From a long and tendentious book review, I gleaned what struck me as a powerfully descriptive theory on why what women say they want in a man never seems to match what they actually choose in men:

When a young girl becomes erotically aware of boys, she is endowed by nature with a set of blinders that exclude the majority of them — including many who can make good husbands — from her sight. What gets a male within her narrow range of vision is called “sexual attractiveness.” What is it?

It is not possible to find out by asking women themselves. They will insist until they are blue in the face that they want only a sensitive, respectful fellow who treats them right.

When women claim to be seeking kindness, respect, a sense of humor, etc., they mean at most that they would like to find these qualities in the men who are already within their erotic field of view. When a man asks what women are looking for, he is trying to find out how he can get into that field of view.

What women instinctively want is for 99 percent of the men they run into to leave them alone, buzz off, drop dead — while the one to whom they feel attracted makes all their dreams come true. One of the keys to deciphering female speech is that the term “men” signifies for them only the very restricted number of men they find sexually attractive. All the dirty articles in Cosmo about “giving him the sex he craves” and “driving him wild in bed” concern this man of her dreams, who by some amazing coincidence usually turns out to be the man of some other girl’s dreams as well.

During their nubile years, many women are at least as concerned with turning male desire off (i.e., telling the 99 percent to drop dead) as with turning it on (getting Mr. Alpha to commit): they get more offers of attention than they have time to process.

In other words, a woman talking about what she wants in a man is talking about the factors she uses to choose between men who already made it past her bozo filters, which are mostly subconscious (she needs low-effort heuristics because she’s filtering a lot of spam). Meanwhile, on a different planet, the man wondering what women want is usually looking for info on getting past those same bozo filters. In short, they aren’t even remotely talking about the same thing. Conversational madness ensues. Mars, meet Venus. Venus, Mars.