What Makes Men Attractive?

Is it physical features and wealth—or is it this?

Posted Feb 26, 2021 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

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Confident man
Source: Lassedesignen/shutterstock

We have all at one time probably been intrigued by what makes men attractive to women. We know, for example, that physical good looks, charm, and even wealth are some of the features important in making men attractive. However, over and above these factors, what else is it that makes men more attractive? Much research points to the way in which they behave around others as a major factor.

For example, the effect of men’s nonverbal behaviour has been shown to influence their levels of attractiveness. An observational study carried out in a bar by Lee Ann Renninger and colleagues found that men who were successful in establishing contact with women had displayed specific nonverbal behaviours in the period leading up to this, and their nonverbal behaviour was different to men who were unsuccessful at making contact with women. The behaviours displayed by the successful men were:

  • More short-term glancing at women, signaling sexual interest through eye contact
  • More space maximization movements, such as moving their arms and legs so as to take up space and assert dominance. 
  • More intrasexual touching, that is touching other men without this being reciprocated, which is a signal of authority or dominance
  • Fewer closed-body movements such as folding their arms or crossing their legs

In a follow-up study, the researchers found that successful men displayed these behaviours when women were present but were less likely to do so when women were not present (Renninger, Wade, & Grammer, 2004).

One thing common to all of the behaviours outlined above is that they convey a level of confidence. We might therefore consider other areas where successful men display confidence.

Posture

Men may also convey a degree of confidence in the way they walk and in the posture they adopt. A study carried out by Meghan Provost and her colleagues found that women expressed a preference for men who walk in such a way as to exhibit a degree of poise (upright walk, with some sway in the upper body), which tells us that this outward display of confidence is attractive (Provost, Troje, & Quinsey, 2008). Certain physical movements are dependent on the strength of a man’s muscle tone and control, and therefore displaying a posture or walk as described above conveys information about a man’s energy, health, and indeed confidence.

Telling bad jokes

Humour has long been known to be important in sustaining romantic relationships. Women in relationships with humorous partners rate them as being more creative and intelligent, and also as being more popular and better leaders. Furthermore, in terms of their sexual relationships, women in relationships with more humorous partners reported that they had more sex with them, initiated sex more often, and felt more committed to their partners (Gallup, Ampel, Wedberg & Pogosjan, 2014).

However, rather more surprisingly women seem to choose men who can generate humour over those who do not, even if their humour is unsophisticated. A possible explanation for this is that generating humour takes a degree of self-confidence and poise. Furthermore, physically attractive men who use self-deprecating humour are rated as more desirable than physically attractive males who did not use this type of humour. Self-deprecating humour requires a degree of confidence to deliver and is this that makes the difference in physically attractive men (Lundy, Tan & Cunningham, 1998).

Self-promotion on social media

Posting content on social media such as “This is me completing a marathon,” or “I just got accepted to a good university” is generally perceived by others as bragging or self-promotion, leading to the formation of a negative impression of the author of the content. Indeed, a study by Graham Scott and Kirsty Ravenscroft looking at the effects of Facebook posts on readers’ impressions of the timeline owner in terms of various features found that bragging on a timeline generally creates a more negative impression. 

However, the researchers did find that ratings of confidence in social media posts were higher when they featured a degree of bragging (Scott, & Ravenscroft, 2017). Ratings of the timeline owner’s attractiveness however were generally higher if posts were authored by someone other than them. It is important to note here that the study was not specific to men but does to some extent support the view that confidence is important in others’ evaluations of us.

Overall, then we can see that confidence is seen as attractive in men, not just in how they carry themselves, but in other areas also. It is therefore interesting to speculate on the extent to which radiating confidence may compensate for shortcomings in other characteristics. 

References

Gallup, G. G., Ampel, B. C., Wedberg, N., & Pogosjan, A. (2014). Do orgasms give women feedback about mate choice? Evolutionary Psychology, 12 (5), 958-978.

Lundy, D. E., Tan, J., & Cunningham, M. R. (1998). Heterosexual romantic preferences: The importance of humour and physical attractiveness for different types of relationships. Personal Relationships, 5, 311–325.

Provost, M. P. Troje, N. F. & Quinsey, V. L. (2008). Short-term mating strategies and attraction to masculinity in point-light walkers. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 29, 65–69.

Scott, G. G., and Ravenscroft, K. (2017). Bragging on Facebook: The Interaction of Content Source and Focus in Online Impression Formation Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, 20 (1), 58-63.

Renninger, L., Wade, T. J., & Grammer, K. (2004). Getting that female glance: Patterns and consequences of male nonverbal behaviour in courtship contexts. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 25 (6), 416-431.