What Is Attractive To A Woman? A Couple's Therapist Tells All

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I just had a male reader share his thoughts on what men think makes women sexy, and it was spot on according to what I hear from my male clients. Here are my thoughts on what makes a man sexy, according to my female clients, friends, and of course my own experience as a woman.

Many men have no idea what women find sexy, and the most common question that men write in and ask me is how to make their wives find them sexually appealing again.

Let’s start with looks. As my male guest poster said about men’s preferences, there is no universal physical type that women find sexy, so there is no point in discussing hair color or the like. 

One exception to this that is very common in my professional experience is that women who are physically fit and active seem to be pretty turned off by a sedentary and/or overweight spouse. This appears to be even more of a turn-off if the spouse used to be an athletic guy.

RELATED: 10 Verbal Things Men Are Dying For You To Do More Of In Bed

Does this mean that a man who goes to the gym is sexy to women? Well, sometimes, but some women find guys who are obsessed with their physical fitness to be unappealing, like this. Overall it seems like the key variable here is being active and proactive

If you view your husband going to the gym as evidence of his motivation, drive, and commitment to his physical fitness and health, you will likely find it sexy. If you view it as a way he gets out of doing early morning childcare, you will likely find it… well, not sexy is an understatement.

Women are generally attracted to men that seem competent, effective at getting stuff done, and who they can respect and even look up to. 

Unfortunately for many men, this is a fairly high bar nowadays. (Sociologically speaking, when women weren’t expected to go to college or to earn much money and were treated more like children, e.g., in mid- 20th century America, it was a lot easier for women to look up to fairly average run-of-mill men. 

Nowadays, with women’s education levels outstripping those of men, there are many fewer women that I meet who defer to their husbands just by virtue of their gender.)

From my observations in session, women want men that they can be impressed by, and who are better at certain things than they are, whether or not this is PC to admit. 

Some of the frequent compliments I hear from women who seem sexually attracted to their husbands include: hard-working, ambitious, motivated, “can fix anything,” “the smartest person I know,” knowledge about topics that the woman doesn’t know much about (but finds meaningful and important), and “did everything on his own without help” (meaning this). 

The women I know who are not attracted to their husbands frequently consider them lazy, childlike, and passive. Basically, women want a man that they respect, and respect leads to attraction.

Confidence is appealing to women, but this is with a caveat: arrogance is not sexy within a long-term relationship to most women. 

If your husband is confident about his abilities at work, at home, or in bed, that is great and sexy, but if he is arrogant or thinks he knows what you need or wants better than you do, then his sex appeal plummets. Similarly, narcissists are not sexy to most women after their teenage/young adult years.

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Another key variable is emotionality. 

Women want a man who is in touch with his emotions, and who can and does express how much he loves her. When a man doesn’t say much about his feelings, it is hard to connect and feel any passion toward him. Note that this doesn’t mean telling your wife how much you want to have sex with her, although many women will like that in the right setting. 

It does mean telling her how important she is to you, how much and why you love her, and how happy you are to be with her. If she is not a very verbal person, then you will want to show her this in her love language. Gifts, quality time, whatever it is. 

Be open and forthcoming, and emotionally generous. This is another way to be proactive, and women love being proactive.

In bed, many women find take-charge men to be sexy. Most women who feel like they are the CEO of their house do not also want to be the CEO of the bedroom. (Of course, if your wife is more dominant in bed, you’ll already know, because by definition she will be acting more that way.)

Dominance can mean anything from a man who directly expresses his desire (women like men who are open about how much they desire them) to full-on BDSM-style dominant behavior. (My rule of thumb for male clients is to continue increasing the level that you act dominant in bed until there is any complaint. 

Often this gets quite a bit more extreme than the man ever would have predicted that his wife would enjoy.) 

However, sexual preferences are highly individualized. 

If your wife won’t tell you what she likes, try texting her during the day, or when she is at her most excited and therefore uninhibited during sex. It should be obvious, but a woman who doesn’t enjoy sex with you will not find you sexy outside the bedroom either.

Women also consider well-put-together men to be sexy. This doesn’t mean a clean cut or a specific style of dress  However, you would have no idea how many times I hear women in therapy tell me that their husbands’ poor hygiene is a tremendous turn-off.

Men who don’t smell good, don’t brush their teeth, have old and raggedy clothes (if their wives have mentioned this bothering them), and/or who don’t shower every day (or twice if you’re very sweaty) are not considered sexy by the vast majority of women. You would think as a woman that this would be obvious to your husband and therefore you may be angry at him for not doing it. 

But from what I observe, many men genuinely have no idea how literally disgusting their wives find their hygiene and what a sexual turn-off this is. (If this is your situation, tell your husband directly that his hygiene is aversive to you and exactly what you need him to change in order to have more sex.)

RELATED: 16 Ways To Feel Incredibly Sexy In 5 Minutes Or Less

You will note that I didn’t mention childcare or doing chores.

It is a sad truth that doing a bunch of dishes or reading bedtime stories doesn’t make men sexy to women. 

This stuff does make your wife feel loving and happy, though, which she can then use intentionally to motivate herself for sex. 

But I have yet to hear of a woman outside the approximately two-year honeymoon/limerence phase that considers domestic activities to be genuinely sexy in the classic sense of the word.

Thankfully, there is a loophole here. If you are proactively and assertively, on your own without being nagged, doing things around the house or with the kids, getting ahead of tasks, disciplining the kids in a strong and kind way, and so forth, then your wife may in fact genuinely find this sexy.

 This seems to have more to do with the man-getting-things-done motif than the domestic bliss one. Therefore: a man doing dishes because you asked him to and he thinks maybe then he’ll get laid = is NOT SEXY. 

Man doing dishes because they were there and in the way and the family is about to go on a day trip that he planned and he’s moving proactively around the house knocking stuff out and getting s*** done = SEXY.

On a more prosaic note, women start associating men with sex and positive physical sensations when they repeatedly derive physical pleasure from men. 

This is basic classical conditioning (Pavlov anyone?). 

Therefore, if you rub your wife’s back, hold her hand, wash her hair in the shower, bring her breakfast in bed, bring her an extra blanket when she is cold, or whatever her specific physical need is, then she will associate you with positive physical feelings and be more receptive to sex. This isn’t exactly “thinking about you as sexy,” but it may give you the same net result.

RELATED: 6 Unsexy Things Women Want In Bed

Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of Dr. Psych Mom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.

This article was originally published at Dr. Psych Mom. Reprinted with permission from the author.