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Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal refers to a person's ability to attract in a sexual or erotic manner the interest of another person. The attraction may be to a physical quality of a person, or to other, more amorphous qualities of the person.

Though attempts have been made to devise objective criteria of sexual attractiveness, a person's sexual attractiveness is to a large extent a subjective measure dependent on another person's interest, perception and sexual orientation. For example, a gay or lesbian person would typically find a person of the same sex to be more attractive than one of the other gender. A bisexual person would often find both sexes to be attractive. Asexuality refers to those who do not experience sexual attraction for either sex, though they may have romantic attraction (homoromantic, biromantic or heteroromantic).

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Social and biological factors

Human sexuality has many aspects. In biology, sexuality describes the reproductive mechanism as well as the basic biological drive that exists in all species and can encompass sexual intercourse and sexual contact in all its forms. There are also emotional and physical aspects of sexuality. These relate to the bond that exists between individuals, which may be expressed through profound feelings or emotions. Sociologically, it can cover the cultural, political, and legal aspects; and philosophically, it can span the moral, ethical, theological, spiritual or religious aspects.

Which aspects of a person's sexuality attracts another is influenced by cultural factors, and has varied over time, as well as personal factors. Influencing factors may be determined more locally among sub-cultures, across sexual fields, or simply by the preferences of the individual. These preferences come about as a result of a complex variety of genetic, psychological, and cultural factors.

A person's physical appearance has a critical impact on their sexual attractiveness. This involves the impact one's appearance has on the senses, especially in the beginning of a relationship:

As with other animals, pheromones may also have an impact, though less significantly in the case of humans. Theoretically, the "wrong" pheromone may cause someone to be disliked, even when they would otherwise appear attractive. Frequently a pleasant smelling perfume is used to encourage the member of the opposite sex to more deeply inhale the air surrounding its wearer[citation needed], increasing the probability that the pheromones from the individual will also be inhaled. The importance of pheromones in human relationships is probably limited and is widely disputed,[1] although it appears to have some scientific basis.[2]

Many people exhibit high levels of sexual fetishism, and are sexually stimulated by other stimuli not normally associated with sexual arousal. The degree to which such fetishism exists or has existed in different cultures is controversial.

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Simple English

In a species that reproduces sexually, sexual attraction is an attraction to other members of the same species for sexual or erotic activity. In many species does not always mean a sexual act; indeed, some sexual behavior among primates is mostly a social activity.

In humans

Certain things of what is sexually attractive to humans may change from different cultures or regions. The sexual attraction of one person to another depends on both people.

Much of human sexual attractiveness comes from physical aspect. This involves the impact one's appearance has on the senses, especially in the beginning of a relationship:

  • Visual perception (how the other looks);
  • Olfaction (how the other smells, naturally or artificially; the wrong smell may be repellent);
  • Audition (how the other's voice and/or movements sound).

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