What Do Women Look for in Men?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Models" by Mark Manson . Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What do women look for in men? Is there a universal attribute that all women fall for?

According to Mark Manson, women desire genuinely confident men. Men who embody confidence are perceived as “high-status.” Furthermore, confidence helps you connect with women more effectively and not get affected by rejection.

Here’s why confidence is the key to attracting women.

How Inner Confidence Helps You With Women

What do women look for in men? According to Mark Manson, women desire men who embody “non-neediness,” or inner confidence—in other words, a man whose sense of self-worth depends on how he judges himself, rather than how others judge him. 

First, Manson explains that inner confidence attracts women because it signals that you are “high-status,” or high-value, which women find attractive. Women evolved to desire high-value men because the higher the man’s value, the better he could provide for his offspring. 

Back when the factors we use today to gauge a man’s value—like money—didn’t exist, women gauged a man’s value based on his confidence. In hierarchical tribal societies, low-value men had to care about what (higher-value) others thought of them to ensure their survival. Conversely, high-value men were able to disregard most others’ opinions. Therefore, in the modern day, if you’re unconcerned with others’ opinions, a woman perceives you as high-value; if you’re concerned with their opinions, she perceives you as low-value. 

What Evolutionary Psychologists Say About What Women Want

Among evolutionary psychologists, the idea that women evolved to desire higher-value men because they could provide better for their offspring is known as the “evolved preferences theory.” Most proponents of this theory argue that women evolved this preference because they were unable to get resources on their own. They also argue that women gauged a man’s value based on his proven ability to acquire resources, like food, instead of on his confidence.

However, some psychologists believe in “social roles theory,” which posits that women started to desire men who could provide them with greater resources after the advent of agriculture. They assert that when humans evolved distinctly human characteristics, we were still hunter-gatherers. In such a society, female gatherers found and provided most of the resources (the food)—so there would have been no evolutionary advantage for men who could acquire good resources (since women were the ones gathering those resources anyway). It wasn’t until humans developed agriculture that women started to depend more on their mates for food—which was when they started to prefer men with more resources. 

Based on social roles theory, Manson’s contention that a woman gauges your value based solely on your confidence would be false; you would need to have actual resources (like money) in order to attract a woman. 

Second, Manson explains that by developing inner confidence, you’ll more efficiently build deeper connections with the women you desire. When you develop confidence, you’re able to view rejection as a benefit: If one woman rejects you, it only means they wouldn’t have been a good match, and you now have the chance to find someone who is. 

(Shortform note: Manson focuses primarily on why you should view being rejected by women you’re trying to date as a benefit. In How to Not Die Alone, Logan Ury adds that you should adopt a similar perspective if a woman you’re already dating rejects you, explaining that reframing your breakup positively will help you recover faster. Specifically, Ury recommends writing a diary listing both what’s good about the breakup and what was negative about the relationship.) 

When you don’t fear rejection, you’re more willing to “polarize,” or push women into deciding how they feel about you, which Manson argues is the key to male dating strategy. You’ll inevitably encounter some women who are clearly disinterested (whom you should ignore) and some who clearly desire you (whom you should approach). 

However, most of the women you meet will be initially “neutral,” or lukewarm in their feelings toward you—in other words, she doesn’t know yet if she likes you. But if she remains lukewarm too long, she’ll likely grow disinterested. So whenever you meet such a woman, you should push her out of that mindset by doing something that makes her immediately decide whether or not she’s interested—like asking for her number. 

(Shortform note: Mating in Captivity author Esther Perel warns that it’s not just women who are lukewarm toward you who might grow disinterested; a woman with whom you’re in a committed relationship may also lose her attraction to you. Perel attributes this loss to the institutionalized nature of commitment: Typically, when women commit to men, they start to inhabit social roles that revolve around others—like wife or mother. But Perel contends that women are most aroused by being desired, which requires that they focus solely on themselves. So if a woman is, for example, a man’s wife, she struggles to temporarily set aside that role—and so she doesn’t desire him.)

Manson explains that pushing has two main benefits: First, it demonstrates confidence—so doing it to a lukewarm woman ups the chances that she’ll grow interested. Second, pushing improves your efficiency: If the lukewarm woman decides she doesn’t like you, she’ll let you know quickly—and then you can move on to finding and building a connection with someone else.

Pushing: An Alternate Perspective

Like Manson, in The Unplugged Alpha, Cooper writes that you’ll meet some women who are clearly uninterested, some who are neutral, and some who are interested (your “promoters”). Cooper also agrees that you should ignore women who are clearly uninterested.

Unlike Manson, Cooper doesn’t recommend pushing a neutral woman to prompt her to decide whether she likes you. This is because, according to Cooper, you can only get women to like you by being attractive. You can’t turn a neutral woman into your promoter by merely altering your approach (such as by pushing and asking for her number); you’d have to become more attractive by improving yourself. Therefore, Cooper recommends that you approach only your promoters; ignore neutral women, who won’t be interested in you unless you significantly improve your own attractiveness by, for example, spending months in the gym.
What Do Women Look for in Men?

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  • How a heterosexual man can attract a woman in the modern world
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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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