Fears and feelings men get when they see an attractive woman

February 26, 2024
▪ 10 mins read

If you’re a woman who isn’t meeting many men in real life, then this may come down to the fears and feelings modern men experience when they see an attractive woman.

As a dating coach to men and women I see first hand the struggle men have in making an initial connection with the woman they find attractive. In this blog I’m going to share with you:

  • 5 feelings men have when they see a beautiful woman. 
  • 3 fears that will stop them from speaking to an attractive woman. 
  • How men can change their mindset, to fear rejection less and begin meeting women they’re attracted to in real life.

Additional commentary is provided by Reggie Wade, a writer and social content editor from Brooklyn, New York.

“When a man sees an attractive woman, many things go on inside his head. Some of these things might seem crazy, and some things might seem obvious, but some may surprise some of you ladies. Sometimes being a guy is tough, not as tough as being a woman, but there are some things that men have to deal with that throw them off their game. When it comes to dating, it is a jungle out there, and sometimes guys are their own worst enemy. Most will try their hardest to play it cool, but ultimately these are some fears and feelings men get when they see an attractive woman.” Reggie Wade

1. “WOW!”

When he sees an attractive woman his first thought is probably, WOW!”

“Wow is usually the first thought a man has when he sees an attractive woman. My grandmother always says "There’s no such thing as an ugly woman." Sure guys may have preferences, but there’s something special, and dare I say magical about women.” Reggie Wade

There are men who want relationships, and others who are purely looking for something casual; however their first reaction to a woman is usually based on her physical beauty. This sounds bad on paper, does this mean men are objectifying women? I don’t think so. Just because a man’s first reaction to a woman is “wow” it doesn’t mean that’s all he sees in her. It’s just the first thing he thinks, that will prompt him to start a conversation with her. This can be increasingly difficult though in a post #metoo, post dating apps, post pandemic era where men feel increasingly unsure if they’re ever allowed to approach women.

My personal take is that regardless of whether you meet her online, or offline, there’s a respectful way to do this, and a not so respectful way. If you’d like to learn more about non-creepy conversation starters you may enjoy this blog about approaching women in real life.

2. “She might be the woman of my dreams”

On seeing an attractive woman he may then think, “She might be the woman of my dreams.” 

“After the "wow" stage, things progress rather quickly. We start to imagine how great things would be if we got together. I’m not sure if this is a "me" thing or a guy thing in general but I have spoken to a few guys who have gone through the exact same thing. We men start to imagine EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING. We imagine going on dates, watching movies, having sex, purchasing a home... I may have gone a little too far, but that’s how it works sometimes. Men are extremely visual creatures, so it’s not uncommon for us to look a bit further down the road.” - Reggie Wade

Not all men have such an intense reaction to seeing an attractive woman, however right at the start of dating, men are often full of enthusiasm and energy to get to know a woman they consider to be beautiful. This can cause a hiccup in the dating process between men and women. 

At the start of dating when a man is filled with this excitement to get to know a new woman he can come on strong and pursue her for dates. However, fast forward a matter of weeks and he may have cooled off. This isn’t a reaction to something the woman has or hasn’t done. It’s that his initial excitement is now integrating with the reality of getting to know her. As she becomes less mysterious, more attainable, and we’re back on planet earth he may take stock as to whether he really can provide a relationship. 

To women this can feel disorientating. However, this adjustment to reality and no longer putting one another on a pedestal is a part of the dating process. Getting to know each other slowly, and not simply taking an initial spark as a guarantee of a future relationship can help keep everyone’s feet on the ground. 

3. “I have to become cooler… immediately”

When he sees a beautiful woman he may think, “I have to become cooler immediately.” 

“No matter the circumstance, every guy wants to be cool, that increases tenfold when an attractive woman shows up. Guys want to be a mix of David Beckham, Idris Elba and Daniel Craig all rolled into one whenever a beautiful woman is around. We try to stand a little taller and seem uninterested even though we are very interested. But looking interested is not cool. And cool in our minds is what gets the job done. Good looks are great, but nothing beats cool.” - Reggie Wade

Reggie’s insight into how men feel when they see an attractive woman, also sheds light on another dating truth. Whilst we all may strive to be “authentic” when we meet someone we like, this is often unattainable. Instead in those early interactions both people may find themselves putting on a front of what they believe the other person will find attractive, rather that being vulnerable themselves.

The facts are this: in dating no one is invulnerable. Seeing someone we like makes us all nervous... here's another sneaky peek at how men and women face 'equal but opposite' challenges in the world of dating.

A man contemplating his feelings as he speaks to a beautiful woman
Mark had completely lost track of what homework assignment they were working on

4. “What’s she like?”

At some stage after he’s got over the initial “wow” factor of seeing a beautiful woman he may start to question, “What is she like?” 

“Whenever a guy sees an attractive woman, he will begin to go down the proverbial rabbit hole. He’ll wonder about every inch of the woman’s being. We wonder about her personality, is she cool? Is she sweet? Is she somewhere in between? What’s her favorite color? What’s her favorite food? And somewhere in there what's her name? Name it, and we've thought about it.” Reggie Wade

At the start of dating men are highly motivated to get to know women. However they may lack the sophisticated social skills to do this elegantly. They may ask her where her handbag is from, when they really want to ask her on a date. They may rush out what they have to say as they fear a pause in the conversation will create awkwardness. They may forget to express to her who they are in the rush to get to know her. 

For most men meeting an attractive woman is an exhilarating experience. It will feel physically intense. So it’s worth cutting him some slack if he’s not immediately a smooth talker when he meets you. 

5. “Will she go for a guy like me?”

Finally when he meets a woman he’s attracted to his fear may creep in, “Will she go for a guy like me?”

