How Passionate Love Emerges from Arousal

Here is a psychophysiological secret about why we fall in love with someone at first sight. It happens in special circumstances of autonomic arousal and the exciting context of a situation. In the appropriate conditions, the extrinsic arousal effect transforms any extrinsic arousal into love and sexual attraction. When and how?

How Misattribution of Arousal Makes Us Fall in Love

In his book The Art of Love, Ovid, a first-century Roman poet, suggested that a man seeking to seduce a woman take her to a gladiatorial tournament. It would most likely arouse her sexual passion and increase her desire. Only intense and vivid emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, can trigger passionate love. Why does this phenomenon occur?

Modern research has provided evidence regarding the consequences of misattribution of arousal, which occurs when individuals erroneously attribute the source of their aroused state. When people experience arousal in their autonomic nervous system due to fear, they misattribute those physiological responses to passionate love and sexual arousal.

How Men Fell in Love on the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The well-known studies, which Dutton and Aron did, are often called the Capilano Suspension Bridge Study (Dutton and Aron, 1974). For the experiments, they used a suspension bridge, and for the control conditions, they used a strong bridge. People were scared when they saw the suspension bridge because it was so high off the ground. People would be scared of the suspension bridge, which was hanging over the river and wasn’t stable enough to walk on. On the other hand, the same experiment would not show fear when walking across a strong, stable bridge. Researchers used that condition as a comparison control.

A pretty female interviewer went up to 85 male pedestrians, some of whom were on a scary suspension bridge and some of whom were not. Before the interview, the person asking the questions asked them to fill out questionnaires with pictures from the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and tell stories based on those pictures.

The stories told by the people standing on the scary bridge contained more sexual content. Also, these male participants were more likely to try to get in touch with the female interviewer after the test.

How Strong Arousal Enhances Our Attraction to Attractive Women and Decreases Our Attraction to Unattractive Women

Two additional studies provided further evidence that misattributing arousal can facilitate romantic attraction. During those experiments, specific activities—listening to audiotapes of gruesome murders or comedy routines—or running in place—triggered physiological arousal in the men (White, Fishbein, & Rutstein, 1981).

Following that, they viewed a pre-recorded interview featuring a woman who possessed either physical attractiveness or unattractiveness. They then evaluated the woman’s physical attractiveness and sexiness. Additionally, they rated their level of interest in dating her and kissing her.

The findings indicated that, under each of these experimental conditions,

  • First, men had the impression that attractive women were more sexily attractive when they were first physically aroused by the experiments than men who were not aroused.
  • Second, men had the impression that unattractive women were less sexually attractive when they were first sexually aroused by the experiments, compared to men who were not aroused.

Therefore, prior states of arousal amplified both positive reactions to attractive women and negative reactions to unattractive women, contingent upon cognitively appropriate evaluation (White, Fishbein, & Rutstein, 1981).

How to Make Someone Fall in Love

I believe that the psychophysiological mechanism of arousal transfer offers a solid explanation for the transition of pleasurable emotions from sexual attraction to romantic attraction (Karandashev, 2017, p. 270).

There have been many variations of these kinds of experiments in the following years, illustrating how the arousal transfer effect makes men and women fall in love. They all replicated the scientific validity of the effects that arousal has on attraction.

So, what personal lesson can we take from this research? Next time, when you want someone to fall in love with you, bring him or her on some adventurous journey or exciting circumstances.

The Ideal Beauty of the Petite Body Type

According to Henry Finck’s opinion, there is substantial evidence that cultural evolution and sexual selection throughout history favored the petite body type of a woman’s beauty (Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).

The Distinctive Body of the Amazons in Ancient Greece

Many ancient legends and epic poems of Greek mythology portray the Amazons, the female warriors and hunters of ancient Greece. What was special about their physicality? A British statesman and politician of the 19th century, William Gladstone (1809-1898), once remarked that

“Stature was a great element of beauty in the view of the ancients, for women as well as for men; and their admiration of tallness, even in women, is hardly restrained by a limit.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 520).

This Greek’s depictions of the Amazons appear to be different from modern aesthetic-amorous taste. Modern cultural standards do not perceive a very tall and bulky woman as very graceful, even if she is stately and majestic. Grace is an important attribute of physical beauty and a powerful trigger of love.

A very large and tall woman in love appears odd and almost comical in modern eyes. Besides, people rarely associate great stature with delicate joints and extremities. However, the quasi-masculine physical type of Amazonian women is the primary reason why modern lovers disapprove of this kind of woman.

Sexual Differences in the Types of Stature

People tend to differentiate the sexual features of beauty, which are considered as attractive in stature as in everything else.

