Do women only find 20% of men attractive?

A number of times, people have quoted this statistic, or asked about it here. There's some truth to it, but it needs to be interpreted a little more carefully. The source of the number is an oktrends article: Your looks and your inbox. The article pulls from ratings given by okcupid users of one another. The graph of how males rate women looks like this:

Do women only find 20% of men attractive?

While the equivalent chart showing how women rate men (along with a curve showing who they message) is shown here:

(Both graphs are from the oktrends article)

So it is 'true', at least for these datasets. It's worth noting that the datasets used are far, far bigger sets of data than most polls or research are based on. They are not random people though - they're okcupid users. That may be a biased sample. Some people suggest that male online daters are somehow more desperate (read ugly) than women, but given similar numbers of men and women who use the site, I doubt that as an explanation.

So why do I think we should be careful in how we interpret this data? Two reasons why women and men are -different-, and two reasons why the graphs are probably an exageration.

The differences in perspective:

  • Men tend to be more appearance focused than women. Personality factors have much less impact on our perception of attractiveness (which isn't to say we don't care about them - they certainly play into compatibility, which is distinct from attractiveness). Women DO care about appearance, but also care about other factors much more than men do in terms of attractiveness (which I would argue is for women ALSO distinct from compatibility). So I'd suggest we interpret the result as meaning that women only consider a small proportion of men attractive based on looks alone. But there's a much bigger group of men who they potentially find genuinely hot based on a combination of looks and other factors once they get to know them. For men, if you don't think she's attractive based on her picture, it's only a small number of cases where other factors could make her attractive.
  • Men find casual sex appealing on an instinctive (perhaps not ethical/emotional) level, with any fertile and reasonably attractive women. Throughout our evolution, for women, casual sex was always a much bigger risk, and only attractive with very desirable partners. One way of interpreting the numbers is that men would find casual sex appealing with many women, women would find casual sex appealing (in both cases, if they're ethically okay with it) only with a few men. But women would have enthusiastic relationship sex with more men than that, while men want a relationship with fewer women then they would sleep with.

The biases in the graphs:

  • The data set focuses on younger people. "Youthfulness" is a more significant portion of female attractiveness than it is of male attractiveness. So all young women are getting full marks there: combine that with average features and "not fat", and they're pretty attractive. But they're actually not average. If you lined up all women, young and old, that group (young, healthy, average features) would be top quartile. Men are also better looking from say 25-35 than older ( :( ), but young men get less of a boost than young women. If we had even numbers of people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, I'd guess the graphs would look somewhat closer.
  • Women seem much more capable than men, on average, of using makeup/hair/camera angles/photo retouching to boost their appearance. If we rolled both the men and women out of bed and took an immediate selfie, the graphs would likely look closer.


Finally, there is probably some hint of truth in it. Evolution rewarded women who went after the best men, while rewarding men who went after lots of reasonably fertile looking women. But the story is probably overstated in just looking at the 'only 20%' headline.


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Most Helpful Girl

  • If you pulled guys and girls out of bed in the morning and took an instant selfie of them all, there'd be a lot more attractive guys than there would be girls comparatively. After doing hair/make-up and getting good lighting and a good angle and after taking about 15 "fail" selfies, girls can make themselves look VASTLY more attractive than when they roll out of bed. On the other hand, guys don't usually do a whole lot to their appearances.
    It is true though that I see a lot more guys than look "decent" or "average" than I do guys that I would call straight up "attractive".

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    • "On the other hand, guys don't usually do a whole lot to their appearances." True for me. I don't care if I scare the crows. (maybe the crowds too, LOL)

Most Helpful Guy

  • Well only 20% of women are attractive without makeup

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    • hahaha true story bro
      When I see girls who normally wear make up without it I just think: Omg.

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What Girls Said 14

  • Studies like this are actually just simply not fair by and large. On a dating site, men and women have only a profile pic to base any initial attraction. They won't/can't have time to read every message or peruse every profile online. It stands to reason if the pics do not capture attention in some way, people simply "next."

    In real life, a face to face meeting results in conversation with every contender who shows interest. Men and women alike can downplay physical attraction to a point if the person captivates their attention with interesting or amusing conversation. Face to face meetings with strangers will always uncover some facet of personality trait or shared interests that simply cannot be stated in a picture alone.

