What do men look for in a woman?

Men have certain preferences for the qualities of women they enter into a relationship with. Men’s preferences are more appearance-oriented than women’s, and according to evolutionary theories are a consequence of the necessity of choosing a fertile woman over the course of evolution. Many indications of this have been found in psychological research.
Two factors that are the basis of the theory of evolutionThe two factors that are the basis of evolution are survival and reproduction. The end goal of these two goals is to maintain and pass on the genes. According to the theory of evolution, almost all behavior that animals (and humans) exhibit serves this purpose.

Why get married?

In theory, men (unlike women) can reproduce almost indefinitely. Sperm cells are produced in large quantities until relatively old age. Also, unlike women, men are not necessarily attached to a child for at least nine months after impregnating a woman. So why might it be evolutionarily beneficial for men to be in a long-term relationship at all? After all, by making as many women pregnant as possible, the genes would be passed on optimally.

The answer to this probably lies in the fact that women also had certain requirements when choosing a man with whom they wanted to have a sexual relationship (for more details see: what do women look for in a man). An important requirement for women was the man’s reliability. If a man had a reputation for being unfaithful and having a lot of casual hookups, this could quickly cause the woman to lose interest.

A second reason to stay with a woman could be to protect the offspring from dangers, to care for them and to educate them. In this way, there was a greater chance that these offspring would successfully reproduce themselves, further preserving the father’s genes.

Determining a woman’s fertility

For men, it was important, especially in the case of a long-term relationship, not to lose valuable time, effort and resources. Therefore, it was very important to choose a fertile woman. To determine whether a woman was fertile, a man could only rely on external characteristics related to fertility. This could happen consciously or unconsciously. Men who preferred women who showed signs of fertility were more successful at reproducing, and thus passed on their genes more often than men who did not prefer these characteristics. This is probably how men’s preferences when choosing wives arose.

Indications of fertility

Youth and health

An obvious sign of fertility is youth. In other words, men prefer cues of a woman’s youth. Of course, a woman should not be too young, because she is not yet fertile. This again depends on the hip-to-waist ratio, which will be discussed later.

Some signs of youth and health are

  • Full lips
  • Shiny, full hair
  • Long hair
  • Healthy, smooth skin
  • Absence of signs of disease


Evidence from experiments

Men’s preference for these characteristics is found worldwide, across a wide range of cultures. It is also common in most cultures for men to marry women younger than them.

Research with MRI measurements also shows that in heterosexual men the pleasure center in the brain, the Nucleus Accumbens, becomes active when looking at faces that show characteristics of youth and health. When these men look at faces without these features, this part of the brain does not become active.


An appearance feature that is separate from youth but is related to health and fertility is symmetry. This correlation is a result of the fact that developmental disorders in childhood and the presence of parasites result in a less symmetrical face and body.

Evidence from experiments

This preference for symmetrical faces and bodies has been extensively evidenced in psychological experiments. For example, in an experiment, photos of faces were artificially made more or less symmetrical. The subjects all experienced the most symmetrical version of the faces as the most attractive.

Another experiment has shown that the preference for symmetrical faces is present in babies. This shows that preferences are innate, not learned.

Hip-waist ratio

Another important indicator of fertility in women is the hip-waist ratio (see article: The hip-waist ratio: sign of fertility). Men generally prefer women with a hip to waist ratio of 0.70. This ratio is independent of overall fat content. So it applies to slim and sturdy women. This same ratio of 0.70 appears to indicate fertility and health.

Evidence from experiments

Psychologists have found that since the 1950s, virtually all playboy models have had a hip-to-waist ratio of 0.70, although they have become slimmer over the years. The same preference is

also found in a large number of cultures worldwide.