An English statistician, psychologist, and anthropologist, Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), made observations on 205 married couples. He concluded that

“Marriage selection takes little or no account of shortness and tallness. There are undoubtedly sexual preferences for moderate contrasts in height; but the marriage choice appears to be guided by so many and more important considerations that questions of stature exert no perceptible influence upon it…. Men and women of contrasted heights, short and tall or tall and short, married just about as frequently as men and women of similar heights, both tall or both short; there were 32 cases of one to 27 of the other.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 521).

However, Henry Finck believes (1887/2019, p. 521) that this argument is rather weak. Francis Galton admits that

“There are undoubtedly sexual preferences for moderate contrast in height”

And then, Henry Finck emphasizes that

“Galton’ figures show 32 to 27 in favour of mixed-stature marriages, in most of which the women must have been shorter, owing to the prevalent feminine inferiority in size. And in course of time the elimination of non-amorous motives of marriage will assist the law of sexual differentiation in suppressing Amazons.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).

Further Arguments in Favor of Petite Female Stature

Philological arguments attest even further in support of the modern preferences of men for the petite stature of women. It is quite illustrative in this citation from Crabb’s English Synonyms:

Prettiness is always coupled with simplicity; it is incompatible with that which is large; a tall woman with masculine features cannot be prettyBeauty is peculiarly a female perfection; in the male sex it is rather a defect; a man can scarcely be beautiful without losing his manly characteristics, boldness and energy of mind, strength and robustness of limb; but though a man may not be beautiful or pretty, he may be fine or handsome.” 

“A woman is fine who with a striking figure unites shape and symmetry; a woman is handsome who has good features, and pretty if with symmetry of feature be united delicacy.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).

An Irish-British philosopher and statesman of the 18th century, Edmund Burke (1729–1797), noted that “it is possible to fall in love with a very small person, but not with a giant.”

A Natural Prejudice Against Very Tall People

The mind of many modern people does have a natural prejudice against very tall people—women as well as men.

As Thomas Fuller, an English historian and churchman (1608–1661), wrote in “Andronicus, or The Unfortunate Politician” (1646),

“Often the cockloft is empty in those whom Nature hath built many stories high.”

A British philosopher, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), said something in the same vein that

“Nature did never put her precious jewels into a garret four stories high, and therefore that exceeding tall men had ever very empty heads.”

This cultural belief is also backed up by strong scientific evidence in “Nervensystem” by Professor Hermann:

“When the body becomes abnormally large, the brain begins to decrease again, relatively, as Langer found in measuring giant skeletons.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).

The Beautiful Stature of Spanish Women

According to 19th-century scholars, beautiful Spanish faces and bodies evolved from the mixing of many cultures and body types.

In fact, many visitors to Spain were struck by the extraordinary beauty of Spanish women, who were distinguished by their petite stature, dark eyes, and long black eyelashes.

In past articles, I cited many quotes describing why they admired beautiful Spanish women. Among other women in Spain, they found that Andalusian women are especially beautiful.

Henry Finck expresses his belief that the perfect woman resembles an Andalusian brunette. Several features of Andalusian beautiful women that many reporters talk about are their stature, complexion, tapering plumpness of figure, and posture. One of these is the Spanish women’s diminutive stature, which contributes significantly to their exceptional grace of gait. (Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).

Therefore, Henry Finck concludes that the petite type of body became the ideal type for a woman over time.

What Aphrodisiacs Are and What They Do for Love

Aphrodisiacs are substances and foods that heighten erotic arousal, sexual attraction, and pleasure in love and sexual relations. Aphrodisiacs can enhance the sensual pleasure that both men and women get from their sexual relationships. The term “aphrodisiacs” comes from the name of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

The Cultural History of Aphrodisiacs

People have used aphrodisiacs in their sex and love affairs throughout the history of many civilizations and cultures.

Throughout the course of human history, aphrodisiacs have been sought after and used by people. They have created them using a variety of materials, including foods, plants, and minerals. There have long been aphrodisiac superstitions in many different cultures around the world.

How People Use Aphrodisiacs in Modern Love and Sexual Encounters

The history of human cultures has preserved the recipes for making aphrodisiacs from plants, minerals, and foods. This variety of substances is what men and women have used to boost sexual desire, erotic attraction, and enjoy sex and sensual pleasures in love relationships.

The hedonistic wish of great sex has always been appealing to people in their lives. So, it is not surprising that they were interested in something that would increase desire and pleasure in sexual affairs.

Subsequently, cultural beliefs evolved that aphrodisiacs could increase the qualities of sex, making it more desirable, exciting, and pleasurable. However, researchers still need to investigate whether or not aphrodisiacs are actually capable of doing what they promise to do. According to some studies, substances like aphrodisiacs may even have adverse side effects (Brunetti et al., 2020).

