Want a door opened for you? Need a hand carrying something? Sure, tottering around in a pair of high heels might be one of the worst things you can do to your body on a daily basis but it might be one of the best ways to solicit male aid, according to a new study from social psychologist Nicolas Guéguen.
In three separate tests, Guéguen determined that men tend to gravitate toward women in heels. First, men were found to be more likely to answer survey questions on the street from a woman in heels. Second, men were more likely to pick up a glove dropped by a woman in heels. And lastly, Guéguen discovered that men in bars approached women in heels more quickly than they walked up to women in flats.
High heels aren’t the only way to get a guy’s attention. Scientists and informal Internet researchers alike have uncovered plenty of weird tricks and tips designed to make male heads turn. But while they’ve been proven to be effective, we might want to worry about what they say about men’s expectations for women.
With that caveat in mind, you can read this list two ways, either as a guide to getting more male attention or, better, as a warning that many men hold women to impossible standards of appearance and behavior.
Here’s how to get a guy’s attention, if that’s what you really want:
1) Wear high heels.
We’ve already established that wearing high heels brings all the boys to the yard but how can a simple pair of pumps work such wonders? Many might say that helping out a woman in heels is just polite because they do indeed make movement more difficult. Some evolutionary psychologists, on the other hand, suspect a deeper motive: They argue that heels exaggerate feminine movement, turning men into simpering animals who see nothing but a walking womb when a woman in heels saunters through the wild.
But as Chloe Angyal suggests at Reuters, there might be a more worrying reason why men lose it over a lady in Louboutins: “Or, more interestingly still—and more troublingly—does a woman’s perceived instability and vulnerability make her more physically attractive to some men?” If so, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise. Women’s fashions, both globally and historically, have focused on restraining women’s movement and reshaping our bodies. Think of corsetry, foot-binding, or even Spanx. High heels might get that door opened, true, but it could come at the cost of being constantly reminded that some men are subconsciously attracted to perceived helplessness.
2) Drink more. Or just say you drink more.
Earlier this year, online dating website Plenty of Fish found that women who don’t drink receive 24 percent fewer messages than women who do. But before you fill your fridge with PBR, you should also know that another study found that men expect women to avoid beer and either drink wine or specialty cocktails.
Why do men pay more attention to women who say they drink? The possible answers range from being potentially understandable to completely horrifying. On the more harmless side of things, men drink a lot more than women do and maybe they just want a romantic partner who can knock back a few drinks at the end of a long day.
But if we peel back our naïveté, there’s a much more insidious—and much more likely—explanation for this behavior. Researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Washington recently confirmed what every woman who has ever been to a bar already knows: Young men in bars actively target women who are drunk because they believe they will be “more amenable to advances.” The uptick in the number of messages that women receive when they indicate that they drink could be nothing more than the virtual manifestation of this all-too-familiar phenomenon.
3) Get a tattoo.
This suggestion might seem counterintuitive at first. After all, people hate women with tattoos, don’t they? By now, too, numerous scientific studies have found that both men and women stigmatize women with visible ink. One study even found that men with a strong distaste for feminism have an especially pronounced hatred of women who display tattoos. Quelle surprise. Here’s the thing, though: Although openly displaying a tattoo might be the contemporary equivalent of wearing a scarlet letter, tattoos are still man magnets.
In 2003, Nicolas Guéguen—the same man behind the high heels study—planted 11 conventionally attractive women, all dressed in the same two-piece red swimsuit, on various beaches in the south of France. So far this sounds like a much more relaxing way to make a few extra euros in college than getting a paid MRI. The catch? The women were instructed to lie face down on a beach towel, read a book, and spend all day turning down men who approach them. Every day of the experiment, some of the women wore temporary lower-back tattoos and others did not.
In the end, Guéguen not only found that men were significantly more likely to approach women when they were displaying a tattoo, he also discovered through surveys with those men that they perceived the tattooed beachgoers as being, well, easier. The men believed both that a tattooed woman would be more likely to go on a date with them and that she would be more likely to have sex on that first date. More terrifying still is just how likely men thought it would be that they’d get laid by a stranger on the beach. On a scale from 1 to 9—with 9 being highly probable—men rated the probability of getting a date with a tattooed woman at a delusional 6.82 and having sex at a staggering 6.29.
In terms of displaying tattoos, it seems as if women are caught in a precarious double-bind. Men say they hate female tattoos because they are supposedly symbols of sexual availability—hence the term “tramp stamp”—but many of them also gravitate toward women with tattoos for precisely the same reason. These contradictory attitudes toward the “tramp stamp” are nothing if not further proof of the paradoxical expectations placed on women to be both slutty and virginal at the same time, to simultaneously signal availability and loyalty. That’s a lot of social meaning packed into the butterfly on your lower back.
4) Use a MySpace angle.
Ah, the MySpace angle, that vertiginous relic from an era before the front-facing smartphone camera, a magical time when Taylor Swift was still country and we could still get away with wearing capris. Surely that old trick no longer works, right? After all, men seem to feel perfectly comfortable expressing their disgust with women who use it, as the most popular Urban Dictionary entry for “MySpace angle” can attest: “This is usually done by the horribly mangled, ugly, and/or obese users who still want to be hunted by pedophiles, as to make them look more attractive (or at the very least more human) than they really are.”
There’s just one problem: These men are lying. As recently as 2010, OkCupid analyzed 7,000 profile pictures and found that MySpace has still got it going on. In fact, it remains “the single most effective photo type for women” who want to increase the number of messages they receive. Seems like a lot of men are in the market for women who have “acne and cigarette burns” on their “cheap skanky ass[es],” another choice excerpt from that Urban Dictionary definition. For added effectiveness, OkCupid’s data suggests that women should also make a flirty face directly into the camera, even though most men look away from the camera with grim George Washington faces.
As is the case with the tattoo study, the continued effectiveness of the MySpace angle proves that there’s a big difference between what men say they think about women and how they act toward us. Men shame women who seem to want male attention even as they actively seek them out. So maybe men who ridicule women for taking flattering photographs should take a piece of their own advice and start smiling in their own pics instead.
5) Or, you know, just exist.
The truth is that women don’t need to use any special tricks to get male attention. Women get plenty of attention—often of the wrong kind—just by existing. One writer conducted an informal experiment with fake OkCupid profiles and found that women receive 17 times as many messages as men do. For any man who might be jealous of that statistic, by the way, please know that few of those messages are any good. And when women step back from the computer and step into the streets, male attention is ubiquitous in the form of street harassment.
What these tips tricks, tips, and studies prove more than anything else is that men expect women to act, dress, and behave in contradictory and even dangerous ways. The most important lesson we can learn from them is that women should try to be happy instead of playing the unwinnable game of conforming to men’s ideal image of femininity. So whether you wear high heels or Crocs, whether you drink shooters or abstain altogether, and even if you have a corner of your closet dedicated to MySpace selfies, just please, be yourself above all else. Getting attention can feel nice but living authentically will always feel better.