Monday, June 4, 2012

What Men Think About Being Called "Cute"

A reader recently asked what men think about being called "cute."

I have a very poignant memory of the first time I heard a girl call a guy "cute." It was when I was about 11 years old. My friends and I were out in the playground during recess, and urgently needed to confirm a recent rumor that one of the girls in our class "liked" one of our friends. So of course we went as a group to confront her and her friends to investigate. I forget if the girl in question made the comment, or if it was one of her friends speaking on her behalf, but the salient response was that she thought our friend was "cute."

I was instantly repulsed by the word. I remember thinking it sounded condescending and inappropriate – or, as my sophisticated 11-year old mind phrased it, "like he was a little bunny or something." I remember immediately questioning her use of the word, and making it clear to her that I hated it. Seventeen years later, my opinions haven't changed much, although they have been dulled somewhat by the word's increasingly common use.

Anyway, that was a long way of saying that I think the primal instinct in a man is to dislike or even hate being called "cute," or more specifically, we hate what "cute" implies. Men want to be admired, not adored, and this adjective doesn't exactly reinforce a man's confidence in a woman's admiration. A woman calling a man "cute" is similar to a man calling a woman "nice," which sharply undercuts your understanding that he adores you, or could adore you - or at the very least, that he sees you as a woman who could be adored. It relegates you to the realm of "mildly attractive," in the same way that "cute" relegates a man to the realm of "noted but ignored." Granted, this is not always what a woman means, since "cute" has gradually come to carry more and more weight as a typical descriptor for "attractive." But it is ambiguous at best to men, and still does very little to connote admiration.

This should also explain why "handsome" is a poor substitute for "cute." If you want to please a man verbally, I suggest trying to express your appreciation for his strengths. Next time he makes a good observation, trying telling him (assuming you really think so) "you are so smart, I would never have thought of that..." Or if you admire his confidence and leadership abilities, tell him (when the occasion arises) how much you love watching his friends stop and listen when he speaks. If you love his physical strength, tell him how you love feeling weak or small in his arms the next time he holds you. Or if you love his confidence, tell him how you wish you could confront people with the same ease that he does.

These kinds of compliments highlight his masculine strengths and your admiration of them, rather than downplay his physical attractiveness, which is about all you accomplish with "cute."

55 comments:

  1. I like to use the words "striking" or "sharp" when a man looks nice and dressed up.

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  2. I think if a girl calls a guy cute, she is mostly likely doing it to demean him. No admiration or adoration there. That's the only reason I would call a guy CUTE. it's just not a word that should be affiliated with men.

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    1. When a girl calls you cute most of the time it isn't to demean you, it's to tell you that you're very attractive, but not in a buff muscly way. When a guy is cute we blush and smile more. On other times you have to watch the way they say it. If they say it in a joking manner or say "Awwwwwww" before it or even raise their eyebrows when they say it, they're being condescending.

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  3. never tell him his penis is cute

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  4. You're 28? Goodness.

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  5. I don't necessarily agree with this - it really depends on the context. I live in the midwest and have had women who were really into me tell me how cute they thought I was. I didn't take offense at all.

    On the other hand, I think that if a man does something and a woman says "that's cute," then she might think he just did something lame or stupid.

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    1. Same here! And that's how I used it! I mean, I never had called a guy cute until now, but that's what I mean with it. And before I told my crush who likes me too,I thought "I wonder what he'll think once he sees the message" and my friend said "why not? If you think he's cute then just tell him!" And I just sent him a short message which was "You're cute"

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  6. You knocked it out of the park as usual. I do this to my husband all the time. He loves it. And its true....

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  7. ha, so true. i cant tell you how many of my guy friends have complained about this. they say the same thing: "cute" should be used to describe things like puppies.

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  8. Cute is something we called boys when we were 11, because boys/children are cute. Men are not. I think we stopped using "cute" and starting using "hot" somewhere around age 15. How do men feel about being called "hot" (if it's his looks/physical attractiveness we're admiring)?

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  9. Hey Andrew, how would you feel if a girl told you that "you fuck like a boss"? :) Would you be pleased?

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    1. Cool. How about "you're SO kind, thank you" (when a guy does something nice for a girl)?

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    2. No. It comes off condescending. Undercuts his sense of authority. "Thank you" with a huge smile is much better.

      And by the way, "you fuck ME like a boss" is a better alternative. Make it personal.

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    3. How would you suggest expressing your admiration for the way he "f***s you" if you don't like to swear, especially around him?

