Men Are More Attracted to Nonconformist Women

April 2, 2015

birds-of-a-featherBig Think columnist Natalie Shoemaker describes the appeal of the rebel, with a new twist. It turns out men like rebels too.

“Nonconformists have a certain allure — admit it. They don’t play by society’s rules whether it be by listening to an obscure band or shunning future tech by reading paperback books; the nonconformist has a certain sexual appeal to men and women.”

Shoemaker is referencing a group of five new studies that comprise the paper A Critical Test of the Assumption That Men Prefer Conformist Women and Women Prefer Nonconformist Men.

From the Conclusion:

“Nonconformity is more attractive than conformity for women and men. People think that men prefer conformist women, but this impression is discrepant from reality.”

How do we define non-conformity?

Example of conformity:

“She is quite happy to go along with what others are doing.”

Example of nonconformity:

“She often does her own thing rather than fit in with the group.”

In other words, nonconformity connotes individualism – a refusal to go along with a prevailing practice. Nonconformists are rule breakers.


The researchers write in their study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, that results “showed that both men and women preferred nonconformist romantic partners, but women overestimated the extent to which men prefer conformist partners.” An interesting insight to say the least, which may dictate how women believe they should act in the company of men. Indeed, Hornsey and his colleagues believe it may be a mindset leftover from when “women were expected to be submissive, modest, subdued, agreeable.”

Key Findings

  1. Both men and women prefer non-conformist partners.
  2. Women overestimate the degree to which men like conformist women.
  3. Men especially prefer nonconformist partners.
  4. Dating success increased as the number of nonconformists increased.
  5. Conformity was more associated with dating success among men.
  6. Descriptions of nonconformist partners were associated with greater love and attraction for that partner.

What’s more, in another study “people who displayed nonconformist personality traits also reported higher levels of romantic achievement and satisfaction.”

I happened to read the following passage last night from After Birth, a novel by Elisa Albert. The character Ari looks back on high school and concludes that it was the nonconformist women who won big in the end:

“There were the teeny-tiny girls (always popular), big-boned early-to-develop girls (never popular), A-list girls and B-list girls and C-list girls and D-list girls. The B-list girls who got a new haircut and the accessory of the moment or landed a guy of note and suddenly found themselves catapulted to the top. The C-list girls who just banded together to create their own little utopia.

Those are the girls you want to be, it couldn’t be clearer in hindsight. Early anarchists. Badasses. They didn’t bother, exempted themselves, turned their backs and took up softball, computer science, gardening, poetry, sewing. Those are the ones with a shot at becoming fairly content happy/tough/certain/fulfilled/gray-haired grown women.”

So let your freak flag fly. Guys dig it.

Flaunt your imperfections and embrace your quirks. Put your unique stamp on the world. Be an independent thinker and break a few rules. It will make you memorable, attractive and happier.[bctt tweet=”Be an independent thinker and break a few rules. It will make you memorable, attractive and happier.”]

I’m not yet gray-haired, but I qualify as one of Albert’s happy, tough and fulfilled grown women. Don’t let anyone tell you guys don’t like feisty, sassy rebels. It’s always worked for me.

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