50 Shades of What Women Really Want From Men

Hunnam, AP

Shasta Townsend explains that to most women, men are more than bank accounts, pretty faces or hot bodies.

As filming for the movie version of 50 Shades of Grey began this month, I just can’t keep quiet any more.

I don’t want this to come across as critical or as a take down.  I admit I am one of the 40 plus million women worldwide who read it, though I did throw it across the room in frustration and annoyance all the while shouting, “No, no, no.  Finally a book about sex and they got it all wrong.”

I am thrilled that women’s sexuality is a mainstream topic these days. With sales over US $90 million, clearly women want sex and dare we say, we want ravishing, throw me on the table and show me you want me sex.  I am glad it helped release some of the shame about fetishes and sexual variations which can also be healthy and joyful way to express sexuality but I am not thrilled about the leading male character, Christian Grey.  Grey only reinforces an already dangerous and damaging stereotype of men that leave both genders at odds with each other and engaging in projections that are not only unreasonable but also unhealthy.

As a male friend recently asked me,

“Is that what women really want and expect from men – a man like Christian Grey – a gorgeous, extremely wealthy stud with a huge package who can only get turned on from S & M and who is totally emotionally unavailable, borderline abusive and totally misogynistic but all this is ok because he can buy you things?”

No sweetie. That is not what we want.

I still like vanilla. A lot.  And I like whole-hearted, loving, perfectly imperfect men and I believe there are millions of women out there who do too.  So boys, before you think we are only after your big bank account, beautiful face or body, let’s get clear on what the women I know really want.

 

Men of the Heart

Men who reflect their own humanity are the sexiest men. I am way over tough mofos, brick walls and emotional unavailability. Don’t even get me started on old school dinosaurs and how totally unattractive I find misogyny. It’s cliché, but men who are emotive; who are compassionate and who are truly ALIVE are extremely attractive. You don’t have to be spouting poetry or saving baby seals, but please LOVE.

I am married to a real man’s man and the times I am the most turned on is when I see him in acts of love. The time he bought coffees for a whole road crew, the time he told his father how much he loved him, the time he cried with me over great news and the times he gave his seat up to a women and not a pregnant woman on the New York subway (which was so unexpected the woman did not know what to do). I recognize it is not always easy for him or anyone to be vulnerable, but I encourage it and expect it. I want a man who can walk with an open heart or at least is open to expressing it.  Men who love and demonstrate it – in whatever way that may be are sexy, sexy and that is what women want.

 

Men of Integrity

Another thing that really turns me on is integrity. It is simple – speak with truth and kindness. Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. I don’t expect blue boxes full of gold, but if you tell me you are going to hang that picture or get the groceries then please do it. I, along with millions of women will reward you – because when you do what you say you will do we feel we can trust you, we feel safe with you and we believe you and IN you and that makes us want to be with you. When my husband says he will put out the recycling and actually does each Tuesday, my heart soars and so do my loins.

Integrity also means you have a girl’s back. You don’t criticize her, boss her or slag her – ever.  There are no “The Wife…” comments when you are out with the boys and you don’t share stories that are not meant for others ears. I have heard way too many men (and women) speak unkindly and with down right abuse to and about their lover. Not cool. Speak kindly of me and to me – it’s what women want.

 

Men of Perfect Imperfection

Women appreciate beauty but the interesting thing is that what we find beautiful is often assurance and authenticity. We all have body preferences and hey, I like a hard stomach and full chest just as much as the next girl but I am also totally turned on a man who is just totally ok in his skin even if it’s not perfect.

The other day at a hotel, I was standing behind a man around 5’8, a little on the heavy side, with glasses and a crazy head of curly hair but there was something beautiful about him. Although he was dressed well, it was more than the clothes. He appeared comfortable with himself.  He spoke with confidence and kindness. He seemed at peace with the world. He was also ordering a bottle of champagne to his room, as a surprise for his wife who I bet is crazy about him. He was not the type of man that would typically make a woman melt but there was something extremely attractive about him.

So men, before you think we want a perfect buff body consider that we want you to be you. You being you mean you being the best version of you, however.  Women also want a man who is taking responsibility for “stuff” so he can truly be his authentic self. By this, I mean a man who is letting go of the old school story, the bullshit baggage and his own roadblocks. I don’t expect my husband to be perfect but I appreciate that he wants to be, in his words, “a better man”.  And that means a man who can stand in truth, be in his heart, his integrity and his beauty – this is what women want.

It’s time to write a new story about women and men and what we truly want. I hope your story, as a man, is 50 times more delicious than you ever expected.  Millions of women are waiting for YOU.

 

Photo of Charlie Hunnam, cast as Christian Grey, courtesy of the AP

 

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About Shasta Townsend

Shasta Townsend fearlessly offers up the sacred cows of sexuality, love and romance, as she transparently and meaningfully speaks, teaches and writes to the power of true connection as a catalyst to experience our innate wholeness, happiness and freedom. She is an “untantric Tantric” teacher and encourages you to release dogma and become your own guru. She is a Featured Columnist for Elephant Journal, Rebelle Society and Vivid Life, she speaks and teaches worldwide and is completing a book on the power of sexuality. Visit www.shastatownsend.com to learn more or connect with her on Facebook on her community page Happy, Sexy, Shameless.

Comments

  1. Amen Shasta. I read 50 Shades because of all the hype. I hated Christian Gray and there was nothing I found remotely sexy about him.

    Especially, totally, completely agree with this:
    “Women appreciate beauty but the interesting thing is that what we find beautiful is often assurance and authenticity.”

    I will also say that when I’ve seen a man display vulnerability in a healthy way, that’s been extremely attractive to me.

  2. Over the top magnificent, Shasta! I read the first of the trilogy out of curiosity and found it cringingly bad writing and as you indicated, a poor representation of what most women I know want in a relationship. You are speaking my heart’s desire. I’m glad you discovered the man who answers your invitation.

