How do I increase my range of physical attraction?
December 28, 2011 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Have you gotten over your extremely limited range of physical attraction?

Anonymous because this sounds so arrogant and shallow. With very few exceptions over my life, I've been attracted only to extremely attractive people. I would say my last three boyfriends could have passed for Abercrombie & Fitch models. I'm decently attractive, but I'm not Angelina Jolie. Beyond that, this is obviously shallow and, worse for me in a practical sense, extremely limiting. With the last three boyfriends, for example, there were serious flaws I should have picked up on immediately, but didn't because I was so relieved to actually be sexually aroused, for once. I've met so many guys I know I could have a great partnership with, but I cringe at the thought of sex with them.

With 2-3 exceptions, I've dated some men who were less classically attractive and I was less attracted to them. In almost all of these cases, I lost sexual interest after a few months, and sex became dry if not for lube, as well as painful. One of these guys was and remains a wonderful friend with whom I have a deeper connection than I ever did with the last three boyfriends. However, sex with him was literally torture. I became so depressed as I was constantly in pain during sex, and getting UTIs then yeast infections from the antibiotics, then more UTIs, then bacterial vaginosis. Rinse, repeat. Sorry for the unpleasant images. The way it was, it couldn't have lasted. Despite the serious flaws I referenced with the last three relationships, I was ultimately happier in them (i.e. not physically suffering).

I'm single again, and this narrow attraction situation really worries me. I want a deep friendship and a meaningful connection. I want to get married (I'm in my late 20s). I know I myself am probably going to be less attractive than I am within a few years (though I do take great care of myself and am attracted to attractive older men, 50s, 60s, as well, so at least fading attraction with age is less of a concern). But I'm terrified at the prospect of a marriage without sexual attraction. And yet, I'm also saddened by the prospect of a sexy marriage without a close friendship. Although if I have to be honest with myself, I think a warm marriage with someone who was not my best friend would be preferable to me than one with a great friend in which I suffer through sex. Maybe that's a question too - did anyone in my position choose this option, to marry a good person with good sexual chemistry without necessarily marrying your best friend/best intellectual companion? How did it work out?

Tl;dr - I have had a hard time enjoying sex with less than very conventionally attractive men in the past. I guess my main question is, has anyone ever 'trained' themselves to find less conventionally attractive people attractive? That sounds ridiculous. Short of that, does anyone have any advice?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

I think it is okay to know what you are attracted too. I am not sure you can change it. It is never good if you cringe at the thought of someone. You are not doing your SO a favor if you pretend to be attractive to them.

You just need to keep trying, and the best thing you can do is analyze the relationship in the beginning. If you know that physical attraction blinds you to bad personality flaws, then you need to figure out how to determine that quickly so you don't waste your time. I think it is very important to have a personality to match, but it is also equally important to have someone that you are attracted to.

I love online dating for this reason. You can learn about their wants, needs, personality and see how well they match you before you get on a date and the chemistry gets in the way. You can also see pictures of people to see if you like them or not, but basically you find the personality and then see if they are attractive and this might be a better route for you.

Be picky and while it might take a while, hopefully it will mean you will have a longer more fulfilling relationship.
posted by Jaelma24 at 11:54 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seems like one of those times where the symptoms belie something that isn't merely a quirk that is easily "trained" without actual professional therapy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:57 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I were you, I'd try to do some thinking (possibly with a therapist) about your extremely narrow spectrum of attraction. When it's that narrow, and that troubling to you, this suggests that what underpins the attractions isn't healthy. (I mean, it's possible that you're just unfortunate, of course.) You don't give anything to go on here, so I have no notion what the underpinning might be. Some suggestions:

1. Unsustainable dependence on partner for self-esteem, either because you have low self-esteem or because you are (on some level) arrogant and feel that less than the best reflects poorly on you.

2. Constant reinforcement of bad aesthetics that's become pathological - you work in fashion or you spend too much time with television and magazines. (See anecdotes below!) or else you're extremely easily influenced. (I'm easily influenced about fashion; I could see how that would extend to people.)

3. Self-punishment or love of drama - on some level, a happy and complete relationship seems dull or more than you deserve, so you clamp down on attraction.

4. Sexual desires that you can't allow yourself to bring into consciousness, whether vanilla ones, kink, non-heterosexuality, etc - you repress these things by focusing your other desires onto this high-drama/high-angst only-very-handsome-men thing.

