Guys, Here’s What It’s Actually Like To Be A Woman

Written with Geoffrey Miller. This story is an exclusive chapter excerpt from MATE: Become the Man Women Want.

She Already Knows She’s Pretty, and She’s Still Self-Conscious

If you meet a woman who strikes you as beautiful, you’re probably not the first guy to notice. In attractiveness research, men show very high agreement in their ratings of women’s faces and bodies. This means that as long as she has been objectively beautiful she has been admired, hit on, masturbated to, and harassed by guys from ages sixteen to sixty, including many of her classmates, teachers, peers, coaches, coworkers, and bosses—not to mention total strangers, pickup artists, and alleged “talent scouts for modeling agencies.” Many of the guys who hit on her were nasty sociopaths, because the nice guys found her too intimidating. And enough women have found her threatening that she’s had trouble keeping more than a few close friends. Her beauty has already been both a blessing and a curse for years before you ever laid eyes on her.

This is one reason why it’s pointless, and often counterproductive, to go up and compliment beautiful women on their beauty. Tell her something she doesn’t already know and hasn’t already heard from a thousand guys. Better yet, don’t tell her anything. Ask her about her interests, ambitions, friends, background—anything that requires some social intelligence to appreciate behind her “hot girl” persona. Just talk to her like you already understand that (a) she’s beautiful, and you both know it, (b) she’s felt ambivalent about her beauty for years, and (c) she’d like to be appreciated for things she’s achieved in her life through her own efforts, not through winning the genetic lottery of physical attractiveness.

Yet here is the great irony about female beauty: she’s still very self-conscious about her face and her body and her clothes and her accessories. Frankly, she doesn’t really understand why you’re attracted to her. This holds true even for a very good-looking woman, because she compares herself to the world’s most beautiful models and actresses, air-brushed to perfection, staring her down from the cover of every women’s magazine and billboard. She doesn’t typically consider what men actually find attractive or she misunderstands it completely.

Most women think that men are most attracted to the rail-thin models or skinny actresses that grace the covers of the magazines they buy. They’re wrong. Studies show that most men are attracted to women with curves and meat on their bones; the high-fertility hourglass shapes (like Kim Kardashian, Sofia Vergara, or Halle Berry), not low-fertility apple shapes or no-fertility chopstick shapes. Also, guys prefer women who are physically healthy and capable, with strong muscles, bones, connective tissues, and immune systems, because this predicts being a sexually energetic girlfriend; a capable, protective mother; and a long-lived partner. (Think Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Biel, Rhona Mitra, or Jennifer Garner…) Men want just the right amount of fat, in the right places, on a strong, healthy frame.

Unfortunately, most women think the male conception of beauty is binary: “fat” (bad) or “thin” (good). So they diet using bad health advice and spotty willpower to strive for the supermodel plank shape, and they lose both their cues of fertility (boobs and butt) and their cues of capability (muscle), undermining their attractiveness.

Remember, she didn’t evolve to be attracted to women or their feminine traits, so she’s sort of mystified that you could find her sexually desirable in the first place. It just doesn’t make sense to her. There’s a part of her that was incredulous during puberty when boys were starting to notice her, and that part is still there. She’s got a bit of impostor syndrome about her own erotic power.

This self-consciousness extends to nearly every aspect of her appearance, including many areas of her body and most of what she wears. Women put a lot of thought into their appearance. Everything they wear and display is probably a conscious choice. Every choice is a statement—but not every statement succeeds. Yet often, women can’t tell if they’ve struck the right balance between formal and casual, tight and loose, sexy and slutty, classical and avant-garde, earnest and ironic. Are they projecting “sexy vamp” or “meth-head jail bait”? Are they projecting “sophisticated Brooklyn hipster” or “Jersey Real Housewife”?

The problem is that they almost never get accurate feedback about what image they’re projecting. Her friends are too polite to tell her the truth one way or the other, and guys are too horny to tell the difference. Most guys are oblivious to clothes altogether, let alone the specific, conscious choices that women make. When it comes to what we wear, most of us just throw on whatever’s clean.

The fact that most guys can’t tell the difference between haute couture and Juicy Couture (or the respective differences in effort and taste) only amplifies her self-consciousness. And if you want to turn her self-consciousness up to 11, be the guy who can’t seem to pick up on her signs of interest in you either. That one is a killer for any young woman who has put herself out there. If a woman’s really interested in you, she will go out of her way to be around you and to be visible and available for you to approach. If you’re oblivious enough not to get those signals, she may even have the gumption to wave at you or ask her friend to say hi. Sadly, if you’re younger than twenty and/or have had sex with fewer than four women, you’ll probably overlook or misinterpret all of those female choice cues. Pay more attention next time.

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