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Fortune favours the brave (and so does dating)

'What does she see in him?'

What are women attracted to in a man? Do women prefer a man who is reckless or one who is kind? New research may surprise you.

Years ago a pal of mine who was a bank clerk would tell women that he worked as a firefighter. Psychologists refer to this type of communication as 'lying'. He would gaze dreamily into the middle distance, look slightly pained (sensitive as well as brave, you see) and explain: "It's a hell of a job, but someone has to save those kids!"

Despite my reservations, I was amazed how often this ruse worked.

His explanation was: "They love it! Girls just can't get enough of a brave guy!"

"That's just too obvious," I thought. "That's just playing on stereotypes! What about sensitive, caring new men? etc etc…"

From Hollywood action heroes to 'lovable rogues', risk taking heroism is a celebrated male quality. Less brave men are dubbed 'wimps', 'wet' or (dare I say it?) 'girlie'.

So, time for some research…

Brave men favoured over kind ones

In a recent study entitled 'Who dares wins', two researchers conducted experiments on attraction and found that women prefer risk-prone brave males to risk avoidant non-brave males, and it seems that us men (at least subconsciously) are quite aware of this preference.

Male bravery was the biggest influence on women's choice when selecting short-term and long-term partners and even male friends. Kindness turned out to be a much less important factor. When bravery was pitted against unselfishness, the surprising result was that women put much more weight on courage than kindness – and this was despite their protestations to the contrary.

He's too nice!

This may explain the 'he's good looking but he's just too nice to be hot' phenomenon which has so long perplexed pleasant male would-be suitors and annoyed feminists. According to the 'Who dares wins' research, women rated kindness as important in relationships, but a tendency to take risks was preferred to unselfishness. This is starting to sound suspiciously politically incorrect. But I believe there is a good reason for this.

Cave men

Back in cave man times, women would have needed to choose brave men who were able to take risks to protect them and their offspring.

A risk-taking man would be more likely to hunt and gather the best shelter and food.

Selfishness valued?

A surprising finding was that selfishness was, at least sometimes, valued as an attribute. The researchers found that men who were kind and brave were slightly less attractive for a short term fling than men who were selfish and brave! Kindness was more important for a longer term relationship, but women still preferred bravery way more than kindness, long or short-term.

Testosterone levels predict affairs

Married women are more likely to have affairs around their fertile period in the menstrual cycle. The type of man she'll choose at this time is more likely to have high testosterone levels. Tests have shown that a 'super masculine' face is more attractive to women during fertile times and a more 'feminine' male face at other times during the cycle.

Testosterone is linked to both risk taking behaviour and high sex drive. So this behaviour among females could indicate an attempt to secure the 'good genes' of the risk taker for their offspring, so enhancing the reproductive potential of their children.

Professional courage preferred over recklessness

Of course, reckless men are unlikely to live long enough to bring up their offspring, which may explain why, for longer term relationships, women prefer men who are 'professionally brave' rather than just out for a buzz. Firefighters (my friend was really on to something there), lifeboat men, soldiers, stock traders, bull fighters, entrepreneurs, flower arrangers…(well, maybe not the last one but you get the picture); they all fit the bill of a man who can be reliable and brave.

Professional courage also indicates self-discipline, dependability and team attributes which maximize the possibility of staying around and surviving. But short of fighting lions and leaping tall buildings, what can the modern man do to demonstrate his bravery? Well, there are other ways to display courage.

The attractive risk in humour

Many women like men who make them laugh. A reason for this (apart from the obvious entertainment factor) might be that the regular use of humour denotes bravery and risk taking. This is because a man using humour shows he can be objective and therefore not overly affected by a situation – hence the bravery bit. A man making jokes, especially in front of a large group, is also displaying risk-taking skills, because his humour might just fall flat.

So if you're a guy taking a woman out on a date, scary movies and roller coaster rides may impress her if you remain calm and show no fear (and crack jokes in the face of adversity). Don't cry and go home early. As for me I'm off for a warm bath and some hot milk.

Do you think you're driving your partner away but can't seem to stop?

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Mark Tyrrell
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