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Geeks and nerds often have it rough in the romance department, especially in popular culture. Typically, they are stereotyped as being so unattractive that only fellow nerds would find them desirable mates. However, it is interest and intellect that makes the nerd, not looks. And for some folks, intelligence is very, very attractive.
This trope shows what happens when a character finds that a nerd is, indeed, sexy. The nerd's "objective" looks could fall anywhere within the wide spectrum of human attractiveness; all that matters is that a character finds something about the nerd that arouses his or her interest. If said character is in high school, he or she may grow up to be a Hot Scientist.
Only add examples here which are acknowledged in-universe.
- In Suzumiya Haruhi, Yuki seems to have a large "fanbase" within the story, exactly because Nerds Are Sexy. Kyon finds her appealing too, although not at the scale of Mikuru.
- Psycho Busters has Joi.
- Even Dragon Ball runs into this trope, as a number of girls in Orange Star High (particularly Erasa) spend much of their screen time in the anime trying to undress Son Gohan with their eyes. Jerk Jock Sharpener isn't very pleased to learn that he's runner up to "Nerd-Boy".
- Taken to the extreme as the premise of The World Only God Knows. Keima Katsuragi is a proud nerd who spends all his time playing video games and prefers 2D girls over real girls. Yet his vast knowledge of Dating Sims has made him an expert at getting girls to fall in love with him (in order for him to exorcise the evil spirits possessing them... It Makes Sense in Context!), all the while remaining an unrepentant otaku. Not to mention he is pretty good looking and dresses pretty properly.
- Professor Kiyama Harumi from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, and she is thought of as this even before she started stripping in public... again.
- Ken Sugisaki of Seitokai no Ichizon. He has the top grades in the school and plays eroges, but his main goal is to turn the Student Council into his harem!
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes; Felicia Greenhill had been carrying the torch for the socially awkward Yang Wenli ever since she first met him.
- Amadeus Cho, the 7th smartest person on Earth (as verified by a soap company - oh, and Reed Richards), who managed to win the heart of a Perky Goth Amazon Gorgon girl.
- In Archie Comics' Josie and the Pussy Cats, Melody gets glasses, and for some reason, attracts even more guys (if that's even possible), Which prompts Josie and Valerie to pretend to be blind in order to get glasses themselves.
- Peter Parker, aka The Amazing Spider-Man. A science geek and somewhat socially awkward, but none of this has stopped him from being a Chick Magnet.
- Ellie Dee from Cherry Comics, who manages to nail the science teacher all of the girls are lusting after.
- Not Another Teen Movie has Jamie who is supposedly nerdy even though all she really does is paint, wear overalls, wear glasses, and has a ponytail.
- There is a scene in a used bookshop in The Big Sleep: Humphrey Bogart spends an afternoon in an antiquarian bookshop with the clerk (Dorothy Malone). An unexpected rainstorm, a bottle of rye, and the line "I'd rather get wet in here", transforms Malone from book-worm to babe, who closes the shop an hour early (and the film fades to black).
- In How to Marry a Millionaire, Marilyn Monroe's character avoids wearing much-needed glasses as long as she can to retain her beauty. When her love interest finally persuades her to put them on, he immediately says, "You're crazy."
- Tanguy is a nerdy intellectual but he manages to chat up attractive girls (mostly Asian ones) with ridiculous ease.
- Darla, the band nerd from My Best Friend Is a Vampire - once she takes her glasses (and possibly a dorky hat) off, she's hot, though only the male lead sees it at first.
- Charles Xavier in X Men First Class turns his knowledge of genetic mutation into a successful pick-up line.
- And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird: Beth is attracted to Josh specifically because he's a computer/robotics genius.
- Doctor Jonathan Crane in Batman Begins-what else did you expect, considering the fact that he's played by Cillian Murphy?
- Fiore from Moony Witcher's La Bambina Della Sesta Luna ("The Girl of the Sixth Moon") is a typical know-all, with special interest in history and Latin (she really likes to show her knowledge of Latin phrases). At the same time, she's beautiful, romantic and sometimes demonstrates a sense of humor. Given that Fiore means "flower" in Italian, this seems to be a case of Meaningful Name.
- In The Hunt for Red October, it is stated that Jones, the sonar technician of the USS Dallas, because of his nerdy looks and knowledge, gets enough action on the beach to "wear down a squad of marines".
- Bennett keeps hitting on the somewhat nerdy, glasses-wearing socialist Tommy Judd in Another Country, whom he claims to be the only guy in college to be immune to his charms.
