the effort to get to know the people who matter to me.
  • 51: I am an extrovert and I am therefore drawn to those who are also comfortable around others and comfortable in their own skin. I hate awkward conversation.
  • 77: Depends on the situation, but probably introverted. I don’t like show-offs.

Do you value physical attraction over intellectual attraction?

  • 13: Both are equally important. This is a tricky question.   
  • 25: I really admire those who are open to new experiences, such as trying new foods, a new sport, or reading a new book. For me, when someone can hold an intelligent conversation, and add insightful commentary or present new ideas or a new perspective, I am instantly more intrigued by them. I love seeing someone’s passion come out in a conversation.
  • 51: At this point in my life, I’d rather be with an intellect than a “stud muffin”. Someone I can carry on a conversation with. Looks fade.Personality enriches with experience.
  • 77: No. Pretty boys who can’t carry on an intelligent conversation don’t appeal to me.

What is the least attractive thing a person can do?

  • 13: Um, if they’re rude to teachers or disrespectful towards girls. Or if he smells bad, like body odour. Or if their breath stinks.  
  • 25: When it comes to attraction, I love a guy that can keep me on my toes in a respectful way. I like
  • 51: Demonstrate ignorance or intolerance.
  • 77: When I think of the least attractive acting person, Donald Trump comes to mind. There is nothing about this egoist that is the least bit attractive.

Who are you most attracted to? Describe your ideal partner:

  • 13: Um, taller than me. Respects everyone. Is very nice and caring towards his friends and his family. Is pretty cute. They want to actually try to hang out with me. They want to actually plan to do stuff.
  • 25: Someone with ambition and a bit of an edge. Someone who has an opinion on important topics and can keep me on my toes a little. Someone with passion for their work or their hobbies. A guy who challenges me and respects me. Someone who values my time and who I am as a person. I also like tall guys.
  • 51: Someone who is articulate and emotionally intelligent. Someone with nice eyes, who makes eye contact when they speak to you or are listening to you. Clean cut.
  • 77: My husband. Through good times and bad, I can always count on him and his love.

Are you more attracted to someone who is perceived as strong or more emotional?

  • 13: EmotionalI feel like if I was dating someone who pretended they were fine all the time, I’d never be able to help them. But if they show their emotions, I can help them get through it.
  • 25: Both are important to me. I think owning your emotions and being honest about them is a sign of strength. I think it’s attractive when a man can articulate how he feels.   
  • 51: Emotional. No, both. I’m attracted to someone who isn’t afraid to demonstrate emotion but I also like to feel feminine with my partner – him having a degree of masculinity.
  • 77: Some of both. Sometimes you need the tough and sometimes the sensitive.

Are you more attracted to someone who is like you or opposite to you?

  • 13: Similar to me. Because if you’re dating to someone similar to you, you might like the same baseball team and you can go see a game together, or if you like the same show, you can watch it together.
  • 25: On the one hand, I’m attracted to those who are passionate about the same things as I am. However, when someone is too agreeable, that attractiveness fades for me. Through my experiences, I’ve come to understand that I do not want a partner who is exactly like me, nor do I want to be with someone who always agrees and sees eye to eye with me. I like to surround myself with people who challenge me to open my mind, to look at things a different way, to extend my learning, to keep growing.
  • 51: Past history would say opposite to me. But I would say I’m more attracted to those who have the same interests and the same values as me. Someone who puts the same emphasis on the things I do.
  • 77: Depends on the situation. Easier to live with someone who likes many of the same things, but I like the fact that my husband also loves sports and fixing things which are not my thing.

What I Learned

Through this interview process, a few things became very clear:

1) The Definition of Attraction IS NOT Limited to Physical Beauty

Each of my interviewees responded in refreshing, much less superficial ways that I had expected. This then called me to question the difference between popularity and being liked. Sure, more physically attractive people may traditionally be more popular, however, it would seem that the women I interviewed are more attracted to those they like due to their kind character traits, morals, and attitudes towards others.

2) The Definition of Attraction Changes

What someone deems attractive can change over time. This is especially true as people age, and depending on who and where someone is being interviewed about a topic. For example, because I know each of the subjects, they may or may not have answered more honestly about their true feelings.

3) There Are Similar Traits of What People Find Attractive

According to Popularity Explained, these can be described as:

  • Trait #1: Openness to Experience (Imagination, Intellect, Perceptiveness)
  • Trait #2: Conscientiousness (Orderliness, Decisiveness, Reliability)
  • Trait #3: Extroversion (Sociability, Inhibition, Assertiveness, Adventurousness)
  • Trait #4: Agreeableness (Warmth, Affection, Gentleness, Generousness, Modesty, Humility)
  • Trait #5: Emotionality (Emotional Stability)

What do you find most attractive in a partner? Join the conversation on Facebook!