We’ve all felt the rush—our hearts race, our hands get clammy, we can barely speak…all because someone we are really attracted to, comes over to talk to us.
Some call this love at first sight, others call it infatuation, while the more religiously inclined call it lust. Regardless of the term we use for it, the fact remains that sexual attraction is a fact of life. It fuels the multibillion-dollar music and cosmetics industry.
But sexual attraction, that spontaneous combustion of hormones is primarily a function of biology, not the more enduring emotion of love. Albeit some form of sexual attraction is necessary in perpetuating the pair-bonding we call relationship and marriage. Sex after all is a fundamental ingredient for these. Sex would be utterly droll and tedious without sexual attraction and would put the perpetuation of our species in jeopardy.
But what causes us to be sexually attracted to someone? Several factors come into play. First is the role of pheromones. Pheromones are chemical substances we release that affect the behavior of others and plays a significant role in sexual attraction.
For instance, most of us females are attracted to potential males whose immune system is different from us biochemically. This ensures that our offspring will stand the greatest chances of survival because they now have a more thorough arsenal with which to ward off infection and illness.
Pheromones also signal sexual availability. During ovulation, females send out a hormone called copulin that attracts men. Researchers then postulate that when men get a whiff of copulins their testosterone levels rise and subsequently release another hormone called androsterone that repels women who aren’t ovulating.
Facial symmetry is another factor that perpetuates sexual attraction. We are attracted to people whose facial structure is symmetrical hence society typically heralds them as beautiful. This almost global definition of what is beautiful is embedded in the fundamental biological cues that we get when someone’s face is symmetrical—that of health. Symmetry signals health and therefore enhances a person’s sexual appeal.
Another factor for sexual attraction, a woman’s waist-to-hip ratio and a man’s shoulder breadth both signal optimal biological fertility and thereby increase the likelihood of siring offspring.
Even make-up mimics the biological state of arousal—flushed cheeks, wide eyes, red lips: they are all biological indicators of sexual availability from a primal level.
In the end, man is a glorified animal. We are bound by hormones and instincts and there is nothing mind-boggling about the science of sexual attraction. What boggles the mind is our almost magical experience of it and how we transcend our primal instincts to make pair bonding possible, and therefore society stable and viable.
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