Swoon a.k.a. What Women Do Not Want

For centuries, men and women have tried to discern what women really desire in a man.  Some have claimed women are drawn to power, wealth, and physical strength.  Others have touted women’s attraction to the proverbial bastard. And others still have looked to the great lovers of history for their answers.  The new nonfiction book, Swoon: The Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them, attempts to debunk the myths of feminine attraction by looking at the men who have historically had the most success with women a.k.a. lotharios of the Casanova make.

The following is a handy dandy guide based on Betsy Prioleau’s book that illustrates the difference between what women are supposed to like in a man and what they actually do like.

What Women Do Not Want: Money, Power, or a Good Physique


                First and foremost, women do not desire men with money, power, or a good physique.   These things are just icing on an already delicious cake.  If a man is not smart, funny, impulsive, a good conversationalist, and sweet, he really won’t have staying power in a woman’s heart.  And yes, while some women might marry for money, most would not live in those marriages happily if her husband didn’t have some of the attributes mentioned above.  Take into account the film Reality Bites.  Lelaina goes out with the powerful television executive, Michael.  He seems perfect.  Compared to her friends, he’s wealthy, powerful, and fairly good-looking.  Unfortunately, things soon go sour when she realizes that he is more interested in the bottom line than herself and her work.  She dumps him because he doesn’t understand her and doesn’t even seem to try. Reenter her friend, Troy.

reality bites

Troy is an often out of work musician.  He quotes Shakespeare and waxes eloquently about life, the universe, and everything.  He shows interest in what Lelaina does and, although he is difficult and less powerful than Michael, he is the man she chooses in the end.  I have heard some men question the logic in this, but when I first saw the movie, I had no doubt that Troy was the right man for her.  In her shoes, I would have made the same decision, and I believe across the board, most women would be more drawn to the penniless musician than the business executive.

What Women Don’t Want: Brawn at the Expense of Brains


Brains will also always trump brawn.  A man might be an excellent physical specimen, but he will have little potential if he doesn’t have a mind to back up that muscle.  Women want to be mentally stimulated.  Truly desirable men can ruminate on poetry, art, music, philosophy, and literature.  Women want to talk about important things and not just the weather or what your significant other did on any given day.  If a man is gorgeous yet a bit of an idiot he won’t have much of a chance to leave an impression on most women.  Talk is a powerful aphrodisiac and brainy is most definitely the new sexy.   In The Hour, Belle is pursued by two men, Hector and Freddie.  Hector is an athlete with medals for bravery and Freddie is a slight journalist.  While Belle originally is enamored with Hector, he doesn’t hold her interest for long because he is both a bit dull and ingenuine. Freddie, however, is smart, passionate, and completely real.  He’s not the sort most would immediately fall in love with, but he is the sort that would draw you in.  It is his mind, conversation, and enthusiasm that are attractive.  In the end, both the audience and Belle would much rather have a Freddie than a Hector.

What Women Do Not Want: Completely Responsible Men


                Women also don’t want completely responsible men.  Responsibility is hardly sexy.  Men with a bit of a wild side are absolutely more attractive than the staid, buttoned up type.  This is not to say that women are attracted to bastards or shifty men.  Women just like being surprised once in a while. Spontaneity adds interest to life and spice to a relationship.  Women often lead stressful lives.  It is helpful if she has a man who lightens her load rather than adds to it.  Surprise dinners, impromptu vacations, and romantic nights are exactly the sorts of things that add a little sparkle to a woman’s life.  Night after night of home cooked meals, evenings in front of the television, and early lights out are hardly the stuff of epic romances.  A woman wants to feel like she is worth the extra effort.  A woman wants a little adventure and that’s why roguishness is a more attractive quality in a man than responsibility.  This is why the fantasy of the Doctor is so intoxicating.  The very idea of a fabulous man whisking you across time and space is many a woman’s fantasy.   Rose, tellingly enough, quickly falls for the Doctor and leaves behind her responsible and slightly boring boyfriend, Mickey.  Amy also falls a little for the Doctor in spite of having old, reliable Rory at her beck and call.  The Doctor is unpredictable and a little bit dangerous.  It’s not really surprising that he’s a bit of a ladykiller.

What Women Do Not Want: A Man’s Man


Tough, alpha males with no interest in anything that isn’t deemed “manly” are hardly catches.  Women don’t want men who look down on everything feminine and think that calling another man a girl is a viable slight.  Women want men who are in touch with their emotions, like things that aren’t sports related, and truly love the Feminine.  Good smelling, nicely dressed, and well spoken men are far more attractive than he-man hulks.  In fact, women are often most attracted to men who are more in touch with their femininity.  Pretty men with good grooming are often looked down on by other men, but women like men who take care with their appearance and aren’t slobs.  Women are not, I repeat NOT, turned off by pretty men.  Historically, some of the greatest ladies men had feminine qualities (some even cross dressed).  This is important because this fact totally undercuts the boys should be boys ideology.  Women don’t want rough and tumble men.  They want poets, artists, dancers, and philosophers.  Following “girly” pursuits actually make men more attractive rather than less.  So if a man is dissed by other men for acting like a girl, he’ll most likely stand a better chance with women than his more chauvinistic counterpart.


 Disney has long since learned this.  It is no coincidence that the villain rather than the hero of Beauty and the Beast is the brawny hunter who is puzzled by books and Belle’s dislike of him.  The Beast, in contrast, is the man more in touch with his emotions.  He dances.  He enthusiastically allows Belle to teach him to read.  He tries to please her rather than trying to please himself.  He’s humble, gentle, and, eventually, well dressed.  The Beast earns Belle’s love not through shows of strength but through the revealing of his heart.  He has a bit of the poet about him, and in the end, we see that his face is just as pretty as his heart.


(Images from X, X, X, X, X, X)

One thought on “Swoon a.k.a. What Women Do Not Want

  1. Hi Mel (or is it Melissa?)

    What a sensational article you wrote illustrating the themes in SWOON! I was blown away by the text, the visuals, and your smart take on my book. Thank you so very, very much. I’ll try to circulate it everywhere. You have a fabulous site!

    Cheers and many thanks again, Betsy

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