I have a friend like you who is in an unhappy long-term relationship. This friend too is only attracted to much better-looking people, and yes, it's a problem for them. Little in common with partner which turns into fighting and resentment of each others' friends and activities, partner has cheated but friend is reluctant to break up, etc.

To retrain the eye - for me, the eye is easy to retrain, possibly because I am a bit trendy. I stopped looking at mainstream fashion pictures. I started looking at fashiony but body-positive blogs that show a diversity of people. And presto, after seeing these images repeated over and over, I found them attractive in real life.

I once accidentally retrained myself to the dark side by watching a lot of a certain television program and becoming immersed in its fandom. I found myself noticing and being attracted to people who I would never have been interested in before, and tolerant of ideologies and ways of life that had been abhorrent to me. And this wasn't intentional - it was just things that I could tell were catching my attention because I'd seen them repeated in the show and valorized in fandom. It was pretty creepy.

Because of these two incidents, I am very suspicious of the "attraction is forever and hard wired so suck it up non-fashion models" ideology that is so prevalent. I think conditioning is really powerful, whether it's the conditioning that is around us every day as media or the conditioning of family and childhood and so on.

On another note, I've found that people who are not 100% attractive to me at first sight but who have one very attractive feature are people who tend to grow on me - someone who has bland features but a very compelling and beautiful voice, for example.
posted by Frowner at 12:02 PM on December 28, 2011 [32 favorites]

Can you focus on being sexually attracted to someone's particular brand of masculinity, instead of strictly physical features? That's the more primal, anyway. Obviously, you probably still aren't going to go crazy over someone significantly overweight, missing teeth, etc., but there are a lot of odd-featured but incredibly hot men out there.
posted by availablelight at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

You need to deal with the shame you're feeling over this. It isn't a thing to be ashamed of, you know what you like and it's higher than average... shrug. The fact that you think this is a deep and painful flaw in your character is way worse in my mind than that you have very high physical standards for a partner.

A relationship requires 3 attractions (physical, mental, values) and NONE of them are shallow. Valuing only one of them leads to disaster in my experience and I guess could be construed as shallow, but you're clearly not just looking for a Greek god without a soul or brain.

It's not easy when you know what you want, and I've had lots of painful thoughts where I'm now in my late 20's and worried I'll just never meet anyone again... but hey, it only takes one time, right? So just keep at it. I'm pretty glad I stopped lowering my standards due to existential angst over thoughts of life as a Forever Alone.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

(Part of what strikes me as significant here is the inability to enjoy more casual sex with someone who isn't 100% your most ultimately attractive person ever - especially the part about things being painful. That suggests for a variety of TMI reasons that there's some resentment/anger/fear/stuff on your part during sex, not just that your partner doesn't do it for you. That's what I'd work on exploring. If you prefer and can get model-like men, fine, but it seems possibly problematic to me that you are so very not into it with anyone else. And also the fact that this is troubling to you - I know a fellow who only likes much younger and prettier women, can't generally get them, and basically doesn't date, but it's not an existential concern for him.)
posted by Frowner at 12:10 PM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't think you should feel shame if this is the way you feel, but Abercrombie and Fitch-style is incredibly limiting, especially because having known people (not dated) who do modeling for them, they spend ALL their time working on looking like that. What if they stop?

I do think a lot of attraction is hard wired. I've met people I've just clicked with/was attracted to immediately and I really can't say why, I have no idea.

I'd definitely talk about this with a therapist. If you want to get married, this kind of thinking is really going to hold you back.
posted by sweetkid at 12:10 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not that your standards are too high, it's that they're too low. You need to believe that you can find someone attractive who's also good for you emotionally. And like OnTheLastCastle said, the shame really jumps out of your post. You might want to consider finding a counselor? You might have problems, but being attracted to attractive people is not one of them.
posted by facetious at 12:10 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Someone's physical appearance is only the starting point in whether you feel aroused by them or not. I don't think you can get past someone who you look at and think "eww", but short of that cringe reaction (which probably has to do with a lot of cultural baggage and you not making up your own ideas about what is attractive), you may find that less conventionally attractive guys get you super hot because they are good in bed. Someone who goes to lengths to figure out what turns you on is someone you can have sustained attraction to and good sex with. Someone who is meh in bed and doesn't try to push your mental buttons is someone you will have bad sex with, regardless of how they look. Were the "unattractive" guys interested in pleasing you? Sounds like not if sex was painful. You have some deprogramming to do and some baggage to dump regarding sex, and just dating a hot guy won't fix that.

