Do men value physical attraction to their partners more than women do?


Fact Box

  • Psychology Today's Dr. Madeleine Fugere relates that 'we don't necessarily want partners who are extremely attractive—we just want partners who are attractive enough.'
  • A 2011 research study on facial attractiveness found that 'people do generally agree on who is and who is not attractive. Beauty is not just a simple social construct—attractiveness appears to be ingrained in our biology.'
  • According to a Florida State University study from 2017, “relationships are more likely to be successful when the woman is better looking than the man.” 
  • A Pew Research study revealed that 35% of participants rated physical attractiveness as 'what society most values in women.'

Bre (Yes)

When choosing a partner, physical appearance is a higher priority for men. Across numerous studies, attractiveness in mate preference is consistently ranked of higher value for men than women. Experts also note that the few studies which seem to reveal contradictory findings lack necessary measures and controls.

With a large body of research surrounding the psychology of attraction, it's recognized that the sexes are wired differently. Men and women are known to have different priorities in partner selection. Consistent with evolutionary theory, ample research finds men both prioritize attractiveness higher and are more attracted by appearance. When evaluating attractiveness, women emphasize personality traits more than men do, while men place greater importance on a woman's appearance. Men have a stronger preference for slender and good-looking partners, with significantly more men than women classifying these qualities as desirable or essential. Moreover, as men gain higher social status, their preference for young, physically attractive mates increases.

Experts have developed the mate preference priority model (MPPM), which further supports men's higher prioritization of attractiveness. These findings also extend cross-culturally, with men more strongly preferring attractive mates, including among cultures where greater gender equality is observed. Additionally, studies on relationship satisfaction confirm men's stronger inclination for physical attractiveness in a partner.

With such robust findings, universal differences between sexes in mate preference research are well established, with men--more than women-- preferring young, attractive mates. After much examination, it's widely concluded and accepted that compared to women, men find physical build and attractiveness more important.

Elisa (No)

While men are often criticized for their superficiality, the truth is that many studies show that women are just as, if not more, superficial. In fact, scientists say that women are not being entirely honest about how much men’s looks matter to them

Whether they admit it or not, women do pay attention to the physical appearance of men, citing a plethora of things they find attractive that men may not even realize. On many lists of what women want, attractiveness reigns supreme. 

Notably, women are criticized for their superficiality regarding men’s height, with many not giving short men a chance. There are many examples of unrealistic standards women hold when it comes to men’s appearance, and this goes for status and wealth, too. 

Dating sites are another key indicator of women’s superficiality--with more women “swiping left” or denying men on dating sites based solely on men’s initial appearance and profile. Also, though there are many successful men out there, many women often let them go for less impressive men who, quite simply, are more attractive--though most women may never reveal that. 

So, the truth is that women are just as shallow as men; however, men may be more open about it. Ultimately, physical attractiveness is rooted in evolutionary psychology, so any man or woman denying that they simply do not care about appearance is probably not telling the whole truth. For both men and women, looks are more important when it comes to dating than most would like to acknowledge.

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