The Types of Aphrodisiacs

Among the substances that people commonly use as aphrodisiacs are

  • Certain sorts of herbs, such as sage and cloves.
  • Some kinds of food, such as dark chocolate and oysters.
  • Alcohol and psychoactive substances, such as marijuana.
  • Supplements that contain the ingredients yohimbine, ambien, ginseng, and horny goat weed.

How Aphrodisiacs Work

People widely use certain types of food that evoke the senses of sight, smell, and taste. They believe that spicy foods and substances work as aphrodisiacs. For instance, chili pepper tends to boost body temperature and, therefore, induce feelings of arousal.

Kendra Cherry, for example, reviewed some types of aphrodisiac foods and natural supplements that can boost libido and sexual pleasure.

What Foods Are Aphrodisiacs?

There are two categories of foods that can be used as aphrodisiacs: those that are easily accessible and those that are extremely uncommon and difficult to find. Studies haven’t linked specific foods to changes in libido or sexual performance. Nevertheless, it may be worthwhile to order or cook certain kinds of food that can be presumably conducive to feeling energetic and excited. All these can boost sexual motivation and emotions.

Certain foods may contain properties that are advantageous to your sexual life. Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods, for example, can help improve blood flow throughout the body, including the genitals (Omega-3 Fatty Acids Fact Sheet for Health Professionals/National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements)

Some sources mentioned specific kinds of food and substances as having an aphrodisiac effect. Among those are various nuts and fruits, such as figs, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, watermelon, bananas, pomegranates, strawberries, and honey. Various kinds of vegetables, such as asparagus, avocado, saffron, garlic, pumpkin, and celery, can also have an aphrodisiac effect.

There isn’t much scientific evidence that these foods actually affect sexual desire. Yet they can enhance positive emotions, pleasurable feelings, and well-being because they contain potassium, zinc, and phytochemicals.

Aphrodisiac Effects of Dark Chocolate and Wine

Dark chocolate and coffee can have a possible aphrodisiac effect. Some studies have shown that they may improve blood flow, while other studies found no aphrodisiac evidence for dark chocolate (West & Krychman, 2015, West et al., 2014).

Alcoholic beverages have an effect on enhancing sexual arousal. Regular yet moderate consumption of red wine is good for better sexual health in women. Daily consumption of one or two glasses of red wine increases sexual desire and sexual performance in women. Low to moderate alcohol consumption can reduce inhibitions and increase desire. It is still worthy of note that excessive alcohol consumption can hinder sexual performance (Mondaini et al., 2009; Prabhakaran et al., 2018).

The Use of Aphrodisiacs in Sex and Love Affairs Across Cultures

Men and women have used aphrodisiacs to increase erotic attraction, arousal, and sexual pleasure in love affairs for many centuries and in many different cultures around the world.

What Aphrodisiacs Are and What They Do for Love

Aphrodisiacs are foods and substances that increase erotic attraction, arousal, and sexual pleasure in love affairs. Due to aphrodisiacs, men and women may experience enhanced sensual pleasure in their intimate relationships.

People have sought and used aphrodisiacs for thousands of years of human history. They have made them from many things, such as minerals, plants, and foods. The beliefs in aphrodisiacs have been known across many cultures of the world.

Aphrodisiacs Across Civilizations

Men and women in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and other civilizations have used aphrodisiacs to boost sexual desire and potency and augment the pleasure of sensual experiences in love. The word “aphrodisiacs” has its origins in ancient Greek culture. It derives from the name of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.

Men and women of ancient Rome widely used aphrodisiacs in their art of love. Ovid’s poems of“Ars Amatoria”­ written in the first century BCE, depicted the self-indulgent and stylish lives of the Roman upper class. According to Ovid’s writing, the use of aphrodisiacs was a vital skill in their art of love and sexual affairs.

Ovid’s Poem about Aphrodisiacs

Here is Part XII of Ovid’s Book II, advising men and women of the ancient Roman society on how to use aphrodisiacs.

“There are those who prescribe eating a dish of savory,

a noxious herb, my judgement is its poisonous:

or mix pepper with the seeds of stinging nettles,

or crush yellow camomile in well-aged wine:

But the goddess who holds high Eryx, beneath the shaded hill,

doesn’t force you to suffer like this for her delights.

White onions brought from Megara, Alcathous’s city,

and rocket, herba salax, the kind that comes from gardens,

eat those, and eggs, eat honey from Hymettus, and seeds from the cones of sharp-needled pines.”

Kline, A. S. (2001). Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: The Art of Love.

Aphrodisiacs Across Human Cultures

People across many other cultures in history have used foods and other natural substances to increase love attraction, sexual desire, and even fertility. According to many cultural beliefs, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, and ginger have the capacity to enhance arousal, sensual pleasure, and sexual performance.

