Generally in older fiction, and in more "traditional" stories today, women prefer men who are strong, independent, and willing to make the first move. However, in many forms of modern fiction (and in Real Life), some women prefer men who are seen as "weak" or vulnerable. This trope is about the latter.
A woman who finds weakness or submissive behavior inherently attractive and a turn-on. Some women find that having the dominant position in a relationship (pun possibly intended) is a turn-on, as the "power" is theirs and can be quite addictive. Also the healing that she's eager to give can lead to them falling in love with each other, creating the Florence Nightingale Effect, her dream come true.
To fit this trope, the desired or fetishized man must be seen as "weak," either in temperament or body (or both).
- Temperament: Usually this involves a naturally submissive or sensitive personality on the man's part, or, if he's naturally aggressive and strong, a sense of vulnerability around the woman which makes him "weak" for her. Usually the man will be younger than the woman, as well.
- Body: Bishōnen may fall under this category, with their slender builds and feminine faces (though many bishonen are still badass). Ill Boys or injured men also fall under this, as do adolescents, because their weaker bodies indicate a vulnerability on their parts. Not surprisingly, this overlaps with Tiny Guy, Huge Girl on occasion.
Compare All Girls Want Bad Boys, which shares similarities to this trope except that personality failings and anti-social behaviour as/rather than weaknesses are what attracts the woman to the man. Endearingly Dorky might come into play if social awkwardness or a similar trait overlaps with perceived weakness. See also Beastess and Amazonian Beauty, for the type of woman whom an Amazon Chaser in this scenario is likely to be attracted to. Also compare Power Dynamics Kink.
- There's an imaginary one (or three, or seven) in Peacemaker Kurogane. Every time one of the older guys imagines Tetsu in a relationship, it's either with him as an extreme Uke, or with an older woman who is the dom in the relationship.
- Brutally used in Welcome to the N.H.K.. Misaki selects Sato for her "project" of curing him from being a hikikomori, and the time they spend together eventually leads to there being quite a bit of romantic tension between the pair. It's later revealed that Misaki chose Sato, because she wanted to find someone who was even more "worthless" than she was and prove she could fix them because of her abusive stepfather telling her that she was a useless human being. As a broken recluse, Sato fits the bill.
- In Ranma ½, Akane says this to Ranma to comfort him some after she finds out he's terrified of cats and becomes a frightened, submissive individual around them. Bonus points because she's tending to him at the time.
Akane: Don't let it bother you. It's cute to have a little weak spot.
Ranma: [traumatized] Get 'em off! Get 'em off!
- In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Hungary seems very happy with Non-Action Guy Austria. When his "vital regions" are being seized by Prussia, and he comes back beaten up, she jumps at the chance to fight Prussia off.
- Kuroyukihime to Haruyuki in Accel World. She states that she finds the juxtaposition of his (potential) strength in the Accelerated World with his emotional sensitivity to be endearing and part of what drew her to him.
- In Spoof on Titan, Mikasa Ackerman reads in a book that weakness is cuter than strength. After watching Eren Yeager struggle to open a jar of pickles, she casually pops the lid off while thinking to herself that the book was right.
- Tokyo Ghoul: Roma seems to have a combination of this and I Love You Because I Can't Control You towards Kaneki, in that she admires how he has the strength to not lose to anything but she also thinks he's beautiful when he's in the midst of despair and seeks to ruin his life so he'll go back to being the beautiful tragic Kaneki she adores.
- Classi9 plays this trope completely straight, but with a bisexual man with a weakness fetish: Tchaikovsky doesn't care about genders once someone has piqued his interest. It may be physical, emotional, or social, in any way Tchaiko is attracted to people weaker than him and likes to dote on them - and maybe watch them struggle. He also subjected all of his classmates to a test of strength to see who was weaker than him.
- 774's Loving Bully Nagatoro of Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro is like this towards her upperclassman. He has an honest desire to continue his path towards becoming a mangaka, which endears him to her, but his cowardice and timid nature makes her want to bully and tease him. And as he later notices, she's only ever like that around him; other, more confident boys who fail to impress merely get the stink-eye.
