What’s it all about? Does it lie in the eyes of the beheld? Or in the hair/ the legs / the breast/ the smell/ the voice – even the money or the power? Do you have to be born with it – or can you acquire it? How do you know if you’ve got what it takes? In other words, what adds up to sexual allure?
The scene is the cabin of a steamliner. As the man enters, he surprises a woman in the act of pilfering his possessions. She turns around to look at him. He asks her what she’s up to and she boldly tells him that she’s stealing his money. “What are you going to do about it?” she demands defiantly. “Nothing,” he whispers, for in that brief second he has fallen hook, line and sinker for her.
That was a scene from the film, “An Affair To Remember”, a romance played by Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. It is sex appeal at first sight.
What is it that draws a man and a woman to each other? What is it that makes some women and some men fatally attractive to some members of the opposite sex and not to some others?
The concept of sex appeal is as old as the Adam and Eve story, yet it continues to defy definition. You’ll never get a consensus on what it is. Try it: ask any man or woman, or even ask yourself, to pinpoint what it is that attracted them or you to the other person. You’ll be amazed at the variety of answers you will get. Her eyes, his eyes, her hairs, his sense of humour, her curves, his gentleness…
Even the way he/she smells. Scientists have found that odour often plays a powerful role in the game of attraction. Unconsciously, men and women exude certain scents which are picked up, also unconsciously, by the opposite sex. Perhaps because it is unconscious, it is also the reason why it is so difficult to fully understand.
And the ‘tastes’ in perfume are, again, distinctive and varied. For instance, while some men like the smell of attar, others find it nauseating – what turns them on is Paloma Picasso. Some women like musk, others trip out on leather. But, both sexes agree that the clean, fresh smell of a just-bathed body is one of the most sensual of scents. Cleanliness is next to sexiness!
Appearance – another quality that commonly appeals to both men and women – but in different ways. A man is more likely to rest his gaze upon a woman’s curvature, but for a woman it is the general good looks and grooming – the overall appearance of a man – that matters. Yet, he needn’t be a Tom Cruise to make the grade. What is more important is that he is clean, neat, trim and well-groomed. Incidentally, many of the attributes the men consider as liabilities – a balding head or a ‘prosperous’ tummy – have that indefinable attraction for some women!
The Aristotle Onassis-Jacqueline Kennedy marriage illustrates the sheer magnetism of non-physical qualities – like power and money. While one cannot make generalizations, it is by and large true that women are often attracted to men who rank higher than themselves in their social circle. Men think differently. While some of them may be thrilled at the prospect of being attractive to a socially superior woman (meaning she who has more power and money than they do) there are as many men who are put off by such women. This supposedly dates back to the time when men were the protectors of women and the breadwinners of families.
Intelligence. A man who has a quick wit and an alert mind is an instant hit with the ladies. Add to that a sense of humour and the man is home-free. But for a woman it is not necessarily so. Some men do not mind a dumb babe so long as she has an hour-glass figure. Remember the famous Marilyn Monroe-Arthur Miller marriage! (However, her sex appeal, as it turned out, was not enough to sustain the marriage – which ended in divorce). But, in a relationship that goes beyond initial physical attraction, a number of men do place humour and sensibility high on the list of desirable qualities. “I couldn’t stay attracted to a woman who can’t enjoy a good joke or one who has a cotton head,” says one man-about-town. “A woman must have an alert mind, she must be sensible, not naïve.”
Specific parts of the human body also play a vital role in the sex game. Men have long been classified according to their fetishes. It all depends on which specific aspects of a woman’s body they notice first. Some men are excited by the sight of long, Jerry-Hall legs (leg men). Some men go by the size of a woman’s bosom. Does she resemble a Bo Derek or an Audrey Hepburn? (breast men). Then there are men who are swayed by the walk and hips of a woman (bottom men).
Women too are attracted by a well-proportioned figure. But, somehow, they don’t swear by it. A trim, well-built, strong-looking man is often a clear winner, but at the same time he shouldn’t be all bugling muscles. Most women are put off by the body-builder types. What they look for more is a man with a sense of inner strength coupled with tenderness. For them that is more appealing than all the sinews put together.
Hair and eyes have been features that have attracted men to women since time began. It is not necessarily the shape of the eye but the keenness of the glance that apparently matters. Of course, some men fall for the shape or colour too – doe-eyes, almond eyes, cat’s eyes, dewy eyes, large, round kohl-lined eyes.
Long hair in women is also prized by men (Oriental me, particular). It’s no secret that Angelina Jolie’s crowning glory does things for her sex appeal. And it’s no wonder that women always keep notice of their hair styles.
Have you heard of love at first sound? It’s not unusual to hear of someone falling in love with the sound of a voice heard over the telephone perhaps. This is a potent attribute in the sex appeal department. Remember the joke about the man who travelled all the way to the other state to meet the woman whose voice on the telephone had whetted his dreams – only to find her fat, frumpy and fifty.
Given the fact that sex appeal is a combination of various sensory stimulations, the question arises, is one born with it or is it acquired. The answer is, both. Some people are born with it and an awareness of their sex appeal as they grow older only serves to enhance it. For those of us who do not have it, psychologists suggest – identify your strong points and accentuate them.
But don’t overdo it. The most appealing aspect is its subtlety. Sensuousness should not be thrust upon the senses!