Therefore, these aphrodisiacs have continued to be popular for thousands of years in many cultures for love and sexual affairs. Aphrodisiacs are likely to continue to be popular among those looking to have better sex lives and love relationships. However, modern researchers need to explore their effects more to understand how certain foods and substances can affect sexual functioning and relationships.

What Is Sexual Love?

Many scholars and laypeople consider sex, sexual love, and erotic love as synonyms. Yet it is not exactly correct to equate these concepts. Why so? Because they mean different things, and researchers should distinguish between them (Karandashev, 2022). Yes, sexual love is

  • a deep feeling of sexual interest, desire, and sexual attraction.
  • a host of sexual feelings and emotions.
  • involves various sexual actions between two people.

Let us review what sexual love is in more detail. Here I will tell you what sexual love is.

Sexual Love Is Similar to Sex

“Sexual love” is the physical and emotional sensations in the body, head, hands, legs, and genitals that may culminate in sexual excitement and intensely pleasurable genital-centered feelings. Typically, sexual love involves sex as sexual intercourse. But we cannot consider any sex as sexual love. Many forms of sex do not imply love. They are just sex. So, they are not really sexual love.

Sex Can Be without Love

Sex can exist in the absence of love, and sexual lust and the desire for sex are distinct from the Eros of love (C.S. Lewis, 1960; Wilson, 1980). Sex is a physiological need; it is a sexual impulse that an individual must fulfill, as well as a physical tension that he or she must release. The object that aids in releasing sexual tension is of secondary importance. A prostitute, a sexual toy, masturbation, or other object can fulfill this need. Pornography of any kind can satisfy the needs of sexual desire.

How Is Sexual Love Different from Sex?

Sexual love is certainly driven by the body’s natural urges. Yet, sexual love is a pleasurable sensual experience with a specific person. This man or woman appears to be special in several ways. He or she is uniquely different from others. Sexual love excites not only the body of the lover, but rather the whole person. Erotic emotions show the beauty of a person in sex and make sexual activities more thrilling.

Sensual and Sexual Feelings of Love

Sexual love is the sensual experience and acts that stimulate sexual desire and sexual activity. Many men and women gain joy and pleasure from sexual activity. Sexual love manifests itself through a variety of sensual experiences: the sense of seeing the most beautiful woman or handsome man in the world. Sexual love embraces the sense of hearing the enticing voice, the sense of smelling the pleasant odors of a partner’s body and perfume, and the sense of touching, hugging, kissing, penetration, and moving in synchrony. A variety of sensual and sexual experiences induce sensual and sexual attraction towards a particular individual. These feelings are universal across cultures. However, people in different cultures can view some of these sensual experiences as more desirable than others (Karandashev et al., 2019).

Sexual Dreams and Phantasies in Love

Sexual love engages sexual fantasies, sexual dreams, and sexual behavior (Gebhard & Johnson, 1998; Hite, 1976/2004; Hite, 1981/1987; Kinsey et al., 1948/1998; Kinsey et al., 1953/1998).

Sexual fantasies and dreams about the beloved – the object of admiration – satisfy a lover’s desire for sexual love. They satisfy the diverse feelings of sexual longing and desire of men and women (Masters, Johnson, & Kolodny, 1986). On average, men are more erotophilic, lustful, and kinky than women (Schmitt & Buss, 2000).

The sexual fantasies of sexual love differ qualitatively from pornography motivated by basic sexual drive. The focus of pornographic fantasies is on sexual activity itself—which can be portrayed in a variety of ways—while the object of sexual fulfillment is secondary. It is the activation of a fundamental sexual urge. Different from pornography, sexual love manifests in sexual dreams with a particular individual – the beloved. Sexual dreams involve sexual images and scenes with a specific loved one. Hugging, kissing, petting, and other sexual behaviors and imagination meet their sexual love desires.

Sexual love being universal still varies across cultures involving cultural specifics.

What Is Erotic Love?

What is love? What is sex? What is sexual love? And what is erotic love?

For love studies to be truly scientific, there are a lot of scholarly questions that need to be answered. As I noted in another article, love and sex are inextricably linked to one another. Yet, there are several concepts related to these two that researchers should distinguish in this field of research. One of those is the concept of “erotic love.”

What is “sex” and what is “sexual love”?

The concepts of “sex” and “sexual love” have different phenomenology. Even though they may have behaviorally similar forms and expressions, they play their distinct psychological roles and associated with difference experiences (Karandashev, 2022a). How different are they?

“Sexual desire” is easily aroused, fleeting, and short-lived. Any sexually attractive individual is capable of satisfying sexual desire.”

“Sexual love” is a collection of more intimate and complicated feelings related to a certain other person. Only a specific individual can fulfill a person’s sexual urge.”

What is “love,” what is “eros,” and what is “erotic love”?

