Summary by Susie Boersma, April Osback and Cassia Brown.


                                    What Woman Want- What Men Want , Chapter 5


                                                    By John Marshall Townsend



            The article “Men’s Criteria for choosing Partners,” by John Marshall Townsend, attempts to explain why the sexes use different criteria to search for and select mates, and that this difference persists now after women have achieved equality in earning power and economic status. He begins by arguing the fact that researchers have been telling the American public for over twenty years that women stress economic status as being the most important feature in picking a good partner. The author cites statistics based upon interviews with men and women, conducted around the world in various cultures and societies.


            The first case study is concerning a young medical student named Michael who is involved with a girlfriend, also a medical student. His interview showed that he was most interested in women’s looks above all else. Michael begins his narrative at some point into a relationship with his ‘girlfriend’. He is already feeling the desire to look at other women and desire sex with other partners. Michael states that his girlfriend has gained weight, he even knew how many pounds, and this bothered him. Gradually he began to lose interest in his girlfriend, and make excuses to go out alone. His girlfriend did not initiate sex, and he only did so to keep her happy. Eventually he wanted out of the relationship so that he could pursue other women. He thought it would be better if his girlfriend was more independent so he could be more independent. The author believes that men are attracted by the newness of a potential partner, and that this along with physical attraction makes men want to search for new sexual partners.


            The second case study concerns Carl, a divorced 59 years old music teacher, who gets involved with a woman who he respects very much. He starts out by talking about how much he admires this woman, and how everyone else respects her. He also talks about how beautiful she appeared with a gorgeous face. However, he then tells of his first night with her, and his surprise and disgust with her body when he found that she was not only waist less, built like a playing card with two thin legs. But the worst was that she had been in a terrible car accident, and after that first night he never wanted to be with her again. Yet, he was torn by doubt and guilt, emotions that many men feel because of their desires for sex with attractive partners.


            Tom, an older man, is the subject of the third case study. He was in his mid forties, divorced, and fairly well to do. He had two girlfriends, Alice and Lori, the first for eight years, the second for four years. Tom weighs out his options each time he goes out with either of his girlfriends, and considers their desires and tendencies along with his own when making choices. When he wants to go on a trip to a resort, he prefers Alice for her company and financial independence, but does not want to make the commitment to her that she demands. He much prefers Lori for her looks and sex, and being so much younger and thus more fertile; but does not like to pay for her expenses and knows that her desire for him may be as calculated as his desire for her. The author notes that this particular case study proves that just as women are reluctant to admit their socioeconomic criteria, men are just as reluctant in admitting their physical criteria.


            Men emphasize mostly on physical attractiveness in their choice of sexual partners and marriage, they seem to know exactly what they find attractive in women and what they find to be unattractive. Some men like their women thin, but the majority of men have been noted to be more attractive to the Play Boy curvaceous type with large breasts and hips. Researchers have concluded that identification of the physical characteristics considered attractive in western culture, or any other, seems to be an impossible task. The standards of physical attractiveness vary tremendously between different societies and cultures. This can be noted when looking at different societies and their cultures, in some tribes brides are forced fed in order to fatten up for their marriage ceremony, and even during Reuben’s time or even in Victorian England the amount of fat on a women’s body was a sign of high status, thus more desirable to men. These examples prove that the standards of what is considered beautiful have varied enormously in different societies and eras, and therefore there are no universal standards of beauty. The author goes on to perform a case study on a 42 year old divorced financially well off man to get his point across regarding males emphasize on physical attractiveness. George enjoys the intimacy and comfort that a monogamous relationship has to offer, but he doesn’t want to commit to one woman only, he wants to have his cake and eat it to. His girlfriend who was 37, good looking with lots of style wasn’t enough for George, after he noticed her calves he was no longer attracted to her.     


            Standards of female sexual attractiveness are linked to signs of youth, health, and fertility. Men around the round have shown to prefer women who show signs of fertility. Some men like women with big bottoms, and other men like curvaceous busty women with wide hips. When women hit puberty their level of hormones increase, this causes fat to be stored on hips, breasts, and thighs. The fat is lactation fat; they act as reserves to ensure that a female can nurse her child when food is scarce. Females tend to loose weight in all other areas of the body before loosing weight in the areas mentioned above, this is why so many women have difficulty loosing weight in their problem areas.

Males’ preference in young and healthy females is not accidental, how fertile a woman is depends greatly on her age and health.


            In choosing mates both sexes are influenced by physical and social characteristics, but at the same time they both weigh them out very differently. When women choose a partner, status is the major criterion. When males choose a partner the major criterion are physical traits. Women don’t tend to sleep with a man on the first date; she first needs to get to know how well he can provide her both emotionally and economically. Men have sex first, and then they begin to wonder whether or not they want to pursue a relationship.


