help me work up some attraction!
August 5, 2010 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Help me develop physical attraction to someone who did not strike me at first as a hot.

So I went on a first date with a guy I met online. He's pretty awesome in some ways- funny, compassionate, into a lot of the stuff that I'm into. Perfect, actually. And I'm incredibly picky. But physically, I just do not want to get it on with him. Is there any way I can...promote feelings of attraction towards him?

My usual 'type' is kind of cute but scummy, and this is not conducive to long term happiness. Is there anything I can do to change this, or is it just something that either is or isn't? Has anything worked for you? Is this particular dude a lost cause?
posted by genmonster to Human Relations (32 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Since the human body is composed of many parts, it is sometimes the case that even if there are some parts that are not attractive, there may be other parts that are. Perhaps his abdomen is not appealing, but he has nice hands. You can focus on the parts that you like best. And even though it is always risky to try to change people, it may also be possible for him to improve in some way at your request (e.g., by losing weight). Those are possibilities, but it is also possible that he is actually a lost cause.
posted by grizzled at 5:36 AM on August 5, 2010

attraction, for me, is like a punch to the face OR emerges over time, like a slow burn. give it a few more dates, just to see if you have a slow burn situation here.
posted by crawfo at 5:40 AM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

FWIW, none of the people I've ever actually fallen for have been "my type" -- I discovered their beauty only after getting to know them. (I am a woman dating men; not sure if it ever works the other way around.) This is my main problem with online dating -- it often encourages you to select for physical appearance first, which in my view is hugely counterproductive.

Possibly relevant.
posted by stuck on an island at 5:48 AM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you're not, you're not - but perhaps it's just "not yet". Since you seem to like him otherwise, why not spend a little more time? First dates are usually pretty limited. Try a couple more dates doing different things one or both of you enjoy doing. You'll probably learn which way it's going to go for you pretty quickly.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 5:51 AM on August 5, 2010

I'm totally with you "stuck on an island." I have to get to know them first and then I find them incredibly attractive. I don't like online dating because I know I didn't meet that person by chance... it was something set up. Ugh. That's me, personally but... the best way to form some hot attraction is to get to know him a bit more. That's the best way to build anything stable.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 5:55 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've held men at arm's length, or in the friends zone, due to lack of attraction, only to give in when their perseverance and personality overpowered their looks. As you get to know someone, looks matter less, and the person matters more. Focus on the way he makes you feel when you're with him. If you catch yourself thinking about his physical appearance, remind yourself of what's great about this person. But, if after more time together, you still can't get past it, let it go. You can't force physical attraction.
posted by litnerd at 5:56 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had a drunk hook-up with someone who was out of my usual range of attractiveness, because were both in a bit of dry spell this ended up turning into a longer term fuck buddy thing. It was a similar situation. Great personality yadda yadda but not my type. After having some really hot sex with them, it was like a switch flipped, now I find them attractive. In conclusion: what crawfo said, with the addendum having good sex can catalyze the slow burn.
posted by sockymcpuppeterson at 5:59 AM on August 5, 2010

This is my main problem with online dating -- it often encourages you to select for physical appearance first, which in my view is hugely counterproductive.

Replace "online dating" with "society at large". In our modern world, the average consumer is literally bombarded - constantly - with the importance of physical appearance. There's whole industries because of this. Sub-sets of industries. Its a major driver of the economy at large, and all over every type of media. Women have to be beautiful, men have to be with beautiful women. We are being brainwashed from the moment we start having Disney stories read to us.

They say money is the root of all evil, but they're wrong - its the inordinate love of money that is the root of evil. Much the same with beauty - its not a bad thing. Its a corrupted lust for beauty that ruins us.

One of my best friends father was a pastor, and he and his wife liked to accuse my friend and I of "wanting Christian sluts," and they were right: we were in our twenties, living it up in NYC, and wanted women who aligned with our personal viewpoints but were also in the top 20% of attractive females.

His parents would further the point accordingly: we would walk into any given room - whether it was coffee after an evening service or a bar in the West Village, scan it, and immediately dismiss 80% of the women in the room as those we would be less than interested in talking to.

I've been amazed how this habit has been so hard to get past. I also marvel at the many amazing people I must have passed by unwittingly. Perhaps learning to focus on the whole package is something of a coming-of-age rite. I shudder to think where I might be should I have paired off with someone based primarily on the physical aspects.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:18 AM on August 5, 2010 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Physical attraction isn't just, and often isn't even really...physical.

What pops out for me in your original post is "compassionate" -- and that you are attracted to "scummy" types.