    That being said, a profile pic with a catchy or intriguing caption or one taken in a fantastic location (another country, showing work with rescue animals, museum) will have a much better chance at capturing attention despite the attractiveness of said person. I entered online convos with people who were not what I consider attractive to my preference but posted pics in front if a pyramid, a famous international land mark, and one riding an elephant in a jungle. It is all context.

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    • The reality is though that what you said is true of men -and- women. There's SOMETHING different in how they're reacting.

      But I also think your last paragraph is excellent. oktrends actually had a really interesting article on photos and messages, and to their surprise, people where you couldn't see their face, but the photo expressed a lot about them, got a LOT of messages.

      It's possible those messages dried up when people saw their faces, but interesting nonetheless!

  • Must people put everything into statistics? that says nothing about anyone, statistics are all made up factors based off what? lol it's not founded. We like who we like we can't help it, that's the truth of both males and females, we are all as confused about our bodies and hormones, for some reason our bodies choose to make us fall in love with a certain person, a huge part of that though is people who remind us of ourselves in a way... or they are the complete opposite but are highly positive and confident.

    They don't let the stigmas of society rule over them like most people do, they just love us despite anything and support us, they don't argue back at everything we say just like we will support them and not argue back ether. There is a lot that goes into who we find attractive. Articles like these put us girls in a bad lime light making guys think we are just picky or something, we can't help who we like as much as any guy kay? lol.

    99% of the time women can't decide on the attractiveness of a male based on their looks right away, it's just not in our nature... we are the ones that carry a mans baby for 9 months, we are the ones that some how end up doing all the stuff for them... (unless your lucky enough to find someone who goes 50/50 lol which is rare), so we at least want a guy who good personality traits, it's a plus being good looking lol we do indeed count the pluses just like guys, but we don't want a guy who is a jerk for long term, so our choices are instinctual as much as males choices are but in a slightly different way.

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    • Statistics say nothing about anyone, but a lot about -everyone- if that makes sense. For instance, women on average are 5" shorter than men. All women are not shorter than all men, in a given couple either might be taller, but its still a true statement about the populations.

      I wrote the take because I'd seen this article (which I find really interesting) referenced in a way that suggested women were picky. And I don't think that's a fair reading of the data.

    • No it's really not... non of it is true... we are who we are and we like different personalities and different physcial looks, different heights, i personally don't like guys taller than me lol but other girls do, it all depends on who we are but as i said it's instinctual who we fall for, can't control it even if we could help it... thus the many times our love isn't returned... we may like someone but that someone may not like us back, for both males and females this has probably happened about 10 times at least by the same of 20 lol, we live who we like...

    • we like who we like*

  • I'd say I found less than 20% of guys honestly attractive! but at the same time I hardly ever find a guy ugly. All guys are typically 'the same' and I differentiate majorly by personality and interests I guess. There's only ever been one guy who I truly rated in looks and that backfired, hence the new plan ;)

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  • I only find one man in the world attractive:my husband! Good Lord I'm sooo picky...

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    • No you are just lying to yourself, you find thousands of men attractive... being faithful to you husband is not the same as being blind.

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    • I think this is possible. Attraction has many factors, including choice and idealism. And by idealism I mean thoughs like you should love your husband and only him.

    • It seems a bit far fetched to be honest but not impossible.

  • If guys spent as much time taking a profile picture as a girl does they would probably get more attention. Don't put up the picture where your face is pulled back and your chilling in your sweats. Girls primp and find the best place in the whole house to take that picture. If women just leaned back and took a picture, I think the levels would be closer together.

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    • I do think that's part of it. Part of that though comes down to what you mean by 'primping'. I don't think women would rate men higher with makeup, and I don't think many men have hair styles that would benefit from more than a few minutes of grooming.

      There actually is an interesting oktrends article on photos and attractiveness, the best approach is to not use selfies at all, get a friend with a SLR camera to do it, use a tight depth of field, use natural light, etc.

    • A guy can primp. I have seen plenty of profile pics that look like he just rolled out of bed, or got home from work and took a picture. If a girl can figure out that the angle in which you take the picture matters, why don't guys do that? He can shower, comb his hair, put on nice clothes. I'm not saying he has to be in his best clothes, but when I put on nice clothes and do my hair and makeup, I feel better about myself and that comes through in the picture

  • But this is from a website right? It's not like they surveyed a lot of women in the world. In my experience when it comes to looks the guys that I find attractive are the ones doing stuff in real life and are not on the Internet, I feel like for some people they choose online dating when they don't have luck in the real world so that could play a part in looks. Also maybe all those guys have something in common that made them unnatractive? We all have different types so it's difficult to declare which geneder is picky anyway.

