Love, it is often said, is mysterious and the mystery deepens when trying to figure out what attracts people to each other. Why is it that we find certain people more attractive than others?
But while some characterise women as complex to decode, at the end of a week in which Valentine’s Day was marked, we ask: what do men look for in a woman?
There are those who say they are consistent about certain physical features while others swear by a woman’s character. If a man has dated more than one woman, you can easily find a similar pattern — from their size, height all the way to complexion. So what exactly do men want in their women?
Ken, an electrician in his late 40s, has been single for a while now but says his ideal woman is one who is well-endowed and has a good pair of legs, too.
On the flip side, Amos, 35, an advocate of the High Court, says anything goes for him.
"I do not have a 'type' in terms of size," says Amos. "The physical appearance is the first thing I notice and if she has a pretty face; whether she is big or small is the least of my concerns. I don't like very small girls though," he says.
So, are men driven by a certain feature or trait, which they are subconsciously on the lookout for?
Eric, 40, who is in top management in a financial institution, offers his opinion:
"Men don't go out looking for a specific feature in a woman intentionally. Rather, they get attracted without attributing the attraction to a specific feature," says Eric.
He adds: "That notwithstanding, there is no specific or standard way of evaluating a woman's beauty. Men are attracted by different features in a woman in different forms; some like dark-skinned beauties, others are attracted to the size of a woman’s bosom."
His sentiments are shared by 52-year-old Joshua who has been married for over two decades. "I would say what attracted me to Hannah was her 'dashboard'," says Joshua referring to his wife's bosom. "That’s what caught my eye and raised my emotions when I saw her coming towards me," says Joshua, adding that nothing has changed since then.
Eric says he has friends who focus on the size of the backside, for example, but insists preferring a ‘type’ of woman is not so straightforward.
"Unless one analyses a consistent pattern of a woman they consider attractive, sometimes a man won't produce a conclusive checklist of what attracts him. That said, some men are clear in their mind as to what attracts them. In my opinion, men are attracted by different things in a woman — but the size, shape and skin colour of the woman varies from man to man. And, yes, some of us prefer a well-defined waistline and a big backside," he says.
James, a PR professional in his late 40s, is more pragmatic.
"A man is attracted to a woman for two reasons only: either for the long haul, when he is thinking marriage, or for a fling, when all he wants is to sleep with her," he says.
James believes men fall into different types of 'lookers'. “Some attraction is based on physical compatibility and the trigger can be how a woman sashays or how she talks. Others bond intellectually, where, while nothing pleases him physically and he does not find her attractive, he connects with her mind," says James.
He also believes a man can connect with a woman he just met because of her spiritual inclination or perhaps she triggers a pleasant memory from the past that rekindles warm feelings.
“A man can also get attracted to a woman for fleeting reasons like cleavage or when she is wearing a mini-skirt or flirty little dress," he says.
Moses, who is in his late 20s, concurs that men prefer women for different reasons.
"Given a choice, I would go for a woman who is curvy, has beautiful legs and a big backside. I'm not too particular about the bosom," he says.
For Anthony, a married man in his mid-40s, physical appearance is the most important thing.
"I do not walk around with an X-ray so I will not lie that the first thing that draws me to a woman is her heart," he says in jest. "But after we get beyond the physical, what determines if we stay is her attitude. Her character and intelligence will come into play, too. I don't want to be lonely in a relationship because she can't discuss or engage," says Anthony.
Don, 45, a Kenyan-born US citizen, thinks that most African men are fascinated by big women while white men love skinny ones.
"African men love thickness. This, however, is the physical part but most importantly all men value respect more than anything else. A man wants to be respected just as much as a woman wants to be loved and showered with attention. A man wants a woman who will cheer him on constantly, especially when they are down. A ride-or-die kind of woman will win a man's heart all the time," says Don.
He further says that men want a smart woman who will help them develop their potential to the maximum, not just another “beautiful babe”.
“We want a woman who we can partner with as we pursue our careers, financial goals and personal development goals, says Don.
Sammy, a businessman in his late 30s, agrees that indeed every man has a certain preference.
