Consider the occasion momentous. Finally, the truth about what Black men really desire in women. For way too long, we men have kept you guessing about what, if anything, is brewing beneath our baldies, fades and locks. Do we like our women thick or slender, deep-pocketed or dependent, sexually assertive or submissive?

Sure, we relish our masculine mystique. Yet we understand that our enigma has left you, well, a bit mal(e)-nourished. Lacking a healthy diet of fact, you’ve been left to feast on scraps of misinformation that portray us as modern Neanderthals whose tiny brains ping-pong between the pleasures of round butts and buffalo wings.

Often underestimated and misunderstood, we decided to take a page from big brother Moses and march some much-needed truth down from the mountaintop. Essence, in conjunction with AOL/Black Voices, conducted an online survey of nearly 1,000 Black men and asked some fairly penetrating questions about women and relationships—questions that you sisters, without fail, seem to pose at all the wrong times, whether it’s over cocktails on a first date or just before NBA finals tip-off.

The men who responded are impressively diverse: Ninety-five percent of them are Black, and their ages range from a playful 18 to a more serious-minded 65. Eight of ten surveyed work full-time, their incomes starting from less than $20,000 and rising into the six figures. Most are single (59 percent), have attended some college (32 percent), or are college graduates (29 percent). Perhaps most significant, all were willing to reveal their attitudes concerning the ideal woman.

You may be surprised by the results, even if we aren’t. Indeed, we brothers have always fancied ourselves connoisseurs of women and relationships. From his scruffy Stone Age discovery of fire—ambience, ladies!—to his acquired tolerance for smooth-jazz radio, the Black man has continued his quest to know, love and impress you sisters with stubborn persistence. We’ve hardly been perfect, but always crazy about you, and you seemed to know it.

At some point, though, our love train got derailed—or at least that’s the perception. In the 1978 Black-feminist classic Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, author Michele Wallace fusses that “There has been growing distrust, even hatred, between Black men and Black women.” Then some three decades later, our ill will had apparently fermented into the poisonous pop of “Gin and Juice,” in which an even fussier philosopher, Snoop Dogg, cried out to all women: “We don’t love them &%#@.” To the contrary, our poll suggests that we brothers remain quite fond of sisters. In fact, the survey explodes many of the myths that cloud our best intentions, perhaps the biggest being that we prefer White women. Actually, 66 percent of our respondents say they want Black women and another 4 percent prefer biracial. (note: To our knowledge, Tiger and O.J. did not participate in this survey.) Twenty-eight percent of the brothers say they want a brown honey like Nia Long—we assume not jailbait Nia of Boyz n the Hood fame, but of the saucy Soul Food variety.

While we’re on cuisine, let’s weigh in once and for all: no salad-eating waifs in our bed, thank you. As the Caribbean brothers might say, “We like ’em nice and tick, mon.” Nearly 74 percent of our respondents say they’re most attracted to a woman “with a little meat on her bones.” On the other hand, you might want to munch on this stat: Only 4.6 percent of the brothers surveyed say they want a big girl.

What we really appreciate, though, is a beautiful mind (no, really!), one that seeks spiritual growth and financial security. We’re impressed, of course, by sisters with Ivy League degrees and high-powered jobs, but neither is a prerequisite for our affection. A full 81 percent of us are inclined toward God-fearing sisters (who either regularly practice a faith or are spiritual but not religiously affiliated), and we want them to have educational backgrounds like our own (43.4 percent). Corner-office climbers appeal to just over 7 percent of us. What matters most is a willingness to work. A mere 1 percent want women who don’t work at all, while 68 percent are drawn to mates who hold down a full-time job.

Admittedly we’re far more interested in a woman’s performance in the bedroom than in the boardroom. But this does not mean you need to give it up on the first night. We’re willing to wait longer for sex than most women think. A solid 11 percent of those surveyed say they’ll hold out until marriage, while 44 percent say five sexless dates is a reasonable waiting period before finally blessing him. Of course, once the marital knot is tied, many of us become your basic live-in stalker: Forty-five percent of us expect at least one romp in the sack per day. A more reasonable 42.7 percent say they can survive once-a-week rations of sex, while a startling 11.4 percent of our respondents claim they don’t care how frequently they get laid. Within this latter group, I estimate 100 percent to be liars. Or maybe not. We can’t tell ya’ll everything.

Additional reporting by Nicole Saunders and Cynthia Gordy

Read the entire article, “Smart, Funny, With a Little Meat on Her Bones,” in the July issue of ESSENCE.