Feature Archive

What Makes a Man Sexy?

Clothes? Muscles? A confident smile? A California therapist reveals the secrets.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith So there's this woman -- extremely cute, ridiculously smart, shares my taste in movies, and, strangely enough, seems as interested in me as I am in her. Of course, when I met Kathie Lee (OK, that's not her real name), my first impulse was not to enjoy my good luck but to wonder how I would manage not to blow it. After all, if you find a wad of cash in the street and dump it all on stock in Bellyup.com, it's worse than never having had the money in the first place.

To make sure things would go the way I wanted them to, I decided I had to make myself as attractive -- no, make that downright sexy -- as possible. But what does that mean? After all, this is a confusing time for guys. These days, male sexiness isn't just based on being strong yet gentle, confident yet caring, powerful yet modest -- we're also expected to have rock-hard pecs and abs of steel.

Off to School

To find out what really makes a guy sexy, I turned to Barbara Biggs, PhD, a Los Angeles therapist who specializes in sexuality issues. She was willing to get right to the issue at hand.

"First of all, not all women are attracted to the same things," she tells me. I can see that. Like most guys I know, I would like to look good to rocket scientists and Rockettes alike. I would like all women to like me. But, upon reflecting, I see her point. Not all women are going to be attracted to me, just as I'm not attracted to all women. So, we might as well focus our efforts on finding those who find us at least initially appealing.

Already a Snag

Unfortunately, Biggs tells me, some women may find you appealing one day but not others, depending on what they're looking for at the moment. If she's just looking for an exciting partner for the night, a woman might choose someone entirely different from the man she'd like to have a relationship with. Women may look for a real "he-man" for the fling, even though in the long term they'd rather have someone they can really talk to.

(Note to self: Enough time in the day to increase my he-man qualities and my communication skills? Check calendar.)

Sexy Sensitivity

"We always hear women say that 'sensitive' is sexy, but if a guy is too sensitive, he isn't seen as manly," I tell Biggs. "So where do you draw the line?"

"That's a very wiggly line," Biggs says. "Many women would like a man to be sensitive and have the ability to talk about feelings. In fact, a woman will feel that if she can get intimate in conversation with a man, it will be easier to share physical intimacy. But at the same time, she wants him to have some kind of quality that represents masculinity." That could mean many things to many women, Biggs says. It could mean having a large build or a protective quality, or being a tad more sexually aggressive than she is.

The Appeal of Wealth and Power

Then, of course, there's the special sex appeal of wealth and power, which Biggs says are still important to some women. So what can someone whose last name isn't Trump or who doesn't run even a medium-sized company do to take on that aura of authority? Giving off that commanding vibe isn't always dependent on your bank balance, Biggs says. "Some men are so supremely confident that they gain a degree of power just by moving through life that way," she says. Ah-ha -- now we're getting somewhere.

And how do you get that extra dash of confidence? Biggs suggests psychotherapy, which seems a bit extreme -- I was thinking more along the lines of a new shirt. I could also take on an air of self-assurance by making more direct eye contact and not slouching, she says.

Self-Improvement Time

Now we get to the real question -- what can I do to improve my attractiveness quotient, to exude sex appeal? She looks me up and down like Ralph Nader working an auto show. "You look most attractive when you're smiling," she tells me. (I knew I should have thought twice about that philosophy major.) She then tells me I look a bit, er, rumpled -- my shoe is untied, and she doesn't care for the gray color of my pants. On the positive side, she says I have a very nice face and that my beard brings out my blue eyes.

She recommends that I cultivate a warm and friendly approach to everyone I meet, so I can call on that same attitude whenever I come across an attractive woman. Finally, she tells me to relax and be myself. (Now, that one's so crazy it just might work.)

The Acid Test

I decide to try out these techniques on my next date with K.L. I dress neatly, look her right in the eyes, and deliver my friendliest smile. In response, she treats me exactly the way she did before. It strikes me that she probably had my number right from the start, and nothing I do now is going to change her opinion. In which case, relaxing and being myself is probably about the best thing I can do.

But just out of curiosity, I ask her what she thought of me when we first met -- and she replies that she thought I was kind of sexy.

Now I find I'm standing up straighter and smiling a lot more. If other women find this sexy, well, that's their tough luck.

Ben Kallen is senior writer for Men's Fitness magazine. He has also written on health, nutrition, and psychology for Shape, Muscle & Fitness, and New Age Journal.

Originally published July 31, 2000.

Medically updated May 16, 2003.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005 10:50:26 PM



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