Surprising traits females find attractive

Have you ever wondered why you love the person you love? Science points to a ton of psychological reasons that are responsible for making people fall in love with one another — and some of them are downright bizarre. For one, both men and women are really into hand gestures. A study in 2016 proved that people were at least twice as likely to want a second date when their partner moved their hands and arms frequently during their first encounter. You may have also heard that we are often attracted to people who look like our opposite-sex parent — and a study from 2002 confirms it. 

We're a weird species, that much is true, but it gets even stranger when you delve into what each sex finds attractive. Spoiler alert: women, as a rule, have vastly different tastes than men. Need proof? Here are some of the most surprising traits females find attractive.

Move over bad boys, kindness is where it's at

We're not here to say bad boys are unattractive. Their appeal can certainly not be contested. But, is the Rebel Without a Cause persona really what women want? As it turns out, no. Men's Health used two surveys to collect data from over 1,000 American women aged 21 to 54 — all in an effort to figure out just what it is we as women are attracted to.

While the first two traits women found attractive — faithfulness and dependability — are not very shocking, the third most-selected trait is, perhaps, a different story. Kindness is a turn-on according to 67 percent of the women who participated in the surveys. Why? "Because kindness inspires confidence," Men's Health explained.

It may have been cute to tease us in middle school and feign toughness in high school, but it seems that gets old pretty fast. So fellas, if you're reading this, just be kind.

The "wedding ring effect"

We, as women, may have a soft spot for kind men, but that doesn't mean every trait we find attractive is as admirable. The Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University published some interesting findings after performing a study about "mate poaching." According to Independent, a whopping 90 percent of single women who participated in the study displayed interest in a man when they were under the impression that he was in a relationship. Contrast that to the mere 59 percent of single women who found the same man attractive when informed he was single and, wow, that's a big deal. This phenomenon is often called the "wedding ring effect."

Another study has contested these findings, but a report published in 2018 showed that women do indeed appear to copy other women's preferences for male attractiveness. Why? Science doesn't seem to have the answer to that nailed down just yet, but Independent reported that it could be because a married man is "perceived to be more kind, faithful and a better father." And you know how we feel about kindness.

Fatherliness steals hearts

If married or otherwise attached men are more attractive to women because they seem like they'd make better fathers, it makes sense that'd we'd also be into the trait of fatherliness. According to the polls conducted by Men's Health, this quality was actually ranked as the fifth most desired character trait. In facts and figures, this means that 51 percent of the women surveyed found the ability to be a good dad attractive. 

This trait doesn't mean a man has to have kids currently, just that he has the potential to be a good dad. Of course, already having kids wouldn't exactly be a turn-off for many women. New York Post reported that one of the latest trends in romance novels is none other than single fathers.

Lilia Kanna, head of international and series publishing at Harlequin Australia, explained that "single dads have a nurturing and caring element that is very appealing." A study by Zoosk (via New York Post), echoed this sentiment with stats. Citing parenting skills and emotional security as their reasoning, 83 percent of women said they would be interested in dating a single father. 

Even the "dad bod" is hot

In a surprising twist, women aren't just into single dads or men with the potential to be good fathers — even their "dad bod" builds are titillating. Yes, titillating. Meatheads be damned, women are more into a squishy middle than tree trunk limbs. 

In a comprehensive study ironically commissioned by Planet Fitness (via SFGate), more than 2,000 Americans over the age of 18 were asked about this combination of weight and attraction. Believe it or not, seven out of 10 women found anywhere from a few pounds to 20 extra pounds attractive on members of the opposite sex.

If you're not sure what makes a little extra weight so irresistible, it may have to do with perceived self-esteem. In fact, 78 percent of women felt men with some additional pounds were confident in their own skin. Just about half of the women surveyed felt that dad bods are the "new six-pack." The dad bod is even more desirable to moms: 83 percent of women with children said they'd feel proud be married to a man with a dad bod. That's all well and good, but let's draw the line at dad jeans, okay ladies?

The art of storytelling

We all know someone who just drones on and on while telling a story and never quite gets to the point. Now imagine, if you will, being in a committed relationship and living with that person? Yikes. You've probably never thought of the art of storytelling as an attractive quality, but you've definitely noticed how unpleasant bad storytelling can be.

A three-part study conducted in 2016 examined how a person's storytelling ability influences attractiveness. The participants in the first study were told about their potential partner's storytelling ability while the participants in the second study read either a poorly- or well-told story under the guise that it was written by their potential partner. As a result, "women's attractiveness assessments of men as a long-term date increased for good storytellers." 