- From the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers we have Billy, who got more romantic subplots than pretty much any ranger in the history of the franchise (damn) but was played by David Yost, who is incredibly charming and built like a plow horse.
- This is pretty much the entire point to The Big Bang Theory. The boys on the show don't get laid in spite of their geekiness (except Sheldon, for whom sex is less exciting than video games), they get laid pretty much because of it.
- The Tagline is "Smart is the new sexy".
- David Henrie, who plays Justin, in Wizards of Waverly Place. The nerdy boy that builds robots, collects action figures and can't do more pull-ups than his younger sister. Surprisingly (or not), in the show he has a lot of girlfriends.
- A Town Called Eureka is this troop in a nutshell seeing as it's a town full of Super Geniuses/nerds. It also created a 'Chicks find the Science talk sexy in some of the episodes. Good examples are Zane, Henry, Alison Claudia (kinda counts she was in both Warehouse 13/Eureka Crossovers)
- Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation is into math, model trains, skinny ties, plaid shirts, and Game of Thrones, but that doesn't stop Leslie Knope, Shauna Malwae-Tweep, Marlene Griggs-Knope, and Joan Callamezzo from hitting on/chasing after him.
- Castiel, despite being labeled in-universe as "nerd angel", is also referred to as "sexy" and "pretty" by demon and angel alike.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Although Xander, Willow, and Wesley are all sexy nerds in their way, it's Giles who's sexy because he's a nerd. Or, as a love interest put it, "a sexy fuddy-duddy".
- Later lampshaded when even Tara and Willow, both lesbians, find Giles singing "Behind Blue Eyes" incredibly sexy.
- Played with later in the series when Xander comments that smart girls are hot, and Willow, who at that point is a lesbian, mournfully asks him why he couldn't have figured that out when they were in 10th grade (i.e. during the time Willow had the hots for Xander).
- Angel also had Fred (Winnifred), the nerdy yet cute science girl who joined the cast late in the second season. During the third season, her sexy nerdiness had two of the male leads fighting over her for half the season.
- Played with briefly when David Nabbit gives Angel financial advice in "First Impressions."
David: "Oh. That's easy. You could look into seller financing, take over the owner's payments and skip the bank completely, or you could make a play for a preservation grant. Offer to restore the original décor and get the city and the feds to give you a tax break and a loan at a sweetheart rate. Or you could apply for an FHA and get a PMI in lieu of a down payment."
- Stargate SG-1 presents an Alternate Reality Episode in which Samantha Carter is a frumpy, awkward nerd. Alternate O'Neill still thinks she's hot.
- In the main Stargate Verse, Daniel Jackson is paired up (or at least implied to have paired up) more often than anyone else in the series.
- On Numb3rs, Charlie asks Amita on their first date after she solves a particularly tricky mathematical analysis. Later they find out that math is really all they have to talk about, but this doesn't seem to be a problem since they're still together.
- And FBI agent Megan has a relationship with professor Larry.
- Ahem, "Luckily, I speak l33t," "That's so hot."
- Lampshaded in The IT Crowd when Roy and Moss make a Nerds Are Sexy calendar and it ends up being less "hot supermodel with glasses" and more "fat bloke with his shirt off".
- Degrassi: When Connor and Dave created a sorting algorithm deciding the hottest girl in Degrassi, Clare is ranked 3rd. Pretty good given she's supposed to be the plain jane girl next door type.
- Before that, Damian once referred to Liberty as a "sexy genius."
- In the NCIS episode "Singled Out", the team was looking for a killer who believed in this trope, and Ziva goes undercover as a nerd in an attempt to identify him.
- A 2009 Intel commercial featured a male Asian office worker freshening his cup of coffee. Semi-porn background music can be heard. All the women are staring hungrily at this guy, who sees it but acts too cool to respond to it, like this is normal for him. At the end, a voice over identifies this normal-looking nerd as the inventor of the USB port. (He was actually just an actor, but it gets the job done.)
- In Gilmore Girls, Rory is seen wearing a t-shirt that says "Reading is Sexy." Considering the action she gets over the course of the series, she's right.
- Spencer Reid of Criminal Minds graduated from high school at 12, has two B As by 16, has an IQ of 187 and an eidetic memory. In one episode Hotch mentions this "Reid was propsitioned by every prostitute we talked to."
- The Doctor, from Doctor Who, at least in the incarnations where he's allowed a love interest. Many characters seem attracted by just how intelligent the Doctor is, with such a wide range of knowledge that it vastly out-scopes anything we know. Of course, being good looking and having a time machine probably doesn't hurt, either.
