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There has been a lot written on gender differences and sexual preferences. In fact, the book title "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," published nearly 20 years ago, has entered the common vernacular, signaling the acceptance of the gender chasm. The two main theories about sexual attraction and mate selectivity are based upon economics ("rational choice theory") and evolutionary psychology (see interesting discussion in the Kanazawa blog). Although theories provide broad context and ideas on how mating preferences develop and on their utility, they rarely specify specific preferences.

It seems that men and women might find an improved understanding of differential initial preferences helpful in their dating activities. An open-minded look at such a list, without concern for "political correctness" or gender politics, may help Mars and Venus better understand each other and improve their communication. Probably the best place to begin getting acquainted is with openness and respect for each other (i.e. men often think more short-term from their "little heads" while women think more long-term from their big heads). Based on my own personal and clinical experience, along with informal conversations, I have begun to develop a list of what men and women differentially prefer and dislike about the opposite sex when initially considering an intimate contact.

I realize that some might consider the list superficial, and perhaps overly youthful, but it is meant to address the question of initial attraction, rather then the deeper process of getting to know one another (which is unlikely if the first connection is absent). Hopefully, a generally agreed upon list will help some improve their chances of getting to "second base" with a potential new partner.

Here are some initial thoughts for what men and women initially look for:

What do men want?
• Good/sexy looks
• Warm smiles
• Sexy clothes
• Glimpses of flesh
• Sexual responsiveness
• Suggestion of sexual passion
• Admiration
What don't men want?
• Rejection
Anger
• Complaints
• Criticism
• Coldness
What do women want?
• Compliments
• Affirmations
• Affection
• Interesting lives
• Warmth toward children and pets
• Adequate financial resources
• Polite and respectful
• Emotional openness
• Long-term potential
What don't women want?
• Inept come-on lines
• Sloppy looks
• Self centeredness
• Arrogance
• Slimy, over eagerness
• Roughness

Since this is a work-in-progress, your reactions are very important and will help advance the project, especially from the over-60 perspective. Let me know if you agree with the preferences or not and if you would suggest adding or removing certain items...

About the Author

Harry K Wexler

Harry K. Wexler, Ph.D. is a research and clinical psychologist and the director of the Center for Aging Sexuality and Meaning in New York City and Laguna Beach.

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