13 Common Things You Think People Find Sexy, But They Actually Don’t

Ashley Batz for Bustle

Attraction is a subjective spectrum: there is no one personality trait or quirk that makes a person universally appealing. That concept, as a whole, is a flat out myth. Attraction can differ based on the individual, a culture, a region, and more. But still, we've all grown up hearing old wives' tales about the common things that are universally loved when it comes to a person's characteristics. The truth is, all of the attributes we've been conditioned to find sexy are directed at us by society. But, what truly makes someone attractive often comes down to what makes them unique. And these factors are rooted in personality and based in behavior, not in appearance or the material world.

A 2015 study in the journal Current Biology followed a pair of identical twins raised in entirely different environments in order to determine whether nature versus nurture plays a larger role in deciding whom you find attractive. The results indicated that, "Your perception of other people's attractiveness is mainly the result of your own experiences." In other words, beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.

Bustle talked to licensed psychotherapist and sex and relationships expert, Dr. Gary Brown, about 13 types of behavior that we've traditionally been led to believe will always be found sexy. And it turns out, that's not entirely the case.


Playing Hard To Get

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From a young age, many people are taught that playing hard to get is seen as sexy, because their detachment would always leave the object of their affection wanting more — proving once and for all that they're not too eagerly seeking affection. "The flip side of playing hard to get is that it can be a sign of aloofness," Dr. Brown tells Bustle. "It can also also possibly be seen as a lack of interest on your part." Instead of playing hard to get, try instead being direct with your intentions. You never know what may happen!



OK, so you might be picturing that you're the star of your own major motion picture, a black and white movie from the '30s or '40s, taking subtle drags of a cigarette. But this hypothetical and rather outdated portrayal of sexiness ignores the health problems associated with smoking, especially if your partner is close to someone who has been affected by a lung-related disease. "If you’re not a smoker then you are very unlikely to find smoking sexy," Dr. Brown says. Nicotine addiction is real, as are the related health risks, so don't mess around with smoking just for kicks!


Waiting Three Days To Respond To A Text Message

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Forget sexy — that's just not cool. Playing mind games with somebody you're romantically interested in implies that you have very little respect for their time and feelings. "Unless there are reasonably extenuating circumstances — like you were in a coma from a major car accident, or somewhere out of cell range in Nepal, there really is no excuse for this," Dr. Brown says. "Keeping somebody hanging on is not sexy. It’s just inconsiderate and rude." If you truly care for someone, skip the psychological warfare and respond when you're ready.


Flirting With Someone Else In Front Of Them

There's a common misconception that flirting with another person in front of the person you like will make them jealous, which will light some sort of internal fire within them, causing them to desire you more: this is, in most cases, a callous myth. "Flirting with someone else should not be construed as sexy in any way shape or form," Dr. Brown says. "At the very least it is inconsiderate and many would simply say that it is cruel." Don't toy around with people's emotions — practice empathy and consideration instead.


Pretending You Aren't Interested

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Acting dismissive is the perfect means to innocently drive someone you care about away. Pretending to be disinterested in what they're talking about, or rolling your eyes and avoiding making contact, might appear to create an air of detachment in theory, but in reality it comes off as mean. "This goes along with acting hard to get," Dr. Brown says. There's a fine line between acting out of a place of being overly attached and showing interest. If you like someone, show them through appreciation, not feigning distain.


Being Emotionally Unavailable

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Putting a castle moat up around your emotional vortex can seem like a battle tactic to protect yourself from being hurt. But at the end of the day, if you don't open yourself up internally and accept a certain level of vulnerability, the only person that can hurt you is yourself. "Some people are just shy and they may not be able to access their emotions so easily," Dr Brown says. "This does not necessarily indicate that they are not an intimate person." If you like someone, try your best to, brick by brick, let your wall down — instead of building another layer.


Drinking An Irresponsible Amount

Sometimes when you experience socially anxiety, drinking copious amounts can seem like the perfect solution to cope. Other times, binge drinking might be appealing to show you can "keep up" at a party. But this completely ignores that everybody's tolerance to alcohol is subjective, as well as the health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. "Drinking to this level of excess shows ... bad judgment," Dr. Brown says. "Yes, it is more common amongst those in their late teens and early 20’s but at some point you need to sacrifice what you see as sexy, in favor of becoming a responsible adult."


Waiting For The Other Person To Make The First Move

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Waiting for the other person to "pursue" you, or seek you out of a crowd, is not only an outdated means of meeting your significant other, but it's also inefficient. Think about all the time you're wasting, that could be spent speaking with the person you like, while you're waiting for them to approach you. "We’re in the 21st century and it pains me to see people wait for someone else to make the first move," Dr. Brown says. "You run the very real risk of not being with someone who might be a great fit because you were both too shy to make the first move. Nothing ventured, nothing gained." It might be scary sometimes, but do your best to take the risk: the juice is most certainly worth the squeeze.


Acting Like A Contrarion

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You see it in rom-coms all the time: the witty banter, the effortless debate, the heated back-and-forth brimming with sexual tension. But when push comes to shove, these tactics can seem aggressive and rude when contrived unnaturally. "Unless you're addicted to drama ... chances are, this won't appear sexy," Dr. Brown says. Instead of trying to force a rapport, just strike up a conversation with an open mind, and see where it takes you. If it develops naturally — great! If not, let it go instead of dragging it on.


Paying Extra Attention To Their Friends

It is a wonderful thing to be genuinely interested and invested in your significant other's friends and family. However, using their friendship and admiration as a ploy or tactic crosses the line of what's considered appropriate. "Interest in your friends is great," Dr. Brown says. "Making an obvious manipulation to appear sexy — not so much." Remember: people aren't pawns. Don't drag others into your couple qualms — keep it all between the two of you.


Keeping Secrets

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Some people might see keeping certain things private as a way of subtly maintaining an air of mystery from the person they like. And while mysteriousness can be construed as sexy, lying certainly is not. "A certain amount of mystique can be very sexy for some," Dr. Brown says. "You just don’t want to come off as aloof, distant, remote, and unavailable." As soon as you cross that line from not divulging everything at once, to being dishonest and disinterested in your partner's life, you need to back track and reevaluate your intentions.


Acting Too Cocky

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Try to avoid making the mistake of confusing confidence with cockiness. Exuding confidence in one's self and sexuality is indeed attractive, while appearing self absorbed and self-interested may not be. "Acting cocky isn’t a very sexy way to attract someone because it usually implies a certain arrogance, and underneath arrogance is often deep insecurity," Dr. Brown says. "If a person is openly vulnerable and can honestly talk about some of their insecurities, this may be very attractive because that level of openness can be very sexy. But masking that sensitivity with cockiness never is." Be proud of who you are — but not at the expense of others.


Gatsbying Someone On Social Media

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It's undeniable that social media has changed the landscape in which we communicate with each other — and that includes flirting. Gatsbying refers to portraying your life to look a certain way on social media, solely for the benefit of others. Don't go to a party you're dreading attending, only to post an Instagram story that you think your crush will watch. Living in the present moment, and enjoying every minute — that's the true essence of sexiness, because it's rooted in who you are, not how you appear.

Remember, behavior can be interpreted very differently depending on the person, the day, and the contextual setting. There is no right or wrong way to exude your sexuality, or attract others. The best piece of advice is to always be yourself — because your relationship with yourself is the most important connection of them all. Now that's sexy.