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    • It's from a website - with 25 million users. It's not based on a study they asked those members to do, it's based on the actual rating system within the site used to match people.

    • But your a woman who does stuff on the internet.

    • @blondfrog I was talking about guys on dating sites

  • I know that I find a minority (>50%) of men to be attractive to me, so I do think there's truth in it as well but I did not think that percentage is that low. And for me though attractiveness is solely physical, compatibility is solely personality. And both are equally important when choosing a guy, I can't date a guy I don't find attractive.
    It needs to be kept in mind that this is from one of the many dating sites and is not a good replica of every demographic.

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  • To be honest, I had tinder and scrolled through over 20 profiles (on average) before I found someone I thought was attractive. Bearing in mind I have absolutely no racial preferences, he's either hot, or not.

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    • tinder is going to be the sort of environment that makes the angry guys fume, because it really does fall into 80/20 (or worse) land. I read an article the other day from a guy who uses tinder successfully. He basically advised guys they needed to be in the top 10% in looks to get anywhere. Meanwhile he was mainly going after women he considered say top 35% in looks, and was striking out with most of them. But he was still having sex with a few women a week. And that's why it becomes so unbalanced in that environment - the most attractive guys will sleep with -all- of the reasonably attractive women. So women can rightly hold out for really attractive guys, while guys drop their standards to get quantity.

      But that's not the same when dating.

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    • If you think you are more attractive than 19 girls on 20, there is not problems.

    • @Zanzalyr I don't, but that's not the way it works. If you think of attractiveness a normal curve, about 50% of the population are average. As you move toward the extremes less and less of the population is present. I have just less to choose from, but i'm fully aware of the fact that i'm not in the top 10/20%, more like 30-25%. But the number of members at 30-25%compared to the population as a whole are under 5% of the population (1 in 20)... bad explanation, but I hope you understand. www.regentsprep.org/.../normal67.gif <---see between 1.5 and 2 on the horizontal scale. only 4.4% of the population is in there.

  • I honestly care about personality and how look
    If you're well put together smart funny man. That's all I need

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  • honestly i think it's true, i don't know a lot of guys who are handsome in my opinion just a few

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    • when a person is hot, his/her standards of choice also rises! it "might" be the reason.. =_=

    • it's all about taste and not about standards

    • And due to culture most women lie about who they do and do not find attractive, whilst men are more expected to speak their minds. Same goes for men and showing emotion, why can't we just accept eachother for who we are?

  • The answer is "no". Women cannot decide how attractive is a man befor

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    • ... Before having a talk with him.*

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    • @thewanderingme and @dekalla : that was my impression and why i said " women only consider a small proportion of men attractive based on looks alone. But there's a much bigger group of men who they potentially find genuinely hot based on a combination of looks and other factors once they get to know them."

      I was trying to say that it's not that women are picky, it's that showing them a guy's picture and asking if he's hot is like showing men a woman's legs and asking if they'd date her. They need to be pretty spectacular for them to not be saying 'i need to see more'

    • @takeowner ok! I see that now. we're finally on the same page. lol ;p

  • I tend to agree with this. There are some men that are just clearly really attractive based on looks alone, but for many others, you need to interact with the man in person and know more about him to find out if the attraction's there or not. It could turn out you find him really hot, and you're very sexually attracted to him, just by the way he acts, the kind of person he is, what he's about, etc. but you might not feel that initially with only a look at his picture. You need to meet up and interact with him.

    Another part of this might be the crazy amount of choice a young woman has online, though. Well, my experience is limited to Tinder lol, but yeah. I felt like I'm not so picky meeting guys at a bar for instance, but online when a lot of people are messaging you, it just skews your view on things. It's one of the reasons I stopped using it, because ironically even with more choice, I was picking the wrong guys. I let looks be more of a factor than they normally would be, for lack of other attractive indicators typically available to me when talking to someone in person.

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  • Not many people in general are good looking...

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  • I find a lot les than that attractive.

