It's a question that perplexed even the great Sigmund Freud: What do women want? Alas, if poor Sigmund had lived to see Schwarzenegger and Stallone, "Monday Nitro" and "Monday Night Raw" or this magazine and others like it, he might have assumed that women'the really gorgeous ones'want men who have big muscles. But do they really? Is what we've seen in the media over the past quarter century an accurate representation of what women want? Don't bet on it.
Although many women certainly do appreciate corrugated abs, steely buns and varicose arms, for most babes it's just not enough.
"The guys in my class look so processed and commercial," says a Beverly Hills babe of her musclebound classmates. "I like the organic ones, the guys who dare to express their person. Like, I met this musician in Ojai who wears a sarong because he likes the way it feels on his legs. Now, he's different."
Not everyone places such a premium on nonconformity. "The nature of physical attraction is purely biological," argues Kristy, a medical office manager still in her 20s. "A man who sports a few lean bulges and looks great in a Speedo is going to get more attention than Fat Belly Joe waddling down the boardwalk in his trunks, gulpin' chili dogs." Kristy's comments suggest that Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest principles still apply, but even she believes that for a relationship to flourish, character counts. "He's got to have respect for himself and other people."
Patrizia is a fiery Latina who's been known to cause car wrecks just by strolling down the sidewalk. Her waist measures 18 inches'after dinner'and that makes her great breasts seem greater and her hair even bigger. Her wardrobe features a who's who of A-list designers'Versace, Gucci and Hermes'and her favorite thing to do to a man is rub him with honey and lick him from head to toe. To Patrizia, muscularity means nothing. "It doesn't matter how rich or muscular he is," she declares, "if he doesn't have a good personality, forget it." No honey, no tongue bath.
"I advise guys to stop doing situps and beef up their brains," offers Elise, a Hollywood producer who, when casting her television shows, chooses men who are both sexual and sensual. "Men have to have something between the legs and between the ears to appeal to female viewers. Kindness is also a major turn-on."
"I've thrown some of the biggest fish back into the sea because their personalities stunk," claims Brigitte, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year. "Of course, I want a man to be healthy and reasonably fit, but who he is as a person matters more." She says her time as a Playboy bunny taught her to identify men of quality and steer clear of those who did too much navel watching. Now married, Brigitte notes that "male models and actors made the worst dates. They were so self-conscious'they thought everyone was watching their every move." They also worried about wrinkles and other signs of aging, she says. "By dessert they'd be asking me for the name of my cosmetic surgeon." Brigitte's best times were spent with men who were interested in the world around them. "They were interested and, therefore, interesting," she recalls. In a word, they were worldly.
"Bodybuilders are beautiful, but they're hardly worldly," opines Cassandra, a willowy blonde who models lingerie. "I once lived with two competitors, and all they ever did was go to the gym and eat five times a day." After Cassandra moved out, she found herself missing the bodybuilders'but not enough to repeat the past. To get her muscleman fix, she now watches a lot of wrestling on TV.
"I almost married a bodybuilder," confesses Jenny, a computer-business queen in Manhattan, "but he was so much work." She always had to help him closely shave his entire body before they made love, she says. If she didn't, she'd risk getting scraped by his stubble. What's more, once in the sack, he was only good for two positions before he cramped up. "I always had to be on top, otherwise I'd be crushed," she adds. Frustrated with her fianc's voluminous needs, Jenny cancelled the engagement. "I was used to being wined and dined, and here I'd become this kitchen slave," she says, her eyes rolling. "If he ever took me out to dinner, he'd pick some cheap restaurant that served his special diet food, and then he'd eat like a horse and wince at the tab."
"My man's worth the extra work," counters Lori, whose husband, Jim, is a bodybuilding champion. Lori is the sole support of Jim and their three children, but she considers herself well-compensated. "When I look at his forearms and see the raw power in his hands, I feel like a woman," she says, shivering. She's less than ecstatic, however, about Jim's use of physique-enhancing drugs. "I'm raising a Christian family, so having illegal drugs in the house does bother me." Here, too, however, personality matters. "Jim's got such a wonderful personality, I'm not going to divorce him over [the drugs]," Lori says. "There are worse things that can happen in a marriage."
A good personality takes in any number of desirable qualities, among them self-respect, good manners and a sense of humor. A gorgeous woman will never complain if you're too attentive, fun or generous, either, but most babes agree that the sexiest feature a man can have is self-confidence.
"I get gooey when I meet a guy who believes in himself," confesses Pila, a hula dancer in Hawaii. "Watching a man act like he can handle whatever life throws at him'and if he screws up, oh, so what?'is totally erotic to me."
How can you develop your self-confidence? Since first impressions do count, the best place to start is the gym. Go regularly. Improving your physical appearance is a natural confidence builder. It'll make you feel good too. But don't train so hard or so long that you have no time or energy to socialize. The idea is to leave the gym with a spring in your step and energy to burn, not so exhausted that you dread returning.
Another way to build self-confidence is through accomplishment. A great physique is an impressive accomplishment, but as we've seen, it's not enough. A college degree, a great job, a beautiful home are all the kind of things that can build confidence. "Whenever I didn't know what to do with myself, my mother would have me list the endeavors that really impressed me, and then she'd tell me to pick the hardest one," says Phil, who owns several businesses in Thousand Oaks, California. "By going with the most demanding possible option, I developed the most as a person."
Once you've begun to develop confidence, the next step is learning how to communicate it. "I first developed self-confidence in high school, when I started lifting weights," says Lance, an architect in California's Napa Valley. "Then I noticed some really geeky-looking guys were going out with some of the best-looking girls because they knew how to talk. So I buddied up with one of them, and he was a real pro'he could talk to anybody about anything." While the girls were initally attracted to his physical development, Lance says it was his ability to communicate comfortably with them that cinched their interest.
As with anything else, learning to converse with people comes easier with practice. Pay attention to your neighbors, letter carrier, grocery clerk and anyone else you encounter in your daily routine and talk with them. Say hello and ask how their day is going. Give them your name and ask for theirs, and greet them by name the next time you see them. Do the same at school, the gym and your workplace. Be sure to keep your eyes open to the world around you by reading the newspaper or watching the news on TV so you know what others are talking about and you can join in their discussions. The more you practice talking with strangers, the easier it'll be for you to say hello to a gorgeous woman. Other men will be tongue-tied by her beauty, but not you; you'll have developed the skills to approach and engage her in a casual conversation. The effort will be worth it. Gail sums it up:
"My father was an athlete and a bodybuilder. Unfortunately, we didn't communicate all that well. So, to rebel against my upbringing, I was initially only attracted to small, thin artistic types. That continued for many years. I would date bodybuilders only occasionally, but I never felt that wow thing. I tried to be a person who was attracted to a being or person, not to looks.
"I was friends with my husband for seven years before we were married. We talked about books, writers, philosophy. I ignored the fact that he was a bodybuilder. When we became lovers, all I could think was, Wow, this is the way it's supposed to be! The fact that he has a fabulous body is nice and brings me pleasure, but the fact that we talk and share our souls makes my life worth living." IM