- Skuld Silent-Third of Heavy Object is turned off by muscular men, instead gravitating towards more girlish, slender boys and young men. However this is in the sense of her preferred murder victims, with Qwenthur being her next target.
- In a world of overmuscled macho superheroes, meek, helpless normalman finds he is irresistible to women partially because he's so pathetic that he activates some kind of motherly instinct and partially because he's the only man on Levram who isn't an oiled up thickhead.
- The basis of Wonder Woman's attraction to Steve Trevor, in The Silver Age of Comic Books. Although Trevor's hardly a 98-pound weakling — he's an Army pilot, after all — all men seem fragile to Diana, who can bench press jeeps. In one story where Steve experiments with an electronic device that "releases brain energy into the muscles", he gets to have Super Strength and bosses Diana around a bit, but she muses "Some girls like to have a man stronger than they are make them do things. Do I — like it? I don't know — it's sort of thrilling. But isn't it more fun to make the man obey?"
- When an alien queen comes to earth to court Superman, she ultimately decides she had really fallen in love with Clark and found a gentle, weak man for her husband.
- It's been stated that the prime reason Betty Banner feels attracted to Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk, is because she grew up surrounded by military men, and she wanted to know someone more passive and calm, and less aggressive and authoritarian. This gets reinforced by the fact that, when much later in the comics, Bruce Banner got his personalities assimilated into one coherent one, she started feeling dubious about being still in love with him, because his new personality was much more assertive and powerful, and she didn't feel that he needed her anymore to reassure himself.
- Red Marvin in DungeonTwilight is sleeping with a dragonoid woman who says that she prefers him to her husband as a lover since he is weaker (Red Marvin is a rabbit and her husband is a giant dragon). This upsets Red Marvin and he decides to challenge the husband to show he is the strongest.
- Spider-Man at times suggests that this is the source for Peter Parker's incredible sexiness and attraction to some of the most beautiful women in comics (Gwen, MJ, Felicia) who fought for him. Mary Jane Watson once openly told Peter so.
Mary Jane Watson: "You're the tensest person I've ever met, Pete. I think that's what makes you so loveable. You always look like you're going to fall apart — like a Charlie Brown who's just had the football jerked away from him."
Peter Parker: "That's the strangest compliment I've ever received, MJ. If it was a compliment."
MJ: "Oh, it was, baby. It was."— The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, #141, dialogue by Gerry Conway.
- Modesty Blaise's sidekick Willy exploits this in Rosita, Gaspar's girlfriend in "Dossiers on Pluto".
- in Heirverse Gin much prefers it when Aizen drops the facade mostly because it's so rare.
- This is a recurring basis in Metroid: Kamen Rider Generations with Mitsuzane becoming Samus Aran's Love Interest. Not only Mitsuzane is gentle, sensitive, and friendly, he has a tragic backstory that made him never the same — although Mitsuzane is not all frail; as he still continues fighting as an Armored Rider, but it is his insecurities from his past is getting the best of him. That being said, Samus has a thing for someone as young and sensitive as Mitsuzane. Bonus points for Samus becoming his Second Love.
- Neon Metathesis Evangelion: Well, maybe not weakness. But as Asuka notes after having fallen in love with both Shinji and Rei:
Asukas palm went to her face. It really did seem like she had a thing for cute puppies.
- Referenced in The Green Arrow Volume I: Shades of Gray, Tommy, jealous of the apparent attraction between Dinah and Oliver, notes that between the recent kidnapping and return from an island, Oliver has the "wounded puppy thing going for him". Subverted however in that their attraction is based on similarities and compassion, and Dinah won't give Tommy the time of day because he's a Serial Rapist.
- Deconstructed by Flag Flying High. When Nie Libo compares Harry to a helpless little bird, he feels insulted and later dismisses her as a potential romantic partner as she obviously feels no respect for him.