    Blissings,

    Edie <3

  3. I really loved this piece Shasta.

    But (always), again I hear a woman writing that women really are seeking A, B, C, D. Is this really what they ACTUALLY want though? Yes, the dominating, ravishing, toss you on the bed sex. I know this to be true for a fact. I can buy this, easily.

    The other stuff.. I remain skeptical.

    Just saying….

    Nevertheless, a marvelous piece. I enjoyed reading every word.

    Bravo!

  4. So 90 million in print sales , and God knows how much this movie will gross (I predict it will probably blow away that other film about what women ‘really don’t want’ Magic Mike) While this ‘Story’ relies quite heavily on the ‘S&M’ angle , it remains consistent with all the other ‘Romance’ novels in that the protagonist is “Handsome , Rich, and ‘Well Endowed'”. Maybe when someone writes a ‘Romance’ novel where the guy is’ About 5′ 8″, 180lbs., with a receding hairline an d struggles financially to get by (and he’s average or maybe even slightly below) it will be somewhat easier to swallow what you’re selling.

  5. Shasta writes: So men, before you think we want a perfect buff body consider that we want you to be you. You being you mean you being the best version of you, however. Women also want a man who is taking responsibility for “stuff” so he can truly be his authentic self. By this, I mean a man who is letting go of the old school story, the bullshit baggage and his own roadblocks. I don’t expect my husband to be perfect but I appreciate that he wants to be, in his words, “a better man”. And that means a man who can stand in truth, be in his heart, his integrity and his beauty – this is what women want.

    As I read this I was trying to remember if I’d ever read anything from any man addressed to women covering these same basic points…ie that she be “a better woman”, etc., be letting go of her own old school story and bullshit baggage, etc.

    I have to admit, I drew a blank. Maybe someone can kindly point out an article in GMP – or anywhere really – that expresses the same sentiments with the genders reversed.

    And then I asked myself, “Is this me…or is it the zeitgeist?”.

  6. Not buying it says:

    What you are saying in the article & reality are far apart, wishful thinking & politically correct hopes of the few that are ideologically biased will not change the minds, hearts & more importantly the evolutionary predisposition of millions if not billions of women.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      As a woman, I think you’re totally wrong.

      Being as you’re citing absolutely no evidence, and neither am I, then we cancel each other out.

      In fact, I think me being a woman (and Shasta, too) I think we win out here. You don’t know what women want. We know what we, as women want, and being as we’re both happily married, we have no agenda in telling our truth. And this is our truth.

      YES I want to be (consensually) tossed onto a bed, have my hands held down, and kissed hard. But I also want to be loved, trusted, treated as an equal. I don’t want gifts (maybe for Christmas, just a few small and thoughtful ones, and I’ll buy him some too), I don’t want money (enough to feed, clothe and feel safe). I want lust, passion, connection, commitment, and to partner with a man who wants me to be the best version of myself and who wants the same for himself.

      And almost every woman I know feels the same.

      Don’t believe it? Then you’re creating your own reality by using your own confirmation bias to attract shitty women.

      • Not buying it says:

        ” Shitty women”!!!??, what was that about, Joan you don’t even know me, let alone whom I am with for starters, secondly just because women want wealthy powerful men as mates doesn’t make them bad , greedy, people necessarily unless they are being judge with a politically correct ideological / religious lens, I strive to form my understanding of the world around me whether it’s women, men or anything else through logic or science based lens , besides we all know evolutionary predisposition and traits are not absolute in how it is expressed in life or the real world, more like a mix of dominant and recessive traits plus I think you are being disingenuous regarding evidence, anyone with an undergraduate 1st year education would know what my evidence is based on, have a nice day & don’t take it to personal, it’s just an open minded discussion at least I hope it is.

      • FlyingKal says:

        Joanna,
        YES I want to be (consensually) tossed onto a bed, have my hands held down, and kissed hard.
        /…/
        And almost every woman I know feels the same.

        That may be true. It seems to me that there’s a lot of women who want this, but somewhat ironically they don’t want it done by the man they have chosen to spend their life with.

    • Hi Not buying it

      Can you tell us more about what you here describe as:
      ✺ “the evolutionary predisposition of millions if not billions of women.”✺

      Plus the reference to the recent research about this , published in the most respected scientific research journals ?

      • not buying it says:

        Hi iben
        sorry for not getting back to you sooner , working plus travel lagged the past couple of days , anyway off the top of my head right know:

        Sarah Blafffer Hrdy author ( the woman that never evolved )
        Margo willson author ( sex,evolution and behavior )
        Matt Ridleys ( the red queen )
        Donald Symons ( the evolution of human sexuality )
        the adapted mind by various anthropologists , geneticist , etc, edited by Jerome barkow , leda cosmides and john tooby.

        all of them have been published in the American psychological Journal , I will try find you more in 24hrs or so, have a nice day.

        • Hi not buying it

          Thank you.
          My intent was not to be sarcastic. I have never read any of this, and would like to read it.
          And since I am not well qualified to evaluate any reseach report,I prefer to read scientific journals because there others have done a quality control.
          Take that as sarcasm if you want.

      • not buying it says:

        iben, I forget to point out that regardless of the respected scientific research Journal if you approach this discussion with what I suspect to be preconceived ideological bias ( gender construct ) or religious belief due to the sarcastic tone of your comment ,you might as will not look because its like proving gravity and the earth is round to someone who doesn’t like that reality.

        • Hi not buying it

          You write:
          ✺”iben, I forget to point out that regardless of the respected scientific research Journal if you approach this discussion with what I suspect to be preconceived ideological bias ( gender construct ) or religious belief due to the sarcastic tone of your comment ,you might as will not look because its like proving gravity and the earth is round to someone who doesn’t like that reality.”✺

          A person ask you for some references and your reactions are hostile and arrogant .
          It is hard for me to understand why me asking for references about something I know little triggers your aggression like this.
          Your attacks and comments about religion and preconceived ideological bias is hard to understand. So here you are obviously the one with preconceived ideas about others.

