Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest. Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal is 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 aesthetics or movements or to their voice or smell, besides other factors. The attraction may be enhanced by a person's adornments, clothing, perfume or style. 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.
Though attempts have been made to devise objective criteria of sexual attractiveness, and measure it as one of several bodily forms of capital asset (see erotic capital), a person's sexual attractiveness is to a large extent a subjective measure dependent on another person's interest, perception, and sexual orientation. For example, a gay or lesbian person would typically find a person of the same sex to be more attractive than one of the other sex. A bisexual person would find either sex to be attractive. Asexuality refers to those who do not experience sexual attraction for either sex, though they may have romantic attraction (homoromantic, biromantic or heteroromantic) and/or a non-directed libido. Interpersonal attraction includes factors such as physical or psychological similarity, familiarity or possessing a preponderance of common or familiar features, similarity, complementarity, reciprocal liking, and reinforcement.
The ability of a person's physical and other qualities to create a sexual interest in others is the basis of their use in advertising, film, and other visual media, as well as in modeling and other occupations.
Social and biological factors
Human sexuality has many aspects. In biology, sexuality describes the reproductive mechanism as well as the basic biological drive that exists in all sexually reproducing species and can encompass sexual intercourse and sexual contact in all its forms. There are also emotional and physical aspects of sexuality. These relate to the bond that exists between individuals, which may be expressed through profound feelings or emotions. Sociologically, it can cover the cultural, political, and legal aspects; philosophically, it can span the moral, ethical, theological, spiritual, and religious aspects.
Which aspects of a person's sexuality attract another is influenced by cultural factors, and has varied over time, as well as personal factors. Influencing factors may be determined more locally among sub-cultures, across sexual fields, or simply by the preferences of the individual. These preferences come about as a result of a complex variety of genetic, psychological, and cultural factors.
- Visual perception (how the other looks and acts or moves, for example while dancing);
- Audition (how the other's voice and movements sound);
- Olfaction (how the other smells, naturally or artificially; the wrong smell may be repellent).
As with other animals, pheromones may also have an impact, though less significantly in the case of humans. Theoretically, the "wrong" pheromone may cause someone to be disliked, even when they would otherwise appear attractive. Frequently, a pleasant-smelling perfume is used to encourage the member of the opposite sex to more deeply inhale the air surrounding its wearer, increasing the probability that the individual's pheromones will also be inhaled. The importance of pheromones in human relationships is probably limited and is widely disputed,[unreliable source?] although it appears to have some scientific basis.
Many people exhibit high levels of sexual fetishism, and are sexually stimulated by other stimuli not normally associated with sexual arousal. The degree to which such fetishism exists or has existed in different cultures is controversial.
Pheromones have been determined to play a role in sexual attraction between people. They influence gonadal hormone secretion, for example follicle maturation in the ovaries in females and testosterone and sperm production in males.
Sexual attraction and high anxiety
|This section relies too much on references to primary sources. (December 2012)|
A research conducted by Donald G Dutton and Arthur P. Aron aimed to find the relation between sexual attraction and high anxiety conditions. In doing so, 85 male participants were contacted by an attractive female interviewer at either a fear-arousing suspension bridge or a normal bridge. Conclusively, it was shown that the male participants who were asked to by the female interviewer to perform Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) on the fear-arousing bridge, wrote more sexual content in the stories and attempted, with greater effort, to contact the female interviewer after the experiment than those male participants who performed the TAT on the normal bridge. Another test was done, a male participant, chosen from a group of 80, was given anticipated shocks. Along with the male was an attractive female confederate, who was also being shocked. The experiment showed that the male's sexual imagery in the TAT was much higher when self shock was anticipated and not when the female confederate shock was anticipated.
People consciously or subconsciously enhance their sexual attractiveness or sex appeal for a number of reasons. It may be to attract someone with whom they can form a deeper relationship, for companionship, procreation, or an intimate relationship, besides other possible purposes. It can be part of a courtship process. This can involve physical aspects or interactive processes whereby people find and attract potential partners, and maintain a relationship. These processes, which involve attracting a partner and maintaining sexual interest, can include flirting, which can be used to attract the sexual attention of another in order to encourage romance or sexual relations, and can involve body language, conversation, joking, or brief physical contact.
Sex and sexuality differences in sexual attraction
Men have been found to have a greater interest in uncommitted sex compared to women. Some research shows this interest to be more sociological than biological. Men have a greater interest in visual sexual stimuli than women, however. Additional trends have been found with a greater sensitivity to partner status in women choosing a sexual partner and men placing a greater emphasis on physical attractiveness in a potential mate, as well as a significantly greater tendency toward sexual jealousy in men and emotional jealousy in women.
Bailey, Gaulin, Agyei, and Gladue (1994) analyzed whether these results would vary according to sexual orientation. In general, they found biological sex played a bigger role in the psychology of sexual attraction than orientation. However, there were some differences between homosexual and heterosexual women and men on these factors. While gay men and straight men showed similar psychological interest in casual sex on markers of sociosexuality, gay men showed a larger number of partners in behaviour expressing this interest (proposed to be due to a difference in opportunity). Self-identified lesbian women showed a significantly greater interest in visual sexual stimuli than heterosexual women and judged partner status to be less important in romantic partnerships. Heterosexual men also had a significantly greater preference for younger partners than homosexual men.
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- SIRC Guide to Flirting. What Social Science can tell you about flirting and how to do it. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
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- On peculiarities of Russian sex appeal, see Draitser, Emil (1999). Making war, not love: Gender and sexuality in Russian humor. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 13–32. ISBN 0-312-22129-0.