Q: How do how women end up with older, unfortunate-looking men? I just don’t understand how they sleep with…that.

A: Sure, when you see a smoke show with an average (at best) older man, there’s always the possibility the woman is digging for gold, has horrible self esteem, or possesses the personality of a door knob. But if you’re willing to be less cynical for a moment, I’d like to give you another explanation, which is…

Personality is king. Yes, I know that may sound like a fairyland answer, but it’s often the truth. Haven’t you ever met a girl you thought was the hottest thing in the world, then once you got to know her… she sucked? And after you know how lame she is, you may still think she’s hot, but you’re just not really attracted to her. Or how about a girl who barely caught your eye at first, but became incredibly sexy after a good conversation? A person’s personality absolutely affects his or her sex appeal—the way they talk, what they say, the way they move, that je ne sais quoi. And all of those qualities are impossible to decipher from physical appearance alone.

Now, this is all good news for you, because it means that you have control over your sex appeal. Even if you weren’t born looking like Brad Pitt, women will find you sexy. Here’s a short list of personality traits that make guys hot to us:

  • Confidence — feeling secure in who you are and not putting up a front.
  • Competence — being good at something you really care about.
  • Thoughtfulness — talking with us about your beliefs and feelings.
  • Maturity —knowing it’s fine to laugh at the same jokes you did when you were 5, as long as you don’t act like you’re 5.
  • Responsibility —taking care of yourself, because that lets us know you can take care of us too.
  • Sense of humor — making us laugh. (There isn’t a beer belly in the world that can’t be ignored if your jokes are on fire!)

This all being said, an unattractive man is still a man, and at the end of the day, we women have needs too! But according to researchers in the Netherlands, when women are turned on, it overrides their disgust response. So maybe that guy who seems like nothing special as you walk by him is a complete stud in the sack…and his personality is what helps get women there in the first place.

All in all, looks aren’t everything. And in fact, I’d even argue that long-term, they’re not much at all. Sex appeal is very important, but don’t confuse that with physical appearance—they are certainly not synonymous.

About the hot girl: Amber Madison is an author, lecturer, sex and relationship expert and dating coach. She has appeared on MTV, VH1, The Today Show, NPR, The Early Show, and The Bill Cunningham Show; has been quoted in Newsweek, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan; and writes a dating column for The Metro.