Sex & Relationships

Is your sexual appeal tied to how well you listen?

A new study shows that it pays for women to be good listeners, but a certain amount of aloofness might work better for men.

a young couple talks over dinner

Photo iStock

Listen up, ladies: It turns out your desirability may be linked to your ability to listen and be responsive. Sorry men, the same can’t be said for you.

Researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, University of Rochester, and University of Illinois examined over 100 single men and women from an Israeli university. After having one-on-one conversations, participants were asked whether they perceived responsiveness as feminine or masculine. In another experiment, researchers conducted conversations where one participant would share a sad memory from their life and the other would react with either understanding and compassion, or “unresponsive” reactions such as “doesn’t sound so bad to me.” The storyteller participant would then rate their partner’s sexual attractiveness.

The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, concluded that women who showed more “responsiveness,” were perceived as more feminine to the men in the studies as well as more desirable than women who were unresponsive. And it also found that men are more likely to be sexually attracted to women who listen to them and are aware of their feelings.

However, women had mixed feelings about men who showed they were listening. On the one hand, women perceived compassionate male strangers as having the potential to be a “desirable long-term partner.” Yet, women were also uncomfortable with men they’d just met willing to be so (interested, engaged, understanding, involved).

“Women may perceive this person as inappropriately nice and manipulative—i.e., trying to obtain sexual favours,” says Dr. Gurit Birnbaum, one of the leading researchers in the study. “Alternatively, they may see a responsive man as vulnerable and less dominant and therefore less sexually appealing.”

Regardless of the reasons, says Dr. Gurit Birnbaum, “perhaps men should slow down if their goal is to instill sexual desire.”

Another instance, it seems, of nice guys finishing last.