The Billion-Dollar Question: What Attracts Men?

Over the past couple of months I’ve been exploring a corner of the Internet called the “Manosphere.” This is a rather loosely-knit collection of blogs that have one thing in common: they are opposed to modern feminism.

A subject that comes up frequently is the idea of female attractiveness – what physical features make a man want to approach a woman and get to know her. While there are some differences, most of the bloggers (male and female) have similar opinions. Their opinions, however, are often questioned by pro-feminist writers and commenters. The feminists (male and female) have very different opinions of what constitutes beauty or attractiveness.

It occurred to me that none of these opinions, Manosphere or Mainstream, are really worth much. The writers don’t have any “skin in the game.” They aren’t risking their own money or livelihoods when making their statements. Is there a group of people who consistently risk their own money on their opinion about what men find attractive?

The answer, as you’ve probably guessed, is the motion picture industry. Here we see tens or hundreds of millions of dollars being put at risk. When a major studio makes a movie aimed at a primarily male audience they are gambling that they have some idea of what appeals to men. Lets look at the female leads in a few such movies. Remember, the studios expect young men to freely spend their money to see these movies.

I’ve selected four films, off the top of my head, that I’ve personally seen. Yes, I like Sci-Fi.

Let’s start off with the iconic adventure film – Star Wars. The female lead is, of course, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Leia is the quintessential “damsel in distress” (with a blaster). Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox did pretty well out of this franchise! I guess they made some good choices.


Moving up a few years in time we have Blade Runner. Sean Young plays the part of Rachael, an artificial human who doesn’t realize that she isn’t a real person. She’s also a damsel in distress who lends a hand with a large caliber weapon.

Bladerunner Sean Young

Those first two were science fiction; another genre enjoyed by the guys is the war movie. I selected Enemy at the Gates. Rachel Weisz plays a soldier in the Stalingrad militia during the Nazi siege. In true Soviet fashion, nobody really saves anybody. Miss Weisz’ character, Tania Chernova, is not a damsel in distress – until she gets hit by shrapnel and almost dies.

Enemy Rachel Weisz

Now you might object to the preceding films as being a little too “highbrow” for the typical male. So let’s pick one of decidedly lower quality. Dredd is a near-future science fiction dystopian police shoot-em-up. Its minimal character development goes well with its lack of plot. There is no romance – the male lead is more like a robot than a human being. The female lead, Cassandra Anderson, is played by Olivia Thirlby. She’s a rookie Judge (police officer) being evaluated by the experienced Judge Dredd. This is the perfect movie for a drunken guy’s night out.

Dredd Olivia Thirlby

OK, those are my choices, picked more or less at random. Let’s consider what all of these female characters have in common. Please note that I’m only concerned with characteristics amenable to change without surgery.

Starting from the top we (obviously) have hair. Anderson has the shortest hair – not quite shoulder length, but with a feminine style. Princess Leia has the longest hair – about shoulder blade length. In the third Star Wars film (Episode 6) her hair is nearly waist length.

One: Hair should at least overlap the collar. Longer is good.

Now let’s look at their faces: there are two points here. Most of them aren’t smiling in these shots but their expressions are soft in repose. There’s no hardness—even thought that’s quite unrealistic in a couple of these movies. Hey, whatever sells tickets! The other similarity is the makeup—not a whole lot.

Two: A gentle expression or a smile, indicative of a positive attitude.

Three: Apply makeup with a light touch.

Here’s a controversial one – weight. None of these characters is either chubby or emaciated. The picture of Judge Anderson is from a very brief shot in the movie. The rest of the time she’s wearing armor zipped up to her chin. But even under the armor you can tell that she’s slender.

Four: Body fat should be In the “amateur athlete” range.

Finally, there are three surprising “no-nos” that each of these characters has avoided:

Five: No revealing clothing. “Slutty” in public isn’t good if you want to be the leading lady.

Six: No visible tattoos. Not one.

Seven: No visible piercings – not even earrings!

This last point shocked me, so I also checked out Natalie Portman in Thor, Radha Mitchell in Pitch Black, Kirsten Dunst in Spiderman, and Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark and in Animal House. No visible earrings. An interesting exception is Princess Leia in her slave outfit. She has pierced ears with gold hoops. When she gets back into normal clothes, however, the earrings are gone. Interesting, no?

Please remember an important distinction: I’m not talking about actresses here, but the characters they portray. I don’t care if the actress herself has 1/4” hair, 2 square feet of tattoos, and needs a body double. The character she portrays is what counts.

I freely admit that this is not a scientific survey. But these four films together cost over $200,000,000. That’s a lot of money to lay on the line. I suspect the producers and directors knew what they were doing. Perhaps the ladies should keep these points in mind.


2 thoughts on “The Billion-Dollar Question: What Attracts Men?

  1. Thaniell

    I’m not in a gaming mood, so I just toss some points in short (potentially overstating):
    – Leia as a character is everything else than a typical passive damsel in distress. Yes, she starts in that role, but then proves equally active then the other characters, even before that, she is the one taking action (being with the rebels, handling the stolen plans, sending them off, etc)
    – Leia’s most “important”/remembered visual depiction is that in her slave role, if men like her visually, that’s because of that scene.
    – The long hair thing is pretty obvious, as there is rarely any female character with really short hair at all, so that data source is already pretty flawed. That aside, Selene (Underworld), Alice (Resident Evil) , and Trinity (Matrix) have also pretty short hair – and really short also occurs from time to time in pretty well selling movies, e.g. Lisbeth Salander (The girl with the dragon tattoo).

    I’d say, if judging from the list above, you can say anything about what men like – or at least what female characters really stick in men’s mind, it are those that can stand on their own, those that really have a “character”. Looks might be nice sugar when watching a movie, but if the role is weak it is hardly remembered beyond that one night. And in general, it’s not about what men like, but what movie makers think most men find somehow attractive

    Yes movies show mostly average, healthy or over-trained female bodies, same with the overtrained male heroes, partly because a lot of characters are some sort of action hero, partly because they try to aim for the middle – something that most can find attractive although they would lean into any particular direction (fat, skinny, etc.). Still, Salma Hayek (e.g. From Dusk till Dawn) always brings in her cuves, so does Christina Hendricks and Monica Belluci.
    Same goes for tattooes, not everyone has some, but there are some that have, e.g. Fox (Wanted) or Mila Kunis in Black Swan, and of course: The girl with the dragon tattoo, she also brings in several piercings.

    1. deLaune Post author

      Thanks for your feedback.
      I’d argue that GWTDT is a mystery and Black Swan is about Ballet: both are aimed at women.
      But I’m neither a gamer (in either sense) nor an expert on films.

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