- Truth in Television in Murder Ball, a documentary that stars a team of paraplegics who plays wheelchair rugby in the Paralympics. Really more of a subversion. The guys may be shameless about playing this card when they're trying to chat women up, but the footage of the rugby matches shows they're anything but weak, and a couple (especially Zupan) are downright scary.
- In Zombieland, Witchita actually commented that Colombus is like a scared bunny or something along the lines. But he doesn't really get the girl until he goes all KILLER BUNNY on some zombies for her.
- Frank Sinatra seemed to begin his movie career playing characters like these. Lampshaded in Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
- In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is strongly implied to be the basis of Natasha's attraction to Bruce. of course, this is something of a subversion since Bruce is The Hulk. You know, the guy who beat Loki into the ground. This makes Bruce both simultaneously the weakest and strongest of the Avengers. Which is in itself hilarious, and it's understandable why tough Super Spy Natasha would be...intrigued.
- A more straight version of this trope is actually Scarlet Witch and The Vision. Scarlet Witch is the only person who can "kill" Vision (by destroying the stone in his forehead)...so naturally she's the one he falls in love with. It doesn't hurt that Wanda is a superpowered Mama Bear who will wreck your face if you touch her precious boys (the Avengers).
- Also played straight when Steve Rogers first meets Peggy Carter. She's above him in rank, level-headed and tougher than your average girl (she IS in the military). Steve meanwhile is technically physically unfit for the military, and hot-headed. Peggy is also the one who notices Steve's moral courage first, and brings it to the attention of the doctor who is running the super-soldier program.
- In A Brother's Price, Jerin is quite a spirited young gentleman (compared to other men in that setting), but he just can't say "no" to the princesses. While some of them like his spunky attitude, at least one of them, Trini, warms to him gradually, and apparently in part because he is meek and gentle (unlike her abusive late husband), and in need of protection. She only agrees to marry him in the first place because she is informed that he will have to marry a family she hates (and heavily suspects to be abusive), if she and her sisters don't take him. That triggers her protective instinct, which she's later seen acting on.
- P. G. Wodehouse liked this trope. In one book it is a strong trait of a girl one character likes, that it is part of her ambitions to be a good influence on the man she loves (a sort of Love Martyr syndrome), and he wins her over when she mistakenly believes him to be an alcoholic, so she stays by his side to save him from himself. (Which seems to be working, considering that the guy was not actually a heavy drinker.)
Jane was deeply stirred. Even as he sat, looking so pale and piteous, at the piano, her big heart had gone out to him, and now, in his moment of anguish, he seemed to bring to the surface everything that was best and most compassionate in her nature.
- The phenomenon is further explained in Uncle Dynamite by the titular Uncle Fred whose nephew Pongo apparently elicits this reaction from girls (while not a strong or very heroic guy himself). (When Pongo's polar opposite Bill Oakshot, a large sturdy guy falls in love with the same girl he suggests that he'd be unable to use the same strategy and has to be the opposite, the "dominant male" - which eventually works for Bill.)
- Another example: Jane Hubbard (big game hunter) and Eustace Hignett (poet) in The Girl on the Boat (aka Three Men and a Maid):
- Miles Vorkosigan once lampshaded this trope himself. Being under five feet tall and, even after getting his bones replaced, delicate enough for most grown women to readily overpower, he noted that he was singularly unthreatening and "it made them bold."
- In Issac Asimov's novel "The Robots of Dawn," Gladia apparently felt this for Elijah. When he was in shock from being outside (since Elijah grew up in Earth's underground Cities) and helpless, Gladia found herself quite aroused, and Elijah woke to Gladia initiating foreplay with him.
- In the novella A Taste of Honey, Femysade chooses Pretty Boy Aqib as her husband expressly because his submissive character and slight build turn her on. As an added bonus, he's also a couple of years younger than she is.
