Do Women Prefer Risk-Takers or Cautious Men?

Researchers found that women might prefer risk-takers but only in specific socioeconomic, health-related, and relationship contexts.

For decades, the appeal of risk-taking men, or "bad boys," has been the trope of movies, TV shows, and other media. And usually, the plot follows the same general idea — a "good girl" falls in love with her "bad boy" counterpart, and they live happily ever after.

Still, whether women are more attracted to risk-taking men remains a scientific question. Centuries ago, pair-bonding with a risk-taking male might make sense for a female, as the need for an aggressive and protective mate was likely critical in the pre-industrial world. However, does that still hold true in 2023?

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Recently, scientists from The University of Western Australia decided to investigate this phenomenon. Their research — published in Evolutionary Psychological Science — found that many factors play a role in whether risk-takers are more attractive to women.

Scientists surveyed 1,304 females from 47 countries about their relationship status, sexual orientation, household income, and health. They also presented scenarios describing a risk-taking male and his occupation and asked the women to rate the man’s attractiveness for a short-term or long-term mate.

The participants also indicated whether they enjoyed adrenaline-inducing activities.

After analyzing the data, the team found that bisexual females or females who said they also enjoyed risk-taking behavior appeared to prefer risk-taking men more than heterosexual or more cautious women.

In addition, the findings showed that women found risk-taking men more attractive for short-term relationships rather than long-term partnerships. Moreover, the team found that women with better health and more access to healthcare were more apt to find risk-takers attractive than women from other social and economic backgrounds.

According to the study authors, the security provided by better health and access to health care may allow females to feel more confident in selecting a risk-prone male as they can better manage the potential consequences.

Furthermore, the desire to have children may explain the differences in risk-taking mate selection based on relationship length. For instance, being attracted to a habitual risk taker that might lack paternal support or take chances that may result in mortality might reduce their appeal.

In addition, the authors explain that bisexual female preferences for risk-taking males could indicate that bisexual females have fewer conservative perceptions surrounding mate attraction, relationships, and male paternal investment.

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Regarding women who also enjoy risk-taking behavior, the scientists suggest that this pattern aligns with previous research that found mates tend to resemble each other in several ways, including risk-taking behavior.

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