It's not about the shape of somebody's nose. It's about the kind of vibe and style they exude. It sounds like maybe you *want* to feel attracted to somebody who's more "compassionate", but you are attracted instead to "bad boys."

This has to do with your relationship to men-as-sex-partners in a way that goes beyond the physical. In other words, we should probably say "not sexually attracted to" rather than "not physically attracted to."

You could do a little test. Imagine this same guy with a different personality: more tough, forceful -- more "scummy." Are you more attracted to him now? If yes, this might tell you something about what you're looking for in terms of personality, and if you're not happy that you *need* scumminess (and also it would be helpful if you defined that further), you might want to think or work on that a little.

A lot of women are not sexually attracted to guys whose vibe is "compassionate" because, although they want an empathic partner, empathy is too "same" and they need more "Other" to get it on.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:36 AM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

I started dating and fell in love with my 5'4" boyfriend shortly after I swore up and down to myself that the next person I went out with would be taller than me.

I'm 5'7".

Focus on his good qualities and give it some time. Do some activities that he's really into...watching someone you like get excited about something is an instant attractor.
posted by phunniemee at 6:53 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is my main problem with online dating -- it often encourages you to select for physical appearance first, which in my view is hugely counterproductive.

Well, that's apparently not what happened with the OP!

Dmelanogaster's comment is pretty insightful. When you say your type "is not conducive to long term happiness," clearly you're not just talking about physical appearance.

Looking at your description of him -- "funny, compassionate, into a lot of the stuff that I'm into" -- it sounds like you really respect him, and you imagine in theory that he could be a good match. But you're not just lacking "physical attraction" -- there isn't even attraction, period.

Why try to force it? It's not like you're obligated to keep dating him just because an all-around swell guy. Both of you could probably easily find someone else who's more your type.

Sorry if I'm not directly answering your question, but I'm getting a vibe that "physical attraction" is a bit of a red herring here. Just a thought -- take it or leave it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:00 AM on August 5, 2010

I never thought that attraction could develop -- until I met someone that was so not my type and we talked and laughed for a few weeks and attraction did not even cross my mind - until we eventually kissed, and I was expecting nothing, and I ended up with years of o.m.g.

You can't force it, but sometimes you can't predict it either. I would just chill out about it, because I don't think you can make it happen, and I think that if you try it may be so pressure-y that it does the opposite of what you want.

He may never be who you would pick out across a room and say he's hot, but sometimes the whole package combines in a way that makes him super hot to you. It sounds all cliche, but surprisingly (to me) it's totally true.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you even remotely interested in getting to know him in a romantic way? (it sounds to me like you want to try.)

If yes, proceed to date 2.

If no, politely decline if he requests a second date.
posted by bilabial at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2010

I should probably have been clearer about time frames - follow your normal kind of typical timing for when you would hook up with someone you're dating, maybe give it a little bit longer, but that's about the point where I'd cut it off - I wouldn't spend like 9 months waiting to see if it develops.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:20 AM on August 5, 2010

I was recently lamenting over this same problem with my therapist and she told me that lasting physical attraction is related to attachment. And it takes months to develop that sort of attachment to someone. She said the problem with online dating is that you feel like you've gotten to know someone in a very short period of time, but you haven't spent enough time with them to form an attachment so there's a disconnect. Take things slow and see if anything develops. After a couple of months, reassess how you feel.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:21 AM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

What attracted you to him in the first place? I mean, why did you choose to contact him/respond to his message on the dating site? Did you find his photos attractive but were disappointed when you met him in person? I'm just trying to get a feel for why you would go out on a date with someone if you didn't at some point find him physically attractive or think that the possibility was there.

By agreeing to go on a date, you both sent the provisional message that "I find you attractive (personally and physically) and I'm interested in getting to know you better to see if things would work out between us." Going on a date is not a guarantee that those feelings won't change, but I think continuing to go on dates with him sends the same message of "I find you attractive." And if you don't, then I think continuing to go on dates with him is a kind of dishonesty.

You deserve to date someone you find attractive. He deserves to date someone who finds him attractive. Give it a few more dates -- three at the most -- and then assess if attraction has developed. If not, then I think you should be just friends with this funny, compassionate, compatible guy.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 7:47 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of the best people I've ever dated I met online. He had a very thin upper lip and a huge gut and the first time I met him my first thought was, "this is our first and last date."

Well, that date lasted about six hours - talking. The next date lasted about the same - those poor servers... We had so much in common, and something just clicked between us. I've never had anything like that before or since. But it took a long time before I could bring myself to do anything more than holding hands with him. About a month. ^_^ Then we became inseparable. Our relationship lasted about a year before reality reared its ugly head and we had to go our separate ways (long story).