- Several of his companions fit this trope, although they are usually overshadowed by the Doctor.
- As Scully of The X-Files says of the two scientists in "War of the Coprophages" who walk off into the sunrise together: "Smart is sexy".
- Ugly Betty gets a lot of it. The title character may be cute and even beautiful upon certain occasions, but her sexy turns on only in the last few episodes of the series. Most of her boyfriends are often the embodiment of the trope, with nerdy accountant Henry having some serious male model-like body going for him.
- Modern Family's Alex is both absolutely gorgeous in all her nerdiness and 'has her fans as she says, literally:
"You have your fans, I have mine. And one day, your fans are going to work for my fans."
- In Celtic Mythology, Cu Chulainn wasn't in love with Emer because she was the World's Most Beautiful Woman - he loved her because she was ridiculously smart and could throw as many convoluted riddles at him as he could at her.
- Mad Scientist Kokonoe from Blaz Blue.
- Super Robot Wars's Ryusei Date is the epitome of otakuness, having more interest in the features of whichever FemBot was currently in the hangar than real girls. Nevertheless, Latooni Subota and Mai Kobayashi fall for him, the former going as far as imitating his geeky speech out of affection. Ryusei himself doesn't seem to mind, though.
- Philia Felice from Tales of Destiny is a really nerdy priestess, complete with nerd glasses, who have a penchant of inventing self-made bombs. However, that turns out to be one of her charms (she also admits that she's plain looking without her glasses), including her nice personality as well as her voice.
- My Sims Agents, in an example of the sentiment, has a music-playing object that plays a little tune called "Nerdy Chicks Rule".
- After finding out about this, FoxTrot's Jason Fox once tried to make himself as un-nerdy as possible because Girls Have Cooties.
- Alice from Loserz thinks so. See this strip.
- And Adam from the same strip actually is a sexy nerd (although he usually hides it - being a gaming nerd, not being sexy). See here.
- Tales of MU takes this to the logical extreme -- Amaranth is a physically perfect nymph, naked except for her glasses, who believes in science in a world of magic-based technology. Beyond the mere nudism, nymphs in MU follow the more open version in regards to sex and sexuality (the ultimate origin of the term nymphomania) -- although Amaranth treats it as an enjoyable part time job / chore more than anything.
- It's later discovered this is because of a teenage geek messing with the process that created her, creating the ultimate geek fantasy girl -- a confident, polite nudist who will put up with ANYTHING and literally can't get enough sex. Oh, and she's a geek, too. Unfortunately, he was too shy to talk to her afterward, which left her in the dark about the whole thing.
- Moira and Nanetta in Tales Of Gnosis College both seem to fit this trope.
- Times Like This: Cassie, the main character, is a brainiac with a mean sex drive. When she's not banging famous guys throughout history thanks to her self-made time machine, she's sneaking boyfriends into her workplace for some conference-table whoopee.
- You can also order "Sexy Nerd" merchandise from TLT's Cafe Press page.
- College Humor has the skit "I'm Such A Nerd,", in which a nerd happily discovers that the rather attractive girl he's dating is herself a giant nerd... who then promptly dumps him for not being nerdy enough.
Girl: I thought he was different, you know, but he wasn't. He...he couldn't even name all of the current Batman titles!
- Whateley Universe: brilliant inventor Spark is pursued by Reach throughout the story "The Big Idea". Genius inventor Bugs on the other hand, is regarded as one of the sexiest girls in Super-Hero School Whateley Academy.
- Velma from Scooby Doo. Played with in The Movies (...not what we meant).
- Edd from Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy has had the most girls crushing on him during the show's run.
- Steve Smith from American Dad!. He manages to get dates with girls more popular than him because they find him cute. Something always happens to ruin it for him, however.
- Usually Stan or Roger.
- In the episode of Batman the Animated Series where the Riddler reforms (or rather, attempts to), he ends up with quite a few women fawning over him. Unless that's an example of All Girls Want Bad Boys.
- In The Real Ghostbusters, Janine has a crush on nerdy Egon for his high intelligence. So do a handful of minor female characters.
- Janine's crush was a holdover from the movie where she is quite blatantly hitting on Egon, and Egon is either clueless or doing a good job pretending he's clueless.
- Used in an episode of Robot Chicken. After seeing hell freeze over we are treated to a nerd dance around in his underwear, gleefully singing about getting laid. The hot girl in bed states, in a rather matter of fact manner, that she thinks nerds are hot.
- Tecna from Winx Club, though her boyfriend is even more of a nerd than she is.