- Angel: Although she'd flirted with him on Buffy a lot in the early seasons, once they change over to the spin-off, the possibility of intimacy with Angel doesn't come up in Cordelia's mind until she glimpses a world in which she never joined the agency. This resulted in Angel inheriting Doyle's visions instead, causing him to go mad.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy tends to go for men who are much stronger than average, but she seems to find those same guys in Badass in Distress situations a turn-on.
- Dawn reveals in one episode, regarding a recently-injured Riley: "Oh, she just said you look even cuter when you're all weak and kitten-y, and she'd better go solo, or you'd get hurt."
- She also quite enjoys nursing Angel back to health and in the Season 8 Comics we discover one of Buffy's sexual fantasies involves Angel and Spike chained to her, with Buffy dressed in a Naughty Nurse Outfit.
- On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick spent an entire episode struggling to get a date with various attempts at being cool and manly. At the end of the episode, he discovers that talking about what a loser he is works much better.
- Britta Perry on Community is a self-admitted example. In her case, it's usually played to reflect her own weaknesses, however, since it's suggested she only initiates relationships with deadbeats and losers in order to validate her own lack of self-worth.
- On New Girl, Nick and Schmidt try to attract a Girl of the Week with their sob stories.
Nick: "Jess, for some reason, that girl out there, she is sexually aroused by other people's misery. Do you understand the position that puts me in?"
- In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Crowley tells Kevin that Abaddon will like him because he is skinny and submissive.
- In Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray discovers acting utterly pathetic is apparently the most attractive thing a man can do for a woman. He uses this to finally get some alone time with Debra, and a friend of his uses it at the very end to successfully woo a co-worker he's had a crush on.
- Ann Perkins, the nurse from Parks and Recreation, definitely has a Florence Nightingale thing going on. Being in relationships with stable, confident men freak her out, most notably her unhappiness with perfect physical specimen Chris Traeger. (It turns out though that Chris is super susceptible to flu season, and Ann is overjoyed to be able to take care of him.)
- Two and a Half Men: Rose starts dating Alan but when he starts to speak his mind on how he feels about her stalking and puts up boundaries Rose states "I never seen this side of Alan Harper before. Confident...assertive...I don't think I like him very much." She then glues one of his toy cars to his chest.
- Daredevil (2015): Matt Murdock is a bit of a ladies' man. In a flashback to their college days, Foggy Nelson speculates that women must love the "wounded duck" aspect of him being handsome and blind, and in the pilot episode Foggy is shown rolling his eyes as Matt gets an attractive realtor to lead him by hand around the office they're planning to buy for their law firm. Karen Page is pretty much smitten with Matt from the get-go, constantly casting starry-eyed looks at him or fawning about him when she's not preoccupied with work.
- In The Desert Song, Clementina tries to seduce Bennie due to her fetish for "weak, Western men".
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Female Sith Warrior's relationship with Imperial officer Malavai Quinn. Both in Body (since she's a carnage-wreaking Sith... well, Warrior who could wipe the floor with him in seconds if she so chose and can, after he betrays her), and in Temperament (since she flirts very aggressively with him, while he is much more meek, humble, and submissive to her). The Unequal Pairing of a Sith coming onto an Imperial officer (her social inferior in every way) doesn't help. Many flirt options and romance dialogue also imply she gets off on the power she can exert over him in their relationship. (Though the fact that he's an Amazon Chaser who is In Love with Your Carnage helps somewhat.)
- In Little Busters!, this can be assumed of the girls, given that the protagonist is an Ill Boy with a young-looking, feminine face and a kindly personality. However, Mio is definitely this: when he's Dragged into Drag, Kurugaya noted that she in particular was likely thinking that Riki looked Moe (which she unconvincingly denied) and later she claimed outright that she prefers feminine men.
- Mikan Tsumiki in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has cripplingly low self-esteem and enjoys having power over those weaker than her, which is part of the reason she became a nurse in the first place. She mentions she enjoys horror movies because of how helpless the victims are, and in the "Dangan Island" mode she contemplates crippling Hajime to keep him dependent on her.
