recent article, How Men Select Women, breaks down the science of how males select female mates. I’ve synthesized the information down to a blog sized bite for your reading pleasure. Please note that these finding are based on averages, and that a wide variety exists on each side of every topic. What is average simply gives us a language for talking about attraction. And, if you find that you don't match all the criteria for what men find attractive, which is pretty much everyone, rest assure their is someone who will have a thing for your "flaws."
High reproductive value: Men are attracted to younger women who have more fertile years ahead of them, or a high “reproductive value.”
19-year-old women are thought to have the highest “reproductive value,” as they’re capable of producing twice as many children as women ten years their senior. What this means is that Mid-twenties men prefer women a year or so younger, men in their thirties like women 5 to 10 years younger, and so on.
Neoteny: This concerns a woman’s ability to retain youthful characteristics into adulthood. Men prefer women with large eyes and lips, and mates with small noses and chins—characteristics associated with the young. Males aren't attracted to prepubescent girls however, as they have no reproductive value, so these youthful characteristics must be paired with sexually mature ones like prominent breasts, waists, and hips. Women can create the illusion of neoteny, as well as enhance their sexual characteristics artifically, with makeup and plastic surgery, or by shaving body hair and wearing clothes for females much younger than them.
Beauty: Despite what you might think, people of all cultures are in 91-94% agreement when it comes to what makes a face attractive. This is even true for native culture unexposed to mass media. Even infants prefer more attractive faces. The reason—beauty is a windows into a woman’s health. And the healthier a woman is, the more successfully she will be when it comes to producing healthy offspring. Clear skin, lustrous hair, full lips, bright eyes, proportionate body weight, and symmetrical features are all indicators of good health.
Picture perfect: Since the introduction of mass media, particularly television, finding a partner with “good looks” has increased in importance for men by 40%. The real surprise however, is that the importance of finding a partner with good looks has increased for women by 80%. The media is also having an impact on what personality characteristics we look for in partners. Women may increasingly start to value men who are romantic, heroic, entertaining, and funny, as these are often characteristic of leading men in mass media.
To read more on the science of attraction, check out the full article, “How Men Select Women”