What Makes Men and Women Sexually Attracted to Each Other?
In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer created a character known as the Wife of Bath that was completely sexually-oriented. Chaucer's entire description of the woman is suggestive of a woman that, at the time, would have either had a lot of sex or be forced to turn down a number of indecent proposals. What was this ideal woman? Two features stick out in Chaucer's description: first, she had a gap between her front teeth. Being a gap-toothed woman was quite a sign of sexual prowess in 13th and 14th-century England. Second, the Wife of Bath was a large, appreciably fat woman, which was another trait sexually desired by men in the time period.
Obviously, times have changed. One thing hasn't changed, though: we are still succeeding at reproduction, because the earth's population continues to explode! The scientific explanation of sexual attraction calls evolutionary theorems into the question, but there is still a distinct difference between animals and humans. In the animal kingdom, sex represents an extremely vulnerable act for both the male and the female, and it requires a great deal of energy.
The exact same is true of the act of sex for humans. What is different, however, is that relatively few animals utilize sex as recreation (chimpanzees and possibly goats are some examples). As people, however, we often have sex for fun. An entire industry of sexual products has been created to reduce the risk of disease, babies, and other undesired side-effects so that the act of sex can be enjoyed more frequently. This includes birth control, morning-after pills (emergency contraceptives), condoms, lubricants, and oh yes, beer (case in point: beer commercials are full of people societally considered to be young and sexually attractive). It is important to recognize that the opinions of individuals in the subject of sex matter just as much as the opinion of scientists analyzing the trends.
Is there a reason, then, why men and women have sex with each other? Is it simply indiscriminate animal lusting, or is there an algorithm behind the madness? There is definitely a pattern to sex, and the sexual culture of many countries (not just Western ones) is much more free in this generation than the previous several (some reports even consider the current trend above the sexual zenith of the 1970's).
Recently entered into vogue in the United States is the concept of serial monogamy, which is the idea that sex with multiple people is ok, but only if one is currently in a romantic relationship with a person. Even the military has adopted this trend; it is considered illegal to have an affair if you are a legally married soldier, but the definition of married versus single is clearly enumerated (this means, of course, that the military does not attempt to regulate the sexual behavior of single service members through force of law).
What, then, makes a man want to have sex with a woman? Like the reverse question, men are sexually attracted to women because of an initial attraction. Believe it or not, men rarely cultivate sexual interest without first having some kind of emotional or intellectual attraction as well. Despite the fact that men are more easily visually stimulated than women, it remains a fact that both men and women predicate their attractions based on appearance.
Naturally, a man considers a woman's body as an attractant, but many do not realize that men also choose their partners based upon an intellectual thumbprint; that is, the discourse that a man has with a woman is a subconscious analysis of her psyche. If a man does not consider a woman intellectually stimulating, he is less likely to consider her physically stimulating. What's the lesson here? If you want to be thought of as interesting in bed, then be interesting in conversation! (Note that this does not mean you need to talk about sex at all, merely that the conversations you have be more open and friendly than closed and business-like. Also, don't be worried; friendly conversation does not necessarily indicate that you are on the prowl.)
What, then, causes a woman to be sexually attracted to a man? Although, for a woman, sexual attractions are also linked to appearance, these attractions are much harder to patternize than a man's. Most men have a certain "type" of woman that they develop interests in, but a woman usually searches for an emotional or personal characteristic that she finds attractive (power, nerdiness, compassion, etc.). If a woman finds something that is consistent with whatever emotional mix she seeks in a man (this is not always quantifiable or consciously sought), then she latches onto that feeling.
Here are two false truths of sexual attraction (one per gender) that are becoming increasingly false with each passing generation.
1. Men only choose their partners based upon how they think sex with that person would be.
Not true! In fact, sex often goes to the back of the brain when men become attracted to women....temporarily.
2. Women always choose their partners based upon their belief that they could be permanently happy with them.
Also false. In fact, women are often startlingly impulsive, especially if they have been in more than one relationship.