With a beard, Paul Ryan exudes manliness

A 2013 Australian study found women prefer men with “heavy stubble” or a ten-day growth, somewhere between the smooth baby-faced character Gosling plays in “The Notebook” when the couple first falls in love and the heavily-bearded Gosling when they are reunited. Science writer Rik Myslewski says “[B]eard quality, thickness, and fullness would signal to potential mates that he was sexually mature and prepared for fatherhood. This makes beardedness a sexual characteristic that is potent to women.” In other words, women find their sexual opposite sexy. The mystery of the other is what charges romance.

That said, beards aren’t the only way to prove a man’s masculine worth. Masculinity takes many forms. True masculinity has less to do with appearance—chiseled abs and hairy parts—and more to do with attitude, character, and demeanor. As Whetstone says, “[W]hat women long for and need is the man in the middle who is strong, action-oriented, passionate, take-charge, considerate and kind.”

We want our men to be confident in the face of crisis—big or small—but not necessarily domineering or bossy to the point of being a jerk. If women are rollercoasters of emotions and hormones, simultaneously fun and terrifying, we want men to be the steel apparatus upon which it rolls—allowing us our leeway, but remaining firm, steady, and (occasionally) telling us when to stop.

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