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Attractiveness (the Seventh sense)


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I admit it, I don't know why I like pizza... yet I'm so in love with the combination of pizza dough, tomato sauce, cheese and toppings. I'll also admit that I really hate the smell and taste of seafood and other fish (with some exceptions like sushi and salmon). Anchovies and other fish smell's evoke a visceral nearly gag reflex in my body. I would argue that my attractiveness to these foods is an innate, immutable characteristic. Yet, while I don't like seafood, I can eat some seafood when it is prepared in the right way (like salmon). Yet I don't think there exists some gene that regulates whether I like pizza, seafood, or strawberry flavored milk instead of chocolate milk.

This analogy seems perfect for me when I think of human sexuality and attractiveness. I can't understand why I am attracted to women (I'm a male), or even a subset of women (certain women do evoke in me nearly a similar visceral gag reaction as seafood). In a way I think of the trait "attractiveness" as somewhat of a sense (not the sixth because that's a Bruce Willis movie). Certainly its a derivative sense in that the 5 primary senses work together and stimulate whatever part of my brain controls attractiveness. Certain people by nature of their physical, emotional, and intellectual capacities and appearance simply stimulate the attractiveness portion in my brain, yet I can't really explain to myself how that came to be. I love my wife, and I'll freely admit there are some traits and characteristics of her that aren't as stimulating to me; yet that is overcome by other physical, emotional, and intellectual traits of her that I do find stimulate this attractiveness sense.

Just like the five primary senses, there are stimuli that effect how much our attractiveness sense goes off, things like appearance, dress, manner of speaking, even the unseen by the primary senses like sympathy and intellect.

If someone asked me if I could ever be attracted to a male, I think the answer would be "no". I find it not outside the realm of impossible, yet extremely unlikely that I would find a male that stimulates my "attractiveness sense". As I think about it, my attractiveness sense is already tuned to be way more sympathetic to women. In my mind I can think of hundreds, thousands, even millions of girls who I felt attracted to on sight, yet I'm having a hard time of thinking of one male who I felt attracted to in my lifetime. I would have to admit there was a time for maybe six months in middle school when I entertained the thought about my best friend. Reflecting back, it was more of a rebellious reaction to my dad who for some reason teased/mocked me about hanging out with a same-sex friend by calling him my "boyfriend" (parents, when your kids are in middle school its not a crime to play sports and video games with other guys!), and the fact that all the girls in my class were ignoring/rejecting me due to some incident that caused me "bad press" (middle school might be a time when the rule "any press is good press" doesn't apply).

(I don't know if this post is controversial or not, I'm not even certain its a new thought, but I just wanted to start a discussion on it. This post was spurred on when my eyes caught a glimpse of a member of the opposite sex and I stopped to pause about why my seventh sense was going off.)

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Senses can be deceived, and manipulated quite easily.

Eating snails and squid sounds gross, so we call it escargot and calamari. Just sounds better.

There are drag queens that could give you a hard on, until...

Likewise, if all women looked like Janet Reno, we'd all be looking for an alternative.:ols:

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The primary senses are essentially data receivers and aggregators, whose transmitted data is processed and interpreted by the brain or, in extreme cases, the reflex arc.

There are a lot of medical/academic perspectives about what constitutes a sense, but most folks seem to agree that the basic ones are indeed primary; they aren't just derived from the collective input of other senses. To me, something like attractiveness is more a function of sight, smell, sound, and (if you're lucky) touch and taste data. Your brain does the interpretation and reaction, making attraction more a response than a sense.

But anyway, I get a bit chafed when talk of the "five senses" comes up. It underestimates our human awesomeness. :) We have more than the traditionally noted 5 primary senses. Chief among them is our sense of balance. The vestibular system is located in the inner ear, but it has less codependency with hearing than taste and smell have with each other. It is clearly a different sense, making use of a different anatomical mechanism.

The body also has dedicated receptors for pain, heat flux, and kinesthesia ("touch your chin with your eyes closed"). These aren't just derivatives of touch, but rather separate structures that are processed by different sections of the brain.

Then it gets very murky, with some researchers claiming far more senses depending upon how one chooses to define them.

So maybe attraction is the tenth sense. ;)

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