Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest. Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal refers to an individual’s ability to attract the sexual or erotic interest of another person, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate choice. The attraction can be to the physical or other qualities or traits of a person, or to such qualities in the context in which they appear. The attraction may be to a person’s looks or movements or to their voice or smell, besides other factors. The attraction may be enhanced by a person’s adornments, clothing, perfume, hair style, and anything else which can attract the sexual interest of another person. It can also be influenced by individual genetic, psychological, or cultural factors, or to other, more amorphous qualities of the person. Sexual attraction is also a response to another person that depends on a combination of the person possessing the traits and also on the criteria of the person who is attracted.
If neither your weight nor your looks have anything to do with whether people find you sexually attractive, then what is it that makes one person have a crowd of admirers while another individual sits there forlorn and abandoned?” people might ask.
I know that this will come as a shock to people who have been brought up in a Puritanical tradition that expects human sexuality to be easily subjected to ideology and reason. Still, the truth is that sexual attraction has nothing whatsoever to do with easily quantifiable things like weight, height, size, number of college diplomas, IQ, figures in the bank statement, or anything of the kind.
It happens very often that a tall, beautiful, ripped guy with fantastic hair and a sunny disposition can’t find a date in a decade. And in the meanwhile, a short, skinny, balding dude with a nasty personality gets crowds of women flock to him as if by magic. (I know both these guys, so please don’t argue with me about it.) How often do you look at a female friend who is not only nice and kind but also stunningly beautiful with a modelesque body and wonder how the hell it is possible that somebody like her, is single and can’t get to the second date for love or money? While the short-legged, plump woman with bad skin and an extremely bitchy personality is juggling four men at the same time and trying to carve out space for numbers five and six.
If you forget about what you see on television and look at people who surround you, you will, without a doubt, realize that appearance and weight in no way correlate with whether one has any personal life whatsoever or can get anybody give them a second look.
What really attracts people sexually is an exuberant, happy and healthy sexuality. Sexually healthy people give off little tells that we observe and process often without even realizing it. A healthy sexuality entails, among other things, a different relationship with one’s body than the one that less sexually healthy people have and a different attitude to sensual experiences. A sexually healthy person moves in a less constricted, freer way, holds him or herself different. You can say a lot about people’s sexual health if you observe them select and ingest food and drink, buy clothes, touch different fabrics, choose scent. Whenever we meet a person, we immediately pick up on such things. Those who show many signs of a happy sexuality, attract a lot of people. Those who give off none, attract nobody.
It is a symptom of a sexually unhappy culture that one actually needs to explain that sexual attraction is caused not by how many inches your waist measures but by how sexually healthy you are.
I don’t know if I need to clarify this, but just to be on the safe side I will. Sexual health is a capacity to enjoy sex for its own sake without needing to justify it or feeling guilty about it. It’s very similar to a healthy relationship with food. When we eat (or deprive ourselves of food) to relieve stress, exorcise emotions, punish ourselves, out of a sense of obligation, because of social expectations, etc. it is obvious that this is not a healthy relationship with food. It’s exactly the same with sex.
Scientists who study the neurochemical basis of emotions believe that there are three stages to love, each with their own hormonal controllers:
- Stage 1 – lust – ruled by testosterone and estrogen (the sexual hormones)
- Stage 2 – attraction – controlled by dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin (those feel-good compounds)
- Stage 3 – attachment – initiated by oxytocin (aka: the hormone thought to create the bond between mother and child; known to play a role in trust, empathy and generosity)
I would suggest a potential 4th stage – jealousy – which has recently been linked to oxytocin as well. And a potential 5th stage – infidelity – which has been linked to a genetic allele in some studies, and has also been linked to high levels of the hormone estradiol in women.
“sexual pleasure is, I agree, a passion to which all others are subordinate but in which they all unite.”