What do women find attractive in men? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been exposed to media reinforcing a stereotype that women really only care about one thing: money, money, and more money.

Some have argued that this stereotype actually has evolutionary roots, claiming that it was adaptive for our female ancestors to evolve a preference for men with resources in order to help ensure the survival of their children. As support for this idea, study after study has found that women rate traits like status and wealth as more important than men do when looking for a long-term partner.

However, the fact that women tend to care more about money than men isn’t the same as saying that women only care about money, or that money is even their biggest concern. Unfortunately, these things are often equated in the media, which is a common misinterpretation of the science.

In reality, women care about a bunch of other things far more than they care about money.

As some evidence of this, consider the results from a worldwide online survey published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in which 82,819 heterosexual women were given a list of 23 traits and asked to rank them in terms of which ones were most important in a potential partner.

The top ten traits were as follows, along with the percentage of women who had listed each trait in their top three.

Trait Percent Putting It in Their Top 3
1. Humor 53%
2. Intelligence 44%
3. Honesty 39%
4. Kindness 36%
5. Values 21%
6. Communication Skills 19%
7. Dependability 19%
8. Good Looks 17%
9. Facial Attractiveness 12%
10. Ambition 8%

Notice anything missing from this list? Money isn’t anywhere to be found!

Believe it or not, money was ranked toward the bottom. It appeared at No. 20, followed by status at No. 21.

Perhaps even more telling of how women felt was that just 2 percent of them listed money among their top three desired traits.

Looking at the rest of the traits in the top ten, it seems that women care about personality first and foremost. More than anything else, women seem to want someone who can make them laugh, someone they can trust, and someone who will treat them right.

Has anyone ever told you that a sense of humor is a man’s sexiest quality? Well, it turns out they were right.

Although it’s not quite as important as personality, good looks also matter to women, and they seem to matter a lot more than money. Like men, women also think that being physically attracted to their partner is important—shocking, I know.

So, while women do seem to care about money more than men, it’s important to put this gender difference in context. When it comes to what women are looking for in a romantic partner, wealth matters—but the truth is that it doesn’t matter very much.

In fact, guys might be better off being funny than being rich.

Justin Lehmiller, PhD is a sex educator and researcher at Ball State University and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller.

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