This post originally appeared on elephantjournal.com
I love men. I love how they move, how they sit, how they kiss. I love how they play air guitar, quote Swingers, man the grill, roughhouse together. I love to hear them bitch about their team losing, observe them trying (and failing) to be subtle when checking me out, or watch them wrestle their dog. I love how they beat the steering wheel when they get really into a song, how they go nuts over the latest tech advancement, and how most of them genuinely want to be good lovers. I love how different they are from me, and how similar they are underneath. And don’t get me wrong — I love me a man with a six-pack, with that to-die-for body. But when it really comes down to it, the things that make a man sexy have very little to do with the packaging.
Here are the top 10 such things:
10. Lift Me Up
The guy that picks me up and spins me around, or holds me tightly with my arms and legs wrapped right around him, will always win my heart. Depending on the context, it is one of the sexiest, most comforting, or most erotic of experiences. Even if we’re not dating, I always feel happy and free and feminine.
Perhaps it is the reminder of your strength, or my petite-ness, or both at the same time. Perhaps it’s the sensual, spontaneous experience of the way we fit together, the way our bodies are connected in that moment. Perhaps it’s just the fact that you’re bigger than me.
Whatever it is, it’s sexy.
9. Open Doors & Give Up Seats
I find it annoying when people say chivalry is dead. It’s not. It’s alive and kicking — yes, even in the younger generation.
I know this because, amongst other things, I ride the NYC subway. There, I’ve experienced many men — good men, great men — give up their seats for the elderly (both women and men), open doors for others, and help me lift my (many) suitcases up the (many) stairs. To them I say, I salute you. I thank you.
Some women hate it when men open doors for them. They may interpret it as a statement that they can’t take care of themselves, or that they’re somehow less independent because a man is doing something for them.
I am not one of these women. I love it when a man carries my groceries for me, lets me go ahead of him in line, opens a door for me, or schleps my luggage.
I know I could do these things by myself, for myself. I’ve done them plenty of times. But when someone else does it, it really does make my life a little bit easier. I feel taken care of. Especially in cities, where we spend a lot of our time with headphones in, consciously ignoring everyone around us, it feels really good to be noticed. The way these men are says, “I see you.” I care about you, simply because you’re alive.
I also look at that guy who just gave up his seat in a new light. He comes across as strong, aware, trustworthy, significant. He comes across like a man.
8. Initiate Middle-of-the-Night Sex
If you know how to do this right (slooowly, softly, **gently**), it is one of the sexiest things in the world. I love the feeling of being touched between states of consciousness, of arousal before awareness. I adore the dissolving quality of dark, sleepy caresses, the extension of the dreamlike state of not knowing where you stop and I begin.
And I love the slow build, the way a man who knows what he’s doing carefully rearranges my body for me, gently positioning me so that I don’t have to do anything. The fact that he’s guiding the situation, softly but firmly in control, means that I can just lay there languidly and enjoy the ride.
Yes, please. Over and over and three times on Sunday.
7. Deal With Sh*t
I have many talents. I can speak five languages. I’m a good writer. I’m exquisitely empathetic. I kick ass at Trivial Pursuit. I can even dance the tango at a near-professional level. However, I suck at practical, common sense stuff. I can barely change a lightbulb, let alone fix sh*t around the house.
But my dude roommate can. And I gotta tell you, it’s sexy. I came home the other day and a set of lights that had been out for months (literally months!) were fixed. Just like that. Ditto the thermostat. When I asked him how he did it, all I heard was, “Wah wah wah,” like Charlie Brown’s mother. I didn’t follow it because I just don’t care. I do, however, care that I can now actually see objects in the living room.
I get that this is a cliché — trust me, I do. It’s also true. I find it somehow deeply satisfying that men are distinct. I love that I’m good at things that they’re not, and that they effortlessly do things I don’t understand at all. I compliment you for complementing me. I get to relax because you just take care of sh*t. It’s freeing.
It’s also sexy.
6. Be Super Solid While I’m Freaking Out
When I am absolutely losing it about something (legitimate or not), I don’t need to be fixed. I don’t need to be told what to do, I don’t need advice, and I certainly don’t need someone to tell me to calm down.
I just need to be witnessed.
That’s right, when I’m on my crazy train, I don’t want a man to try to stop it (he won’t be able to, anyway). I just want him to be with me while I’m on it. I want to know I’m not alone.
So the man who quietly listens, who takes it all in without taking it too seriously, is unbelievably sexy. He is sexy in his solidity, he’s sexy in his presence, he’s sexy in his naturally grounded nature. He’s extra super-really sexy when I can tell that not only is he not intimidated by my freakout, he’s actually (respectfully) entertained by it — he welcomes it.
Those exceptional men I’ve been with who enjoy the ride, who witness my storms or those of other women with a knowing look, a wisdom that goes beyond my high-strung-ness or defensiveness or just general freakout, are rare.
They’re also sexy.