  7. Jonathan G says:

    Shasta,

    Nothing else seems to provoke such sharply-divergent reactions between men and women as these “what women really want from a man” articles. The women jubilantly praise, and the men express skepticism, I think because the sentiments directly contradict so much of our lived experiences.

    I try to have compassion, to love, to have integrity, to live authentically and to be the best version of myself. I do this for myself, because that’s who I want to be. And it’s just as well, because I still get close to zippo as far as interest from women. These are all good, desirable qualities in a partner, but they don’t seem to prove sufficient. Am I just doing it wrong? Am I deluding myself, maybe I’m none of those things?

    It’s quite possible, as people are notoriously poor judges of their own behavior and image, but the same disconnect (between what you say you want and what I see women wanting) holds true when I observe other men. The only conclusion that I can draw from the available evidence is that these character traits are necessary, but not sufficient. (And I see that for some women, they’re not even necessary.)

    Leaving aside some fairly major tautological issues (e.g. how do you separate the act of a man being his authentic self turning you on from feeling turned on by the self that he authentically is being, or put another way, what if his authentic self is a major schmuck?), do you really, honestly, truly believe that these characteristics you’ve outlined constitute the whole, complete and sufficient list of what women really want from men?

    • Hi Jonathan

      You say:
      ✺”I try to have compassion, to love, to have integrity, to live authentically and to be the best
      version of myself. I do this for myself, because that’s who I want to be. And it’s just as well,
      because I still get close to zippo as far as interest from women. “✺

      Why do you think this happens to you Jonathan?
      I wonder if it is something about yourself you are unaware of,or can not see.

      • Jonathan G says:

        Iben,

        I do not know why I get so little romantic interest from women. (I get a fair amount of interest from men, though, I just don’t swing that way.) Clearly, it is something about me that I can’t perceive. I’ve had lots of hypotheses over the years, and rather than blaming anybody else, worked on improving myself. Most of these changes have improved my friendships and general success, just not in the realm of romance.

        How do you fix what you can’t tell is wrong?

        • @Jonathan G..

          “How do you fix what you can’t tell is wrong?”

          You need to have someone give an external appraisal (appearance, hygiene, dress style, language….) of you and someone whom you respect (an know will be brutally honest) give you an internal appraisal.

          It could be something very simple.

          • Jonathan G says:

            I’ve asked around, but everybody is either as stumped as I am. Or maybe unwilling to speak bluntly. The consensus among the women is that they don’t see any reason they’re not romantically interested in me, they’re just not.

        • Hi Jonathan
          I think Jules give you good advice.

          Even if you probably don’t understand Danish, look at this video if you have time.
          Six persons that never managed to find a partner agree to let experts find a spouse for them. It is arranged marriage. The plan is to commit totally from day one,but if feelings of love never develop the couple shall be honest about it and divorce.
          Here is episode 6. Two of couples have developed feelings for each other, but the third couple struggles( Martin and Mette). Mette say first reaction when she saw Martin at their wedding day,was that he is not her type. The experts has chosen Martin for her because he is man that can fulfill her needs , they are believed to be a great match for each other.

          Look at the video. Martin is obviously uncomfortable with his baldness and wears a hat whenever he can. He is kind man, with great body. Professionally he is a teacher. His height is the same as his wife.

          I like him, but wonder why nobody tells him to stop wearing hats all the time.
          Would Jules given Martin some good advice about dressing and use of hats?

          Gift ved første blik (6:8)
          http://www.dr.dk/tv/se/gift-ved-foerste-blik/gift-ved-foerste-blik-6-8

          • Jonathan G says:

            Hmm, Iben, take a look at what you wrote (and I’m paraphrasing) about how Martin looks weak in the eyes of others because he’s balding and likes to wear (socially-unacceptable?) hats. He would be more worthy of love and acceptance if he adapted himself to his society’s current notions of fashion in haberdashery. Compare that with the usual “just be yourself” or “self-confidence is the most important thing” advice that men often get.

            So, men should just be themselves, except when they’re supposed to conform to other people’s expectations. Do you see why they’re confused?

            • Hi Jonathan

              I think you misunderstood me when I took Martins hat and caps as examples. Martin IS worthy of love, with his hat or without hat.

              NO, no man looks weak in the eyes of others because he is balding. I like balding men.

              My point is that Martin look fine. Balding looks good, but when I look at this TV series I wish to see Martin more comfortable in his own skin.
              Because Martin is a fine man, he is good looking man and also a kind,compassionate man.

              You write:
              ✺ “He would be more worthy of love and acceptance if
              he adapted himself to his society’s current notions of fashion in haberdashery”✺
              No Jonathan that is not what I mean!
              I am a woman, and older than Martin. A lot older than Martin. So when I watch this series about arranged marriage I look back on my own life. I have had love relationship with several men. Some have stirred an intense longing in me,an intense longing for physical and emotional contact. Other men have not. Why do some men create this longing in women and other men don’t. That is the question I though interested you Jonathan. This was why I tried to be honest about my own feelings when I saw this series from Denmark. Somehow I hurt you.

              So I look at Martin. On his honeymoon in Paris and then back home with his new wife.
              And I think myself in her shoes, in her place.
              This is arranged marriage,two strangers are thrown together and both hope to fall in love and develop passion and deep feelings for each other.

              If I was with with Martin, I would be attracted sexually and attracted to him as a man,if he was comfortable in his own skin,baldness and all. And showed more feelings.
              And bought some cloths that showed how attractive he really is. He is cute,and his body is great but he dresses so you never see much of his figure.