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    4. What's wrong with "swearing" once in a while? Are you having angelic holy sex? Get dirty. It adds a little spice. Not about the content, more- so the context. Saying fuck in the context of fucking is appropriate.

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    5. I agree with B.

      If you have some kind of moral scruples about swearing, just tell him how much you love the way his cock (are you allowed to say that?) feels inside you, or something like that.

      "Saying fuck in the context of fucking is appropriate." Agreed, though I think it is appropriate in 90 % of circumstances.

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    6. Really? I thought guys didn't like it when girls swore because it made them seem too aggressive and unfeminine. Doesn't that go against the whole "being sweet" suggestion?

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  10. My boyfriend loves being called cute. He says so all the time.

    *sigh* Of course I doubt you'd consider him a "real" man.

    But, see, you don't specify any kind of man in your post, you don't say most men or anything like that. you just men. Which implies all men. And, by most every reasonable definition of man, my boyfriend is one. And he likes being called cute.

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    1. How are you saying it to him? Also, that he likes being called cute doesn't mean he wouldn't prefer some of the compliments I've suggested. I'd be curious to hear what he thinks of those.

      Also, if you read the "About This Blog" section you will see that I am writing about the average guy, not every guy. For sure there are exceptions. I have a couple posts coming up about this.

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    2. All of your suggested compliments are fairly absurd and involve, basically, denigrating myself. I'm not going to tell him that I like how weak I feel in his arms because I'm bigger and stronger then he is.

      I challenge you that there exists an average man. Everyone is unique.

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    3. I agree i call every guy whos good looking fucking cute i just feel dumb saying his so hot i say his so cute and no where near thinking about bunnies

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  11. LOL! at the "you fuck like a boss" discussion! You're so funny Andrew, i'd love to meet you......

    Even us girls (majority) hate the word cute, so I can imagine how much guys abhor it...

    However it depends what context the word is used....im sure it can be tolerated in some contexts like, lets say -- "you looked so cute while you were sleeping, i didnt want to wake you up"

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    1. Even in that context I don't like it. I can tolerate it in situations where it is clearly means "attractive" - for example "Oh I love when you wear that shirt, you look really cute in it."

      Any compliment to a guy's skills in bed will make him happy. Suggesting he is dominant ("boss") will usually get bonus points.

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  12. As a 32 year old man, I only ever felt uncomfortable with being called "cute" when I was 15 ... and that was because I envisioned myself as being a tough-guy which was incompatible with being cute

    For the most part, it is so rare that most guys will get told that they're attractive by women that any term women use will (probably) be taken positively; but "cute" is probably lower on the list than some other terms you could use.

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  13. I would never describe a man as cute(to his face). It's a feminine word. To use 'cute' on a mans appearance, it would suggest he looks young or pretty-boy (some men may like that). But most don't consider themselves as pretty-boys and nor do they want to.

    I'm female and I don't like being called 'cute' in appearance either. I understand it's a compliment, but it makes me feel like I look feminine/neutral, rather than feminine/womanly. ('Cute' may be accurate, but I don't like it)
    However I don't mind it used to describe my behaviour. My husband once said "I think it's so cute you [reacted this way]". That made me feel girly and appealing.

    'Sweet' is another touchy (feminine) word. Imo, calling a man 'sweet' is akin to saying he is 'too nice' and is behaving like a woman.

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    1. I think you are right about this. I am in my mid-30s but do have a young-looking face so much so that women often think I am in my late 20s. I used to not believe women when they were surprised at my age, but now I understand why. So women who do like me often do use "cute," although I have also been called "handsome" or "hot." I take any of these as compliments. FYI, having a relatively young-looking face was a hindrance in my early 20s, but is generally an asset now.


      You are right that "sweet" is generally not a good thing for a man to be called.

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    2. IMO words like "cute" or "sweet" are used when women subtly test a man's dominance. they should apply to pre-pubescent teens or gay guys, not (most) men.

      i won't mind a girl saying my jizz is sweet. drinking pineapple juice works a treat.

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  14. Cute means "not enough for dating but not bad" in girls language.

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    1. I scored a fair amount of girls after being called "cute" but i agree, the short answer could be right here for most case scenarios.

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  15. "Do you want to go to (name of bar) and see if there are any cute guys?"
    In that context 'cute' is pretty common. Some girls use 'cute' for everything positive, like "cute outfit".

    Even said to women, 'cute' is not a great compliment. It's obviously positive, but it's in the lower range. Every woman longs to hear she is beautiful, elegant, amazing. Fat girls may not be stunning, but they may be cute. Children, clumsy people and pets are cute (at best). Dumb girls can be cute (to a lot of men).

