Why Is It Weirdly Sexy When Men Do The Bare Minimum?

Photographed by Refinery29.
There are a lot of things men can do that are sexy. Wear their hair in a mullet, for example. Weep a little bit. Push a baby stroller with two hands instead of one. But a lot of those things require a bit of effort, which ultimately takes away from the sexiest thing of all — doing the bare minimum.
The bare minimum, which can be defined as doing the absolute least to get by, can look like a multitude of things, depending on your age range, your relationship with the person, or even the medium in which you receive it (ie, in person vs. online). It can look like offering to pay for the first date, texting back in a timely manner, showing the smallest bit of respect for you, or even doing the laundry or other “feminine” tasks that men stereotypically don’t take on. These actions are so basic that it’s arguable whether they should warrant so much as a thank you. And yet, so often, we end up thirsting over a dude who does these things. In 2017, Buzzfeed even compiled a list of 15 Times Twitter Fell For Men Doing The Absolute Bare Minimum that exposed our affinity for men giving us the least, including one tweet saying, “I’m marrying the man who is willing to start my car when it’s cold outside in the mornings.” Yes, give us absolutely nothing!
Advertisement
A more advanced example of the bare minimum being met — and thirsted over — occurred when TikTok user Connor Coyne posted a video discussing the importance of seeking mental health care as a man. He was met with a number of comments from women ranging from “king” to “it’s so hot when men go to therapy” to “my left ring finger is ready when you are.” We know that men famously avoid therapy, after all, but to thirst after — nay, propose marriage to — someone who’s just... taking care of themselves and their mental health? The bar is on the floor!
Sure, some people prefer the guys who go all out to plan elaborate date nights and generally do the absolute most. But so many of us can’t help but feel that twinge of attraction when we see a guy do anything more than stare at us and breathe. And why? What makes the bare minimum so sexy?
Moraya Seeger DeGeare, licensed marriage and family therapist and the co-owner of BFF Therapy in Beacon, New York, tells Refinery29 that at least some of our attraction to the bare minimum lies in our primal instincts. “This is from the genetic level — you’re doing things I want in a partner, so that is super hot compared to say, tight jeans,” she explains. She says the bare minimum causes us to have a hormonal, visceral reaction of desire.
Of course, DeGeare adds, the patriarchy is also at play. Men have been conditioned to do the least since what feels like the dawn of time. “Women are supposed to take care of everything,” DeGeare says. “The woman is supposed to serve the man, and then kids in society [grow up] around that.” We’re conditioned to expect few guys to even do the bare minimum, she says: “People are so exhausted from things not happening and so to see it happen, it’s like yes, let’s throw a parade,” she says. In some ways, thirsting after the men that give the bare minimum is just a way to protect ourselves — if we don’t have high expectations, we can’t be let down as hard as we would have if we accepted the standards that we deserve.
Advertisement
Depressing, maybe. But there are signs that the tide is turning. Recently, a cringey TikTok trend has erupted that’s giving me hope. In the POV-style videos, guys act out a scene in which their girlfriend gets her period as they’re about to get intimate. The big twist is, instead of being angry (which… isn’t a normal reaction, anyway) the creator sympathises with the (offscreen) broad. “You should’ve told me,” TikTok user @sethshyrock mouths. “I would have brought a movie and snacks... Just know I love you just for you, not your body.”
The comments rightfully and respectfully tore him apart. “I’m so glad my uterus has ur validation thanks king,” one reads, while another says, “I love when guys think the bare minimum is romantic.”
Hopefully, this trend will continue, and we’ll stop feeling surprised and turned on when men do essentially nothing but treat us like human beings. Until then, DeGeare suggests ignoring your urge to compliment a partner who does the bare minimum — or at least following up your compliment with encouragement to do even more. “You shouldn’t necessarily be in love with them or want to marry them, they did the bare minimum,” DeGeare says. “Let’s just appreciate that that box is checked and move on.”

More from Wellness

R29 Original Series

Advertisement