I often wonder how life would be if we'd been able to stay together. *sigh*

Anyway, what I'm saying is - if you like *him* but not his *looks* give it time. His personality will far overshadow his looks if you two click like we did.
posted by patheral at 7:52 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Unless there is something you find completely physically repulsive about him, attraction could grow as you get to know him more. Do you like to look at him? Do you like to talk to him? Those things indicate nascent attraction (unless you are the type--and you'd know this--who is always all-or-nothing with attraction, immediately).

It's hard but necessary sometimes rewire your brain to go for someone different than what you usually go for. I sympathize. I usually go for crazy, arty, moody, emotionally damaged guys with whom I was friends for years and then one night we kissed. But it never worked for that long-term happiness thing, so, rewiring time.

Nothing in your question indicates that you have to either bone this guy immediately or call it quits. I say wait and see how you feel after getting to know him a little more. If you've known him for a month or so and the idea of kissing him is disgusting, then give up. But honestly, not wanting to jump the bones of someone you've met once is fairly normal. Especially since you met in that high pressure "THISISADATEOMIGODITISADATE! DOWEWANTTOBONE?! DOWEDOWEDOWELIKEEACHOTHERORNOT?!?!" context, which always makes things a little weird. To me, at least.
posted by millipede at 7:54 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is there any way I can...promote feelings of attraction towards him?

Optimally, you would keep your mind open to it but not try to force it, while he incidentally finds ways to give you a really good inkling of how really great and attentive he'll be in bed.

And then once the sexy-thoughts start, you've got anticipation to nudge your brain into full-on attraction.
posted by desuetude at 7:56 AM on August 5, 2010

Oh, and also, here is an anecdote that might be relevant.

My last boyfriend, when we first met (about a year ago), did not strike me as hot at all. When we met, he reminded me, at first, of a troll. A tiny, semi-obnoxious troll with an annoying fake laugh. And this is how I also think of him now, way after the fact. But he liked me, and I was new to the city and I liked him enough as a friend, and eventually got me to pretty much fall in love with him. How? He came over and sat on my couch, as a friend, without pressure for anything else. Every day. Came over. Sometimes I went to his house and sat on his couch. He talked to me all the time, about everything. He cooked me dinner and brought me lunch and brought me flowers on my birthday, pretty much displaying for all the world to see that he liked me, but never mentioning it. We developed inside jokes and a real friendship. Finally he displayed vulnerabilities. I heard his real laugh, which was less annoying. But mostly, he just came over and sat on my couch. Every day. And slowly, he stopped seeming like a tiny, semi-obnoxious troll and started seeming like a real person and boy I wanted to kiss me. And then one day he did. (And in retrospect, ugh).

(He was also a manipulative person who saw his social life as a game of chess, and basically did all of this on purpose, having read me perfectly as soon as we met).

I tell you this to show that attraction can definitely, absolutely build with familiarity and non-pressure.
posted by millipede at 8:02 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

One guy I dated in highschool my parents nicknamed "tall, dark and 2 out of 3 ain't bad". But he had nice eyes, smelled great, was a fascinating person and great to fool around with. I dated him for a year and a half - at first I was totally uninterested but he did grow on me, and occasionally I found him physically attractive. The personality is what kept me interested though. I'm still friends with him and he's managed to find a personal style that really suits him - dresses like a hipster with mutton chops. Works well for him, and that's kind of sexy.

Another ex of mine was interesting, nice eyes, great in bed, and smelled good, but had a weak chin with a cleft - not attractive. He grew a goatee while we were apart for a few weeks, gave him the look of a chiseled jaw. When I saw him with it, I went from "meh" to "bedroom... now"

So sometimes little changes in hair/facial hair or personal style is enough to tilt things in favor of being physically attractive, if you find them attractive in other ways. A single date is just a tad soon to go on suggesting they change themselves for you, but later on... "hey, I think you'd look great with (a goatee), it would really suit you" would probably be well-received. People like to look their best.
posted by lizbunny at 8:13 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can...promote feelings of attraction towards him?

My usual 'type' is kind of cute but scummy, and this is not conducive to long term happiness. Is there anything I can do to change this, or is it just something that either is or isn't? Has anything worked for you? Is this particular dude a lost cause?

Just keep hanging out and let the hormones do the work. Don't force it and then get disappointed. It'll work out.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:38 AM on August 5, 2010

It might be helpful to remember that, by the time we get to significant dating age, we only have a very limited number of years where we are at our physical best. This is a very small percentage of our lives.