            The last part of the article tryies to enforce the idea that basic sex differences really exist in sexuality by studying homosexuals, the study showed that the differences were more prominently noticed in the selection of partners. Gay men fear aging and worry about getting wrinkles and they worry about their figure. Older gay men have to pay the younger gay men to sleep with them because they couldn’t otherwise attract them. Another study done on lesbians found that lesbians emphasize less on age and looks. Intellectual, personal compatibility, and ability to communicate are more important criteria when choosing partners.    








Chapter 5

I.                    Men and Mate Selection

A)    Preference

1.      Beauty

2.      Good cook

3.      Frugal

B)    Perception of physical attractiveness is frequently part of the reason for breakups.

II.                 Physical attractiveness

A)    Beauty is the primary requirement for a serious relationship

1.      Marriage requirements, secondary requirements

a.       Common background

b.      Personal compatibility

c.       Intelligence

d.      Sociability

2.      The satisfaction of a man is strongly affected by how physically attractive he continues to find his partner.

B)    Michael

1.      Attractive women meant temporary relationship

2.      In relationships would want his partner to remain beautiful and thin.

a.       Men lust for sex with complete strangers

b.      Michael more independence indicates that he wants more space.

C)    Carl

1.      Background consists of moral responsibility toward other human beings.

2.      Not feeling attracted to a women’s body, leaves Carl feeling guilty.

a.       Men’s sexual arousal depends a great deal on visual stimuli.

b.      Regardless of background, his gut reaction cannot overcome his feeling towards physical appearance.

D)    Tom

1.      Confliction between young women and older women with financial stability.

2.      Youth overcomes confliction


III.               What is beauty?

A)    Western culture finds thinner women more attractive

B)    Victorian England during 1500-1700 found the amount of fat on women attractive.

C)    The documentation for attractiveness is generally through paintings

1.      Doesn’t represent the whole population

2.      Doesn’t account for the pubic opinion

D)    “Representative” type

1.      Young

2.      Smooth shin

3.      Firm

4.       If fleshy, not obese

5.      Healthy

6.      Fertile

7.      Glossy hair

8.      Large eyes and rosy lips

E)     Measurements and Weight

1.      Average Miss America and Playboy models

a.       1930   34-25-35

b.      1950   35 ½- 25- 35

c.       1970  35 ¼ - 23 ½ - 35 ¼

d.      1980  35-23 ¼- 34 ½

2.      Men do prefer thin bodies, but men actually prefer heavier body types then what women believe they prefer.

F)     Being thin begun with the upper class.

1.      Being thin affected society because women wanted to like upper class females.

2.      Playboy and penthouse portray women who are thin and firm, but with big breasts and wide hips.

G)    George

1.      Excuses marriage to one women due to appearance, the other due to cleanliness

2.      The right person demands sexual fidelity and marriage in exchange for what he wants

H)    Desire to be attractive

1.      During puberty, women naturally obtain fat in breasts, hips and thighs.

a.       These areas are reserves for lactation

b.      Losing weight in these areas could cause malnutrition to a fetus

c.       Medical research shows that thinner women are less fertile.

2.      By men preferring women with curvaceous breasts and hips opposed to thin women, they are proving they prefer fertility.

3.      Age begins to show the skin losing elasticity and muscle tone

I)       Beauty through childbearing

1.      Younger women have healthier eggs

2.      Older women have eggs with more abnormal chromosomes

3.      Heavier women are healthy enough to lactate

IV.              The Doors of Selection

A)    Men selection

1.      Physical traits act as an initial filter

2.      Other traits determine relationship value

a.       Sexual partners

                                                                                                                                       i.      Sexual relations first

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Through sex men determine further investment

B)    Women

1.      Status is the initial filter, though done unconsciously

2.      Dominance and peer opinion are other secondary traits

a.       Sexual partners

                                                                                                                                       i.      Positive first impression

                                                                                                                                     ii.      The man’s values

                                                                                                                                    iii.      Warmth

                                                                                                                                   iv.      Ambition

                                                                                                                                     v.      Interest in them

V.                 Mate Preferences Among Gay Men and Lesbians

A)    Gay men

1.      Youth

2.      Beauty

a.       Fear aging wrinkles and figures

b.      Older men will pay for sex with younger men

B)    Lesbian women

1.      Spiritual qualities

2.      Personal compatibility

3.      Ability to communicate

a.       Less emphasis

                                                                                                                                       i.      Age

                                                                                                                                     ii.      looks




Critical Review



1)      On page104, the author mentioned that men stay interested as long as she remains beautiful and he doesn’t see a more beautiful woman.

2)      On page 107 and 108 the author makes a point that no matter how one is raised whether it be respectful to women or not, their final decision for a mate is based on physical appearance.

3)      On page 119 and 120, we find it informative that regardless of the sex preference, whether gay or strait, men look for a mate based on age and looks.  However, lesbians look for a mate based on intellectual and spiritual qualities, while strait females look for men with good earning capacities.



1)      We found that Townsend’s overview on gays and lesbians was weak because he didn’t have any sources to back up his ideas.



1)      We had questions about gays and lesbians, we thought that if the author could have given examples of real people like he did with the others, it would have helped us to understand their views better.