Human courtship and attraction

Working recently with two women who are back on the courtship or dating scene. If there ever was a thing that will keep therapists employed forever it’s human courtship. It’s a psychological minefield that can leave the unconfident even more unconfident and even the confident second guessing self at times. Being female of course they do not understand the male mind when it comes to courtship and attraction, (and of course the same applies the other way around).

However in this case we have female clients dealing with the machinations, uncertainties and tribulations of courtship and we have a male therapist who of course understands the male mind so much better because he is one of them. So what are words of wisdom I can declare to help these female clients in their period of courtship.

There are three types of attraction for men when it comes to courtship.

1. Physical beauty. Any person including males can look at something and find it beautiful or not. That can be a sunset, a drawing or a female person. In the male mind this has nothing to do with sex. What is a beautiful woman is determined to some degree by society. On this I agree two some extent however there are commonalities that one finds across cultures such as a high cheekbone structure in the face and certain proportions of the legs compared to the trunk and head and arms and so forth.

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However it should be noted that the whole ‘thin’ thing as beautiful, is largely a female construction. The cat walk model, is women arguing amongst themselves about what is beautiful. Men by and large are not consulted on what they think in this way. Some men would see such women as beautiful but I would say that many, if not most, see physical beauty in a female in a much wider variety of ways than primarily thin. In the male mind the thin thing is definitely over rated.

If a woman is expecting men to see thin as beautiful then she will be disappointed as many (most) men see physical beauty in a female in others ways than just thin. Men who seek what society sees as the physically beautiful woman are more likely to be looking for a “trophy” woman. That is a woman who will make himself look more ‘successful’ to others. Although he would never admit it, it’s about him, not her. He is using her to massage his own narcissism.

2. Sexual attraction. As I said this has very little to do with physical beauty. A man can have a strong sexual response (attraction) to a female who does not fit the criteria of being physically beautiful much at all. I would say if a woman is concerned about being attractive to males this is probably more influential in the male mind than physical beauty. The physically beautiful woman can also be sexually attractive to some men but I would say in most instances that is not so. The most obvious example is the group of men who find the larger sized woman sexually attractive.


The theory says: what a male will find sexual in a female is determined by his unresolved fixations in childhood. Some of these fixations then become eroticised in his mind and when he sees a female who has that particular feature or way of being then he will have sexual response to her. It is no great surprise that the female breast is a source of erotic attraction for many men in varying degrees. The breast is the first point of contact between mother and child that can proceed easily or become a battle field in the relationship and hence some kind of fixation will result.

As a result Freud called these ‘perversions’ and indeed they are that. What you find erotic in the opposite sex will represent your neurotic fixations that developed in you as a young child that have become eroticised in the mind. What a person finds erotic can be useful diagnostically in therapy. It can tell you a lot about the personality of the client.

As you can see this has little, if nothing to do with what a man may see as physically beautiful. In the male mind they are two separate things. And again if a woman is wanting to be attractive to males then the sexual response if probably more influential in his mind than the physical beauty. The best advice for this is simply to be happy and confident in your body. Some men will find it erotic and some men wont no matter what shape or size it happens to be.

When men see a physically beautiful woman many will do the male thing of:

“Oooh aah, ooh aaah, she’s a bit of alright” nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

But very few will act on it because they don’t have the motivation or they will make some feeble half hearted attempts. They are mostly doing ‘the male thing’ so they belong in their male peer group. They are far more likely to act when there is a sexual response to the woman.


3. Free Child need. Men have as much a need for emotional intimacy, closeness and attachment as females do. All men have some unmet emotional needs in them that they hope a close other will one day satisfy and of course many people look for that in a partner. If a man sees these qualities in a female, that she may indeed meet his emotional needs for intimacy then she will be particularly attractive to him. But the importance of this changes over time. The order of importance can be seen below (and this is where men and women probably differ in the courtship business).

Day 1 importance

Sexual attraction

Physical beauty

FC needs

Day 21 importance

FC needs

Sexual attraction

Physical beauty

If a man finds the woman is not meeting the FC needs then he will feel a lack of connection or compatibility to her. In a reasonably short space of time he will loose interest in her no matter how good looking or sexy she may be and the relationship will be terminal in his mind.

(Of course the same applies for the male attempting to be attractive to the female. The machinations of that is for another discussion, another day)

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