    I think 'cute' is one of those adjectives that are so often used indirectly negative that it becomes negative word to men. There are many female equivalents. When a female friend sees your flat for the first time, saying "charming" means low standard, "cozy" means small. We all know a "fun" outfit is hideous. A woman saying such things all the time will actually be called a bitch.

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  16. thefemaleperspectiveJune 8, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    I can see why guys are repulsed by the word ‘cute’ but it’s a word that gets thrown around by girls soo much that many don’t realize how many guys dislike it. I didn’t even realize it either until a year ago and I’m 22; my apologies to guys everywhere if I’ve mistakenly offended you. ‘Cute’ is generally used to describe a guy who has an attractive face, i.e. smile, eyes, can even extend to personality. Never among any of my girlfriends however, have we described a guy as ‘cute’ to belittle him. If we call a guy ‘sweet’ or ‘adorable’ then most likely we don’t want to sleep with him and just consider him a friend. ‘Cute’ and ‘Hot’ still get a chance. ‘Cute’ = Good looking, charming personality, could be good boyfriend material. ‘Hot’ = Smoldering good looks. Raw sexual attraction. Celebrity examples: ‘Cute’- Ashton Kutcher, Justin Timberlake, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Gosling, Abercrombie models ‘Hot’: Adam Levine, Ryan Gosling, Chris Hemsworth. Chris Evans

    Note: Ryan Gosling is one of those rare cases where he is both cute and hot because of this: http://hellogiggles.com/dear-ryan-gosling

    Sources: I’m a chick

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    1. Couldn't agree more about Ryan Gosling - hot + cute = the perfect man!

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    2. lOVE all your definitions. Interesting to read. Thanks

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  17. In high-school a friend told me how much he hated it when he was called "cute". I asked how he wanted girls to compliment his appearance and he said "Ruggedly Handsome"

    Unfortunately for him he really was just cute. Like a bunny.

    But I've remembered not to describe any guy I like that way.

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  18. Great feedback about the use of cute for a guy. Kind of like being called "nice" for a girl I think. Not what you want to hear!

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  19. Lol, the way guys hate being called cute is so cute!

    (sorry about that)

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  20. I had no idea. When I call a guy cute, I consider it a special compliment. Cute is a very positive thing. Cute is attractive AND nice which for me would mean dateable! I love cute guys.

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  21. I've made the mistake of calling my boyfriend cute when we first met, he also did not like it. I ment it in the most sencear way. I thought he looked sexy and cute was just another way of saying it . I was not being condescending at all and I think if the guy is secure in himself he wouldn't take as demeaning but as a compliment.

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  22. I call my bf cute all the time, and he hasn't complained about it. to me, cute means very attractive, not in a hot way though. hot = very attractive in a way that you most of the time don't want to date, because although they are very attractive (in a different way then cute) they are mostly arrogant, cocky jerks. cute= pretty attractive. adorable= really cute. handsome= very attractive, but normally not in a 'hot' way, most handsome men are the dateable type. sexy= very hot, or sometimes another meaning but it depends. if you just say 'attractive' that means they're attractive, but not too much. so I say cute as a very big compliment

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  23. When you know better, you do better! Allowing a man to swell under your words and care of him, is more powerful and effective than anything purchased.

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  24. You girls are so confusing and conflicting. Guys don't understand the meaning of cute when you tell them this, especially when first meeting or dating in the beginning. How do they know if you are attracted to them by calling them cute? They need definite words like "handsome", "good looking" "attractive" then they will feel good about themselves and be better towards you the ladies. You don't need to call us "sexy" or "hot" cause then we think you're a fake and 99% of the times girls are, cause they are big fat good liars that put on a brave smiling face in the beginning. But I also thought looks is not the only thing that makes you ladies attracted to men? But it is the only thing apparently. Guys can't be everything eitherwise if they were we should all be dating victoria secret models and brush you average girls aside who have this high impression about themselves. Sorry ladies this is true and this is coming from a very attractive or "cute" you man.

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    1. My man is SEXY AND HOT! He is also CUTE., attractive, handsome and any other word that could possibly describe good looking. He aslo has all that goin on inside him. I'm a very lucky lady :)

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  25. This guy is mostly suggesting how a woman can feed a man's ego. He is obviously disregarding the reasons why I girl would use such a word, what's what matters...HER intention, no the man's constant need to get his ego feeded.