- In Nameless, Eri repeatedly mentions on Yeonho's route how adorable and sweet he comes across when showing himself to be particularly emotional and fragile. Justified, since Yeonho was a doll created with the intent on playing on a woman's maternal instincts.
- In The Fruit of Grisaia, Amane claims that this is the reason she fell in love with Yuuji - that he seemed 'sort of hopeless'. Though unusually, Yuuji is neither feminine in appearance or behaviour - in fact, he's a badass with a military background. What Amane's referring to is his lack of common sense when it comes to the ordinary world and his coinciding lack of social skills. When he declines to be her boyfriend, she suggests that he let her be his older sister instead.
Amane: "If I'm not around, how is this guy gonna keep himself alive?" and all that. I'm a sucker for that kind of man, it seems.
- In Something*Positive, Kim has a thing for guys who aren't completely conscious, even going so far as to chloroform a few. When she's left alone to look after Davan, who's zonked out on pain meds, well... you can guess what happens. It's never treated as okay, but it still comes up for humor, years later.
- Dorothy in Dumbing of Age definitely enjoys Walky's juvenile and submissive personality...
- Deconstructed in Vriska, resident backstabbing antiheroine is attracted to Shrinking Violet Tavros...and it freaks her out. Most of the time, Vriska actively denies/represses it because even thinking Tavros might have any power over her disturbs her ego greatly. Even worse, she has no ability to express these feelings in a positive way, so her relationship to Tavros is less 'caring partner' and more 'abusive spouse'. (And Tavros isn't even aware that Vriska feels affection for him, given that she's the Poisonous Friend who once threw him off a cliff.)
- Played straight with Vriska's other possible love interest, John Egbert, a cute, nerdy space case who is quite possibly the only person who is capable of making Vriska feel guilty about any of the things she does. Subverted when it's revealed that John doesn't return her feelings and Vriska lets go of them, although after some rocky first impressions, John is happy to just be her friend.
- Bones, the female bodybuilder in Cool Cat Studios, ends up dating the small, slender, and shy Michael.
- Waiting for the Trade proposes in this comic that robots in Marvel comics often think humans are so pathetic they suffer integer overflow and loop back around to finding them attractive.
- In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Superwoman is in a relationship with Owl Man, that universe's version of Batman. When Batman confronts her she seems to want to add him to the mix. Effortlessly breaking one of Batman's ribs seems to be a huge turn-on for her.
- Kim's attraction to Ron in Kim Possible since she is much stronger than him. Though she might be turned on in quite the opposite way after he Took a Level in Badass in the Grand Finale.
- In Aladdin: The Series, Prince Uncouthma's fiance Brawnhilda falls for Aladdin because he is smaller and weaker by comparison. When an assassination attempt leaves Uncouthma injured, she immediately returns to him, pledging to look after her "fragile darling".
- Sheriff Stone and Mayor Nettles' relationship comes off this way in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. When he's terrified, she finds him adorable.
- The Mask: Stanley Ipkiss gets two of the most confident women to attracted to him because of him being shy and meek which two of them are Vicky Pratt/Davida Steelmine who is the world's most famous magician and Eve who is the Superpowered Alter Ego of Evelyn and is a wacky superhero. Eve falls in love with Stanley at the first sight of him and Davida prefers him than The Mask who she finds too strong despite he can be sweet and kind like Stanley as well.
- In King of the Hill, after Dale knocks out John Redcorn who's trying to sneak into their bedroom after Nancy breaks up their affair, Nancy calls him up the next day to let him know she wants their relationship again.
Nancy: It's just, seeing you like that, passed out on the floor all vulnerable... like a sexy wounded bear.
- Bambi: Between Bambi and Faline, all of the pursuing in their relationship, romantic and otherwise, is done by the latter. Bambi actually seems terrified of Faline the first time he meets her.
- Daria: The man-hating Ms. Barch falls in love with the sensitive Mr. O'Neill.