Sex Roles

, Volume 46, Issue 9–10, pp 337–342 | Cite as

What Do Women Want? The Effects of Gender and Sexual Orientation on the Desirability of Physical Attributes in the Personal Ads of Women

  • Christine A. Smith
  • Shannon Stillman


Examining the content of personal ads is one way to determine what individuals desire in partners and what they believe others desire. In the current study we examined heterosexual women, lesbians, and bisexual women seeking female partners. We predicted that gender as well as sexual orientation would impact the number of physical attributes requested and offered. Personal ads were collected from alternative newspapers and one internet site. A total of 357 ads by lesbians, 135 by bisexual women seeking women, and 334 ads by heterosexual women were examined for physical descriptors, including weight. Bisexual women offered the most physical descriptors and lesbians the least. Bisexual women also requested more physical attributes and offered more weight descriptors than did lesbians and heterosexual women. Results suggest that what women want and offer differ by partner choice and sexual orientation.

physical attractiveness interpersonal attraction sexual orientation 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine A. Smith
    • 1
  • Shannon Stillman
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMinnesota State UniversityMoorhead

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