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Sexual attraction

In species which reproduce sexually, sexual attractiveness to other members of the same species is an important survival factor.

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Sexual attraction in non-human animals

Sexual attractiveness in non-human animals depends on a wide variety of factors. Often, there is some element of the animal's body which is adapted to be sexually attractive to the opposite sex: the bright plumage and crests of some species of birds, for example. In many species, there are behaviors which appear to be adapted for sexual display. Some of these attributes seem to be adapted to demonstrate fitness and health, for example by demonstrating the ability to sustain an "expensive" feature with no other apparent survival function.

Sexual attraction in humans

Sexual attractiveness of a person to another person depends on both persons; to some extent there may be general agreement that a person is sexually attractive, but for the rest it is "a matter of taste".

Appearance and superficial sexual attractiveness

Much of human sexual attractiveness is governed by first appearances. This involves the senses, in the beginning especially:

  • visual perception (how the other looks)
  • audition[?] (how the other sounds, mainly the voice; what may also vary widely it how noisy somebody walks (also depending on the footwear), but this is not necessarily a big factor for sexual attraction, either way)
  • olfaction (how the other smells, naturally or artificially; the wrong smell may be repulsive).

A sexually attractive visual appearance in humans generally involves:

  • a general body shape and appearance sanctioned by the local culture
  • a lack of visible disease or deformity[?]
  • a high degree of symmetry between the left and right sides of the body, particularly of the face
  • pleasing bodily posture

However, these factors are complicated by many other factors:

  • There may sometimes be a focus on particular features of the body, such as breasts, legs, hair, or musculature. In this regard, there can be said to be a degree of fetishistic arousal in individuals who respond to particular bodily features as a sign of attractiveness. Many people exhibit high levels of sexual fetishism, and are sexually aroused by other stimuli not normally associated with sexual arousal. The degree to which such fetishism exists or has existed in different cultures is controversial.
  • The Westermarck effect was discovered by anthropologist Edward Westermarck. When two people live in close domestic proximity during the first 30 months in the life of either one, both are desensitized to later close sexual attraction and bonding.

Personality and sexual attractiveness

However, provided that all of these aspects are reasonably normal, there is no requirement for great physical beauty for a person to be sexually attractive, and personality and good manners[?] come to the fore. In many cases, people with good personality can be strikingly sexually attractive, even if they are superficially sexually unattractive in appearance. However, as they do not have the advantage of instant attraction through appearance, this requires more social interaction to attract potential partners.

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