Love is directly yet intricately connected with sexual and erotic feelings. According to numerous stories, novels, and movies, both men and women have a preference for the beautiful and handsome. Such expectations are in their romantic dreams. Love and eroticism in life are tied to each other in many different ways (Featherstone, 1998).

The word “erotic” originates from the Greek word eros (érōs). The ancient Greek “eros” first emerged in the sense of aesthetic appreciation and yearning for beauty (Lomas, 2018). In modern scholarship and public opinion, however, this word often takes a different twist of meaning, associated with sexual and passionate connotations (see for review, Karandashev, 2019).

In ancient Greek origins, the concept of érōs is intimately linked with epithymia (as sexual love). However, both describe different emotional experiences. The word érōs conveys meaning beyond physical sexual desire. The word érōs implies a broader meaning—an appreciation of beauty.

Because the attractive appearance of a man or a woman easily triggers these feelings, the word certainly conveys connotations with emotions of passionate love (Tillich, 1954). Other subtle differences which scholars convince us to make are (1) the difference between elation of romantic sex-esthetic attraction and sexual arousal of sexual desire, and (2) the difference between non-sexual affectionate sexual love (Grant, 1976).

The Love of Beauty Is Erotic

“Erotic love” means that a lover perceives his or her beloved as a beautiful object worthy of aesthetic admiration. “Erotic love is about aesthetic pleasure, while sexual love is about sensual (sexual) pleasure.” (Karandashev, 2022a).

Both are certainly closely intertwined. In sexually stimulating situations, erotic can easily transition to sensual and sexual experiences. People frequently perceive erotic love as inextricably linked to sexual and passionate love. Such a mixing of these experiences is natural for complex human emotions. However, some people consider a partner’s attractive body, face, expressions, and other appearances to be “sexy,” while others consider them to be “beautiful.” It is an individual yet culturally determined experience associated with personal dominant motivations that the lover has in mind at the time. It can be a strong or moderate sexual drive. It can be the cultural values of a society that stress being “sexy” or being “beautiful.”

Multisensory Erotic Attraction

When a man or a woman experiences erotic love, the lover admires the beloved for his or her attractive physical appearance as perceived through various sensory impressions: visual, auditory, tactile-kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory. Interpersonal perception of lovers involves multisensory processes and several sensory impressions that are inextricably linked with each other (Karandashev et al., 2016, 2020). The dynamics of interaction are also involved. Men and women not only passively admire their partners, but also approach them, speak, sing, dance, touch each other, smile, hug, cuddle, kiss, and so on. Such dynamic expressive behavior often tells them more about erotic attractiveness than static body and facial appearance.

All of these perceptions and aesthetic qualities merge to produce what we call “erotic attraction” and “erotic love.” A lover admires his or her beloved for having attractive erotic impressions (Karandashev, 2022a).

Can you recognize erotic love from the facial expression of another person?

According to studies, people generally distinguish the faces of people experiencing love from those experiencing other emotions such as joy, sadness, anger, and fear. They can also recognize specific types of love, such as erotic love and tender love experienced by another person. Both erotic love and tender love have different facial expressions from joy and each other. A person expresses erotic love in semi-closed eyes, while tender love is expressed through a slight head tilt and a slight smile (Bloch, Orthous, & Santibanez, 1987; Hatfield & Rapson, 1993).

Love in Marital Relationships in Africa in the 20th Century

Africa is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world. For centuries, people from many different cultures have lived side by side in close proximity, still maintaining their cultural values, beliefs, norms, and practices. The differences occur not only between countries but also within countries. Many African societies have a tribal social organization with extended families. However, other societies differ in this regard.

Anthropological materials have shown that people have different ideas and beliefs about love and marital relationships (Karandashev, 2017, 2019). So, it is difficult to generalize this knowledge to the entire African continent.

Let us consider some typical cases of how love is related to marital relations. This can be revealing for readers from other parts of the world.

Could African Boys and Girls Love and Marry for Love?

The young man and woman could meet and initiate the interaction and relationships that could lead to marriage. Prospective brides and grooms met at neighbors’ homes, in the marketplace, or at religious festivals. They were free to express their interest in and liking for each other. They loved each other at a distance and could interact.

Premarital sexual intercourse of youngsters was openly permissible or tolerated in some African societies but not in others. Sex plays were acceptable as long as the vagina was not penetrated. For many Africans, the physical act of sex itself was not associated with feelings of guilt. However, due to its symbolic and magical consequences, sex involved a set of rituals.

The love attraction between boys and girls might be reciprocated or not. In the case of non-reciprocal feelings, they had their own culturally specific defensive mechanisms. In many African cultural beliefs, external outside forces wield far more power than internal individual efforts. So, if a boy or girl loved someone but their feelings were not reciprocated, they did not question their own shortcomings. They were more willing to seek the help of a witch or wizard to cast a spell or provide them with a magical potion that could attract the one they desired (Murstein, 1974).

