Okay, let’s get something out of the way first: she’s probably not comparing you to Brad Pitt. “Women don’t pick apart your naked self as much as you might imagine,” says psychologist Jill Weber, Ph.D, author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy. “They’re less aroused by a naked male body than they are by depictions of actual sex activity.”
But while the butt-naked you may not be hitting the same arousal buttons as her bared bod does in your eyes, you can be sure that she is checking you out nonetheless. All of you. “Studies tracking eye movement show women give men the once-over physically just as much as men do women,” says sex columnist and author Tracey Cox. So when you drop trou in her presence, keep the following intel in mind:
1) She’s checking out your hands—especially your nails
This probably happens before you disrobe, but this is the moment of truth—and your mitts are about to be all over her. Of course she’s scanning them again. Are they clean? “Many women think a guy’s hands are sexy. We imagine them all over our bodies and that can be a turn-on or a turn-off depending on how they look,” says Jennifer Landa, Ph.D, of BodyLogicMD in Orlando. Pay attention to basic grooming and trimming.
2) Speaking of nails, she’s also looking at your toenails
“We may not see your feet too often if it’s not summer, but rough feet don’t feel nice between the sheets,” says Landa. Consider a pedicure—or some at-home grooming such as using a little bit of coconut oil on the rough spots can do the trick.
3) She’s noticing your manscaping (or lack thereof)
Do you trim or shave, or let it go wild? “Most women nowadays are hoping for some manscaping down there. It can improve accessibility, and also may increase your sensitivity,” says Landa. (To groom your way out of the hairiest situations, check out The Manscaping Survival Guide.)
4) She’s noticing your choice in underwear
She likes certain kinds of undergarments on her guy, just as you do on your gal. “Some of us like briefs, some boxers, and some boxer-briefs, but usually we like a particular type,” Landa says. “If you want to know how best to impress your lady with your underwear, ask what she likes.”
5) She’s hoping you smell good
If you’re smart, you’ll borrow this tip. “The amygdala is very close to the olfactory bulb where your sense of smell takes place,” Landa says. “Brain research recently found that the amygdala has been shown to play a major role in sexuality. Smells and sex have a very intimate relationship, so let her pick the scent you should wear to appear more sexy to her in bed.”
Just don’t mask your natural scent completely. “Pheromones—these are incredibly important indicators of a woman’s attraction to you,” says sex and relationship expert Wendy Walsh, Ph.D. “When humans mate, our immune systems combine and create hopefully stronger ones in our offspring.” So she will be attracted to a man whose biology smells good to her. Showering and dousing yourself with cologne will hide your natural scent, which could hurt her arousal. “If you don’t smell right for her, she isn’t getting aroused,” says Walsh.
6) She’s actually thinking about how she looks
Once the clothes come off, she’s watching your reaction to her nakedness. “This, quite frankly, is concerning her more than anything else,” Cox says. “The correct response is your eyes lustfully travelling over her body, and a pleased looking expression on your face,” says Cox. Also, speak up! “The best thing a guy can do is to give a sexy compliment to put her at ease,” Landa says. “Besides, this may get you a compliment back!”
7) She wishes the lights weren’t so bright
To help both of you be more comfortable, try candlelight, a dimmer, or the old scarf-around-the-lampshade trick. No one feels confident and sexy in bright light. You want to be able to check each other out, too, so total darkness isn’t the way to go either.
8) She’s looking to see if you have an erection
She wants to know she turns you on. “If you don’t have one, the first thing she’ll think is that it’s her fault,” Cox says. If nothing’s happening downstairs yet, laugh it off and say, “Just wait!” to reassure her it’s simply because you’re a bit nervous, Cox suggests.
9) She’s checking out how big you are
Does size matter? According to a 2013 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, it does—but other factors, such as height, body shape, and flaccid penis size all impacted the women’s answers. So relax, it’s not just size that matters. “It’s not true that women love men with large penises. It often makes sex uncomfortable, even painful,” says Cox. “If you’re average size, feel reassured. Even if you’re undersized, don’t panic.”
10) She’s paying attention to detail
Remember what we said about Brad Pitt? Sorta lied there: “Women are better at taking in detail than men. She’s more likely to notice that mole on your back, tan lines, your knees,” says Cox. But still, she’s far more forgiving than you think. “Women are more attracted to faces than bodies and tend to fall for the man behind the bod, rather than the body itself.”
11) She’s thinking, ‘Are you man enough to take me?’
Women love a kind man in everyday life, but often want a strong, dominant man in the bedroom, says Walsh. At this moment, she’s sizing you up in that regard. “Forceful sex is the number one sexual fantasy across different cultures,” says Walsh. Later on, when you perform oral sex, hold her hips down firmly so she can’t move. This will make her more aroused, Walsh says.
12) She’s wondering if you will talk to her about sex
The most important body part in bed is his mouth, says Walsh. She’s wondering whether you want to ask and talk about her fantasies, or what she likes and how she feels. The more women feel engaged and desired, the more they become aroused, Walsh says.
13) She’s wondering if you’re packing an STD
Sorry, guys—there’s always doubt and concern. “It is common knowledge among women that 1 in 4 men carry chlamydia bacteria, which can lead to cervical cancer in women,” Walsh says. She wants to know if you’re open to having a conversation about using protection, or if you assume she doesn’t expect you to wrap it up. Being forthcoming about using protection, or having a discussion beforehand about STD testing, will ease her mind.
14) She’s sensing your confidence
Do your best James Dean: “A man who looks or acts like he knows his way around a woman’s body is just sexy, especially when he actually does,” says sex expert Devi Ward.
15) She’s looking for eye contact
For her, this answers the question of whether or not you’re “present” with her, Ward says. “Do you want her? Are your eyes burning with passion and hunger for her, or is your gaze lukewarm?”