There are different factors that come into play when it comes to sexual attraction between two people. We can be attracted to all sorts of things about someone else, like their clothes, the way they wear their hair, their sense of humor, or the things we have in common with them.
In simple terms, sexual attraction refers to creating erotic or sexual interest in another person based on their qualities. A person’s culture, genetic, and psychological factors can also assist in creating sexual desire towards another person.
Before we head any further, remember that your feeling of sexual attractiveness is highly subjective. However, science also plays a role when it comes to sexual attraction that causes butterflies in your stomach. Besides, attraction can also have an impact on our sexual health and wellness.
Here are seven truths about sexual attraction.
Science Behind Sexual Attraction
According to Dr. Helen Fisher¹ and a team of scientists from Rutgers, we can categorize romantic love into three phases.
- Lust Phase
Hormonal stimulation happens in a part of our brain called the hypothalamus because of our desire for sexual gratification. The two main hormones produced are testosterone and estrogen. These hormones help you strive towards sexual health and wellness.
Increased testosterone leads to an increase in libido. Increased estrogen promotes a rise in sexual desire. It happens especially during ovulation as it is the time when estrogen is at its peak. These hormonal changes pave the way for the lust phase in romantic love.
- Attraction Phase
In a nutshell, we could feel lust towards anyone we have a sexual attraction to, and vice versa. However, attraction can occur without lust too. Here, the hormone dopamine comes into play. Dopamine is a hormone that our brains release when we do things that make us feel good.
When we have a sexual attraction to another person, dopamine and norepinephrine get released. Because of these chemicals, we would feel euphoric and energetic. When there is a rise in these hormones, there will be a decrease in serotonin, which would affect our appetite and mood.
- Attachment Phase
Attachment is an essential component of long-term relationships. It brings in two primary hormones: oxytocin, commonly known as the cuddle hormone, and vasopressin. Attachment makes the bond strong and can play a crucial role in building intimacy with your partner(s).
Facial Symmetry and Attraction
Various components of our face point to our facial symmetry, which act as one of the secondary sexual characteristics. It is also a sign of the health and mating potential of a person. For some of us, face symmetry acts as a factor that attracts us to another person.
Studies show that people feel a higher level of attraction to a person with a symmetrical face than others. However, it might not be true in all cases. According to biologists², an attraction based on facial symmetry has a role to play in our assessment of mating quality.
We know that our society and culture have created certain ideals of beauty, which are mostly biased and prejudiced. There are, however, some factors related to sexual attraction that is set by nature. Even then, we have to remember that this all varies greatly from one person to another.
Sense of Smell and Sexual Attraction
Many people underappreciate the relevance of scent when it comes to sexual attraction. That’s because, compared to other members of the animal kingdom, humans are microsmatic³ or poor smellers.
Yes, visual stimuli and verbal cues are essential factors. But, in a closer context, smell plays an essential role in creating sexual attraction.
According to a survey⁴ conducted among young participants, the researchers found that body odors can enrich sexual experiences. Pheromones stimulate sexual arousal, fertility, and desire. We can understand its presence through smell and also via sweat, saliva, and urine.
Two major pheromones produced by our bodies are androsterone and copulin. These pheromones can enhance the desirability of a person, however,e they don’t have any specific correlation with physical attractiveness.
Sound as a Factor of Attractiveness
Voice is an external attribute that can help build a relationship or bond. Each person can feel sexual or interpersonal attraction depending on their preferences. Most people find low-toned voices with a small range of pitch attractive⁵.
Other than that, in general, people prefer voices that have a touch of breathiness⁶, because they appear to display lower levels of aggression. These preferences seem to apply to most people, regardless of their sexual orientation or preferences.
However, the problem is that most studies rely on the stereotyped notion of male and female sexual attraction. There have to be more studies that depict how it varies in different sexuality spectrums.
Instinct Plays a Crucial Role in Sexual Attraction
Sexual instinct or desire is a component of the human sexual response cycle that differs from sexual arousal and sexual activities. However, it has a close relationship with these responses too.
There are an array of components ranging from personal to environmental factors that come into play while expressing and experiencing sexual desire. Here, hormones like testosterone and estrogen have a pivotal role to play.
Sexual instinct is not a “one size fits all” approach to sexual attraction. The expression of sexual desire or instinct fluctuates from one person to another and varies depending upon different factors. The intensity of sexual desire would also vary based on your sexual preferences and orientation.
Because of this, there is no specific way to categorize sexual instincts, which play an essential role in enhancing our sexual health and wellness. Hormonal treatments can also affect the way we respond to certain sexual stimuli.
The desire for the Unattainable
Most people have a concept of an ideal person. What that ideal looks like would depend on different traits and characteristics a person found desirable. However, when you have an ideal person in your mind, it paves the way for unrealistic and unattainable expectations. This could make it challenging for us to fully accept someone whom we love deeply. Hence, it is best to focus on the person and building attachment.
Here, we can focus on self-love and self-awareness. Self-love helps us gain a better understanding of ourselves. It helps us obtain clarity on others around us and focus on the human experience, in general. It will help in building strong and successful relationships. Self-awareness reminds us that nobody is perfect, including ourselves, and our fantasies may be unrealistic.
Physical Attraction doesn’t Guarantee an Effective Relationship
Physical attraction is just one of the factors of a romantic relationship, and it may even be a poor indicator while choosing a partner. But, in reality, there are different qualities that we have to consider while building a bond with a person. Remember, while a level of physical attraction is essential to many people for creating an effective sexual and romantic relationship, that attractiveness is subjective and unique from person to person.
Beyond physical traits, the sexual attraction also includes a focus on other factors like compatibility, trust, communication, understanding. These can act as the base and foundation of our relationships. The physical attraction to a person might open our gates to each other’s hearts. But, in the long run, what matters the most is emotional support and compatibility.