However, their parents usually played a major role in deciding whom to marry because the dowry, or the payment of the bride price, was their responsibility. Economic considerations and inheritance were among the significant factors in marital and family matters. The groom and bride might have been betrothed as children.

Love was not a focal point of traditional African marriages for a long time. However, boys and girls were usually not forced to marry someone they disliked. Nonetheless, both boys and girls frequently welcomed the help of parents and relatives in finding a match for them.

Cultural Expectations for an African Wife

In traditional African marriages, every woman was supposed to marry, be a wife in a household, and bear children. So, according to cultural traditions, African girls were thinking about their future marriages and families as something due to be fulfilled.

In some African societies and tribes, the ideal bride should be a virgin. However, many other societies were not concerned about this. So, the attitudes towards premarital sexual relationships varied across African societies and tribes.

A boy and his parents, in selecting a girl for marriage, placed less emphasis on her beauty. Tribal life was based primarily on physical strength. So, the expectations were that the prospective wife must be strong, be an excellent cook, and be eager to work hard for the household’s economic prosperity. These qualities were more important than appearance. The emphasis was more on utility than on appearance or personality. She was expected to be submissive and respectful to her husband (Murstein, 1974).

Cultural Expectations for an African Husband

There was little information available about expectations for the ideal husband. Perhaps women were less able to express their preferences for the groom. Perhaps it was less important for their patriarchal family life.

Social organization in many African societies was tribal and based on extended families, which could be patriarchal or not. The husband’s role was much smaller than in nuclear families. He was necessary for a wife to conceive a child. He was necessary for the wife’s sexual pleasure. However, in extended African families, the husband was not necessary for the wife’s and children’s subsistence. It was not necessary to care for the pregnant woman or to raise children. Any member of the family could fill these roles (Murstein, 1974).

The relationship structures of African extended families were typically gender segregated. Men and women constituted different circles of relationships. In such an extended marriage, romantic or companionate love could be an obstacle. Actually, love could ruin the “wise” marriage plans of senior family members (de Munck et al., 2016).

According to anthropological studies (de Munck et al., 2016), the extended family organization of societies makes romantic love of lower importance for marriage. So, romantic love was often naturally absent in the cultures of such societies. It was the case in many African societies.

Marriages and Families in Egalitarian African Societies

In some other African societies, however, marital relationships are different and welcoming to romantic love. The Hadza people of the East African tribal societies of gatherers and hunters in Northern Tanzania represent an example. The culture of these people is not patriarchal; it is egalitarian. They follow the tradition of bilateral descent and do not recognize clans. Their practice of family lineage regards relatives on both the father’s and mother’s sides as equal in terms of property and wealth transfer, as well as emotional ties. The descent is bilateral, and both parents receive an equal inheritance.

This cultural value of equality is conducive to and supportive of love and love matches for marital relationships. The marital relationships of serial monogamy are common. Polygynous relationships occur on rare occasions. Men and women are free to divorce, and divorce is culturally acceptable. Infidelity is usually a major cause of marriage separation (Scelza et al., 2020).

Physically Attractive Men and Women in Different Cultures

Many men and women expect to get into mating or sexual relationships with partners who are “physically attractive,” “looking good enough,” or at least “not bad looking.” Many cultures recognize the cultural significance of women’s feminine beauty to men. Nevertheless, the masculine beauty of men is also important for women (Karandashev, 2022).

How Important Is It to Be Physically Attractive in Various Cultures?

Most scientific studies of physical attractiveness have taken place in Western and industrialized Asian countries. People in mainstream North American and European societies, as well as those in Australia and New Zealand, highly value physical attractiveness for relationships between men and women. Cultural norms in these societies have particularly high expectations of female attractiveness.

However, far fewer studies have been conducted in other societies around the world. According to scientific studies from other countries and remote tribal societies, the importance of beauty is not universal, and beauty standards differ across cultures. People in different Asian and African societies, such as Korea in Southeast Asia and Ghana in Africa, place less emphasis on attractive physical appearance. According to cultural anthropology, people in tribal subsistence-based societies also pay less attention to the physical appearance of their mates (Anderson et al., 2008; Wheeler & Kim, 1997; see, for review, Karandashev, 2017; 2022).

Is the Stereotype “What Is Beautiful Is Good” True in Different Cultures?

In many societies, people have the widespread, persistent, and powerful stereotype that “what is beautiful is good” (Dion, Berscheid, & Walster, 1972; Hatfield & Rapson, 2000; Lemay, et al., 2010; Lorenzo, et al., 2010).

