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What Men & Women Find Sexually Attractive, According To Research

Last updated on December 30, 2021

As people navigate the dating scene, one of the ever important questions asked is, what do men and women find attractive? Fortunately, scientific research can offer us some clues. As it turns out, there's some nuance between what women find attractive and what men find attractive—and their priorities also change with age.

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What women find attractive.

In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of researchers from Queensland University of Technology in Australia looked at what exactly men and women prioritize in sexual partners as they age. They looked at over 7,000 Australians on dating sites, with ages ranging from 18 and 65.

The participants were given nine specific traits broken into three categories to rate based on importance, on a scale of 0 to 100. The "aesthetics" category included age, attractiveness, and physical build/features. The "resources" category included intelligence, education, and income. And the "personality" category included trust, openness, and emotional connection.

After analyzing the results of the ratings, the team found men and women did, in fact, have relatively similar priorities. Both men and women considered the following qualities important for sexual attraction:

  • Trust
  • Openness
  • Emotional connection
  • Physical build
  • Attractiveness
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Men and women also both rated income with lower importance.

The areas that appeared to be slightly more important for women than for men (about 9 to 14 points more important, specifically) were:

  • Intelligence
  • Trust
  • Age
  • Education
  • Income
  • Emotional connection

What men find attractive.

In alignment with what women found attractive in the study, men also prioritized the following qualities:

  • Trust
  • Openness
  • Emotional connection
  • Physical build
  • Attractiveness
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The qualities that men rated to be of more importance than women did were attractiveness and physical build. Like women, men also rated income as being less important for attraction.

How age affects what we find attractive.

As far as how the results differed with age, it would appear our priorities do change as we get older. In the study, men did place more importance on aesthetics than women in general, but among the older participants, there was less of a discrepancy between men and women's concerns for aesthetics.

For both men and women, "preference for attractiveness appears negatively correlated with age, but preference for openness and trust is positively associated with age," the researchers write in the study.

Additionally, younger women rated personality traits as more important than the younger men, but among the older participants, both men and women rated personality more evenly.

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The takeaway.

It's well understood that these sexual attraction preferences influence everything from relationships to sex on an individual level but also broadly influence things like gender norms and politics. The results of this study, the authors note, do line up with much of what we already know with regard to sexual attraction, with the biggest takeaway being how those preferences change with age.

If there's anything we can garner from this, it's that physical attractiveness may be important throughout our lives, but the older we get, the more our personality will be a true test of our attractiveness.

For more, here's what turns women on according to science, plus signs of attraction between two people.

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