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Gender Differences in Attraction

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Donna has her Master of Science in Social Psychology and a BSRN.

What are the differences between men and women when it comes to attraction?

What are the differences between men and women when it comes to attraction?

So Many Factors to Consider

Goodwin (1990) researched attributes of individuals' desire in a romantic relationship between males and females and surprisingly found little difference. The study is published in the journal article Sex differences among partner preferences: Are the sexes really very similar?

This study was measured on a free-response where participants could choose by free will, and the results are as follows. The ones that were similar were ranked in the order that they appeared first. Males revealed the most important ranking was attractiveness, personality, honesty, fun, and love. The results for the women were personality, honesty, friendship, kindness, and humor. The group used for this study was derived from a dating agency sample.

Even though every attempt has been made to close the gap between stereotypical gender roles, the reasons women are attracted to men and men are attracted to women still have an underlying similarity to the past.

Women traditionally looked for a man to maintain high-status roles of financial provider and social dominance. In terms of age (traditionally), it was not uncommon for men to be a little older, less emphasis placed on looks and more placed on his status in society. Status was an indication that he would be a good husband and father and able to provide for the family (Crisp & Turner, 2010). In modern society, although more women have become financially solvent, to a degree, some of the traditional values of what attracts women to men still hold true.

On the other end of the spectrum, men traditionally did not pay attention to the status women held and were more into what they found physically attractive. These standards of beauty vary with a man’s personal taste as well as cultures. What men find attractive in Western society is not necessarily the same as what men find attractive in Eastern society.

Cogan et al. (1996) found that college men in Ghana, West Africa, preferred more curvaceous larger women while men of the same age in the United States preferred slimmer women. Anderson et al. (1992) also found a connection between food supply and weight, showing that where the food supply is unpredictable, men prefer heavier women than where the food supply is adequate. The focus on a healthier weight also ensured that women were capable of childbearing without complications during the time's food supply was questionable (Crisp & Turner, 2010).

Today’s relationships vary across the spectrum, but ultimately women still seem to place a higher value on how they are treated and how well he will take care of them versus a man’s appearance. Women like a man that is kind, communicative, respectful, loyal, and honest. In the end, these are the most important values.

Women appear to be more open to younger men and dating men that are not financially solvent. Unfortunately, the lack of these stereotypical things sometimes goes hand in hand with emotional instability and immaturity and ultimately are the very things that impede the relationship from moving forward. In the end, this may lead women back to looking for some of the more traditional values in a man.

Gender Differences and Relationship Satisfaction

There are a number of factors that contribute to relationship satisfaction. According to Le & Agnew (2003), in the journal article, The things you do for me: Perceptions of a romantic partner’s investments promote gratitude and commitment (Joel et al., 2013), shows a more invested partner equals a more committed partner.

In addition, if the relationship is not working out and the lure of alternatives has a perceived low quality, then this can predict if a person decides they want to stay. Basically, if someone looks at what they have and finds that what is out there is not as enticing, this may be a deciding point when it comes to relationship commitment (Crisp & Turner, 2010).

Studies mainly show that when “one partner invests time, energy, emotions, and other resources into the relationship, the other partner is likely to appreciate that person more and subsequently be more willing to stay in that relationship” (Joel et al., 2103, para. 6). Highly committed partners that are happy are also more willing to give up important aspects of their lives and make sacrifices for their relationship (Crisp & Turner, 2010).

My Personal Experience

From my viewpoint regarding the articles, they both make valid points in terms of gender differences regarding attraction and relationship satisfaction. It might be difficult to view one's relationships in terms of investments as if it is some sort of economic exchange, but is it just the nomenclature that sounds shallow? In actuality, the facts of high satisfaction being related to investment are very palpable.

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Looking at relationships in the past, there were a number of reasons things did not last but the equality and the time attributed to emotional investment are important. No one wants to be the only person putting their whole heart and soul into a relationship getting minimal results and respect back.

As far as what I look for in a partner, this has changed over time as I’ve settled into my life and matured. I am looking for someone who values and respects the sacredness of friendship and has a good, kind spirit with qualities like honesty and loyalty being of utmost importance. Attraction is important but only from a personal standpoint, not by the standards of what everyone else sees and thinks.

There are lots of elements of a person’s character and personality that make a person attractive to me. In conclusion, the gender difference gap will also be present, and whether it closes or becomes more similar is of little importance to me; as long as there is communication, all the differences can be handled head-on.



Crisp, R. J., & Turner, R. N. (2010). Essential social psychology (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Goodwin, R. (1990). Sex differences among partner preferences: Are the sexes really very similar? Sex Roles, 23, 501-513. doi:10.1007/BF00289765


Donna (author) from Southern California on November 21, 2014:

Thanks for commenting Kimika!

Kimika Foster from Dallas, TX on November 21, 2014:

I do enjoy eye candy. Attraction is important, however I agree character and personality make the difference. I prefer beauty inside and out. Ha!

Donna (author) from Southern California on November 20, 2014:

Thank you MsDora!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 20, 2014:

On the one hand, children seem to make better sense of family when the man is the main provider. On the other, women sometimes have better financial opportunities. In the end, as you point out, character and communication set the foundation. Thanks for your insights.

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