Have you been scouring the internet, your Tinder app, or maybe that vintage Playboy you have tucked under your mattress — for the secret to unlocking the female heart, mind, and perhaps (gasp!) body? Guys, solving the mystery of the female being is as elusive as completely understanding the universe.
A woman’s wants and needs (conscious or not) are as wide and varied as those of the men who try to decipher them. But, that being said, we all are creatures of our culture. And, at least most of us women have achieved some common ground, on what some of our basic needs and desires in a male partner really are.
It’s never possible to represent all women at one time, but I have striven — as a female, a former dater, and an academic in gender theory — to research and compile some of those feminine secrets that we really wish you knew. So, what are you waiting for? School’s in session.
Women and men are fundamentally the same
A 2015 article title from the Guardian’s Deborah Orr sums it up: “Male and female brains are [basically] the same, but people are all different – and that gives me hope.” She was referring to the much talked about scientific brain study recently conducted at Tel Aviv University which found that there are a few minor differences between male and female brains at the biological level, but that they really are basically the same. “What we show is that there are multiple ways to be male and female…and most of these ways are completely overlapping,” said Daphna Joel, lead author of the study.
This is some striking new evidence for the argument that gender is more of a social construction, than a biological imperative. So while you may anecdotally see many of the men you know having one set of traits, while many of the women you know share another, these characteristics are more likely to be caused by social influences than sex designation.
So, men are from Mars, women are from Venus? Nope! We’re all from Earth and we all have our similarities and differences. “We show there are differences, but brains do not come in male and female forms. The differences you see are differences between averages. Each one of us is a unique mosaic,” Joel said. Believing that the results of her study should inspire both men and women to think less about gender and more about the individual, she said, “We have to treat each person according to what he or she is and not according to the form of their genitals.” Want more? Check out her Ted Talk on the subject.
Kindness is always appealing
Yes, there’s that whole “bad boy” attraction that many women experience. But that’s more of a passing fascination than a meaningful draw. In fact, studies reported on by Psychology Today suggest that women are sometimes attracted to aggressive traits in men for immediate sexual gratification, but are then repelled by the thought of them as longterm partners. And then, there’s the popular myth that nice guys always get unfairly “friend-zoned.”
But you know what? The “friend zone” theory, is just a way of telling women when, where, and who they should have sex with — and I don’t buy it. So listen closely. Women like kind men. Women have sex with kind men. Women want to marry kind men, and have lots of sex, and babies with them. Women sometimes stay with men who are unkind to them because they are scared, not because they like it. I married a kind man and have never regretted it (hi, honey!).
Dressing sloppy isn’t cute
Everyone has their own favorite fashions, economic means — and, of course, different bodies look good in different styles. But it’s a pretty universal truth that women are drawn to men who dress well. Maybe your lady likes cowboy boots, maybe she likes Italian leather, or rainbow flip flops on the beach. Whatever your poison is, just put it together well. No dirty sneakers and frayed jeans. No tears, please. No pit stains, and no ten year old underwear.
Clean up, and wear an outfit that does you a flattering favor, rather than highlight the junk in your trunk. But don’t overdo it. You’ve head the phrase “the clothes make the man,” but don’t you think that’s kind of hyperbolic? While they should look sharp, “your clothes should be the least interesting thing about you,” women’s workwear brand owner M.M. Le Fleur, told Fast Company. Neat and stylish outfits are nearly always pleasing. But making your appearance your first priority (over personal character and heart) won’t make you look good, either.
You don’t need to pretend you’re perfect
Perfect people are boring, am I right? If you saw a hottie-with-a-body profile pic online, but then your date showed up looking like none of the above, you would feel a little deceived, no?
Well, pretending to have a flawless personality just to get in the door with a woman is kind of the same thing. Everyone knows nobody’s perfect — and, that imperfections make life, and relationships, interesting! So don’t present yourself as something you’re not because those hidden truths will come to the surface, anyway. Find someone who loves you for your own individual quirks and missteps. It’ll be worth it.
We don’t fit neatly into categories
When men say something like “I totally worship women,” or “I think women are better than men,” or even “I love women,” do you know what we hear? This: “I look at woman as a broad category, and not as complicated individuals — the way men are perceived.”
But you know what? We contain multitudes! We’re not all either a Virgin Mary, or a slut. And we definitely don’t all want the same things in life. So throw out every bias about what makes men and women different, and learn to think of women and men as individuals — not generalized stereotypical automatons.
We are also afraid of losing our independence
The old stereotype that women are always trying to get married, while men are trying to “get the milk without buying the cow” (yuck) — is totally played out. First of all, women are humans, and we can be just as nervous about commitment as men are. According to data from the Pew Research Center, more and more U.S. couples are holding off on marriage until a later age, or, are deciding against it completely. And it takes two to make that decision.
Author and life coach Sasha Cagen writes in her 2004 book, Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics, about more and more single women who are not necessarily against getting married, they just so much going on independently, that they aren’t interested in settling. As Cagen told the Washington Post, these women “have developed lives that they aren’t so eager to totally jettison when they find a partner.” More often than men, women are asked to give up or take time off from their careers, or interests, or friendships, for homemaking and childrearing purposes — and not everyone is so excited to do that.
This lipstick is for us ladies
In her non-fiction New York Times bestseller, Face Paint: The Story of Makeup, UK makeup expert Lisa Eldridge says, “After 20 years working as a makeup artist, I can say confidently that women wear makeup for themselves.” Of course every woman’s reasons for ‘putting her face on’ are nuanced and variable, but research does back up her claims.
Women have often reported that they feel more confident and have higher self-esteem when they wear makeup. Of course, a lot of this has to do with the longstanding culture that a woman’s worth is in her beauty (sigh). But studies have shown that high self-esteem and being proud of one’s looks are directly correlated. “Make-up plays different roles in a woman’s life,” Eldridge says. First there’s “the playful creative aspect. Who doesn’t enjoy swirling a brush in a palette of color? Then there’s the confidence-building aspect. Why not cover up a huge red blemish if you can? Finally there’s an element of war and tribalism. Make-up can make you feel more powerful and ready to face any situation.” True words!
And, gentlemen, don’t pretend you prefer a “no makeup look,” unless you really are in the vast minority of men who feel that way. We generally like makeup too, so it’s ok if you do as well.
We’re tired of inequality
Hear ye, hear ye! This is a general announcement that women like to be listened to and appreciated as individuals. We are unhappy with being stereotyped, boxed-in, domineered, undermined, and even paid less for equal work!
The feminist movement is experiencing a true renaissance in 2017, so don’t expect tired gender norms and inequalities to stand for long. There are lots of things anyone can do to help the world move toward gender equality. But, if you want a few straightforward actions you can take right now, I think I speak for a large portion of women when I say: listen to us. And stop equating femininity with weakness. That means no more fear about wearing the color pink, crying when you’re sad, or being an awesome stay-at-home-dad. Be proud of those traditionally “feminine” traits, guys! After all, “sensitivity” is frequently listed by women as a trait they desire in a partner.
Don’t be the fox in the henhouse
Believing that men are from Mars and women are from Venus is just as silly as the old metaphor of the fox in the hen house. Men don’t have to feel like they are aliens in a strange world when interacting with women — we are all human!
So, maybe the best kept secret about what women really want men to know is that we should all chill — and really put our best, authentic selves out there. Because a woman wants to see your wonderfully unique and beautiful humanity — and, we hope, that goes both ways.