Also, how old are you? You might outgrow this with time, maturity, and a change in the kind of media you consume. Seriously, conventional media doesn't just create unrealistic standards for women; same goes for men, too. I think you need to start looking for things you find attractive in real people, not just someone who mirrors a movie/TV standard of attractiveness.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:10 PM on December 28, 2011

I think therapy is the way to go here. The reaction you describe sounds much more about an aversion to intimacy, with attractiveness as the red herring you've created for yourself.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:12 PM on December 28, 2011 [17 favorites]

Hmm. I think Lyn Never might have nailed it. Consider that you might have an aversion to intimacy or cold feet generally about being in a serious relationship, and this is indeed a red herring.
posted by sweetkid at 12:13 PM on December 28, 2011

I'm in my late 20s

I'm in my late 40s and it is my experience that no matter how hot your partner is once you have seen her naked more than 200 times, attraction begins to level off centered around on personality and chemistry. After 1000 times, hotness has nothing to do with how she looks naked - and it is no less hot.
posted by three blind mice at 12:15 PM on December 28, 2011 [16 favorites]

I'm not sure people can change whom they're attracted to very easily. That said, reading this I do kinda wonder if this is more about you thinking the Ambercrombie guys are hot, or if you just want to be seen with a guy you know everyone will recognize as hot? Is part of it the valuation you get from peers/everyone? Ie:basing self-worth on how you're possibly judged in public?

On the other hand (or maybe the same hand), it seems like you assume "hot" guys will be dumb/not emotionally capable of partnership, and that's what you like about it. It never hurts to talk things like this through with a therapist. I agree with Lyn re: intimacy.

Don't pressure yourself to find the right man ASAP--you're young. Work on yourself first :)
posted by manicure12 at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2011

I wonder if pressure and anxiety aren't at work here? The whole "I know I'm going to get less attractive [and thus be less able to attract partners because That Is The Law]" thing, it sounds like you've internalized the overt messages about women that we constantly hear - women have a sell-by date, it's very important to figure out who is exactly your equal in appearance so as to avoid the shame of going for someone "out of your league", or it is very important to strive to do "better than you deserve". In short, the commodification of your body and sexuality, where you're trying constantly to figure you what you're "worth" sexually, and trying constantly to "trade" that for as much as you can get in terms of relationships.

When that's not generally how it works at all! I mean, maybe in Hollywood or LA or somewhere, but not anywhere I've ever been.

If you want to unpack this with a therapist, maybe you should start by talking through your own ideas about your attractiveness and worth, and what you believe about the status of women in relationships.

I know from personal experience that pop culture narratives about women's bodies and sexuality can poison relationships with actual people, if you're the type of person to get hung up about them - the anxiety, the impossibility of filtering out the mainstream media chatter, can get in the way when you're actually trying to have sex.

Again, this has nothing to do with whether you end up marrying a model or not, just with your own emotional comfort.
posted by Frowner at 12:31 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't try to train/untrain yourself. Everyone has their preference for who they find attractive, and I suspect anyone who says they would enjoy sex with someone no matter what body their partner had is a liar.

There are about 8000 variables that determine if you're a good fit with someone. I wouldn't date someone if they didn't read novels for fun, and I don't feel the least bit bad about it. Appearance just has more social baggage than "novel reading" does, but otherwise it's the same shit.

Having a standard that says "this person is physically unattractive to me and I'm not excited about sex therefore I am not interested in dating them" does not make you a bad person, nor does it make you substantially less likely to find a partner.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 12:45 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Frowner makes some excellent points in her posts as does Lyn Never.

Perhaps your problem isn't "shallowness" so much as that you have a low sex drive (for whatever reason) and you require intense physical attraction in order to kick-start it? Some people are asexual or have a low libido - sometimes that is something you can treat and sometimes it's part of one's make-up. And that's okay. Speaking of media brainwashing, we're force-fed a diet of "good people have great sex all the time; everyone should want sex all the time; it's not normal to have a low libido or God forbid, be asexual." Women especially are told that all men are horn-dogs and sex is something you'd better provide - and good sex at that - or else no relationship.

Or perhaps you just need something extra - lots and lots of foreplay, candles and music and satin sheets or whatever - before getting in the mood. Or maybe you have desires you haven't acknowledged or acted upon, as Frowner said in her post above (non-hetero, kinky, whatever).

