What Is Sexual Market Value (SMV) – And How Can You Improve Yours?

What you bring to the table, sexually, matters.

In fact, it is life-changing. What jobs you get, whom you end up with as a partner, the opportunities your children will have — it all depends on your sexual market value.

Learn why SMV is rooted in evolutionary fitness, how it plays out in different phases of your life, and what you can do to improve yours.

Definition: What Is Sexual Market Value (SMV)?

Sexual market value (SMV) is your worth to other players in the sexual marketplace. The higher your SMV, the more leverage you have in the game of dating.

For example, if you are an exceptionally attractive woman, you will get many more offers from men than if you are average-looking.

Likewise, if you are a confident, driven man, you will get more attention from women than if you are insecure and lethargic.

So, while it’s difficult to quantify SMV, it clearly exists. Some people have more of it, some less.

The term “sexual market value” refers to the laws of economics. Everything is a game, and we are all competing over limited resources — in this case, sexual access to attractive mates.

Why We Are Uncomfortable With SMV

SMV rubs many people the wrong way.

Tellingly, it is not the winners that complain. Rarely will you hear an extremely attractive person grumble about the injustices of the sexual marketplace.

They know full well that SMV is real, as they have been enjoying its benefits for all of their adult lives.

People with a low SMV rarely question the idea either. Their lifelong lack of opportunities really drives the message home.

It’s the people in the middle, the sexual average, who get all worked up about SMV.

They will go on about “conventional standards of beauty,” and how attractiveness is just a social construct.

“It’s the media that instills these beauty standards in our minds,” they will say.

However, scientifically speaking, that doesn’t hold up. Evolutionary biology has conclusively shown that “beauty” is an expression of reproductive fitness. Attractive mates give us a better chance at passing our genes on.

All other animals — not just humans — show the same bias. They will predictably choose the most attractive partner they can get with and discard less attractive options.

When people contest these inborn dynamics, it is because they subscribe to a misconceived egalitarian worldview. From where they stand, nobody may be seen as more valuable than another person.

But like it or not, that is how marketplaces work.

Customers on Amazon won’t be persuaded to buy a subpar product if there is a better option available.

Employers won’t be persuaded to hire a less qualified candidate if there is a more qualified candidate around.

And just like that, people will never date down if they can get hotter.

In truth, the denial of SMV is a selfish move.

By shaming people into thinking that they shouldn’t be attracted to superior mates (superior from a sexual point of view), these deniers are trying to level the playing field. If everybody is equally desirable, their own sexual averageness is no longer a disadvantage.

As a side note, this whole discussion seems a lot more prevalent in the heterosexual world. When I listen to gay friends talk about their sexual choices, they don’t mince words. They will call a lemon a lemon.

The Good News

The good news is that you are not at the mercy of nature. You can improve your sexual market value, and quite significantly so.

This will look different for each person, depending on their gender, their starting position, and their dating goals. We’ll talk specifics in a bit.

Granted, there is a natural ceiling to what you can achieve. For example, with my genetics, my age, and my history, I won’t become an international sex symbol any time soon.

But most of us are currently not anywhere close to that ceiling. If we did put the work in, we could easily improve our attractiveness by 30–40 percent.

Who Am I To Talk?

From about 2010 to 2014, I ran a dating coach business with my ex-girlfriend. Together, we taught our clients about the courtship process and alternative relationship models.

We watched hundreds of clients in action, trying to find love and/or sex. And again and again, we would observe the same SMV dynamics. It was like Groundhog Day.

What we found is that you can relatively easily trigger favorable reactions from potential mates, if you know what these triggers are.

That is the solution to the sexual puzzle — not moaning about the injustice of it all but learning to play the game.

The Rules of the Game

Let’s examine the rules of this game.

Rule 1: Your SMV Depends on Your Gender

The first thing we need to look at is gender. The way your SMV plays out vastly differs for men and women.


For women, the main factor is physical beauty — your figure, your curves, your facial symmetry, your hair, your skin, etc.

Physical beauty is not the only factor that will attract men to women, but it by far outweighs all other factors.

Thinking back to our predominantly male coaching clients, I would estimate that physical beauty accounted for 80–90 percent of them being into a certain woman.

