You know Darwin as the father of the evolutionary theory, but you probably wouldn't go to him for dating advice. But you're missing out, because dating, mating, and procreating are all elements of the same evolutionary process. It's all about how we're wired.
Sexiness is basically the combined effect of characteristics the opposite sex is innately programmed to see as "markers" or "signals" for good genetic fitness and reproduction.
Darwin's sexual selection theory explains this in depth, but the overview is this: We are programmed to look for certain signs in prospective mates that help us discern whether or not they'll make a good partner—these signs are physical as well as behavioral. These biological predispositions shape our preferences for a mate irrespective of whether we actually want children.
Men and women look for different markers because our biology is different. Here's how to use this information to become sexier to the opposite gender?
1. Get in shape. (It's obvious, but it's true.)
One of the best things someone of either gender can do to make themselves more appealing to the opposite sex is to get fit. Men tend to place a greater emphasis on appearance than women, but it's not the only factor. The way you look, however, isn't something that only matters to superficial people. It telegraphs good hygiene and personal care—survival skills, if you want to go far enough back in history.
On that note—women, this doesn't mean you need to be model thin. In fact, think of celebrity sex symbols—Beyoncé, Scarlett Johannsson, Jennifer Lopez—they're all curvaceous. Why? Because an hourglass figure is a sign of fertility. Having a little weight on your body shows that you're healthy. You don't need to become a Photoshopped size zero. Just take care of yourself, and the rest will follow.
2. Be confident.
Both sexes are attracted to confidence for obvious reasons. Men, hunters and gatherers, see women who don't need them—who feel perfectly happy without them—as a challenge, which makes them more attractive. And women find strong, capable men sexy because that go-getter attitude could have meant the difference between life and death for a cave-dweller.
Even if you do feel insecure, you can build confidence and self-esteem by focusing on improving yourself in some way. This could mean starting to go to the gym, as we discussed above. It could mean surrounding yourself with positive people who are supportive of you. If people in your life bring you down more than they lift you up, re-evaluate these friendships. Strengthen the more positive ones.
3. Be curious and keep learning.
The key difference between humans and all other animals on the planet is our intelligence. We're also programmed to look for a keen intellect in partners since research suggests genetics do predispose intelligence to some extent. Theories on the formation of relationships say we try to find people who are similar to us but a little bit better.
One way to measure this is intelligence. And there are so many ways to make yourself smarter—or even just make yourself seem smarter. Travel the world to become more cultured and knowledgeable. Read more to increase your vocabulary and improve your employment prospects.
4. Upgrade your wardrobe.
Your wardrobe says a lot about you, and it's actually one of the markers of your creativity. A creative mind is another sign of intelligence and also another marker people look for in potential mates. This is one of the reasons artists (musicians, actors, painters, etc.) and celebrities in general tend to be trendsetters. They have a unique, creative style that we find appealing. If you haven't reshuffled your wardrobe in a while, this may be something to consider.
5. Learn to trust yourself and others.
The ability to trust and give freedom to a partner shows you have a secure attachment. That means you feel positive about yourself and trust that other people won't betray or abandon you.
Being a control freak isn't very attractive. It implies that you're not open-minded or trusting, and that can make it difficult to build a healthy relationship. If you learn to take life with a little more grace, people's attitudes toward you will change in a profound way. Being easygoing makes you so much more approachable (and fun) to the opposite sex.
6. Laugh more.
Humor is another important marker for both genders but tends to rate a bit higher for women. Humor can reinforce a relationship as the positive feelings you get from laughing become associated with the individual. This is called conditioning—the phenomenon in which you associate a person or thing with a certain feeling—in this case, making you feel positive about the person.
These are just some of the things people in the dating world look for, but they're the ones I've found to really make a difference. They all help you stand out from the crowd in a positive way. So, give a couple of these adjustments a try and watch your love life blossom.