              Do I say he is not worthy of love if he dresses like wants to? NO I DO NOT,but my body responds more to a man if he is aware of how women’s respond sexually. This is hard to explain Jonathan. I am a bit sad that I am unable to express this,because my intentions are sincere.
              My desire for certain men has been so intense and wonderful. And a part of what created this longing,this desire was his looks,his style,his awareness of himself as a sexual being. Another part of the attraction was that he was man he was, his capacity for love… We are spiritual,emotional,physical ……intellectual ….
              Attraction has many dimensions.

              It is NOT a question of being worthy of love or not Jonathan. We are all worthy of love.
              But what to do when a women don’t desire you, don’t show any romantic interest in you? Maybe be a bit pragmatic and see what works? Maybe listen to women?
              Make a compromise ..
              It is not a question of being worthy of love or not. But if you think we don’t have a competition out there sexually , then you are wrong.

              You write:
              ✺”Compare that with the usual “just be yourself” or “self-confidence is the most
              important thing” advice that men often get. So, men should just be themselves, except when they’re supposed to conform to
              other people’s expectations. Do you see why they’re confused?”. ✺
              Yes Jonathan, I do see why you are confused.
              Women also get the same advice ” be yourself ” and it can mean :
              be honest ,show your feelings and be open about your needs,don’t play games,be as authentic as you possibly can. Be honest about who you are,, your values ,attitudes and how you feel.

    • No, they don’ constitute the whole, attractive, male.

      The ‘proper’ blend of self-confidence, social confidence, and sexual confidence is what makes up an attractive male. ‘Proper” is determined by the reaction he gets from the particular woman he wants to attract.

      Whether or not he is exuding that confidence in attractive or repulsive ways depends on the woman he is with. There ARE “general” ways a man can exude the 3 and be considered “generally” attractive. Generalities are not evil in this case.

      A man with only a strong sense of self and social confidence soon finds himself in the friend zone whether single or married. After a few years of resentment (as a result of his lack of sexual confidence), even his self and social confidence wear thin and he becomes unattractive. He acts in “deserving” ways.

      This is how millions of marriages go, I find. Lots of married guys start to believe they deserve sex even without an ounce of sexual confidence.

      I think a guy needs to learn the 3 confidences and decide who he is and how he will behave – for himself. Improvement (and becoming more attractive) is about understanding what isn’t working, why, and choosing to change – only because YOU want to. It can’t be faked.

      • Hi Steve

        You are right. At least for me this is attractive.
        I wonder why this is so hard to grasp for many men.

        • Most men can’t grasp it until they experience enough fear or pain in their life or relationship.

          Up until that point, the idea of becoming totally accountable for themselves and making personal changes it just too hard. Too much work. Why can’t somebody ELSE change first to make it easier for them?

          Everyone wants honesty until somebody actually tells them the truth.

          • Hi Steve

            This must be the sentence or the quote for today:
            “✺Everyone wants honesty until somebody actually tells them the truth “✺

            I love it :)

            • @Iben….

              Hello Iben!

              And the world knows we Americans cannot face the truth.

              We really love living in a nation full of lies, denial of reality, and delusional thinking.

            • FlyingKal says:

              Do we really need to discuss if PEOPLE (yes, I readily admit to presume that this is also valid for women, although I think it mostly manifests itself in different ways) who do not receive any positive sexual attraction/attention/interest are at risk of losing their sexual confidence?

        • Jonathan G says:

          It’s hard for so many men, Iben, because Steve’s answer about self-, social and sexual confidence is good rhetoric because it’s so flexible that you can apply it to your experiences and, together with those, it sounds like a great truth. But I think it’s really just begging the question (in the old sense of the phrase).

          The trouble so many men have, in my estimation, is in the question of what the heck are those things in practice? How does self-confidence manifest itself? What does social confidence look like on a day-to-day basis? How is it that when one guy acts a certain way, it’s sexual confidence, but another guy doing the same is a skeezy creep or entitled jerk?

          All of this strikes me as post hoc definition– “He did X and I liked it, and since I like confidence, then X must have been the result confidence.” When we feel and behave in the same manner, and it doesn’t make us attractive to women, that’s rather confusing. But then it’s our own fault, because we weren’t “confident,” right?

          • Hi Jonathan G.
            I think your questions are perfect. I’ve been just as frustrated with all the guru’s who bombard men and women with “what” (the rhetoric) they should be instead of “how” to actually achieve the goals you want.

            “Just be confident and you’ll be fine” is useless. And “Just be yourself” is equally unhelpful. I don’t believe in acting confident. I believe in taking a step by step approach to actually practice and build true confidence. And I believe that “being yourself” is bad advice if a person is either unaware of or unhappy with who that really is.

            It all starts with defining who you are, your core values, and what your specific goals/desires are with women. “Be attractive to women” is a bad goal. But “Learn to have an engaging/flirty conversation with women” is doable.

            This takes time and commitment. Guys tend to avoid the work. But if you want change, it must be done. But be careful.

            Take one example from a Gamer/Pick up artist conversation I read recently.
            “Bro, you gotta realize that she MUST feel you are superior to her. She needs to feel inferior to be attracted to you. You can do this by negging her (insulting) the right way. It’s also important to look her in the eye when you’re talking to her, but never look at her when she’s talking to you.”

            You can buy books and join sites that will help you be that guy – step by step – and be confident doing it.

            How does that align with who you are, your core values, and your specific goals?

            There are MANY personal development resources out there to help you get specific answers to your questions. You can find the ones that fit you by getting clear on YOU first or find ones specifically for the goal of getting that clarity.

            This isn’t a veiled sales pitch for my business. I’m trying to share a little of my journey in getting the same questions answered.

            What books have you read that resonate with you? There are tons. You might start with David Deida’s “The Way of the Superior Man”. That’ll probably get me some flames. ;^)

            • “Bro, you gotta realize that she MUST feel you are superior to her. She needs to feel inferior to be attracted to you. You can do this by negging her (insulting) the right way. It’s also important to look her in the eye when you’re talking to her, but never look at her when she’s talking to you.”