If you do have a low libido or are asexual, the thing is not to force yourself to have sex when it's painful but to find someone compatible. It's harder for a low-libido/asexual woman because there are more of them than men - but there are men out there who might be fine with infrequent sex. What you shouldn't do is pretend to be someone you're not (if it turns out you DON'T like sex that much) because that will lead to bitterness and resentment (on his part) and always feeling pressured and hounded (on yours) once the honeymoon wears off.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:46 PM on December 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

Wow. I went back and reread your question and you sound very much like me when I was in my 20's.

Speaking for myself, my tastes are my tastes. That's it. It sounds like you have tried to branch out and have not succeeded - I pretty much did the same thing with the same amount of success.

If anything, my range has gotten narrower over time. And yes, I've considered and talked about the "commitment-phobe" angle as a possibility. Hasn't made a dent. The more I hear things like "you're so picky," the pickier I've become. And guess what - that very pickiness has served me very well in avoiding abusers/users, who are always on the lookout for the next kill. The down side, as I think you realize, is that it can filter out decent people as well.

Get to know yourself and what you like and don't like about everything in life. If there is a spiritual path that appeals to you, explore it. Lower priority: if possible, see if you can cultivate platonic friendships with men who have offered their friendship and appear to be worthy of your time and attention (i.e. they're not phonies or "offering" friendship in exchange for something else).

Put the dating life on hold: try not to put pressure on yourself to find a boyfriend or a husband out of fear. If people in your life are putting pressure on you to do it, restrict your time with them or find new friends. That very pressure (which I sense in your question, forgive me if I'm wrong) may well be making you rebel against the whole process and the narrow range of datability is how it comes out.

What I wished someone had said to me at your age, assuming I could have believed it: You do not have to be in an intimate relationship, EVER, to lead a fulfilled and meaningful life. Maybe something in you does not really want such a relationship, or maybe (like me) you are not really cut out for it, and you recognize this on a deep level.

It is not the end of the world if this is true of you, but it is the road less travelled and, even if you can accept it about yourself, you'll likely meet with a lot of pressure to change yourself to fit others' expectations/aspirations.

You are really young and you have a lot of time left: see what happens. Ultimately you have to accept yourself for what you are.
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:51 PM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I used to only date beautiful women -- 10's. Eventually I got tired of it for all the reasons you'd expect: There's a reason models are stereotyped as shallow and dumb. Yes, they don't all fit into this mold (and many are very nice) but enough do that it's difficult to find exceptions.

I don't really think it's possible to change what you're attracted to; beautiful women still turn my head. But once I started dating a cute girl -- no model, but still attractive -- who was also older than my usual SO's, smarter, and better educated, I found that I'm much, much more attracted to her sexually than I was to any of the 10's I dated.

I suspect that you just haven't found love yet, even with the guy you really liked. Slow down, date without sex for a while, and maybe it'll come.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the main problem here is the shame you seem to feel about your tastes.

As far as I'm concerned, you don't have to be turned on by anyone else's idea of beauty, and you have no obligation to have sex with anyone you aren't attracted to, or to broaden your tastes for anyone else's sake. You're not a bad person because there are very nice people who don't turn you on, and nothing you wrote makes it sound like your tastes are over-the-top restrictive.

And you don't have to choose between a great-looking guy who's an inconsiderate jerk and a homely guy with a heart of gold. Not all beautiful people are dumb or shallow or assholes and not all intelligent, sensitive people are ugly or average-looking. I guarantee you there are men whom you will find both physically and mentally attractive; you just haven't met them yet, and that's not your fault.

I could see how it would be problematic if you were unable to attract the only sort of men that you were into, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. You say you were happier in your last three relationships because you were more attracted to the men you were with. There's nothing wrong with that.

This could certainly be something worthwhile to explore in therapy, if you're so inclined. But mostly I think you should stop beating yourself up over this, regardless of what any strangers on the internet think.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:58 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

yes, it is possible to find a broader range of people attractive, if you want. it takes practice and time. don't try this with any particular individual that you're trying to force yourself to be attracted to - do it all the time.

look at people and try to find something beautiful about them. all of them. any of them. if you feel uncomfortable doing this in person, go on tumblr - there are a million blogs devoted to celebrating specific visual "types" of people. if you find yourself making assumptions about people based on their looks (e.g., fat=lazy, etc), challenge yourself on them and try again.

once you are able to find more types of people beautiful, you aren't immediately going to be attracted to all of them. but you'll be opening the door to the possibility of a broader spectrum of desire in the future.
posted by sea change at 1:03 PM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Hi, I'm the OP. I formed "" for any one on one communication.

