There's an interesting blog post on Broadstuff on data from the OK Cupid dating site showing how perceptions of the desirability of men & women change over time, & also on the traits that women & men want in the opposite sex. See the detailed OK Cupid analysis which covers a lot more - fascinating.
Women are viewed as most desirable in their early 20's, men in their late 20's (there's a graph in the post). Big drop off for both genders after that!
The Broadstuff post also discusses possible reasons for these preferences, and mentions research showing that the qualities women think most important in men are, in order: commitment, social skills, resources, attractiveness and sexiness. (Not sure what the difference is between "attractiveness" and "sexiness"?)
Interestingly, for what men prefer in women, the list is exactly the same - except that attractiveness moves to the top of the list, i.e. men consider attractiveness in women most important, while women feel commitment in men is the most important - no surprises there!
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