              I can not believe you are seriously advocating for this approach. Unless I misread something.

              Good Lord. This may work with some women but if a man tried this detached-superority mind-game, I’d never talk to him again. I don’t want a man that feels superior to me. I’ve experienced that WAY to much in my life as it is and it is actually the last thing I am looking for in a man. I want a man that has his own personal strength and th courage of his convictions and knows we are EQUALS even if we are not the same. I also do not need a man “negging” me. WTF And don’t look at me while I’m talking to you? I will assume you are just completely disinterested and/or rude and not be interested in pursing things further.

              Stop advocating for that Pick-up artists crap.

            • Erin,
              you seriously misread it. of course I don’t advocate that. i was making a point about being careful about what you read.

              Steve

            • I wasn’t sure. For me, it was hard to accurately interpret what you were saying. Thanks for setting me straight.

      • @Steve,

        “Lots of married guys start to believe they deserve sex even without an ounce of sexual confidence.”

        Confidence derives from experience, practice, and being passionate about a thing.

        As I have said on many many occasions here, too many women favor sex with man type “A” but want to marry man type “B.” Man type “B” is in most cases inexperienced Steve. I was one such man Steve. I am convinced that’s one reason, maybe the primary reason, my marriage was sexless for over 10+ years.

        • That’s my point, Jules. I was the same guy as you in a 28 yr. marriage.

          She married mr. nice guy – type B. I was full of self confidence and social confidence. High value husband material on the outside. I believed I should have earned sex (deserved it, damn it) for all the wonderfulness people thought of me. I was totally insecure and unwise about her, her sexual response, and her real desires (man type A). A husband like this (me) continues to shower his wife with disappointment, resentment, and intellectual warfare to force his way into intimacy. A primary reason for the end of my marriage.

          My lack of sexual confidence wasn’t a lack of experience, practice, or passion. My lack of confidence was more due to an overwhelming lack of knowledge and too much insecurity to admit I was doing anything wrong. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Knowledge can build confidence too.

    • Flyingkal says:

      Hi Jonathan,

      It’s quite possible, as people are notoriously poor judges of their own behavior and image, but the same disconnect (between what you say you want and what I see women wanting) holds true when I observe other men. The only conclusion that I can draw from the available evidence is that these character traits are necessary, but not sufficient. (And I see that for some women, they’re not even necessary.)

      I fully agree with you on the poor self-judgement thing. I say that we like to boast what positive traits we are attracted to, while in reality we are just ascribing and interpreting positive traits into the people we are attracted to.

      I also agree with you on the distinction between necessary and sufficient, regarding character traits. A distinction that is rarely taken into consideration in discussions like this.

      I would also be curious to know how a man is supposed to build sexual confidence in the face of constant rejection. I know that you are supposed to love yourself, not build your selfworth on other people’s judgement of your value, etc. But isn’t being confident about something you know nothing about, just putting up a facade, a false front that won’t stand the test of reality?

      • Jonathan G says:

        I also agree with you on the distinction between necessary and sufficient, regarding character traits. A distinction that is rarely taken into consideration in discussions like this.

        It’s quite the stunning oversight, really, considering the way the human mind works. Quite often, when it comes to acts and desires, the unconscious brain acts or wants, and it is left to the conscious mind to rationalize act or desire after the fact. Even people with the highest skill at introspection frequently mis-judge their true motivations. The decisions and desires that arise through conscious deliberation take much longer to reach, and we’re much less motivated by them.

        It’s not just that you shouldn’t trust what women say they want in men, as many men say, but you should also be wary about a person’s justifications about why they want to take the $10 today versus the $20 next month, why they had cookies instead of carrots as a snack, or about the big plans they’ve made for themselves that they do nothing (or the opposite) to follow through on.

        That is to say, when it comes to attraction, there are traits in a partner that people unconsciously want, and traits they consciously want, or feel they should want. And we don’t talk much about the former.

        But isn’t being confident about something you know nothing about, just putting up a facade, a false front that won’t stand the test of reality?

        Indeed. In other contexts, that kind of confidence is considered pathological. I can have utter confidence that I’m the greatest equestrian the world has ever seen, but considering that I’ve ridden a horse only twice in my life, I’d call that “grandiose delusions.”

        • Good comment. One thing can be said both about 50 shades and guy porn; when you fantasize, your brain doesn’t have to worry about things like “reality”, “practicality”, “physical danger”, “emotional danger”, “right and wrong” and “dignity” (or “human beings” for that matter). Therefore, no kind of porn will ever be a true portrayal of human sexuality like no kind of fiction will ever be real life.

          Most people are aware of that when they enjoy fiction but when someone else does it, we go into panic mode and think “is that what they really want?”

          Time for women to get more secure about porn and for men to get more secure about oversized sex toys.

          • FlyingKal says:

            Hi Cynthia,

            Time for women to get more secure about porn and for men to get more secure about oversized sex toys

            Yes. And even better if we could get more secure and honest to actually start to interact with each other instead. :-)

  8. While I appreciate you offering a woman’s perspective on what is desireable in a man I can’t help but notice that it is being offered in a tone that says what that male friend of yours (the one you call sweetie) asked about just doesn’t happen.

    Guys offer what they offer and women go for what they go for and the general hope is that the two will line up. When there is a misalignment I think there is often a rush to say that one side or the other is fully responsible for the misalignment.

    As what bobbt says for all the women that say the material in 50 Shades isn’t a representation of what women are interested in, its still sold quite a few copies and got its movie rights scooped up pretty damn fast.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I think part of that is because it was NEW to us, in the mainstream. Romance novels sell better than almost any other books (but don’t make the NYT bestseller lists), but they’re still not totally mainstream.

      Kink certainly isn’t mainstream, but most women I know like to have their asses slapped by the right person at the right time. And there isn’t much talk about our lust and our desire and our kinky tendencies.

