Bitch, brazen hussy or gold-digger? One woman went to extreme lengths to find out what men REALLY find attractive – and it’ll surprise you which one got the most attention


THE idea for my experiment came to me when a friend got exasperated that I’d been single for four years.

“Perhaps you’re… just too nice? Men love bitches, you know. I have just the book for you.” I was forcibly lent a silly paperback called Men Adore a Bitch.

Millicent Binks' friends had lots of theories about why she was still single - so she put their ideas to the test

I laughed as I turned the pages. What if I actually took this advice to the extreme? Would men really respond to being treated like pond scum by an adversarial amour?

Having previously written a sex column, completed a degree in costume interpretation at Wimbledon College of Art and with a background in performance, I thought I could combine all of these skills to good effect.

The idea was to go out dressed up as extreme female characters and document how men react to them.

First I had to choose the personas. I’d start with five so I didn’t have to shell out too much money on wigs.

Millicent Binks wanted to look 'real' in her experiment adopting different personas

These wigs had to be made of real human hair — I had to look real.

For my alter egos I chose five female stereotypes: gold digger, bitch, Jezebel, academic and androgyne.

Once I’d chosen my new identity and had sourced a costume, I got ready in my bedroom.

Then I’d decide where to go, usually somewhere that was out of my own comfort zone, but fun for my character. Once I had slipped into the outfits I became the stereotype I was portraying.

Here I reveal just what it taught me about men.

Millicent's “bitch” character was inspired by Ava Gardner in the 1946 film The Killers

The Bitch goes to the snooker club

Some women’s dating advice books have asserted that men “love bitches”. But how mean can you be before a man is actually put off?

As I walked into the snooker club, I twisted my face into a look of distaste; my lips were pursed into a prune, my eyes were slitted. I crossed my arms and indented my skin with sharp nails. I was a little out of place in a vampish red dress among the cue wielders.

Millicent became Ava Collins, a bitch who insulted men at a snooker club

I leant on the wall and watched an avid player with my eyebrow high and unimpressed. He concentrated so hard on the ball that his eyes almost overlapped.

He seemed about 30; his skin tone was an attractive olive brown. I asked him what his name was. It was Fabiano.

“That shot was horrifically bad, Fabiano. You should be mortified,” I said in a tone that was not flirtatious but cutting. I had to be careful because sometimes insults can come across as frolicsome.

“Thanks for that,” he replied shirtily.

“How homoerotic is this place? Just men, playing with balls and wooden poles!” He didn’t reply.

“Oh, don’t pot the black — blue balls!”

“You’re actually putting me off.”

“Don’t blame me that you’re cock-cued and can’t aim!”

He told me to eff off, so I thought I’d better oblige and instead picked on his friend, who was playing with him. His name was Patrick.

She told a snooker player his shot was incredibly bad

“Can I ask you a question, Patrick? What’s the meanest thing a woman’s ever done to you but you still fancied her?”

“I had an ex who stole my mum’s designer clothes and my Playstation and sold them on eBay. I found out but kept on going out with her for ages.”

“Goodness. You must be a complete walkover.”

“I don’t know. She was really fit. And was kind of exciting.”

I spent the next half-hour picking at Patrick’s snooker skills and clothes, anything I could think of. He seemed to take it as flirting, though I tried hard to make it sound sincere. I then got a conniving idea.

In front of Patrick’s confused face, my bitchy claws handed a business card with a mobile number on it (I had a second phone for these operations) to friend Fabiano.

I wanted to see if the texts she got were “potential relationship” texts or “potential one-night stand” texts. I told him to text me before swanning out of the building.

I got a text a couple of days later: “Fabi gave me ur no. Y did u giv it to him not me?”

The Gold Digger goes to Aldi

Women have wanted to bag wealthy men since long before Kanye's classic came out - so could I persuade a man to literally hand over his cash to me?

I wanted to investigate the role of money in attraction between modern men and women so became Bethany, who is obsessed with money and is laden with large carbuncle jewellery.

She used her character as a gold digger to see how much of a part money played in relationships

There’s a famous scene in the 1953 film How to Marry a Millionaire in which Betty Grable comes home with huge bags of free groceries because she told some poor sap in the market queue she’d forgotten her purse.

I did the same in the Aldi in Tottenham to see how a man reacted to my audacity.

I heaped a trolley full of booze, chocolate and rose bouquets. I stood in the queue behind a man with purplish, weather-beaten earlobes and a waxed jacket.

His hands were flaked with a clay-like substance. A tradesman of some sort. I politely said hello and we exchanged names.

His was Daryn. I then pulled a distraught face and pleaded: “I’ve stupidly left my purse at home. Could you possibly pay for my shopping for me?”

“Um … What, then you pay me back later?”

In the film How to Marry a Millionaire, Betty Grable comes home with bags of free groceries because she told someone she’d forgotten her purse

“Well, no. I thought you just might like to help a lady in distress.”

“You’re mad. That’s going to cost an arm and a leg, all that alcohol.”

“Oh, please. I urgently need these things for a party that’s starting in an hour! I don’t have time to run home and find my purse.”

“Sorry. But it’s not a bad trick, you know. You could try this in a really posh place and maybe get yourself some lovely things. Do it in Marks and Sparks, or Fortiscue and Masonry.”

“You mean Fortnum & Mason?”

“Yeah, whatever that crap is.”

“That’s what a naughty gold digger would do. What do you think of women who are gold diggers?”

“Well you have to be pretty insecure to be a gold digger. Those women don’t really want gifts or money. They want a sort of physical manifestation of their worth. They have extremely low self-esteem.”

“What if she just can’t be arsed to work?”

“Well, that’s just lazy, and that’s unattractive too.”

