Australian scientists have found the answer to this question. They analyzed the answers of more than seven thousand people aged 18 to 65 years, who participated in a national online survey on sexual attractiveness. The results of the study are published in the journal PLOS One.
What determines sexual attractiveness for men and women? Survey participants were asked to rate on a scale of zero to one hundred points the importance of having nine traits in potential partners, grouped into three categories: aesthetics (age, attractiveness and physical features), resources (intelligence, education and income) and personality (trust, openness and emotional connection).
Statistical analysis of responses revealed similar priorities for men and women. Both ranked attractiveness, physical features, and all three personality traits as very important, while income was least important. However, the importance of age, education, intelligence, income, trust, and emotional connection was about 9 to 14 points higher for women than for men. The latter paid more attention to the attractiveness and physical physique of the potential partner.
“Numerous scientific studies have long demonstrated that the ability to quickly determine attractiveness in others reflects a preference to reproduce offspring with good genes,” the university’s press release quoted study leader, behavioral economist Stephen Whyte, as saying. – Although both sexes prefer a physically attractive potential partner, men have stronger preferences for attractiveness than women.”
The authors of the study found that the set of preferences changes with age. For example, young men place more importance on aesthetics than young women, for whom personality qualities are more important. This gap narrows with age: both men and women pay more attention to such traits as openness and trust in old age.
“Sexual attraction is a key factor in mate choice and reproduction. Our results indicate clear differences within each sex at key stages of life, which is consistent with selection pressure theories,” White says. – But women are generally more selective about the whole set of characteristics because their time to reproduce is more limited and they can’t risk making the wrong choice.”
Interestingly, too, while both men and women often emphasized a single trait at a young age, as they approached the upper fertility limit, which was around age 50, they increasingly claimed the importance of a set of traits.
The decisions people make in choosing a sexual partner strongly influence not only aspects of family relationships and reproduction, but also other aspects of society, including gender roles and equality, labor market dynamics, liberalism broadly defined, politics, religion, and culture.