      I think the books sold well because women could embrace their sexuality without be embarrassed -all their friends and their moms had read it too – and we felt empowered by that. I didn’t read them because my friends in the kink community weren’t fans and I obviously am not lacking in self-acceptance here (haha). But I think the reason they were wildly successful speaks more to the newness of it all and less to the specific desires of women matching up with what is expressed in the book.

      I mean, men read Carl Hiaasen and other crime novelists in droves – does that mean all men want to be detectives, serial killers or beat cops? Nah. It’s just escapism.

      • I mean, men read Carl Hiaasen and other crime novelists in droves – does that mean all men want to be detectives, serial killers or beat cops? Nah. It’s just escapism.
        Well considering how that material (and porn of course) are propped up as examples of how men are just boys that refuse to grow up and would rather hold onto childish fantasy (and unrealistic expectations of sex) I’d say there’s plenty who think its more than just escapism.

        Its odd really.

        Men are cast a monolith when it comes things like porn, video games, and violent material but do the same to women and suddenly its not right?

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Carl Hiaasen books are propped up as examples of how men are boys? Danny, really? Find me a link anywhere that says that.

          • I don’t have a link that says this about Carl Hiaasen specifically but are you really trying to say that you’ve never seen anything about how guys get into that material in some subconscious desire to maintain their boyhood or out of a desire to have freedom to do as they wish?

  9. A human being with empathy and compassion says:

    This seems like a harmful article on so many levels. I notice what you write about women contrasts with what we say about men. But if women are so perfect and so consistent in the way they value men then how can women ever change or evolve?

    Also a lot of people feel that the theme of submissiveness has more to do with a desire to give yourself to another person. Maybe it’s a flawed means of achieving that aim but I think we shouldn’t read 50 shades too literally because it is fantasy.

    I think the idea of a billionaire protagonist is a a very alienating message to men. It teaches men that a woman can only give herself and be fully in touch with her womanhood if a man is sufficiently powerful and mean enough to break taboos.

    It also assures women that while their womanhood may depend on a powerful man that they tent dependent on any man but rather a man of exceptional power who can provide for her in exchange for his power over her.

    But this piece doesn’t really challenge those ways of thinking. Instead of really reassuring men that their are aspects of the way that women perceive men that can and should improve you just outright deny that women have any expectations about men that aren’t totally pure. Do you see how on a covert level how that can be shaming to men that are neither billionaire or “successful” with women.

    Even if 50 shades of gray is a fantasy that should be read in a non literal way I think that it reveals something about how men and women relate to each other and I believe we should be brave enough to look at those things and question them.

    • @A human being with empathy and compassion,

      Steve (above) is simply an idealist. I don’t care how many men he has treated and counseled…The world of men and women simply is NOT as he says. Period. Watch what people DO, not what they SAY.

      Hence my skepticism on this piece.” What a woman SAYS and what a woman DOES, and what a woman SAYS she DOES are three different things” – Margaret Mead, American Cultural Anthropologist

      It’s like women who say a man’s cock size does not matter. But, have you ever seen an ‘average” best selling sex toy? No, I have not. The best sellers are larger than average.

      I just wish we could both be more open and honest. Until that happens, the OUTCOME(S) will remain the same.

      • “I just wish we could both be more open and honest. Until that happens, the OUTCOME(S) will remain the same.”

        Me too. And I find that many men and women can actually achieve that with help. Is that idealism?

        Totally agree with Margaret Mead. That’s why I help men to quit fretting over “what women want” and trying to figure them out. It is totally possible for a man to choose confidence and choose behaviors he values and let the cards fall where they may. He can do this while loving and respecting her needs along the way…and giving her the choice to join him or not. I encourage women to do the same.

        Repeating myself, it’s THAT guy that potential dates and wives are most drawn to.

        • @Steve Horsman,

          “Is that idealism?”

          Yes, because it is not a realistic expectation of either, especially women.

          Only a small percentage of either sex is going to embrace what you are advocating Steve. Simple fact of life.

      • “It’s like women who say a man’s cock size does not matter. But, have you ever seen an ‘average” best selling sex toy? No, I have not. The best sellers are larger than average.”

        Have you seen a normal-looking porn star?

        • @Cynthia,

          I do not watch porn.

          Nor do I knock those who do. It’s there business, not mine.

          The issue is credibility, honesty, and trust.

  10. I dont think there are really something like “what women want” or “what men want” , because every individual is different, no matter what gender he/she is.

    What I dont like with this article is, its basically saying ” dude, women arent shallow like you”. Its still catering to gender stereotype, which I hate so much. There are many shallow women, just like there are many shallow men. Period.

    • I believe that people (both men and women) who spend too much time wringing their hands over alleged “gender essentialism” miss out on many opportunities to delight the other gender.

      If you don’t believe that nearly all women feel attraction toward an authentically confident man, and you wait to confirm your suspicion with every woman you want to attract – you’ve missed the boat.

      She thinks you should already know that. It’s up to you to decide IF you want to display that confidence and, if so, HOW you are going to do it.

      • Yeah I dont belive it. Why? Because as a shy and guy who is under a category of a “physics nerd”, I have a girlfriend, who told me she found my shyness is cute and attractive. I dont think shes in very tiny minority, because I know many women have “a thing” for shy nerds like me.

        I dont belive that to attract men/women you have to be one kind of man, either its confident, funny, or dominant. The only thing that I think can be applied to almost anyone as a thing that attract them is kindness, and I dont think its specialized to one gender.

        • A lot of shy guys have come to believe that “confident” means extroverted, loud, or life of the party. Totally false.

          I would bet your girlfriend finds you to be a very confident physics nerd. This can simply mean that you’re happy being who you are and are not about to change yourself or your passion to suit someone else. They can accept you and your values or leave. That’s hot. That’s confidence.

          • FlyingKal says:

            “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” someone said.

