Chapter 8 Summary

  1. Sexual attraction is a response to another person that is influenced by objective attributes of that person, as well as by both durable and varying characteristics of the person experiencing the attraction.
  2. The “masculinity” and “femininity” of faces is an important part of their attractiveness. In women, most people find very feminine faces the most attractive. Women’s judgments of the attractiveness of male faces vary around their menstrual cycle.
  3. Another attribute that increases a person’s attractiveness is facial and bodily symmetry. One reason we may find symmetry attractive is because it indicates that a person had a healthy physical development.
  4. One important factor influencing the attractiveness of bodies is the body mass index (BMI). For cultural reasons, lower BMIs are preferred in Western cultures than in some non-Western cultures.
  5. Youthful appearance—another cue to fertility—is an important criterion of physical attractiveness in women, but less so in men.
  6. Attractiveness is strongly enhanced by general “likability” traits such as trustworthiness, warmth, and a sense of humor. When people are given the opportunity to select partners from a large group, however, they don’t generally choose the partners who correspond most closely to their stated preferences. This suggests that some aspects of attraction operate below the level of conscious thought.
  7. Other factors modulating sexual attraction include familiarity and, in women, the phase of the menstrual cycle.
  8. Some individuals are asexual: they never experience sexual attraction. They might not engage in sexual relationships, or they might do so simply to satisfy their partners.
  9. Sexual arousal may be triggered internally or by external factors. Internal processes include erotic dreams and sexual fantasies. Fantasies are a healthy part of most people’s sex lives.
  10. Testosterone plays an important role in conferring the capacity for sexual arousal in males, especially at puberty. Testosterone does not play a minute-by-minute role in sexual arousal, however. Both testosterone and estrogens may contribute to sexual arousability in women; testosterone is probably the more important of the two.
  11. Classical conditioning may increase the sexual arousal that individuals learn to associate with people, body parts, and other things that have been linked with sex in the past.
  12. The sexual response cycle has four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.
  13. The subjective experience of orgasm is similar in women and men. Many women but few men experience multiple orgasms in a single cycle. Sometimes a response cycle does not include orgasm. A cycle without orgasm may be perceived as sexually satisfying, or it may leave the person dissatisfied and in discomfort from vasocongestion that is slow to resolve.
  14. Men but not women experience a refractory period after orgasm during which they cannot enter a new cycle. The length of the refractory period increases with age but can be shortened by situational factors such as exposure to a novel partner.