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  26. If a guy takes offense at a term of endearment then dump him!

    If a guy is so scrumltiously delectable that I call him cute then he might as well prepare himself for the whirlwind romance of his life. And get ready to make cute love with me because what happens next is going to knock his socks off!!

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  27. When I was younger, I was always pursuing women I desired, and was always referred to as "cute." Of course, I hated that, but couldn't deny that it was true ... I'm not handsome, just "cute." Now, I am living and working in a country and culture very different than the one I am from, and beautiful women are always telling me I am "handsome." Unfortunately, those women are my students and, even if they weren't, they're far too young to ever consider pursuing. This current situation hurts much worse ... unbearably so at times.

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  28. When I call a guy cute that is how they know I'm attracted to them. I hardly ever use sexy or handsome and when I do it actually shows how uninterested I am I'm him. The same goes with saying what he said or did was "cute" lol is that weird?

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    1. Agree with that! "Cute" is who I really would want to kiss. "Sexy" is a sarcastic term for someone trying too hard. "Attractive" is an older actor, or someone really stylish. "Handsome" is your friend's fiance, because you want her to feel good.

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  29. Men, you are completely misinterpreting women-speak. Calling a man "cute" doesn't mean he's cute. It means he's handsome. Why do we say cute when we mean handsome? Dunno. It's used by teenagers and 20s and my guess is because it makes the guy seem less threatening. Handsome = a Man, with all that implies, which perhaps most teenage and even 20s are not ready for. Maybe similar to the reason why teenage girls think Bieber is attractive. He's Peter Pan feminine, and so he's non-threatening.

    And Autumn Arteese makes a very good point, I totally agree. I think I like her comment better than mine. You're signaling attraction when you call a guy cute (e.g. when you're telling your friends about him). I remember seeing a photo of my Romeo on his work website before I met him and remember thinking "hmmm, he's cute" ... Romeo is 50 and in no way cutesie-cute, though extremely handsome.

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  30. As a guy who loves all types of women, but especially strong ones, I wouldn't like it if a girl told me I make her feel weak or lesser than myself. Complimenting a man's strengths is one thing, but remind women that they never need to put themselves down to uplift others. Saying "I like how dominating you are in bed" is nice, though.

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  31. Question that doesn't relate to this post too much....but i wanted to ask Andrew anyway!
    I need some advice on getting my boyfriend to go for a routine check up.......i just feel worried about him but don't want to sound like i am telling him what to do or be like his mother. any suggestions on how i can word my sentences when i tell him?? should i just go ahead and make an appointment for him to see his MD? is this too invasive? i just want to come across as caring....i don't want him to get a heart attack and leave me a widow someday.

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  32. I use the term"cute". It means endearing; the kind of man I want to be there for when he needs tenderness. It means vulnerability, which means mutual trust. Only insecure men seem to have problems with the word. For the record, my husband says I'm cute, and I love it. I AM cute...hell I'm downright KAWAII! BTW in Japan, cuteness it held in higher regard than mere attractiveness.

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  33. I would like to be praised for my strengths and abilities as well. Not always my physical appearance. I would argue this works both ways.

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  34. Great. I just went out with a guy and told him he's "adorable". I was totally smitten. I'm tired of bravado and machismo...feather-puffing. There are no hard and fast rules.

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  35. Oh for fuck's sake. Why does everyone hyper analyze a compliment to death? If you get a compliment accept it instead of being an asshole about it. I recently called a guy I went out with "cute" and I meant it in a "you are attractive" way as in I wanted him to screw me silly while explaining the mechanics of intercourse to me in a low, broken voice. Sounds like we have a bunch of butt hurt macho dudes here.

    Also, cute means moderately physically attractive to me - which guess what is most people at best. I call a real-life obtainable everyday cute or attractive if I want him.

    At the end of the day though - it's not a guy's looks I put emphasis on. Yeah he has to be reasonably attractive or cute (oh no that awful word again) - but if he cannot intellectually or mentally stimulate me (Hahahaha) any chance he had of BECOMING gorgeous or handsome died.

    A man is not automatically handsome or gorgeous to me because of his looks - and I am not going to feed some delusional male macho ego. He has to earn that designation - as do women.

    Yeah it would be nice to be called beautiful or gorgeous blah blah blah but it is not an overwhelming desire or need I have. When I am called cute or pretty I hear a compliment I.e. (You are attractive) and "you could become beautiful to me".

    I often think the words beautiful, handsome etc. are thrown around just as much and even more so than cute.

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