It is a widely held, if much derided belief that ownership of a prestige sports car can increase a man’s sex appeal vis-à-vis women. In fact, sports cars have been flaunted by men the world over and used as “bait” to impress women and get their attention. Many people are convinced that flashy speedsters work like a charm to attract women, exerting a pull on them similar to a magnet with an invisible force, thus the quaint expression “chick magnet.”

But what is it that really attracts women to sports cars and as a result to the men driving them? Are women actually turned on by the energy of these prestigious cars? Or are they simply attracted to this display of wealth and money because it promises greater status and material security?

In most societies, the choice of cars, like many facets of material culture, is used to create and project identities. Sports cars are a perfect example of this social phenomenon.

For many men, owning an expensive car is a palpable symbol of their success and proof of their achievements. On a general level, it symbolizes economic wealth and the external denotation of one’s social position but it can also embody masculinity, power and vitality. Yet some men are very conscious that it sends the wrong message in terms of being too showy or worse yet, that they may appear to be compensating for a certain lack of “something.”

Named after the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who was said to have been making up for his short stature by seeking power, glory and conquest, the Napoleon Complex is perhaps the most commonly referenced inferiority complex attributed to men; especially short men.

Ironically enough, Napoleon was actually average height for his time (about 5 ft 7), and misconceptions about his height are said to be due to erroneous height conversions between French and English units. Still, the term remains as a description of overly driven or aggressive men who seemingly compensate for falling short in other areas (usually height or manhood size).

But not to worry; a Napoleon Complex is only a colloquial term and not an actual mental disorder – so while some men who drive sports cars may exhibit signs of a real Napoleon Complex, most don’t have any issues with their height or the length of their other bodily appendages. Indeed some merely enjoy driving fabulous looking high performance vehicles and take immense pleasure in the thrill of owning such machines. But ultimately, a great number of men buy them simply because they can.

Additionally, if we are to concede that some men use sports cars as “bait” to lure women to them, it is only fair to put forward the theory that women employ other equally enticing tools to attract men and pin down their potential mates. It could be argued that since heterosexual men are often drawn to women who appear attractive and more fertile, some women use this “weakness” to their advantage.

The promise of sex and sexual favours is a powerful technique for capturing men’s attention. And while many women perhaps won’t admit to consciously utilising these tools to entice men into their arms, it is irrefutable that women who dress more sexily, with more provocative outfits will get additional notice from the opposite sex – at least at the onset.

Thus it could be said, that some women put their undeniable physical charms and assets on display as a way to “bait” potential mates. And as farfetched as the comparison may appear to be, are wonder bras or surgically enhanced breasts not equivalent to sports cars when it comes to using devices to lure a prospective partner?

Evolutionary psychologists tend to agree that heterosexual women are, for the majority, more attracted to men with greater wealth, and have an obviously marked preference for high-status men. This is because, in general, the higher a male is in status, the greater his ability to control resources across many situations.

Thus the sports car is an evident symbol of a male’s success and wealth. This however doesn’t mean that women who go weak at the knees when driven around by men in sports cars are materialistic gold-diggers. In the same vein that men who own sports cars cannot all be branded as status-hungry, attention-seeking creatures, women who are drawn to men who drive sports cars may simply consider it an additional bonus when judging a man’s attractiveness as a potential mate.

This materialistic pragmatism might be looked down upon by some in our society, yet many forms of materialism are practised one way or the other by almost everyone. After all, materialism is what allows individuals to survive, but of course, it can be taken to the extreme with too much importance placed on superficial things such as name brands, jewellery, country club memberships and of course, sports cars.

Some may think that women who date men with fast cars are after them simply for their money. Well if money is the only criterion for selection, then maybe that’s the truth. The sports car that a man drives signifies his ability to make money, which in turn reflects his capacity to provide for a family. Therefore some women may seem selfish and greedy going after such men when in fact they could merely be following a basic instinctual drive to find a mate who can provide well for the future.

And let’s be honest, nothing says “Look at me, I’m on top of the world!” quite as eloquently as a sport car does – particularly a red one. It’s the antithesis of being discrete and it attracts everyone’s attention; not only women’s.

Ultimately, a lot of other factors attract women to men, not simply wealth and status. For the most part, qualities such as kindness, generosity, intelligence, humour and humility rate highly with many women across most cultures. Some might even find a man’s ownership of a flashy sports car too ostentatious, and many women admit that they prefer men who are more discrete and less attention seeking.

In the end however, regardless of the reasons why men acquire sports cars in the first place, it is still an undeniable fact of life, that they do continue to have a formidable “magnet” effect on many women the world over. And while it is true that money can’t buy you love, it would be naive to ignore the important part it plays in our daily lives. Sports cars attract attention, and yes they may widen your “net”. They are sexy, fun and flashy and you’ll get noticed – that’s a certainty. Everyone knows that you need money to own one, so depending on what you’re looking for in a potential partner, it might be a good idea to remember that true love can’t be bought, nor negotiated – no matter how nice the ride.

***This article was first published in Harper’s Bazaar Magazine Singapore.***