We get older. Our bodies change in generally less that optimal ways. We will, in the future, only have a resemblance to what we look like today. Perhaps acknowledging that physical appearance is fluid might help you to not judge it with the same priority as you do now. If you plan to have a long-term monogamous partnership, they will almost surely transform slowly into someone who's looks are different...and their looks will be completely trumped by their personality and your love for them as three dimensional people. It might also be helpful to remember that your looks will probably follow this same arc of change.
posted by nickjadlowe at 8:43 AM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

On the next date, pick a physical activity that he enjoys so that you have the opportunity to see his body at its best. A physically shy person might be an Apollo on a tennis court, or an acrobat with a diving board. IME physical appearance is not always a reliable indicator of a person's physical abilities. So if it's physical appearance that's holding you back on what is otherwise a GREAT person, then maybe give him a shot at showing you how that *great body* works for him!

The first date sounded like a great primer for getting a sense of his character. Now (without resorting to sex), give his physical character a chance to shine, and then decide.
posted by human ecologist at 9:48 AM on August 5, 2010

You have what you think is the look (cute but scummy) you generally prefer, but perhaps the look isn't as important as how he smells. No, not what kind of after shave, but what his natural body odor is.

If you're not attracted to him, it may have to do with odor. Supposedly that is a subtle but powerful means of establishing compatibility with a potential mate. People tend to find others attractive in terms of smell if they have complementary immune systems, which produces healthier offspring. Bottom line-- if his natural odor is unattractive to you, the two of you may not be compatible because your body can sense from his odor that you and he would not make healthy babies.
posted by Doohickie at 9:51 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

"My usual 'type' is kind of cute but scummy"

Scummy? Yikes. You should really try to figure out why that is and change it - not just for this particular guy, but in general. It sure doesn't sound healthy to me. In fact, you've realized it isn't healthy: "this is not conducive to long term happiness."
posted by 2oh1 at 11:29 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have this problem all the time and my advice is don't push it. Like the song says "its in his kiss". If you're curious then a couple of old fashioned make out sessions* should tell you if you're attracted to the guy and like his style or not. If the answer is "hell no" then its a lot easier to break up with someone you're not sleeping with.

* sober
posted by fshgrl at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Does it work like that on the other side of the sexuality spectrum as well?
posted by antgly at 3:19 PM on August 5, 2010

Have orgasms while thinking about him/looking at him? Seriously. This has gotten me way way into dudes who aren't my type. Then again, they're hot enough for me to want to do them anyway.

I gotta say, I am kinda over the idea that women just have to deal with lack of sexual attraction like there are no sexy guys who are also nice. It's kinda bullshit stereotyping and in some cases it really is settling for someone who doesn't push your buttons. Keeping sex fun after you've seen someone vomit is hard enough. It's ten times easier when ten minutes later you're like "damn, he looks good."

Now I'm not saying everyone has to be in the top 20% or whatever. I'm saying that it's better if they're within the top 20% FOR YOU.

I guess I have the opposite experience of the people in this thread, dating a guy who wasn't hot to me. The sex was kinda fun but then...meh. After a year or so of that, our sex life was a disaster. My current partner of 3+ years is not, like, a Calvin Klein model, but I've always found him attractive and still do and DAMN does it make it easier to keep our sex life fun.

IN SUMMARY: Sure, maybe you can do it. But life is short, and maybe you should make things easier on yourself and find someone who is nice AND attractive from the get-go. Don't buy the stereotype, they exist.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:04 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

What internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 said. I think we're all hoping you'll get over the scummy, although maybe this new guy just isn't for you.

I'm the type, and I know it, for always all-or-nothing with attraction, immediately. A few times, well-meaning friends have talked me into giving someone a chance, or letting them grow on me, or whatever, and there was a period where I found that person sexy, or maybe hottish, but it faded and things ended very badly.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:03 PM on August 6, 2010

What internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 said, except I don't think anyone's suggesting that it's only women who should settle. People say it all the time for men too. She's exactly right about "the top 20% FOR YOU." If you start thinking about how "Oh, I shouldn't limit myself to the top 20%, because if everyone did that then things would be so bad for the other 80%." You could drive yourself crazy that way. It sounds really altruistic and fair-minded, but really it's an excuse for denying what you really want.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:14 PM on August 6, 2010

(Sorry, this should have been one sentence:) If you start thinking about how "Oh, I shouldn't limit myself to the top 20%, because if everyone did that then things would be so bad for the other 80%," you could drive yourself crazy that way.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:21 PM on August 6, 2010

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