            So in my experience, it’s usually the more ignorant who are also the most confident. And therefore also the most extroverted and loud.
            Being the person that everyone wants on their team when playing TP, won’t get you any romantic points.

    • Women are constanly told that men are shallow, so what’s a person that doesn’t want to be hurt supposed to do but answer back?

      • Just believe everybody is different. Stating things like “This is what (all/most) WOMEN WANT!” but it is actually what she want is, for me, stupid. Women is not homogenous group just like men.

  11. @Steve,

    “If you don’t believe that nearly all women feel attraction toward an authentically confident man, and you wait to confirm your suspicion with every woman you want to attract – you’ve missed the boat.”

    We can agree.

  12. Michael Rowe says:

    I think that the fact that 40 million plus women have turned this book into one of the best selling books of all time says a great deal more about actual women’s fantasies than is politically convenient for anyone to admit, however well-intentioned they might be.

    • Hi Michael

      And how many million, billions of women are we in the world?
      I will not read it.
      Lots of women say no thank you.

      Do not conclude that the themes in that book tell the truth about women’s sexuality.
      Look at the crap of American TV series we who live outside of America can see on out TV screens everyday.

      Shall we conclude that this is the facts about Americans? After all you Americans consume it and sell it the rest of world.

      • Michael Rowe says:

        Hi Iben

        I’m not American.

        And it’s sold 70 million copies and been translated into 50 languages. Guess what? Most Americans can barely manage English. Where else do you suppose women have been reading it? I’ll give you 50 guesses.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Michael, I actually really disagree about it beings specific to women’s fantasies. I wrote a comment above addressing this.

          Romance novels are best selling books (but don’t make the NYT bestsellers because of their genre), billions are sold. This isn’t new, what’s new is that this book is so mainstream and we saw women reading it everywhere and it was ONE series that got so much attention.

          But none of this is new, really. There has been female fantasy literature forever and it’s a hugggggeeeeely profitable business.

        • “Most Americans can barely manage English. ”

          Really Michael, this was quite ignorant.

          • not buying it says:

            “Most Americans can barely manage English, ”

            Really Michael , this was quite ignorant. !!!

            YAH REALLY, he is just making a valid point , after all its true and backed up by evidence from the US Education department stats for the illiteracy in the US, check it for yourself

            • When you besmirch on an entire culture with a prejudice that is apparently specific to America, that is not a valid point.

              And by the way, I did what you suggested. Apparently, the percentage of adults that can’t read in the US is 14%. Also, when you compare the other data, United States is only beat by 11 or so other countries. How does that equate to “Most Americans…”

        • not buying it says:

          Michael ,
          it seems any behavior linked to women as a gender trait , that is not in line with an ideal politically correct dogma , is considered wrong , we all have preferences as individuals and in groups , but it is also true that as people of a specific gender , male or female we do actually prefer certain things that are unique to one gender for the most part or at least predominantly , not everything is a social construct when it comes to gender .

          for the not so ideologically bounded by hard believes try and Google :
          Cox and Fisher . ” THE TEXAS BILLIONAIRE’S PREGNANT BRIDE ; AN EVOLUTIONARY INTERPRETATION OF ROMANCE FICTION TITLES”
          JOURNAL OF SOCIAL , EVOLUTIONARY , AND CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY ,2009.

    • Well that same argument is used when it comes to men and porn. Porn has some unhealthy messages about sexuality and millions of men are into porn therefore millions of men are into unhealthy message about sexuality.

  13. When will people stop looking at manufactured, carefully marketed fads to find out what women want? Those things don’t reflect what people want, they tell people what to want! Of all the people who read 50 shades, how many actually read it because “everyone else has read it”. Add to it the fact that it’s bascically the only example of outspoken female sexuality out there and it’s not like people have that many choices.
    It has a bit of merit, though, just for daring to speak about the subject matter.

    And, yes, women like big sex toys. (And yes, men like silicon-breasted porn stars.) But doesn’t mean it’s a prerequisite to get laid.

    • @Cynthia,

      “……(And yes, men like silicon-breasted porn stars.)”

      Oh, are those for sale too?

    • wellokaythen says:

      I’ve read a fair share of erotic fiction, and I really don’t get why _50 Shades_ was the break-out hit for the genre. The public acted like the author was the original inventor of both BDSM and erotic fiction. The genre has been around for decades, centuries really, and nothing in the series was at all original. It’s pretty mid-range quality, indistinguishable from dozens of other titles published that same year. There are many better examples of the genre, and many worse examples as well. It’s like celebrating the Toyota Camry as the car that everyone just has to drive at least once in their lives.

  14. What about we men STOP asking what women want.
    This constant worrying about your confidence, social or sexual, is not healthy. The problem is that you, as a guy, are the one that has to step up if anything in the relationship is going to happen. That is such a weak frame to come from. It impacts you psychologically. So this idea of you being ‘the best you’. That’s bullshit.

    This idea that a lot of guys need to be something ‘more’ is the problem. As guys we shouldn’t care. How about she having as much of control of her sexual life as you should. This means that she has as much of a responsibility as you to look for the good things about the other sex.

    This is something that we are not talking about. How positive guys are. How much we guys always try to look at the positive of the woman. How many times have you guys been okay about a womans faults or tried to see her personal beauty. How often have felt that women have done the same to you?
    So stop thinking about what you need to be. And ask yourself how she makes you feel instead.

    • I do think men should ask themselves how their partner makes them feel and pay attention to how she treats them. But I don’t think he shouldn’t care about her feelings or wants either. I think there is a way to do both in a balanced way.

    • Hi Nistan

      When I read your comment I could not believe my own eyes. This is 2013 and you say nothing will happen in a relationship between a man and a woman unless HE starts,intimates,leads or take control. Maybe I misunderstand you?