5. Play With Kids
Straight up, it is hot when a man is genuinely good at playing with kids. This does not include faking it to get attention from women — obviously that’s a huge turnoff (and dude, we’re biologically made to know when you’re faking it). No, it’s only — and very — hot when he actually likes them. It’s probably something primordial, basic, an animalistic understanding that he’d be good at playing with our kids. But who cares?
Because it’s not just a sweet moment, like, “Awww, look how good he is with that kid.” It’s an actual, visceral turn-on — I literally feel a tingling in my nether regions. It doesn’t make me want to have babies with you, but it sure makes me want to make them with you. (Just kidding. Sort of).
4. Accept Emotions
I recently called a guy friend to let him know that I was on my way to meeting up, but I wasn’t feeling all that great. Being a little sad and irritable, I said, “Sorry in advance for not being very fun. I’m going to try to get into a better mood.”
Do you know what he said?
“If you are, great. If not, great. Whatever you got, bring it.”
I felt so accepted I started to tear up. I knew it would be OK even if I wasn’t OK — that I wouldn’t be blamed or shamed for not being cheerful or upbeat. I could bring my truth — my real truth — and he would still be there.
I wasn’t a problem.
When a man resists emotions — mine or his own, I feel repressed and uncomfortable. A roiling sensation in my stomach builds, that I just can’t kick. And in my experience, many men (many people, but men in particular) are threatened by emotions like sadness, anger, or fear. They want to fix it right away to soothe their own anxiety. They can’t tolerate the idea that a woman is unhappy. They can’t tolerate the idea that they might be blamed for it.
Then there is the man who accepts me in all of my facets, not just the ‘pretty’ ones. He has learned to be with emotion — just be with it. He doesn’t feel the need to make it go away or turn it into something else. He just accepts, and genuinely wants to know.
With him, I feel deeply safe. I know I can bring ALL of me, and he’s going to be able to handle it. I don’t have to manage his experience of me. I can just be. And the fact that he wants to know me makes me want to know him. Biblically.
3. Care About His Friends
I fell in love with my last boyfriend in stages. The first was one night when we sat in his truck outside his place while he called his best friend, who had just lost his grandfather. He listened, made manly sounds of sympathy (like grunts), asked about his friend’s family members, told his friend he loved him in his own way, and promptly got off the phone.
It was brief, but real and heartfelt. And when I saw him care about his friend — really care about him, but in a totally different way than I care about my female friends — I fell pretty hard.
I think he was surprised by how much I wanted him after that phone call. I may or may not have given him a minute, then attacked him right there in the truck.
2. Show His Backbone
If you’re my man, I want you to be vulnerable with me. I love watching you agonize over which stuffed animal your 3-year-old niece would like better: The panda or the whale? I enjoy when you tell me about something that’s hard for you to admit about your past, or how you didn’t have it all together for that presentation at work today, or when you own up to just how much you want me to like the necklace you just gave me (and how stressed you are that maybe I don’t). I cherish those moments.
But it also turns me on when you have to be a hardass and you’re willing to go there. Pointless aggression is a turn-off, but watching a man enforce strong boundaries is a huge turn-on. It’s hot when a man stands up for himself by telling his boss to find someone else to work this weekend, or puts his foot down with the slacker on his team, or quietly but firmly tells his brother that he can’t borrow the car (given that he drove it drunk the last time he did). Even when it’s directed at me, I love seeing that fire within you, that point of resistance that says NO.
In fact, your NO has me say YES. Yes, yes, yessss.
The sexiest thing a man can do is listen to me — all of me. With all of him.
Some men don’t listen at all. They just don’t. They talk about themselves ad nauseam and then wonder what happened when I wander away. These men are generally referred to as “douchebags.”
Other men listen in such a manner that they practically collapse into me. They fall all over themselves to “do” listening right, keeping their focus and attention so on me that they lose themselves. In a way, they actually stop listening in their attempt to prove how well they do listen. These men are generally known as “nice guys.”
Either way, not sexy.
Then there is the man who maintains his own core while also holding space for me. This man has a way of drawing out my deepest truth simply by being fully present. He isn’t thinking about what to say next, whether I still like him, how to get me to stop crying, or what to do now. He’s just noticing me, tracking me, tuning himself to me. He’s letting the moment unfold without trying to control it. And him taking the lead in this way has me stop trying to control it as well. Which feels good.
This man listens to what I’m saying and what I’m not saying; he listens with his body as well as his heart. He listens with his mind, with his emotions, with his curiosity, with his soul. He asks questions when the time is right, because he really wants to understand, not because he wants to coach me to get somewhere else. He listens to all of me, with all of him.
When I am in his presence, my entire being relaxes. I become more gracious, more present, more in flow. I am expressive without being self-conscious. I am emotional without being reactive. I am beautiful without being perfect. I feel safe, I feel seen, I feel radiant.
In other words, I feel like a woman. With a man.
And that is sexy. For all parties involved.