As for two issues raised: 1. my ex boyfriends and I, with whom I had the bad sex, we tried very much to make it good. Lots of foreplay, lots of oral, etc. and it was just much harder for me to be excited. Despite lube, the extra friction from my nonarousal was the reason I got all of the UTIs. 2. The vanity aspect? Not as much - the women whose relationships I "envy" or at least wish to have for myself are not ones where I think damn, her husband is so hot, but ones where they look like best friends, having a great time together, and seem very attracted to each other. At the same time, I usually look at the guys and think sadly to myself that I can't imagine enjoying intimacy with them. I've never thought I've had a problem with intimacy - I have very close friendships and family connections - but I haven't yet had both intimacy and great sex in the same person. Maybe I'm just unlucky, and maybe people are raising an interesting point."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:03 PM on December 28, 2011

If I were you I'd want to unpack this with a therapist. Even models eventually turn fifty and won't be cast in abercrombie ads. Being completely unable to get aroused unless your partner is unearthly smokin' isn't a quirk. It's a giant wall between you and finding a decent partner that you can build a life-long relationship with.

BUT anyway- tastes can and do change. You can grow to appreciate different types of hotness. I remember thinking at age 16 that the hight of hotness was Interview-with-the-Vampire, hairless Brad Pit. By the time I was in my twenties I found I much prefered men with lots of body hair.
posted by Blisterlips at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2011

i'm a bi male but before i branched out to my own gender, i dated ladies, exceptionally attractive ladies, and my operating mode at the time more or less echoed what you described. my standards for women were absurdly high and embarrassingly shallow. if she wasn't model pretty, she probably wasn't doing it for me.

it wasn't until i came to terms with my sexuality that my dating pool really opened up. once i owned my bisexuality, i discovered that i found a deeper variety of men AND women more attractive.

what's this have to do with you? well, i'm not accusing you of secretly being gay. more generally, what i'm saying is this: perhaps you have some unresolved issues that are keeping you from connecting with men whose attractiveness you may have to personally champion.

when i was privately questioning my sexuality, i'd only date women who i knew without a doubt were hot hot hot because everyone and everything confirmed it for me. made life dumb and easy. but life should be more interesting than that, right?
posted by chyeahokay at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

> the women whose relationships I "envy" or at least wish to have for myself are not ones where I think damn, her husband is so hot, but ones where they look like best friends, having a great time together, and seem very attracted to each other

I think coolguymichael nailed it. The kind of attraction you are envying is a deeper thing (as you've implied by your word, "shallow), and while I don't think you need to shame yourself for what you currently feel, do realize that feelings and understandings of them and relationships really change and develop in unexpected ways over time. Don't let your preconceptions get in the way of your experience too much.
posted by Listener at 2:20 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really, really relate to where you're coming from.

I never had an unbreakable, fist-bumping, friendship-type relationship with any of my hot ex-boyfriends... then I found my current partner, who is definitely the least attractive person I've dated long-term. I've never been so happy, either.

So what changed for me?

1.) I'm older and more mature now (30) and my priorities have shifted. A stable, honest man who has my back is more important to me than one who has the same taste in art as me, dresses stylishly etc. My hormones are not running the show as much, either. Hot, coy, non-committal men who would have turned my head before frankly irk me now.

2.) I've become more realistic. I have found that the myth of the perfect man is just that. While I could wait around for another 12 years (the length of time I've been dating meaningfully) for that perfect handsome, intelligent, talented, spiritual, truthful, supportive, sensitive yet dominant man to show up, I've decided he in fact does not exist. I feel my current partner is 80% of what I like and need, and that's good enough for me. In fact, everyone compromises when choosing a partner. It's a crazy, modern notion that we shouldn't "sell ourselves short" by doing so, and well, nobody gets everything she wants. Ever. Just stick to your few non-negotiables and realize you are doing pretty well if you feel at peace with your choices, even if you don't feel a spark.

3.) I've internalized a lot of the practical expert dating advice I have read, after finding it to be very true. The most impactful thing I recall is seeing a video where Dr. Pat Allen had a piece of paper-- on one side was written "Passion" and on the other was written "Security". She said, "Choose one." I think this is so true-- every relationship slants to one side or another of these polarities, although doing without either entirely is a bad thing, also. Although you say you want security and friendship, maybe you *need* a more passionate relationship where friendship isn't the main focus. If so, you'll have to compromise on the level of chumminess you're able to achieve with your partner.