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    • If you look, it's not even that '20% are attractive'.

      It's that women rated 80% of men below the 'midpoint' on the attractiveness scale.

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    • I'd kind of like to test this out though.

    • More tests would be interesting!

      It's interesting to compare it as well to simply the users on this site. I suspect the women are biased more by catfish, and there's bias by the fact a profile pic is optional.

      That said, most guys tend to think lots of girls here are hot, where women say not many guys here are.

      I think I speak for all of the 'blues' here in saying we try not to take that personally.

What Guys Said 36

  • I always too that "stat"to mean that 80% of men will be settled for which is a fair assessment to be honest. . it is unrealistic for all women to get the 20%
    that is why there is the 80:20 rule ( used loosely of course) where you'll get 80% of what you want at best and have to compromise the last 20% or get it from other sources

    I'm a believer that men and women primarily find the same things attractive in each other but in different order of importance. The "stat" bothers guys because from our side looks are sooo important that why wouldn't anyone be as critical, right? If they made one about say personality I wouldn't be surprised if guys were shelling out the 20%s.

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  • I will applaud you for the effort you put in on this "Take."

    The problem is: It only surveyed Okcupid users and you later admitted this was a flawed statistics.

    I would like to see THOUSANDS of women surveyed; not JUST Okcupid. Okcupid is a very small percentage of people.

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    • Well the stats were published I am just commenting!

      For the record though the okcupid data set is -massive-

      It's probably 1000 times more data then an academic research study would use.

      Does it have biases? Sure. So does every sample. So we shouldn't throw it away but we should think about how biases might impact things.

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    • @kheserthorpe
      I don't know how you read that, but I the tldr is I believe the results are good enough for drawing conclusions. My only concern was with the underlying variables they represent (read into a man's verbal skill in his profile description, for example, in addition to just his 'looks').

    • @kheserthorpe
      I was also meant to imply that if an academic could at least get a gallup poll size sample, he'll be looking at results that are more or less just as good.

  • The problem with this kind of data is that human relations rarely align with preconceived human judgments. You find people who would "never" be with who they are almost every day on any given matching website. This brings me to think that there are some major issues and none of them have to do with the data but the human condition.

    1. Horniness.

    Let's be honest; everyone looks better when you really want to mate. When you don't you can easily throw off those rose-tints and just see how imperfect so-and-so is. This greatly effects the values, esp. for women, because hormonal levels and various other attributes (which simply do sway more for females than males) will change the answer. A lot.

    2. Comparative Thinking

    Humans think in contrasts. Normally this is great because we can tell hot from cold and light from dark but when it comes to beauty since we are comparative when we date we set natural benchmarks (not expectations, which must not be confused) which completely obliterate sensibility when managing dating data. In a sense you never actually pick a mate that's best for you because you are incapable and the game is rigged from the get go; you will naturally begin to form a trend of attraction whether it be to behavior or physicality and bond with that particular attribute. How does this manifest for the multitudes? "You see that 6 pack bro getting all the girls?", "Yeah, he MUST be a jerk." Stereotypes. "Redheads are wild in bed." is another one. On a personal level this data from previous experience literally blows a hole through any standardized statistical outlook. It's also not something that can be corrected.

    3. Social Factors

    Finally this is one that cannot be attuned for. Mr. 25-30 A says girl B is smokin', Mr. 25-30 B says she's "okay", and if Mr. A and B are the same exact person what is the difference? A is not career driven while B is. Or maybe A wants kids and B doesn't. This doesn't even cover religious attitudes and other data that's missing.

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  • Well I am not in the 20% category, but that's a-okay, I do not find a vast majority of women attractive and there are so many ugly looking women where I live that I have contemplated batting for the other time on several occasions.

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  • I'm not convinced of the accuracy of the stats. Men who are attractive and successful, and most notably, successful with women, in general, do not frequent dating sites. Why? You actually answered the question in your take. Such men are likely to be appearance driven in selecting women to date, women they often meet in person. Women, in my opinion, simply do not have the myriad of options that men have on dating sites, in terms of what they generally look for in a mate (looks and otherwise).

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    • By that logic though, wouldn't you expect the women to also be less attractive than average? Why would successful men be missing, but not successful women?