The reason for these results might be found in the third study. That one highlighted that the art of storytelling seems to reflect a higher social status, the ability to influence other people, and even an ability attain more resources. That might explain why participants in the first two studies had the reactions they did.

Earning potential

Size matters. Well, as far as it relates to a man's nest egg. Before you get to thinking that that's some sort of lewd euphemism, we'll explain. When polled by Men's Health, one in five women cited a man's career successes as one of the top practical skills a partner could possess. There's no doubt about it: a man's earning potential is something many women find attractive. 

Weighing a man's ability to be a good provider so heavily may seem a bit stereotypical and even archaic, but in most households in the United States, men are still the higher-earners and, whether it's cause or effect, Americans — both men and women — continue to place a higher value on a man's earning potential. A survey by Pew Research Center found nearly seven in 10 adults claim "it is very important for a man to be able to support a family financially to be a good husband or partner." 

Humor still reigns supreme

Finding a partner who can make you laugh is undoubtedly significant to many. But, with all of the other traits women are looking for in a potential partner, does humor get crowded out or thought of a less important? Nope, it's still very much an attractive quality. 

One study (via Psychology Today) found that women were three times more likely to hand off their phone numbers to a man who told jokes compared to a man who didn't. The funnyman was also thought to not only be more attractive, but also more sociable, smarter, and, of course, funnier. 

Another study of 200 female and 200 male university students further found that humor is often viewed as an indicator of intelligence and creativity. As with many of the traits women find attractive, the reason for finding humor desirable in a member of the opposite sex involves more than just needing a good laugh.

Bad eyesight is... irresistible?

If you were to briefly look back at your dating history, would you be able to recall any exes who wore glasses? For a long time, glasses were just a part of the "nerd" uniform, but times have changed. Being called a nerd is as good as a compliment — nerdom has securely cemented itself into mainstream. It's even an aesthetic and, some could argue, a culture. You could say that glasses are still a necessary part of the uniform — and sometimes even the most attractive part.

A study conducted in 2011 experimented with full-rim and rimless glasses and their effects on perception. It was discovered that rimless glasses increased perceived trustworthiness and did not cause a decrease in attractiveness. While certain styles of glasses can have a negative effect on a person's attractiveness, there are also many positives, like an increase in perceived intelligence.

The sex appeal of dog ownership

Today is the day you start viewing dog ownership as sexy — poop bags and all. If you've ever caught yourself making googly eyes at a man taking his dog for a jog, there's a chance you wouldn't have given him a second thought had the pooch not been in the picture.

A study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology found that dog ownership increases male attractiveness. While science has yet to prove exactly why this is the case, it could be attributed to a variety of reasons. For one, dog ownership can prove a man's ability to be a good provider since he's obviously able to care for the canine's needs. Dog ownership is also an inherently dominant act and that dominance in men may be attractive. Dog ownership may even demonstrate a man's empathy and the ability to enter into an emotional commitment.

Who knew man's best friend would also be such a great wing man?

Altruism is so hot right now

Altruism, or "acting with an unselfish regard for others" as Psychology Today describes it — is quite the magical trait. It literally has the ability to transform a less attractive man into someone more desirable right before your very eyes. In a study conducted in 2016, women were shown photographs of men with varied appearances — some conventionally attractive, some not so much — and a description of each man either behaving altruistically or not. 

It's not surprising that the men who were both altruistic and attractive took the cake for most "desirable" partner, but here is what is definitely surprising: "men who were just altruistic were rated more desirable than men who were just attractive." Men who weren't very attractive were also considered more desirable partners when they displayed altruistic characteristics. Especially as it concerns long term relationships, the science is crystal clear on this one: altruism trumps attractiveness. And if we're being honest, shouldn't it, really?

The subtle sexiness of stubble

It was once thought that women would view a man's facial hair as attractive — or unattractive — based on where she was in her menstrual cycle. Yeah, science can be a bit cringey at times. A study in 2013 called — and proved — BS, but did find women do have a preference for facial hair. It just doesn't make a difference whether we're ovulating or not. 

Women who participated in the updated study were shown photographs of men who were either clean-shaven, lightly stubbled, heavily stubbled, or fully bearded. Men with a little bit of stubble and those who were clean-shaven were viewed as the least attractive groups. Men with full beards and men with a decent amount of stubble were neck-and-neck for most attractive. 

Further, both men and women thought full beards matched best with parenting ability and were perceived as "better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring." These men were also thought to represent "healthiness." Also, the more facial hair a man had, the more masculine he was considered. It seems like No-Shave November may just have to extend into the rest of the year.