      Do you actually mean what you say here Nisan:
      ✺”The problem is
      that you, as a guy, are the one that has to step up if anything in the relationship is going to
      happen.” ✺

      What is this “anything” you talk about that never happens if the man don’t step up?
      If sex is want you talk about , then all your girlfriends must have been shy. So this is actually the kind of women you choose to be with,

      If you talk about just anything that happens during the day, then I am surprised.

      • To be fair, it is mostly true. I’ve never had a woman initiate anything with me. Ever. I don’t have a single friend who has had a woman initiate anything with them ever either. We approach, we ask them out, we initiate physical contact, etc, etc, etc. While I know I hear of women on the internet who initiate, I do not know one in person. In fact, I have asked my female friends if they have initiated and they have all said they have not. In general, men are still required to initiate everything with regard to dating and sex. For the vast vast vast majority of men, if we sit around waiting for a woman to show interest in us, we will spend our entire lives alone. It’s not a fair system, but it is the system that we have. I can either A) approach women and accept that I will be rejected nine times out of ten, or I can B) sit around and spend the rest of my life hoping that I will find a woman who expresses interest in me. I know it isn’t a problem with how I dress or appear either, as I have very attractive gay men approach me all the time and give me compliments about my appearance and/or clothing choices.

  15. FlyingKal says:

    One day we are told here at GMP that to be attractive, we (men) should just be confident in our skin and don’t care too much about what we look like. The next day we are told to stop whining and just hit the gym every now and then doesn’t hurt. And all the while there’s this constant buzz in the background that we should just be confident and not care about what other people think.
    Isn’t that at least a little bit funny…?

  16. Hi Collin

    I am sorry to hear that.
    It must be an American phenomena.where parents raise women be act like that and a culture that supports it.
    When you put the PUA activities on top of all this I can see it is also difficult to be a woman in America. How can you show interest in a man if any stranger can be a PUA that will use you for “training on how to wear down a girls resistance “and then dump you.
    Or he can be MGTOW with the attitudes ” pump and dump”.

    So why don’t you all revolt against a stupid system or culture like this? Where is the alternative culture? Is it here on GMP?

    I do not see hookup culture as an alternative culture.

  17. wellokaythen says:

    There’s no reason to doubt any particular woman who says she read the book but didn’t like it. I’ll take an individual at her word.

    However, in the aggregate something fishy is going on here. Millions and millions of women have bought a copy and told their friends about it, millions and millions have read it, but no one seems to like it. Millions read it but no one likes it. That’s theoretically possible but sounds highly implausible.

    I’m not assuming that the book’s readership is a representative cross-section of American women, and I totally get that some things are ridiculously overhyped, but there must be SOME women out there who found the book very appealing.

    • Hi wellokaythen

      It is nothing new that we occasionally have erotic books everybody ( I mean women) reads.
      My mother read:
      Fanny Hill
      Lady Chatterly’s lover
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagina_Hill
      And of course some highly erotic novels written by famous authors in my language..
      Everybody read them. Period.
      But here the themes is not domination as far as I know. So lets not over analyze it.
      People are curious about sex. It may be as simple as that, and reading about it may be more pleasant than looking at it for some.

      • FlyingKal says:

        Iben,
        Have you read “Fanny Hill”??

        I totally agree that (some) people are curious about sex, and that reading about it may be more pleasant than looking at it for some.
        But if you take some interest in it, reading about it may also stir your curiosity and make you interested in trying new ways to do it.

  18. Make whatever movie you want to, but:

    Doesn’t this movie already exist? This sounds awfully similar to James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhal in _Secretary_.

  19. It’s difficult to overlook the parallels and diagonals between men’s and women’s style of pornography. The rich and successful alpha type male who after having seen the world, falls in lust and love with me, and the hyper sexual wanton LA model chasing penises without regard. Even in fantasy, the irony of reality pokes up its ugly head.

    According to some marketing people somewhere, women in relationships are the largest consumers of romance pornography while confidence is low that the same is true for men /pornography usage and their relationship status. This is an interesting diagonal me thinks.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I think there’s a technological factor playing a major role. A huge percentage of e-book purchases and e-books checked out of libraries are erotic fiction read by women, something on the order of 40% of all electronic books. Probably because when you read one, no one else around you can see the cover or see the title of what you’re reading. Just one factor at work, of course.

      • I’ve read it is closer to 14% for the e-version of romance novels. I feel it has far more to do with price and convenience than stigma – secretly, I wish it were the stigma, but I’m afraid not.

    • a married guy says:

      Are you suggesting that married men don’t consume romance porn? Or that we don’t consume the sort regularly associated with men? That seems pretty unlikely to me. I don’t have any married friends who seem particularly happy with their sex lives. If anything, I think may have turned to it less while single.

      • I was comparing visual porn to the written version and how each tends to dominate in their target markets and how the written form has far less stigma glued to it.

        • There does appear to be less stigma to the written form. There is also a lot of key differences between romance novels and pornography.

          1. Not all women read romance novels with the goal to masturbate. Some read it as if they would read any book. Crime, mystery, horror…… because it is entertaining in it’s respective field. Most people view porn with the intention to masturbate.

          2. While both romance novels and porn over fantasy characters, pornography seems much more apt to degenerate characters in ways romance novels largely don’t. Romance novels seem to be about lifting characters up. Giving credence to qualities like love, courage, loyatly, honesty. Pornography does not really give credence to any of these kind of qualities. Infact, often times, pornography is done in a way that actually brings characters down, not lifts them up. Possibly with the exception of 50 Shades of Grey which infact didn’t seem much about lifting characters up.

          3. Romance novels are fictoinal characters. In porn, they are actually real people doing real things in fictional settings.

          4. It is rare to see name calling in romance novels being protrayed in a positive light. It’s common to see name calling in pornography being protrayed in a positive and sexual light.

          These are just a few I can come up with in a short time.

          While I understand that both pornography and romance novels are forms of “fantasy”, that doesn’t mean all “fantasy” is created equal.

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