      (As an aside, I think there are some biases to dating sites. It's less that the successful are missing, because they DO use them, but that the unsuccessful never leave them. Also, players and hookup focused people never leave, where relationship focused individuals come and go from them)

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    • Regarding your last point:
      that wouldn't shift the mean though. It could explain some outliers, but the real story in these chart's isn't the outliers it's the tens of thousands of women rated medium while tens of thousands of men are rated low.

      And NYC and washington are the anomalies in one direction. The other way, Las Vegas has 1.3 single men for every single woman, miami, san jose, salt lake city are all 1.2. They're actually much worse than NYC, which is only 1.07 women per man, or washington - one of the most extreme cities for more women at 1.12.

      The real disparities are liberal arts college towns (massively more women) and resource towns (massively more men, sometimes over 2:1 male female ratio among unmarried)

    • I agree.

  • There's a logic in that: free market. At nearly any given (sexually active) age a number of women aren't 'on the 'sexual market'. They aren't available because of different reasons, education and society's principles (double standards) being the main ones.
    That creates a scarcity and a 'demand market'. Thus women can afford to be more demanding than men. If some goods are in demand and are scarce, those will be more expensive.

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    • Okcupid actually has a pretty close to 50-50 ratio.

      However I think there is a demand market for 20something women.

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    • women withholding sex is the only thing that makes it a demand market. why do you think they pretend we persecute them for it?

    • @cootiesinfection

      Id disagree.

      There is a demand market for women in their 20s because many men not in their 20s prefer women in their 20s and some proportion of women in their 20s are very open to the idea. As a 23 year old you aren't just competing with other 20-25 year old men for women your age, you are also competing with perhaps most 25-30 year old men and many 30+ men as well.

      But by your late 20s the dynamic works in your favor and there are more women interested in men your age then men your age are available to them.

  • Women are just more picky than men when it comes to looks, unless the guy has money. I know I'll get a lot of down votes from women but the 80/20 rule is very accurate. Men aren't too focused on a girl's height, body, race/skin color, etc like women.

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    • It would take me a while to dig up, but I believe this varies SIGNIFICANTLY on the anticipated time span of the relationship.

      Women have relatively high physical requirements in a short term relationship than a long term, while men have higher physical requirements in a long term.

      Basically in a casual sex situation, women are VERY picky, the 80/20 rule kicks in, we look more like a herd of animals with a few breeding males. In a relationship situation, it's much more 1:1. Guys are MORE picky when it comes to settling down versus sleeping with a 'm'eh' girl for one night, while women trade off looks for other characteristics they like.

      So in a dating environment i'd say men care more about looks, in a casual environment, women do.

      As for okcupid data, it's probably somewhere in between. But I think a big part is that this is the 'looks only' reaction, and doesn't include his money/status/charisma.

  • My understanding is that females (on the whole) value status/power, health, physical prowess, protection/comfort provision and confidence far more than they value raw physical attractiveness, all traits that point to proper hormone/testosterone production.

    In essence, for the majority of human/mammalian history evolution has caused women to adapt to being (often involuntarily) taken by the strongest and most 'viable' mates. This is probably why studies have shown that when women witness sexual activity even if it's undesired (like animal related) they begin to secret lubrication in their genital region.

    Women directly choosing their own mates is a very new concept. It has not been that way for much of the past.

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    • Agree with 80% of that. And I'm also aware of the physical reaction you mention. But I'd suggest we see a lot more than just adaptation to the expectation of being taken by the strongest and most viable mate, and a lot of genuine desire (not just physical preparedness) for that target. Some women do crazy ass shit to get the most sought after men.

      But as you say, raw physical attractiveness doesn't stand alone as much for women as for men. Which is why relatively few guys look that great to them in a picture. But if they find a guy who is slightly above average looking (so a 2.5 on their scale, lol) is also a powerful, confident, resilient, masculine and protective guy, they start -seeing- him as a 5.

    • Women do crazy things to get the attention of the most sought after men because that's what biology causes them to do. They feel the need to do whatever it takes because evolutionary hormones reward them when they try.

      I think the second part is correct. Society has prevented/deterred nature from taking its course and it throws things out of whack. Women are cultured to believe that masculine traits such as aggression, possessiveness, and body hair (among others) are dangerous and perhaps they can be. But these characteristics, to an extent, are masculine. You can clearly see it in nature. Essentially all males regardless of species seek dominance and are territorial, especially humans throughout history. These things are what make men what they are.