Many women and men believe that a partner’s attractive physical appearance reflects other positive characteristics such as kindness, a pleasing disposition, emotional stability, dependable character, maturity, and intelligence (Fugère, Madden, & Cousins, 2019; Yela & Sangrador, 2001).

Yet, according to other studies, this “what is beautiful is good” stereotype is less strong and less general than previous research has concluded (Eagly, Makhijani, et al., 1991).

Besides, this stereotype is culturally specific. Many cultures have such physical attractiveness stereotypes as “what is beautiful is good.” However, this stereotype can vary in its content depending on cultural values, for example, in collectivistic and individualistic societies. It appears that “what is beautiful is culturally good” (see, for review, Anderson, 2019; Anderson, Adams, & Plaut, 2008; Swami & Furnham, 2008; Wheeler & Kim, 1997).

What Is Physically Attractive in Women and in Men?

Researchers have looked into what makes other people’s appearances and bodies physically and sexually appealing. Since the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, studies of of what is “physically attractive” have been extensive (for example, Finck, 1887; Courtenay, 1922).

Many authors have published thousands of articles, books, and other publications about what is “physically attractive” in women and men. Many scientists have studied what is beautiful in the physical appearance of faces and bodies, as well as what makes them sexually attractive. This research has been especially prolific in recent decades.

How Similar and Different Is the Perception of Physical Attractiveness in Various Cultures?

Researchers found symmetrical features, certain body proportions, a low ratio of hips to waist, full lips, white teeth, lustrous hair, smooth and clear skin, and an absence of sores as attractive for many people across a variety of countries (e.g., Langlois et al. 2000; Sugiyama, 2005).

Studies have revealed that White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian men and women perceive attractive facial qualities cross-culturally relatively consistently when they evaluate White men and women (see, for review, Cunningham et al., 1995). For example, people judge women’s faces as attractive when they have

“high eyebrows, widely spaced large eyes with dilated pupils, high cheekbones, a small nose, a narrow face with thin cheeks, a large smile, a full lower lip, a small chin, and a fuller hairstyle.”

(Cunningham et al., 1995, p. 275).

These similarities are surprising because people have different racial and ethnic typologies of facial and body traits. So, these findings appear to indicate that men and women across these different cultures perceive the same features of facial and body beauty as similarly attractive. It’s hard to believe that, despite their obvious disparities in appearance, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, and Whites have the same standards of physical attractiveness.

Are Standards of Physical Attractiveness Cross-Culturally the Same?

Thus, it appears that across many societies, men and women within a culture and between cultures generally agree on who is beautiful and handsome and who is not. Nevertheless, according to other cultural studies, it is apparent that different attributes of physical appearance may look more attractive in some cultures but not others. Researchers have found that different facial and body features are more or less attractive to people in different cultures (Cunningham et al., 1995; Fallon, 1990; Langlois et al., 2000).

For example, big smiles, raised eyebrows, and neonate qualities look attractive across cultures, depending on the local ecology and fashion prevalent in those societies. The expressive qualities of a person and the appearance of sexual maturity vary moderately in their attractiveness in different cultures. The attractiveness of different body weights, hairstyles, and other grooming qualities varies greatly across various societies.

Among the Other Topics of Interest in this Regard Are:

Does Physical Beauty Matter for Sexual Attraction?

Many people in the world are obsessed with the desire to look beautiful. The ideas of beauty and physical attractiveness have been persistent in art, sculpture, poetry, and songs throughout centuries of human civilization. In recent times, books, magazines, movies, television, and commercials have flooded us with beautiful images everywhere. Does physical beauty matter for sexual attraction?

The Early Imprinting of Beauty in Childhood

Beginning in early childhood, girls and boys learn how important it is to be beautiful. All around us are talking about physical beauty, repeatedly commenting on who is beautiful and who is not. “You are so beautiful!” is the nicest compliment that anyone tries to say to a girl when they don’t know what else to say. Stereotypically, teachers, parents, siblings, and friends join in the chorus. “Darling” youngsters hear aahs and oohs. They receive the adoring attention and admiration of those around them. In contrast to this, those children and teens who are less attractive, disproportionate, and overweight are perceived indifferently and may hear nasty comments or outright rejection.

Cultural Adoration of Beauty

Through the centuries, the fine arts and magnificent poetry have been persistent in their search for the ideals of physical beauty. They explored what is beautiful in human bodies, faces, and costumes. The beauty of human physical appearance has been the realm of artistic and literary exploration.

The aristocracy and affluent people entertained these beautiful ideas. The real lives of many commoners were full of safety and shelter concerns and hard work for subsistence. These people often did not have time to appreciate beauty. Men and women mated with those who were close to them. They married those who were affordable and valuable for family survival. Charm was deceptive. Beauty was fleeting. Industriousness was often more valuable.

