Men like nice women, but what do women want?

Men like nice women, but what do women want?

Being concerned about a significant other’s welfare is the foundation of any relationship, but when it comes to wooing a potential relationship opportunity, men may be at a disadvantage by showing too much interest in the other person new research says.

The findings, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, came from three studies.  The first two showed men perceive a responsive stranger as more gender typical, as in more feminine or masculine, and therefore more sexually attractive.  The third study found men responded to more responsiveness from women, a signal indicating concern about one’s welfare, with higher sexual arousal, which led to mutual attraction and a strong desire for a long-term relationship.

“Sexual desire thrives on rising intimacy and being responsive is one of the best ways to instill this elusive sensation over time,” lead researcher Gurit Birnbaum said in a news release.  “Our findings show that this does not necessarily hold true in an initial encounter, because a responsive potential partner may convey opposite meanings to different people.”

But while all three studies found men were more attracted to women who showed greater concern for their welfare, women did not find responsive men more attractive.

“We still do not know why women are less sexually attracted to responsive strangers; it may not necessarily have to do with ‘being nice.’  Women may perceive a responsive stranger as less desirable for different reasons,” Birnbaum said.  “Women may perceive this person as inappropriately nice and manipulative (i.e., trying to obtain sexual favors) or eager to please, perhaps even as desperate, and therefore less sexually appealing. Alternatively, women may perceive a responsive man as vulnerable and less dominant.  Regardless of the reasons, perhaps men should slow down if their goal is to instill sexual desire.”

Dr. Shastri Swaminathan, psychiatrist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, says responsiveness is a good thing in any relationship between men and women and even parents and children, but when it comes to being manipulative, Swaminathan said women may be able to differentiate casual responsiveness from a genuine responsive catering to their needs.


Related Posts



  1. That headline is misleading — it doesn’t represent the actual conclusions of the study. Responsive in this context means approachable and/or willing to give the man her attention. It doesn’t mean nice. Nice can mean a lot of things, but it’s not the same as approachable. And what the study really means is that women who may be perfectly nice but aren’t necessarily willing to respond to a complete stranger without some skepticism are seen by men as less desirable. This is disturbing.

    Considering that women are much more likely to be assaulted by men than men are by women, women have reason to be skeptical of strangers until they know more about them. The stranger in question who makes himself seem approachable could be a stalker, a rapist or a serial killer (lots of serial killers have been perfectly charming when they were choosing a target). Yet if men perceive women’s sensible caution as being “less responsive” and less feminine, therefore less desirable, it means that ONLY women who care less about their own safety and are willing to take a complete stranger at face value and focus on him instead of figuring out whether he’s trustworthy are desirable. In other words, women who are a little stupid about their own survival.

    Moreover, “all three studies found men were more attracted to women who showed greater concern for their welfare.” Yeah, that means it’s supposed to be all about him instead of him making an effort to get to know her and show her he’s deserving of her attention. Sexist and narcisssistic! We’ve already seen enough headlines where a guy kills a woman because she didn’t think she owed him her attention, and that made him murderously angry. Those men have unacceptable attitudes of entitlement toward women. News flash: no man is “entitled” to a woman’s attention. Rather, he needs to show he deserves it and is trustworthy. A skeptical woman will take that attitude in dealing with strangers, but this study indicates that a man is morelikely to see that as “less feminine.” Really?? So now men get to define what’s feminine and what’s not?

    What I really have about studies like this is that they usually stop after they’ve documented the unpleasant truth. There’s no effort made to reeducate the people with a warped point of view (in this case, the men). That’s like saying it’s okay that the women who respond to strangers sensibly should be punished for that socially or romantically. NO: sorry, there needs to be an attitude readjustment here. Someone needs to ask why the men don’t instead admire a woman who’s not immediately “responsive” because she’s trying to be responsible instead and take care of herself. And I don’t see that happening here. Perhaps that’s the most disturing thing of all about this study.

  2. Kinda hard to admire someone that blows you off.

  3. Stewart Lawrence August 20, 2014 at 2:53 am · Reply

    I love the contrast in the length of these first two commentaries!! Guess which one of you actually gets her number. Jeremy, let us know how it went?

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.