      I think part of what makes women seem/feel crazy is because they are fighting their instincts.

  • We are talking about spoiled OkCupid women, not real life women.

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  • I only find 1 in 12,000 female rabbits worth covering in butter and photographing for my folk jazz album cover.

    I approve this MyTake.

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    • Must take a long time to get that shot.

      Gotta suffer for art though.

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    • People get mad at not getting enough fibers in their diet, yet refuse to eat vegetables. I wouldn't worry too much.

    • I wanted many girls I met, got only a few. It's a shitty life LOL.

  • So basically women only find 20% men attractive enough to have sex with based on looks alone. Maybe 60% of men are attractive enough to have sex with if they have decent looks plus good personality traits. And then the other 20% are fucked.

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    • Yeah, that's probably about right.

      Probably like 20% of women are hot enough to date even if they're bitches, 60% are worth dating if they are also pretty nice, and 20% are fucked.

      The only difference is all the top 80% of women are worth fucking, but that doesn't bring them a tremendous amount of joy.

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    • If men just want an ONS, indeed, the other 20% are fucked. What about the 20% of girls men overlook? I too plead guilty I overlooked many perfectly good girls in my dating days and feel a bit guilty about it, looking back.

    • @jacquesvol

      True, but that's life. Its not all rainbows and sunshine. There are winners and losers, the advantaged and the disadvantaged.

  • The problem comes when you're pulling data from a dating site rather than real life assessments. Of course women using things like Tinder, OkCupid etc. are going to find less guys attractive simply because they are detached from the situation. The same can be said of guys who, when looking at photos of women, tend to be more "rationally judgmental" of things like appearance than they likewise would otherwise be.

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    • I agree totally with your first sentance, but disagree with 'the same can be said of guys'. And that's -exactly- why i think the curves look so different. I think women when in the situation rate very differently, and more differently then men do. Men's 'picture rating' is not that far off how they'd rate in person. That's why the men's curve looks 'normal' and the woman's doesn't.

  • Tbh, I think 20% of men sounds like a lot. I don't find 20% of women attractive.

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    • That's weird, I find like at least 40% of women attractive. I like how all these girls are rating this up because they want to justify something, it's okay to be shallow.

  • Guys don't care for theirs looks and shows rudeness but girl put much care in looks and try to be cool always.

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  • Perhaps 10%? Most women think that they deserve a Supah model so they ain't getting with sumone who doesn't look like one. They want SUPAH model LOOKEN babies 😂

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  • I would actually wager it's more like the top 4%, or 1 in 25 men. Let's go over the deets
    - Must be white
    - Must have a 7ish face by bellcurved standards
    - Must be 6'0 (bye bye 60% of men right there)
    - Must have a 7x5.5 penis
    - Must be fit with broad shoulders
    - Must have good skin, unique eyes, zero facial flaws
    - Deep voice
    - Good career

    I mean the list can go on forever. But I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say 1/25ish men roughly make the cut to be seen as a human

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  • It could go both ways, guys don't like every girl that they see, and 20% is a very diverse 20% meaning a guy one girl likes won't be able to attract the next girl. It's through the spectrum.

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  • Good take.

    I'd also add that most men are quite easily mesmerized by make-up, boobs, etc.

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  • Interesting, but for the girls I've had experience with, I'd say the ratio I even lower. I've known more girls that reject everyone than ones to even admit 1:5 guys are attractive. But I'm working with a smaller sample size admittedly.

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    • If you check the chart, they don't actually say 1 in 5 are attractive.

      They say 1 in 5 are above 'medium'. 4 in 5 were 'below medium'.

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    • I guess it depends on how you define it. Oral around 16-17. Full sex 22.

    • All I wanted to point out is that while it may be true that women have 'never' made you happy it's been a relatively small window during which they've failed. You haven't yet hit your prime dating years as a man.

      Ok trends actually has some fascinating graphs showing that young women have a huge dating advantage, older men a small advantage. Te crossover point is somewhere around 27 if I recall properly.

  • Interesting but a lot of attraction preferences can go out the window if someone has something in common with you.

    I am a handsome guy and have dated people who were not in my preference just because they act a way that interest me. My last girlfriend was below average but was a very nice girl who treated me right and could relate to me in many ways

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