5 Unexpected Female Turn-Ons

You don’t have to be Johnny Depp to be sexy, but you might be surprised by what actually turns women on. Read on to learn more about the five unexpectedly sexy traits that real women adore.

By Bob Strauss

erhaps you studied him in school, and perhaps you didn’t — but in either case, allow me to introduce you to (or refresh your memory about) the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. In intellectual circles, Sartre is best known for suavely documenting the rootless disaffection of post-war bourgeois society, and in political
Not all women appreciate guys who mask their natural scent.
circles, he’s famous (or infamous) for staunchly defending Communism against the cold-war jingoists of the 1950s. For the purposes of this article, though, the important thing about Jean-Paul Sartre is that he was spectacularly ugly — even his friends described him as looking like a squat, bug-eyed, bespectacled frog — as well as short (just a shade over five feet tall). And wouldn’t you know it? Women fell all over the guy; Sartre had more torrid love affairs than most university professors have had hot meals.

What’s going on with him that makes him so attractive, then? According to Eric Weisholtz, cofounder of, it’s not unusual for women to date guys on the “low end of the hot scale,” saying: “It’s interesting, it gets people talking, it makes the woman feel extremely good-looking by comparison and sometimes having a sexual relationship with an ugly person can feel naughty, taboo or perverse. Willem Dafoe is a good example. It’s not because he’s rich and famous; it’s because his variety of unattractiveness is, for some reason, quite attractive.” Sure, it’d be nice to think all those French mademoiselles were attracted to Sartre for his high IQ, but you have to admit that Weisholtz has a point.

The reason I’ve gone into this whole Jean-Paul Sartre thing in such depth is to show that attractiveness is, really, subjective — and it might cheer you up to know that what you consider to be a tragic, insurmountable physical or behavioral flaw can actually be catnip to the right woman. Here are five unexpected things women find sexy:

1. Body odor.
“Double pits to chesty” (the worst slogan in advertising history) aside, not all women appreciate guys who mask their natural scent. Jolene Hanson, the curator of Venice’s G2 Gallery, is one such example, saying, “What turns me on? Natural body odor — I love a guy who smells like a guy should smell.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Hanson says she also likes men who pick up other peoples’ discarded trash on the street: “This is something I do myself, and I love it when a guy shares my passion for the environment.” If you decide to stop covering up your natural musk, though, bathe often, especially before a date. (Your smell shouldn’t overwhelm strangers at the next table or distract your date from getting to know you better.)

2. Scars and blemishes.
You don’t need to procure a genuine, aristocratic Heidelberg dueling scar to win the hearts of the opposite sex; any “interesting” blemish will do the trick — an oddly shaped birthmark, a distinctive mole on your neck, or that gouge on your cheek from when you fell on your toy fire truck as a toddler. Says Lisa Steadman, author of If He’s Not the One, Who Is?, “Many women are attracted to a man who has scars — partly because scars give the illusion of a dark past, and partly because scars tell a story, and women LOVE a good story about their guy.” That said, active, festering wounds still going through the healing process should be kept under wraps until you’re well on your way to a committed relationship.

3. Stereotypically “feminine” traits.
For every woman who demands tough, manly, roughly callused hands (and equally firm handshakes), there’s another
Sometimes, being a man’s man can actually turn women off.
who prefers the long, slender, lovingly delicate hands of an artiste who’s never so much as twisted a Phillips head screwdriver — and so on down the list of “feminine” traits, like shy smiles, long eyelashes and piercing giggles. Oh, yes, and a fondness for cats. Helen, 52, from Australia, says, “What really gets me is a guy who loves cats. If he’ll sit for an hour on the sofa in an awkward position so as not to disturb the cat, it’s the cutest thing — a tough guy with a soft heart.” You don’t have to be the Brawny man to win over a lady, it seems.

4. Vulnerability.
Sometimes, being a man’s man can actually turn women off. An increasing number of women appreciate a guy who will cop to his limitations instead of blustering, bluffing and bullying his way through something he knows absolutely nothing about. Says Carrie, 39, from Ontario: “Personally, I find it attractive for a guy to not get all upset if I do something better than he does — for example, if I’m a better shot at pool, faster at rappelling up a cliff, more knowledgeable about trivia, etc. I’m not saying he should be an underachiever, just someone who can accept he isn’t ‘the best’ at everything.” So men, know when to say when and ask for help if you need it; it doesn’t make you look weak, it makes you look human.

5. Awkwardness.
A woman posting to the dating site shares this story: “I met a man years ago at a radio station where I worked. He was a small, nebbishy guy, kinda nerdy and very awkward. He had these big, soulful eyes and a sad, twisted face. The moment I met him, my heart leapt!” Vanessa, 28, from Iowa, also testifies to the “Woody Allen” effect: “My best guy friend (OK, I’m madly in love with him, too) is a paleontologist, and it makes me melt just to listen to him talk about dinosaurs and rocks. I don’t always understand exactly what he’s even talking about, of course, but I love the passion he has for it and I always get him to explain it to me.” So, men, if your guy friends tease you mercilessly about something they’d consider to be a weakness, don’t assume women feel the same way. You might be surprised at how charming your meek, unassuming nature is to ladies!

Women, get the men’s perspective on this issue by reading Five Unusual Turn-Ons For Men.

Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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