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I Asked 10 Men What Turned Them On. This Is What They Said.

Sex

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. If you want to know what a man is really thinking, while your girlfriends—well, at least some of your girlfriends—can offer up some insight, you're going to be far better off picking the brains of your dad, your brothers or some of your male buddies. I can vouch for this because I can probably count on one hand, the times I went to a guy and then a girl for advice on the same issue and they both had the same perspective on it. Men and women are different. God made them that way. Simple as that.


That's why, when it comes to topics like how men approach marriage, emotional connections and sex, I think it's much wiser—enlightening too—to ask them directly than to be presuming or guessing with those of the female persuasion. When I asked several Black men about what turns them on, while the answers didn't surprise me much, some of the explanations behind them were interesting.

Sidenote: The actual turn ons are direct quotes, but because there was a lot of "streams of consciousness" going on during the interviews, I decided to simply summarize their explanations so that you can get the overall gist. I hope that's cool with you.

So fellas, what turns you on about women? Whoops, let me specify—about Black women?

“A woman who has a signature scent.”—Andre’, 32

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OK. So according to Andre', a lot of women smell too much like, well, other women. "I think the scent that you wear is a lot like the style that you choose and real style doesn't pay attention to what's in or out. Ladies with style are interested in what works for them." He has a good point there. He also told me that he's into essential oil blends instead of perfumes. And a woman who puts her signature scent in her hair can get just about anything she wants from him. Good to know, Andre'.

“Someone who is comfortable without make-up—at home and in public.”—Isaac, 27

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I'm a woman and still, I find it interesting when some women get offended when a man says he's not a fan of make-up or extensions. I mean, if it's true that ladies are "doing it for themselves" and not for a guy's attention, applause or approval, why should it matter what men think…right? Anyway, what Isaac broke down to me is, as cliché as it might be, he agrees with Drake (in his "Best I Ever Had" song) when he said, "Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on. That's when you're the prettiest, I hope that you don't take it wrong."

"A woman who knows how to, what do the ladies say, 'beat' their face is an art form, no doubt. But it's not the most convenient for us. Make-up gets everywhere and their lips have residue on them. I dunno. I think a woman who can go out with nothing but lip gloss…there's something about her level of self-confidence that is super sexy to me."

“Manicured feet, soft hands and a sexy pair of shoes.”—Bryant, 40

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When Bryant told me what his top turn on was, I smiled because it took me back to one of my male besties when I was in college. I had never seen a foot fetish quite like it; he even told her that he'd prefer pretty feet over a beautiful face or a bangin' body (for real?!). When I shared this with Bryant, he nodded in agreement. When I asked him to explain WTH that was all about he said, "Do you know how much a woman loves herself if she makes sure to pamper her feet?" And the shoe thing? "Guys love sneakers. I think we just appreciate a woman who's as knowledgeable about shoes as we are."

The hands thing, I got. Ash is the worst. No expounding needed on that.

“Great conversation and a wonderful sense of humor.”—Keith, 25

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Talking to Keith about his turn ons was not surprising in the least, but it was fascinating. Not the sense of humor part because I believe most of us want that. No, it's what he said about conversing with a woman that especially caught my attention. "A woman who listens is amazing. I know a lot of women think that they listen, but they really don't. Their body language and the fact that a lot of them repeat back what they heard in their mind and not what actually came out of my mouth is frustrating. But a good conversation is about more than that. I love great timing, quick wit and the ability to walk away and know that I learned something new or I can appreciate a different perspective. A great conversation that has a lot of laughter is the greatest aphrodisiac around."

“A woman who knows a little bit about everything.”—Justin, 36

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When Justin told me that a knowledgeable woman was a turn on for him, I didn't really look for him to expound much. It is for me as well, so I totally got where he was coming from. "It's just so hot when you can mention everything from an 80s rap group to a Scripture in the Bible to what's happening in politics and the woman across from you is not sitting with a blank stare on her face," Justin said. Then he paused and went on. "I think that's why Jacqueline had Marcus so messed up. She was fine, she was a business exec and she could enjoy a basketball game and a beer. That's my dream woman right there."

(In case you're wondering, that was a Boomerang [the movie, not the series] reference.)

“Stretch marks and an overbite.”—Lucas, 35

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Lucas is a man of action more than words. So, when I asked him what was up with what drew him to a woman, he said, "Grown women have stretch marks and grown women are what turn me on." (shout out to my birthday twin Kendrick Lamar who basically said the same thing in his song "Humble".) And the overbite? "How X-rated can I get in this interview? Let's just say that an overbite is fellatio's very best friend." Yep. Moving on.

“Surprise piercings and tats.”—Marcus, 29

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Talking to Marcus about his turn ons was cool; not just because I have 10 piercings (eight of 'em are in my ears) and three tats myself, but because I have a friend who said a woman with tats are a total deal breaker for him (yes, out of his own mouth, he said that he would break up with a woman if he found out that she had one). Why is Marcus the total opposite? "Tattoos are stories to me. I'm intrigued when a woman is willing to tell a story on her body; especially if it's a…private tale." (You nasty, Marcus.)

As far as the piercings go, Marcus pleasantly surprised me when he was able to tell me that I had a tragus, along with the names of other types of piercings. "I love a woman of mystery and so, it's so sexy to me when a woman appears super-conservative and then, when you spend your first night with her, she has a nipple or clit piercing. Man."

“I like a woman who enjoys sex more than she’s simply ‘good at it’.”—Damon, 43

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Recently, I penned a piece about how grown women approach sex. One of the things I shared is grown women would rather have "B" (good) sex all of the time than A+ (totally off of the charts) sex every once in a while. When I shared this with Damon, he shook his head in total agreement. "I've been with women who made my toes curl, but their libido was on life support. A woman who lost her virginity late in life and has only had two partners but is enthusiastic about gettin' it in is way more appealing than a woman who's been told she's the best by all of her partners but only wants to have sex once a month." Damon, swap out woman for man in my case and I couldn't agree with you more.

“A woman who needs me without being needy.”—Timothy, 42

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A little while back, I wrote an article for the site entitled "Are You In Love Or Are You In Need?" It gets into what it means to be needy in a relationship. Even as a woman, I totally get how that can be a total turn off. When I asked Timothy to expound on the point, he said, "You can tell when a woman is looking for someone to make her feel good about herself vs. a woman who enjoys a man's presence in her life even though she doesn't really need him to be in it." I looked to him for more clarity, so he elaborated. "I'm not saying I don't want to be needed but I think that should come once a relationship has been established. Not after a date or two." Agreed. (That goes both ways too.)

“Someone who doesn’t try to be sexy. She just is.”—Xavier, 39

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"No diss to the IG models out here in the world, but they do nothing for me. It's like overkill. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin, that's sexy to me. She's got her own views, her own style and she's drippin' with femininity—I will eat that up. Literally." Whew Xavier, tell us how you really feel.

"I don't think a lot of women realize that once a man gets to a certain stage in his life, T&A is icing on the cake. A big brain, tons of self-confidence and a sexy walk will keep us more than a big booty and a smile will. A woman who carries herself like she knows all of this is the epitome of sexy to me." Indeed, Xavier. Indeed.

What's a trip about this is some folks are gonna read it and critique the responses. It's human nature. But my takeaway is if I want to know what turns someone on, I need to ask them and then accept it. It's not about what I think it should be; it's about what they tell me it is. By asking rather than assuming, I just might be surprised by what I hear—in the most pleasant way possible. Just as I was with these 10 Black men.

Featured image by Getty Images

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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