“Well, I feel that if a man doesn’t spend at least £300 on my first date with him, then he’s clearly not interested in me.”

She tried her luck getting a man to pay for her shopping at the supermarket

“What if he did spend that and you didn’t like him?”

“Oh, I would like him, simply by the fact he’d spent that much.”

“You’re a bit potty, aren’t you?”

“I’m just going to have to leave this trolley, aren’t I?”

“I guess so.”

With that, I gave him my business card. I said I found it delightful chatting with him and that he should buy me afternoon tea.

But alas, the blatant scavenger Bethany got no texts or teas from Daryn.

Jezebel goes to the opera

The dogmatic dating world asserts that men won’t take a promiscuous woman as a partner.

I was investigating this code through the guise of the brazen hussy at the Royal Opera House.

I became Tira West, a “Jezebel” character inspired by Mae West's persona in the film I'm No Angel, who contorts everything into a naughty innuendo and dresses like a semi-shaven poodle; lots of skin and frou-frou.

As Tira West, a “Jezebel” character, Millicent turned conversation into innuendo and flashed a lot of flesh

In front of me was a man’s nice posterior. I pinched the bum as an ice-breaker. He engulfed himself into the crush of the bar queue to get away from me. Perhaps Tira was being too forward.

I clocked another man. I thought of something outrageous that Tira West might say and floated over.

“God, my nipples are so, so hard after that ballet. All the sex in it was just such a turn-on. The steam coming off my areolas is practically melting the opera house ceiling… I’m Tira by the way.”

“Um, Rob. OK? Sex? Was there sex in this ballet?”

Tira met a man named Rob at the opera and left him her business card to see if he would get in touch

The conversation continued and I flirted with him for a few more minutes before moving on to phase two of the experiment.

I gave him a business card then left him, enjoyed the rest of the ballet and went home.

Tira received a text message the next morning. “Hi, it’s Rob. Have your nipples recovered?”

Her first move was to pinch a man's bottom - but it didn't go down well

The Academic goes to Regent’s Park

I went on a sunny lunchtime to Regent’s Park disguised as Nora Marshall, an “academic”.

My Nora was a nuclear physicist. Seeing as my own father is one, I had a vague gist of what they did and could wing it quite easily. The finishing touch was a pair of glasses, the telltale accessory of a heavy reader.

Playing the part of academic Nora, she swooped on a man sat on a park bench

I spotted a man on a park bench who was entranced by his mobile screen. I perched next to him, brandishing my clipboard.

“Good afternoon. I’m Nora.”

“Oh. Christophe.”

“I’m the president of the Society of Plutonium Protection and I’m conducting a habit survey with the public. Would you care to answer a short question?”

“Um, why not.”

“Wonderful. What’s your average seafood consumption per month and what species do you consume?”

“Um, I’m partial to a prawn bhuna at the Indian once a month. That’s about it.”

We giggled at his answer and I went on to say: “You know, I have a personal question also. Do you think men find highly intelligent women intimidating?”

The man she met told Nora that he found stupid people intimidating

“I don’t. But I think some men’s minds are quite phallic. They want to be the informers. The probers. They like to give information. They like women who have receptive minds, like empty vessels. It’s like brain intercourse.”

“Oh! So an intelligent woman would have a phallic mind. A mental strap-on, like a rhino charging towards the men, scaring them off?”

“That’s a good metaphor. But I find stupid women intimidating. People with no imagination are the scary ones.”

I told him how much I had found the conversation intellectually stimulating and slipped him my business card saying I’d like to stay in touch.

Alas, Nora got no texts from Christophe. She had been hoping for an offer of a prawn bhuna date at least.

The Androgyne goes to the pub

Marlo Jolly was an androgynous character I created. In contemporary language, Marlo would most identify with the term gender-neutral.

My Marlo took on the role of the man in classic dating etiquette — buying the drinks, holding open the doors.

As Marlo she went to the pub and bought men drinks

I went to a pub and waited at the bar. My hair is short, brown and “boyish”.

To my right was a pleasant-looking bald man, moon-faced with knuckly hands splayed on the bar. I deepened my voice a semi-tone as I spoke to him. “I’m getting a pint of Guinness, do you want one?”

“Ugh. That’s kind. Nah, I’ll get you one, love.”

“No. I’ll get them. And I’m Marlo, not love.”

She took her inspiration from Marlene Dietrich

“Sorry. Keegan. If you insist, I’ll have a half.”

“You’ll have a pint. No silly girly half!”

I ordered the beers and attempted to spark up a conversation while we waited.

“Do you find femininity attractive?”

“Of course! I’m not gay.”

She deepened her voice and offered to buy a Guinness for the man at the bar

“Would you hate it if you had a girlfriend who dressed like me all the time?”

“Nah, it’s kind of all right, actually. I think it depends on how you carry yourself.”

We continued to chat in a platonic, buddy-like manner until I pulled out the old business card. He changed his tune after that and wanted to buy me more drinks.

I declined and said I was going home and told him to text me. Marlo received a text message at 3am: “I’ve got a bottle of tequila. Want to come over? Keegan. (Three aubergine emojis.)”

And the winner is…

I couldn’t say which of my characters proved the most “popular”, but men did warm to Marlo the most. I think they enjoyed the fact she bought them a drink. Many seemed to take it as a big compliment.

Androgynous Marlo proved a popular hit with the men she met

One had never had the first drink bought by a woman before. It set a positive, pally tone for the chat.

Perhaps the biggest insight was how the experiment helped me in my own life. I no longer felt awkward or needed a drink to chat to strangers.

A constant smile definitely had a positive effect, even when I was only looking at the wine list.

A deserter
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