You're going to have to change what you're doing and make some radical changes. Your process now isn't working. Although time may be a catalyst for a shift in your ability to like more and different kinds of men, essentially you need to have a revelation. Shake yourself up any way you can, and meet some new guys. Different guys. Way different.
posted by devymetal at 4:09 PM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

My twenties were a long time ago but yes, I did this too. I did it mostly because I didn't think I was very attractive, and having a genuinely gorgeous boyfriend reassured me. But there were other reasons, too. I wasn't ready for any kind of genuine commitment, and keeping everything at the surface, which is where relationships about attraction seem to hang out, worked best for avoiding any kind of emotional risk. I was definitely shallow enough at that point to feel a good looking boyfriend was a decorative asset, too. And also, I (still) like looking at beautiful things, and a handsome man qualifies as one of those.

But, I don't know, I grew out of it. I found eventually that I actually wanted to be with people that shared my interests, who were easy to talk to, who made me laugh, and who I respected for more than their looks and fitness. And I finally became willing to risk real exposure of myself in a relationship, and willing to make a lasting commitment.

Interestingly, when you really love and admire people, they look beautiful and attractive to you because of who they are, not their surface looks. (And I find a lot of famous beautiful people who have proved to have feet of clay surprisingly unappealing now, too.)

I'd suggest you give yourself a break. Your criteria for attractiveness is very likely to change as you continue to mature and gain emotional wisdom.
posted by bearwife at 5:01 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've never thought I've had a problem with intimacy - I have very close friendships and family connections

I think it's quite possible to have intimate platonic relationships and simultaneously have a problem with romantic intimacy, for what it's worth.
posted by prefpara at 5:36 PM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I used to know a lady who was only -- and I mean only -- attracted to The Allstate Commercial Guy. She would only date heavy-set black dudes in their mid-40's. That's it. Nobody else. Period.

Needless to say, she was pretty miserable in the dating department. Most of the guys she dated were bad for her, for no other reason than her field being so narrow, she was bound to get more bad than good.

As someone said above, shoot for 80%. Get 80% of the mate you want with a decent level of attractiveness and go for it. There's nothing wrong with settling for 80%.
posted by Avenger at 8:34 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm going to go somewhere completely different with this and suggest you tell your doc you're having trouble experiencing arousal. You may want to try non-hormonal birth control for a while, or your doc may prescribe testosterone cream (yes, they prescribe it for women). I became more attracted to a broader range of guys when I went off antidepressants and hormonal birth control.

Seconding what Frowner said about retraining through media, and about subcultures.
posted by thelastcamel at 12:10 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Turn off the lights.
posted by pracowity at 3:40 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

In terms of the physical issues, this can happen with people to whom you are very much attracted. Sometimes there's a physical rather than sexual reason for things not going as they should. It might be worth, in future, exploring non-penetrative sex as an activity in itself rather than as a substitute for PIV.
posted by mippy at 6:22 AM on December 29, 2011

Well, I consider myself selective in who I'm attracted to. That's why I always put myself in situations where I can get to know other men. 'Cause for me, that's the only way I'm going to start to develop feelings. I don't like doing the whole "I just met you" thing. I don't care what you look like. If I don't know you, and if you don't have an awesome personality w/ a certain spark to your eyes, you stand less of a chance of me having sex with you. That's just me!
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 8:43 AM on December 29, 2011

Is there a possibility that you need to reevaluate your approach to what sex means to you? What does sex mean to you? Does it feel like you're watching yourself? Or are you present in the moment with the person you love? It seems like you want the latter, and are settling for the former, maybe.
posted by anniecat at 11:31 AM on December 29, 2011

I just wanted to chime in and say that I am a lot like you, especially when I was in my 20s. Its so hard to find the right balance of attraction and closeness in a partner, and I swore I'd never settle. Which meant that I remained single for a realllly long time, but that is better than painful, forced sex with someone you're not really attracted to. Had some very dry dating spells. And then, now in my mid 30s, I met someone who is wonderful. We do not connect on all the levels I had dreamed of in a marriage partner, but I am attracted to him (which is a huge feat) and we have many shared interests and values and we are now engaged. Its not settling, but its not exactly what I had imagined/dreamed of when I was in my 20s. But real warmth, love and attraction is there. So its going to just take more time for you, maybe even ten more years....but give it that time, the journey is a good one.

Also wanted to share that when I was younger I also thought it was a fear of intimacy or committment which is why my attraction was so narrow, but really deep in my heart, like you, I knew I had close connections to people and did not fear an intimate connection or committment, so I don't necessarily think you have that issue even though many here are pointing to that. Yah, you may be picky, but I don't think that is a problem.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 6:51 AM on December 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

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