"Sometimes it's the beauty and obviously a good body. But legs never apply that much," he says. "I'm a sapiosexual and the biggest turn on for me is a woman's brains. If she can connect intellectually with me, I'm sold," says Sammy.
Leonard, a 43-year-old banker, is of the opinion that one man's meat is another man's poison. "If I was to look at the physical traits, my weakness is a pretty face, curvy hips, nice round behind and midsize bosom," he says. "However, a man gets to a certain stage in life and realises beauty is only skin-deep. This is where her attitude, brains and respect come in."
Alex, on his part, shares a similar view with Leonard. "There is a stage in life where the physical matters in life and there’s a stage where it is about what is inside. My take is that it is a fallacy to go for looks. If I was to look, I would look for someone who we could connect with, both at the mind and the heart level. Someone who we would share a value system, dreams and aspiration. An encourager, helper and builder who we can work on and walk to our twilight years. In twilight, looks don't count," explains Alex.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Dr Geoffrey Wango, a senior lecturer of Counselling Psychology at the University of Nairobi and a counselling psychologist who is also an organisational behaviour coach, says that men look for several things in a woman. “One of them is physical beauty. The ordinary man is attracted to a woman simply because of her looks. Males tend to lean on the physical, unlike females who seek meaningful relationships,” says Dr Wango.
However, he says, “the more reasonable male” will be inclined to seek additional details and seek out on personality and character.
“This is because the more mature male comprehends the meaning and impact of a relationship. This leads us to ask what the man seeks for in the woman; an established (firm) relationship, or to pass time,” poses Dr Wango.
Dr Wango says that if a man simply wants good company or to pass time, he often seeks out on physical attraction and beauty.
He adds that men seeking a more lasting association will be careful to obtain additional details from a woman such as full names, family details, whether she has serious commitments and hence her future plans.
Essentially, a woman is able to pick out if the man is seriously seeking a relationship or simply wants to pass time using the same criteria.
But what is beauty?
“Men define beauty in a variety of ways that include physical looks, dressing, religion (faith) and extras such as voice, body shape, size, height, hair, eyes and face. It is important to state that all women are beautiful. So, different men will find diverse women attractive for different reasons,” says Dr Wango.
This is why it is important for her to remain true to herself rather than try to be someone else only to be picked out from the crowd by essentially the “wrong” partner.
“I tell women that it is catastrophic to create an illusion of who you are. For example, a woman who is dark skinned and decides to bleach her skin to attract ‘more attention’ or one who has a child and unmarried with the obvious temptation to pretend to be without a child,” says Dr Wango.
The expert points out that it is important to add that relationships are complicated; it is a partnership that requires respect, trust, understanding, friendship and faith.
“We cannot simply rely on love and attraction to hope that what men look for is fulfilling, especially when it is clearly out of tune with the foundations that can build a long lasting relationship. We must then pass on the values and norms of a healthy relationship, that is, mutual respect, trust and understanding,” says Dr Wango.
Dr Margaret Kagwe, a counselling psychologist and Senior Consultant at Esteem Counselling Services in Nairobi says that men vary in what they look for in a woman depending on the role they want the woman to play in his life.
“When looking for a woman to marry, most men concentrate on non-physical traits like kindness, empathy, humour, consistency, family oriented and attraction. Dressing also comes into play, with most men wanting their future wives to cover up more,” explains Dr Kagwe.
“Although physical attractiveness is considered to a great extent, it does not overshadow these other characteristics; it is done for self-preservation because the man would want to end up with a good wife,” she says.
She adds that when a man is looking for a woman to spend time with without a permanent commitment, they focus on the physical attractiveness.
“This is where the size of the bosom and backside, complexion, hair, legs and other physically attractive body parts come into play,” says Dr Kagwe.
When the goal of the man is short-term, the woman does not have to be kind, empathetic or caring. What drives the man at this point is a woman who can be the envy of his peers and serve as arm-candy so all she needs to do is to be beautiful for the occasions.
“It is a bonus for a man to get a woman with their desired personality traits as well as physical attractiveness. However, it is important to remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is relative … we are all attracted to different things and traits,” says Dr Kagwe.