To be clear, the remaining 10–20 percent — personality, sense of humor, etc. — still mattered and actually grew in importance as the relationship progressed.

But the initial assessment always came down to, “How hot is she?”


For men, there is no single factor that determines SMV. It’s a game of mix and match.

For example, Pete’s sexual success might be due to his great physique (60%), in combination with a good sense of humor (20%), and being an okay listener (10%).

Philip’s sexual success might be attributed to his charisma (40%), occasional displays of intelligence (30%), and his prowess in the bedroom (30%).

Paul, having neither good looks nor charisma, might owe his sexual success to his material wealth (60%), his decisiveness (30%), and the odd exhibit of vulnerability (10%).

The bottom line — no two male SMVs ever look exactly the same.

Why Everybody Is Complaining

Predictably, neither gender is happy with the cards they were dealt.

Why Women Are Complaining

Understandably, women don’t enjoy being reduced to their physical attributes.

A female friend once told me it’s like an actor who was first cast for a hit comedy and now only gets offered comedic parts. People are oblivious to what else you are capable of.

That’s why many women envy men for their mix-and-match approach. But no matter how well they craft their unique identity — most of the market doesn’t care.

Also, being desired by men comes with real risks, like sexual harassment and rape. That means you cannot move as freely through the world as your male counterparts. You must always consider safety, for example, when traveling.

Banking on physical attractiveness can also lead to economic dependencies. When every man wants to lay the world at your feet, it is tempting to let them. But what was given can also be taken away, especially once your physical beauty fades.

Why Men Are Complaining

Women often begrudge men their freedom to mix and match their sexual attributes.

But what seems like an unfair advantage can also be a handicap. Many men struggle with the vagueness of their sexual market value.

Unlike women, they have little to rely on naturally. Male physical beauty doesn’t excite most women like it does the other way around.

So, men need to create themselves.

And if you are a go-getter, that can play out to your advantage. But most men aren’t. They don’t know how to mix and match attractive traits or they simply lack the drive. Hence, they go unnoticed in the sexual marketplace.

This creates jealousy. When I was still working as a dating coach, men would sometimes remark to me, “I wish I was an attractive woman, just for one day. I would love to get all that attention.”

Men or women, it doesn’t matter — we begrudge others what we can’t have. In this, we are all the same.

Rule 2: Your SMV Depends on Timing

Your sexual market is highly dependent on timing. This relates to:

  1. Your age
  2. Changing Preferences

1. Your Age

Your SMV peaks at a certain point in your life and then declines.

For women, their peak SMV is usually between 20 and 25, give and take a few years. During that time, they will get the maximum amount of attention from men.

For men, their peak SMV is usually between 30 and 35, give and take a few years. During that time, they will seem the most desirable to women.

There is a difference in how quickly SMVs go down. With women, it tends to decline more rapidly. With men, the decline tends to happen more slowly.

Of course, I am generalizing. There are incredibly hot 50-year-old women (Sofía Vergara is past 50) and there are plenty of 30-year-old men that nobody wants to touch. But as a general tendency, it holds.

Naturally, you should capitalize on your SMV when it is at its highest. You will have more buying power in the market.

This was a common mistake I saw in our male dating coaching clients. Even though many dreamed of being in a long-term relationship, they would put off committing, always thinking someone better might come along.

Many women will make the same mistake. During their peak years, they will live it up without a care for tomorrow. They are assuming it will go on like this forever. But of course, it doesn’t.

For either gender, if you miss the window, the consequences will be dire. You will have to settle for a less-than-optimal partner or you might come away altogether empty-handed.

2. Changing Preferences

What attributes we find attractive in others change over time.

This happens in three stages:

Stage I (approx. 15–30 years): Here, we are most concerned with mutual attraction and sex. The limiting factor is usually the woman. She decides if it happens or not.

Stage II (approx. 31–45 years): Now the game becomes about starting a family. The limiting factor is usually the man. He must decide if he is on board or not.

Stage III (approx. 45 years to end of life): The final stage is about emotional companionship. The decision to be companions is usually mutual.

Stage I

During stage I, the most important factor is sexual desirability.

