Sex doctor: The look of love - what we see in people

As someone who specialises in sex and relationships, I've spent a great deal of my life pondering exactly what is it that makes one person attractive, and another not. Looks clearly play a part but even the extraordinarily beautiful aren't to everyone's taste (Angelina Jolie being a case in point: a goddess to some and "lips like a fish" to others). Besides, we all know good looks wear off after the third date or two hours into the first meeting, if you're particularly bright and they're exceedingly dreary.

A good body gets our attention but only if it's achieved and maintained reasonably effortlessly. Someone who frets like a pining puppy if they miss going to the gym two days running is decidedly unattractive, as is the person who opts for steamed fish and vegetables when it's taken you three months to land a table at a restaurant offering gourmet treats worth selling the kids for. Some of the sexiest, most desirable people I've met have neither perfect faces nor perfect bodies. A few, in fact, have very obvious "flaws": squashy noses, big bellies, crooked teeth.

But while traditional good looks aren't necessary, there are certain qualities that are. It's a heady combination of key ingredients that determines who grabs our attention and crucially who keeps it. First, is a lust for life. This is usually, though not always, coupled with a love of sex. If you love people and are curious about them, you'll be sexy. It's that simple. If you're boring or the rest of your life is boring and uninspired, no-one assumes you'll leap into bed with energy, enthusiasm, and a cache of naughty tricks up your sleeve. You need to be excited by life to be seen as exciting by others.

Also jostling for top position in the attractiveness stakes is confidence. Being cocky, albeit not ideal, is still way more appealing than being massively insecure. True, we might label people as opinionated, arrogant or even rude if they express strong opinions, but at least they get noticed. We all respect and admire people who stick up for their beliefs and fight their own battles.

A sense of humour is such an obvious factor in attraction that it's hardly worth touching on. Without the ability to laugh, make others laugh and tease with a wickedly irreverent mischievousness, no-one's getting or going anywhere, let alone jumping into a cab back to your place. Ditto a certain level of intelligence. Stupidity has never been and never will be a turn on (unless of course you're not terribly bright yourself, in which case meeting someone even dimmer than you could do more for your self-esteem than a week with Paul McKenna).

But even blessed with all of the above, there's one critical component to be added to mix before we're totally convinced someone is desperately attractive. Attention. Looks, lust, ego, humour they're all powerful people magnets. But unless somone pays attention to us, they're likely to be tossed into the "attractive but unattainable" basket, snuggling up beside George Clooney. Don't get me wrong, we can be almost rabid with lust for people like this but it's detached and not real. We recognise there's no real point to it it's pretty unlikely George is going to be calling the office and asking us for a drink anytime soon. The most attractive people in our world are the ones we interact with and who like us. Getting lots of attention especially if it continues in the face of fierce competition is a powerful aphrodisiac. And this is why the less attractive man, whose eyes don't even flicker from yours when Kate Moss legs it past your table, will nearly always triumph over his handsome but roving-eyed friend.

'The Sex Doctor', by Tracey Cox, is published by Corgi (7.99)

Visit LoveHoney for relationship tips and advice from Tracey Cox. Every week, Tracey answers questions from visitors to the site.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

    £40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

    £18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'