What Do Women Want?
Women's Perceptions of Sexual Attractiveness
The man I marry doesn't have to be the chief of surgery, but he's got to be a professional--at least at my level and preferably higher. As long as I can look up to him and he is highly respected in his field, I could make more money than he did. That's not so important, but it might not work for him if I did make more. He's got to achieve and be up there or I wouldn't respect him. Women who marry men beneath them are going to be dissatisfied. It just won't work.
--A woman in her second year of medical school
IN CHAPTER 2 WE EXAMINED women's desire for emotional investment. Here we will focus on women's desire for material investment. The two types of investment are distinct but related. The signs of emotional investment indicate to a woman a man's willingness to invest. When a man looks affectionately into his partner's eyes and says "I love you," he shows, if he is not faking, a genuine concern for her and her welfare. These signs are extremely important to women, as we have seen. But a genuine concern and willingness to invest are relatively meaningless if the man has nothing but time and energy to offer. He must also have the ability to invest sufficiently. Men who are sensitive, caring, and affectionate but who, in the eyes of their female partners, cannot provide an adequate material investment are likely to be discarded. The signs of emotional investment are important to women, but not sufficient.
In this chapter we explore how status, ambition, wealth, and success--the signs that a partner is able to invest--interact with physical traits to determine sexual attractiveness. My analysis draws on six social-psychological experiments, survey data from over 1400 individuals, and in-depth interviews.
Do women judge sexual attractiveness the way men do? If not, how do they differ? What are the components of men's sexual attractiveness to women and how are these components weighed? Do women agree on who is sexually attractive? Men emphasize physical attributes when they assess sexual attractiveness, and many women believe that physical features are primary