What Makes A Person Attractive?

What Makes A Person Attractive?

Everyone has an idea of “sexiness”, but what exactly does this quality consist of?

This article from *The Book of Life says it’s not that simple to know what sex really aims at, and it would pay to understand more about the emotional priorities involved.

Biological science tells us that sex is about successful reproduction and genetic fitness in the coming generation. Does this mean, then, that “sexiness” must be made up of a host of semi-conscious signals of fertility and of resistance to disease: bilateral facial symmetry, large bright pupils, full lips, youthful skin and thick shiny hair?

Unlike most other living beings, our biological drives sit alongside, and at points take second place to, a range of emotional priorities. Chief among these is the desire to overcome loneliness and share our vulnerability within the arms of a safe and intimate other.

We seek, through a physical act, to overcome our customary psychological alienation and a host of painful barriers to being known and accepted.

In this way, the erotic is not so much a promise of reproductive health as a suggestion of a redemptive capacity for closeness, connection, understanding and an end to shame and isolation.

Aside from their appearance, we see “sexy” people as those who might fulfill the underlying emotional purpose of lovemaking. The curve of an eyebrow, the way they respond to a joke or move their forehead or hold their hands: these all convey unconsciously but eloquently that one is in the presence of a kindly being.

This person will understand our confusion, help us over our loneliness and hidden sadness, and reassure us of our basic legitimacy and worth. With this person we can at last stop being suspicious, throw off our armour and feel safe, playful and accepted. Whatever their physical attributes, it is these aspects that have a true power to excite us and indeed turn us on.

We hear so much about what we might need to do to increase our physical appeal. But by getting more detailed about the psychological traits that drive desire, we could learn to pay as much, if not more, attention to the foundations of an exciting mindset.

Some alternative valuable sources of sexiness are:

• A sense of being slightly at odds with mainstream society
Whether at work, with friends or around family, we are too often hemmed in by having to fit in and be “good” and “acceptable”. There ends up being a lot we mustn’t say and even more we shouldn’t even really feel. What a relief then to meet someone who knows how to adopt a gently skeptical perspective, someone with whom we would be able to break away and express doubts about revered ideas or people and cast a wry gaze on the normal rules of life. Good sex promises to feel like something of a conspiracy against everyone else.

• An unshockable nature
The more we explore and are honest with ourselves, the more we realise that there is much inside our characters that might surprise or horrify outsiders: that we are vulnerable, mean, strange, wayward and foolish. We may feel shame and embarrassment, yet we really want to be seen and accepted as we really are. A really sexy person might then be someone who has explored their own deeper selves with courage, recognises their darkness and is neither critical nor disapproving of our own.

• A tension between good and ‘bad
Someone who paid absolutely no attention to decency and scoffed at all propriety might just be seen as alarming. Yet what can prove uniquely appealing is a person alive both to duty and temptation, to the pull of maturity and the draw – at least for a little while in the early hours – of wickedness; a divided person simultaneously responsible and marked by a touch of desperation.

• Kindness
A lot of our reality deserves compassion and sympathy. How compelling, therefore, to come across someone who could know how much we stand in need of forgiveness and who could laugh generously with and at us – because they knew how to do the same in relation to themselves.

Because we over-simplify what we believe sex might be aiming at biologically, we’re obsessed with the physical aspect. With more insight into our emotional sexiness we can rediscover that the real turn on is never just a well-polished body but a well-fashioned soul.

*The Book of Life is sponsored by The School of Life, a global organisation dedicated to developing emotional intelligence.