“After we’ve psyched ourselves up, the doubt starts to creep in. "Would she even go for me?" Sadly the answer in many guys' minds is "No. Of course, she won’t go for a guy like me, look at her, she could have any man she wants, and that’s not me." This is where the journey ends for too many guys, myself included. We don’t give ourselves a shot. And If we don’t give ourselves a chance, why would a woman?" Reggie Wade

So those are just a few of the many things which go on in a guy’s mind when he sees an attractive woman. This may not be true for every single man, But I would say it's true for the good portion of men. Society at large puts a lot of pressure on men to be a "Ladies man." It’s the standard in which many men are judged by. If you're not smooth with the ladies somehow, you are less of a man. That is why so many rational and irrational fears and feelings go through a guy's head when he sees a woman he finds attractive.

The woman represents more than herself, she represents the man’s manhood that's at stake…” 

Here comes a real challenge in modern dating: Men don’t feel like they have permission to express their interest to women (it’s sleazy, she will reject him.) Women likewise don’t feel they can communicate their receptivity to men (he’ll judge her negatively for it.) This leads to both men and women experiencing scarcity in their dating lives. 

Also notice from Reggie’s quote the pressure men put on themselves when approaching women: It’s not only about whether she’ll accept or reject him, but being successful (or not) at meeting women can be internalized as a statement about his masculinity. 

What are 3 other common fears men have when they see a beautiful woman?

1. “I’m going to run out of things to say.”

Men will feel like it’s their role to successfully continue the conversation after they’ve broken the ice. Whilst in reality a good interaction is made of both people contributing, this isn’t how it feels to him. Men will also become preoccupied that they should be more “confident” or more “flirtatious” leaving them feeling inhibited that anything they could offer to the conversation is simply not good enough. 

2. “She’s going to reject me.” 

Often a woman’s first reaction when a strange man comes up to talk to her is one of slight confusion, ‘why has he started talking to me?’ A woman won’t necessarily assume it’s because the man is attracted to her. The social context of where he says hello may also be confusing, ‘why is this guy approaching me in the supermarket, is he lost??’ Finally she will have to quickly assess whether the man speaking to her represents a physical threat. This means initially her facial expression doesn’t often read as “receptive” meaning the man immediately thinks she’s totally closed off to talking to him. She might actually want to continue the conversation, but will need more information about who he is first. 

3. “Everyone’s watching what I’m doing.”

The vast majority of men don’t want to intrude or bother women. He will be concerned if he initiates an interaction that the people around him will judge him negatively. This feeling of social scrutiny adds to the pressure of him starting a conversation. 

How can men break this cycle of inaction when they see a woman they’re attracted to? 

To begin to find talking to women, natural and easy, the first place to start is a shift in mindset. Whilst as a man you may think, “wow who is she?” you have to work to the mindset that whilst her physical beauty is the reason you’ve noticed her; if there’s not mutual investment, effort and connection from her side that you’d be prepared to walk away. If you’re unsure how to begin to cultivate higher standards for yourself as a man I’d highly recommend checking out my free resource on this

Secondly, learning how to meet women in real life is a practice that takes time. If you go into an interaction with a beautiful woman thinking, “how do I get her number?” you will place too much pressure on the outcome of the interaction. In fact in all likelihood this pressure will stop you from talking to her full stop. Instead you need to start developing daily habits to make talking to people you don’t know a step by step learning process. Working with me as your dating coach I take pride in helping men (and women!) of all experience levels to learn to meet one another in real life. Find out more about the training you could do with me here

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Fears & Feelings Men Get When They See An Attractive Woman: FAQs

Do men prefer beauty or brains?

This isn’t an either/ or question. Whilst the reason men will approach a woman is based on physical attraction and desire, in relationships they will seek a much wider array of interpersonal qualities: From humor, to compassion, to emotional support.  Intelligence may not be top of this list in desired qualities for all men. That doesn’t mean men don’t like intelligent women, but they may have a stronger immediate preference for other qualities. 

Why do guys stare at a pretty girl?

Staring at a pretty girl can be perceived as creepy; however sometimes this isn’t intended to feel this way. Staring at women you’re attracted to in public spaces will make women feel uncomfortable, and staring in a sexual way is not acceptable. However, if you notice a guy keep glancing over chances are he’s attracted to you, but building up the courage to say hello. Whilst a small minority of men stare in a way that’s predatory, most men will seek to develop eye contact with a woman before they speak to her. This is one of the many ways he’s trying to work out if she’s receptive to speaking to him. 

Why do guys avoid eye contact with a woman they’re attracted to? 

Feeling attracted to someone can feel intense; and for men and women alike this often means they send an accidental signal of disinterest when they see someone they’re attracted to. If a man avoids eye contact with a woman it may mean “I’m very attracted to you and I don’t know how to cope with this intense feeling,” as much as it could mean, “I’m not interested in talking to you.” Confusing huh? 

Can a guy tell a girl that she’s pretty? 

Whilst there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with finding a woman attractive, in modern society men have to express this in a way that pays careful attention to the social context. In certain environments like at work, in the gym, or on public transport, this is unlikely to ever be received well. Instead aim to start conversations using an observation about your shared environment, “wow it’s so busy in here today!” Or, “I like how you just sprinted onto that train!” This starts the conversation but in a way that feels less intrusive to her.

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About the author

Hayley Quinn is a leading dating and relationship coach, with 3 million views of her TEDx talk and 18 million YouTube views. She is spokesperson for Match, a columnist for Cosmopolitan, a regular contributor to international media, and has been published by Harper Collins (“The Last First Date”, 2022) and Simon & Schuster (“Do This, Not That: Dating”, 2023).

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