If you are a woman, you should focus on improving your physical attractiveness. All the usual advice from women’s magazines applies. Get fit. Optimize your style. If you want to take it to the max, consider plastic surgery.

If you are a man, you will see the most success by mixing and matching the following qualities:

  • Physical appearance: Improve your body composition and your style.
  • Confident behavior: Know what you stand for, and act accordingly.
  • Ambition: Have plans and put them into action.
  • Vitality: Display energetic behavior; it is a sign of strength.
  • Leadership qualities: Have others follow you.
  • Potential for violence: Learn how to hold your own in a fight.
Stage II

In stage II, our preferences change — it all becomes about family.

Men are not exclusively concerned with hotness anymore (even though that is still her main selling point). They are now also screening for factors like emotional stability and homemaker skills.

Note: I know how terribly backward this sounds, but the sexual marketplace is what it is. You are of course free to rebel against it and personally, I love women who do so. But this is not most men.

Women are now paying a lot more attention to a man’s economic standing — and for good reason. Since she will bear the child and most likely do most of the raising, there is a degree of financial dependency.

Therefore, it is a good idea to make sure he is successful. Even if she plans to continue her career and be self-sufficient (which is highly advisable), having a resourceful partner will make her life a lot easier.

Stage III

Here, expectations change again. The qualities we are now looking for in each other are starting to merge.

Both genders are now coming to appreciate social and emotional intelligence a lot more. The more our partner has these qualities, the more we will enjoy our sunset years together.

Also, our need for reliability increases. As we grow old, we want someone who sticks around in case we fall seriously sick.

Rule 3: Your SMV Depends on Your Relationship Style

Your ideal sexual qualities depend on the type of relationship you are after.

Sexual Flings

To have lots of sexual flings, you must signal sexual competence. The message — “This ain’t my first rodeo.” We all prefer someone who knows what they are doing in bed.

If you are a woman, this might be communicated through style, holding eye contact, and invitingly smiling at a man. In online dating, it might be communicated through sexual innuendo.

For men, sexual competence can be communicated through style, attractive body language, as well as displays of social dominance. If you are the alpha male of your group, people will automatically assume you have options.

But more than anything, men need to make a move. They need to go over and talk to her. And it has to appear as if they have done this before.

It should also be noted that with sexual flings, men and women show different ranges

Men will broaden their sexual range. If it’s just a one-time thing, they will sleep with somebody less attractive — somebody they would never date.

With women, it’s a bit more complex. They will increase their standards in terms of physical attractiveness but lower their standards in other areas. If it’s just sex, they want a looker.

Traditional Relationships

With traditional relationships, it’s a whole different game.

For women, it becomes about displays of chastity. Portraying yourself as tame, reliable, and sexually inexperienced will increase your chances.

This plays into the Madonna fantasies of many men; they want to date the “good girl.” On a biological level, it’s an attempt to make sure the offspring is his.

For men, it becomes about displays of kindness. A “good guy” might not be as sexually exciting, but he is also less likely to stray. He will stick around to raise the kids.

Overall, committed relationships focus on risk aversion. We want to increase our chances of passing on our genes.

In terms of range, men become more picky in traditional relationships. Ideally, they will want to date someone slightly out of our league. Otherwise, they won’t commit.

Women will lower their requirements in terms of physical attractiveness. For them, it becomes more about reliability and his capacity to provide.

Resources for Further Reading

Naturally, an article like this can only scratch the surface of a matter as complex as SMV. If you want to go deeper, I recommend you check out these books:

  • “The Evolution of Desire” by David Buss
  • “The Mating Mind” by Geoffrey Miller
  • “The Red Queen” by Matt Ridley
  • “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins
  • “Sperm Wars” by Robin Baker

1 thought on “What Is Sexual Market Value (SMV) – And How Can You Improve Yours?”

  1. great article (and SEO), would love some tips on how to maximize SMV based on your starting point, from tactical to strategic, also the dating market matters, some tips for heterosexual men on how to boost it. thanks and keep it up, already bookmarked a few of your articles.

    P.S. another one I found interesting is the one about reading, would love a more extended reading list that you recommend. Cheers from Berlin


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