3 Secrets of Male Sexual Attraction

Men's attraction to women has unintended consequences for both sexes.

Posted Nov 24, 2017 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina

Svitlana Sokolova/Shutterstock
Source: Svitlana Sokolova/Shutterstock

Men's sexual attraction to women has some surprising and unintended consequences for both sexes.

Men’s sexual attraction toward women makes them lie, cheat, and steal.

When men’s sexual attraction to women is activated through viewing sexy photographs, men are more likely to lie, cheat, and steal (Chiou et al., 2017). Researchers found that men who were shown sexy photographs of women were more likely to cheat and lie, saying they had solved more problems than they really had in order to earn more money in a laboratory setting in which they solved problems to earn money and self-reported their results. Men who saw sexy photographs of women were also less likely to return unearned money after a researcher asked them to verify that they had received the correct amount. Interestingly, men who were shown photographs of less sexy women did not show these same tendencies toward dishonesty. The authors postulate that men may lie, cheat, and steal in order to quickly acquire resources which can be used to attract desirable women.

However, if women were to detect men’s dishonesty, this strategy would likely backfire, since honesty and trustworthiness are considered essential traits in a romantic partner for most women.

Thoughts of their own mortality lead men to derogate sexually attractive women.

When men think about their own mortality, they are less attracted to sexy women. Interestingly, the same is not true for women; when they think about their own mortality, they do not become less attracted to sexy men (Landau et al., 2006). Further, when men are reminded of their mortality, this decrease in attraction is particular to sexy women; men are not less attracted to women who appear more wholesome. These authors also found that men who were asked to think about a lusty experience (and who had also been primed to think about their own mortality) rated intimate partner violence toward women as more acceptable than men recalling an exciting, but not lusty, memory. Landau and colleagues believe that because sexy women remind men of their body’s corporality, men may derogate sexy women as a reaction to their fear of dying. It seems that men’s concern over their mortality can lead them not only to deny their attraction to women, but also to disparage, harass, and potentially even be aggressive toward sexy women (Landau et al., 2006).

The authors suggest that these results may not apply to all men; those who are high in self-esteem or low in neuroticism might more effectively deal with thoughts of their own mortality, and thus be less likely to derogate sexy women under that condition.

Men are sexually attracted to women they can easily exploit.

When woman display attributes which make them appear more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, such as youth, immaturity, intoxication, or flirtation (Goetz et al., 2012), men (whether consciously or not) find them more attractive and are more motivated to pursue them. The potential to sexually exploit women attracts men. The authors of this study explain that these traits increase women's risk for seduction, sexual pressure, and sexual assault by men. (Women who are perceived as intelligent and shy are rated both as less exploitable and as less attractive for short-term relationships, but more attractive for long-term relationships.) Importantly, for this research, men were not asked whether they would try to take advantage of women who were perceived as sexually exploitable. Rather, they were asked whether they perceived that certain women might be vulnerable to seduction, pressure to engage in sex, and assault by men in general. The authors believe that men’s attraction to women who appear more easily exploitable may stem from the evolutionary benefits to men from short-term mating opportunities.

For more secrets of sexual attraction, see my other posts.


Chiou, W. B., Wu, W. H., & Cheng, W. (2017). Self-control and honesty depend on exposure to pictures of the opposite sex in men but not women. Evolution and Human Behavior.

Goetz, C. D., Easton, J. A., Lewis, D. M., & Buss, D. M. (2012). Sexual exploitability: Observable cues and their link to sexual attraction. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(4), 417-426.

Landau, M. J., Goldenberg, J. L., Greenberg, J., Gillath, O., Solomon, S., Cox, C., ... & Pyszczynski, T. (2006). The siren's call: Terror management and the threat of men's sexual attraction to women. Journal of personality and social psychology, 90(1), 129.