Why is the idea of sex with someone unattractive repulsive?

It's just like that old saying: one person's uggo is another person's heartthrob.

In the mid-to-late 90s, my early teenage bedroom walls were adorned with posters of Jarvis Cocker, Brett Anderson and Brian Molko. Meanwhile, my peers had Jared Leto, Leonardo DiCaprio or even Robbie Williams plastered everywhere. I can’t even tell you why I found these men more attractive than traditional heartthrobs. I just knew that I found them interesting and they made me feel big romantic feelings.

My taste in pinups was questioned by other 13-year-old girls, teenagers unable to comprehend the thought of fancying a gender-bending, glitter-covered indie pop star, or a lanky, strangely angular man who wore secondhand clothes and sang songs about being poor in the North. Unconventionally handsome men. I hadn’t found my people” at that point and felt like the only alt girl in the world – other than Daria, of course.

Even now, when my closest friends and I share screenshots of dating profiles in the group chat, reactions will be mixed, which sometimes leaves me feeling a bit shocked. Everyone should agree that this person that I fancy is a universally attractive person! I am, however, grown enough to admit that sometimes, hypocritically, I am genuinely alarmed at my friends’ choices in potential partners. Depending on how close we are, I won’t hesitate to tell them that their object of affection is, in fact, clapped and they can do better.

But why do we swipe right on some people and left on others? Does it really come down to the fact that, somewhere deep within us, a person’s carefully curated selfies can set off the I want to make babies with you” alarm? Or is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

Cate Mackenzie, a COSRT-accredited psychosexual therapist and couples counsellor, explains that, when it comes to attraction, we have fear or no fear” responses, a bit like fight or flight. This means that sometimes there is simply no attraction, but when we have really strong judgments [about a person], there’s fear about things like Will they fit [into] my [friendship] group? Maybe my parents wouldn’t like them.” On a deeper level, every time we swipe on someone that gives us the potential ick, we could actually be making lots of quick decisions in our head based on fear.

CHARLOTTE BAYES

“[The fears] are our protectors’ that stop us from being vulnerable and open,” says Mackenzie. Often we might judge a date before we have even met them.” Basically, if we relax a bit more and let ourselves become a bit more vulnerable with another person, we can begin to be a bit less judgy, which could help expand our horizons of attraction. When picking a partner, compatibility is first on my list of must-haves. I would much rather have a large list of things in common with a person than go on a date with a typically handsome gym bro who can’t speak with passion about Star Trek. You can look like Kristen Stewart, but if you’re the most boring person on earth, what’s the point?

This way of thinking explains why, in some couples, one person might be considered to be punching up” above their so-called dating league. When it comes down to attraction and someone’s bigger, slimmer or different in [a physical] way, a lot of it is pheromones and chemistry,” says Mackenzie. Pretty much, that means being your authentic self and not giving a shit gives off an air of confidence that makes other people find you really attractive. This means that unconventional and conventionally attractive people can and do have incredible relationships or hookups – that is something I can attest to. Mackenzie also adds that if you’re [close enough to] sniff your partner, the biggest attraction is pheromones”. Very good to know.

As Mackenzie says, what we’re attracted to can also change over time, as we can be in different maturities in our sexuality in different stages of our life”. Those in long-term relationships may have originally fancied the fuck out of their partner. But over time, what happens when that person becomes so annoying that they actually become repulsive to you? Every noise they make while eating their dinner, the way that they put their socks on, even the way they breathe makes you want to scream. Is it possible to turn that around?

Let out a sigh of relief, long-term lovers. Mackenzie confirms that all is not lost. After a long relationship, there can be so many ruptures. They’re managing kids and houses and jobs. There might have been affairs, there might be things that are not said,” she explains. Difficult things happen, arguments happen and we get triggered. This can mean that parts of us are on guard and it’s like our partners are the worst. That’s not someone you feel like having sex with and they can start to look incredibly ugly.”

But if there was a lot of attraction and sexual chemistry when you first met, it’s actually not that difficult to bring that fun, honeymoon period back, complete with butterflies, non-stop banging and trips outside to do fun things rather than watching Netflix on the sofa every single evening. It will take some time and effort, though.

That’s why dating is so much fun. Couples who are long-married stop doing that and think, why can’t we solve our problems?” says Mackenzie. They’re only looking at them as problems, rather than thinking, let’s bring a lot of fun together’.”

It turns out that having fun, being relaxed and letting your guard down a bit really is the key to both inner and outer beauty. Still, if you’re fed up with swiping through uggos, then you could just try sniffing someone IRL to see if you are compatible – with permission, of course. If only iPhones had scratch-and-sniff screens.


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