Nowadays, the cultural attitudes of praising “beauty” and avoiding “unbeauty” have become cultural commonplace, at least in Western societies. Thus, the desire to be beautiful is imprinted on our minds and cultures. Modern Western societies, being obsessed with the importance of men and especially women being beautiful, transfer these beauty ideas and ideals to other societies around the world. In recent decades, Eastern and other cultures have become more and more influenced by Western ideas of beauty.

Are Men’s Preferences for Sexually Beautiful Women Evolutionary?

Dating advertisements on websites are packed with these stereotypes. Everyone describes themselves as “beautiful” in one or another respect. And everyone expects to find a beautiful partner. Evolutionary scientists try to convince us that men look for “good-looking” women, while women look for “good financial prospects” in men. These researchers presume that men want to conceive more offspring, and therefore, men look for fertile women to accomplish this evolutionary desire. It is also assumed that men somehow know that “good-looking” women are more fertile than others. This is why men prefer beautiful women for mating relationships.

We all know that “good looking” really matters for sexual attractiveness, not only for women but also for men. Several explanations are possible, including biological and cultural evolutionary perspectives (Karandashev, 2022). However, it is not always clear whether men and women look for “not bad-looking” or “beautifully looking” sexual and mating partners. Different people may look at this differently. Some look for only the “beautiful,” while others may look for those who are “good enough” or “not bad at all.”

In Search of Attractive Faces and Bodies

Researchers have also investigated what is sexually attractive in the faces and bodies of others. They strived to find cross-cultural standards of beauty across many societies, such as symmetry, body proportions, and others. They found some cross-cultural similarities, which presumably support an evolutionary explanation of universal qualities of sexual attractiveness.

Through recent decades, a lot of scientists have investigated what is attractive in the physical appearance of faces and bodies and what makes them sexually attractive. There are thousands of articles, books, and other publications on the topic of “physical attractiveness.”

However, a vast majority of this research was conducted in Western and modernized Asian societies. The number of studies in other societies is much smaller. So, it seems doubtful to say anything about the universality of physical beauty.

Scientific evidence from other societies and cultural contexts tells us that the importance of beauty is not universal, and beauty standards are not universal across cultures.

Physical Beauty Is Not Universally Important

An abundance of anthropological findings has demonstrated that “beauty” is a cultural idea rather than an evolutionary device for mating purposes. The importance of physical appearance for sexual attractiveness varies across cultures. And the cultural norms of sexual beauty also differ in different societies (Karandashev, 2019; 2022).

Physical attractiveness seems really important for many people in mainstream North American and European societies, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. In such societies with high values of individualism, independence, and autonomy, personal preferences and choices matter.

Physical attractiveness matters less to people in some Asian and African societies, such as Korea in Southeast Asia and Ghana in Africa. Relational affordance limitations reduce people’s value of physical attractiveness in their daily lives and mating (Anderson et al., 2008; Karandashev, 2017; Wheeler & Kim, 1997).

Physical attractiveness matters less for people in some tribal subsistence-based societies with a risk of safety and food shortages. Men and women (mostly gatherers and hunters) care more about their subsistence survival than about beauty (see, for review, Karandashev, 2022).

Maybe modern people care about beauty when they have nothing else to care about.

Sexy Voice for Interpersonal Attraction

Multisensory perception is important for interpersonal attraction and love. And women and men who are physically attractive may appear differently in different cultures.

Men and women not only look at their partners with admiration but also come closer, speak, sing, dance, touch each other, smile, hug, cuddle, kiss, and so on. Interpersonal perception involves multisensory processing. Visual, auditory, tactile-kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory perceptions are used to admire a loved one’s physical qualities.

The Importance of a Sexy Voice for Interpersonal Attraction

Attractive, sexy voices and other sounds of a partner’s vocal appearance and behavior, as well as the sounds of nature and music around them, have a big impact on how attractive and sexually appealing a person is.

Vocal characteristics of the voice, as well as listening to romantic music, can enhance the attractiveness of a potential partner in a relationship (Guéguen, Jacob, & Lamy, 2010).

Voice has mating value and can influence romantic attraction. Attractive male and female voices are associated with several attractive features of men’s and women’s bodies, mating success, and sexual behavior (see for review, Karandashev et al., 2016, 2020).

Those individuals with attractive voices easily initiate relationships, have their first sexual intercourse earlier, and have a greater number of affairs, sexual partners, and encounters (e.g., Apicella, Feinberg, & Marlowe, 2007; Hughes et al., 2004).

Auditory stimuli are essential for sexual attraction in both women and men, but in different contexts. Researchers demonstrated how various effects of voice determine the attraction and mating value of a partner. For example, those with attractive voices have their first sexual intercourse earlier than their peers, and they usually have more affairs and sexual partners (Herz & Cahill, 1997; Hughes et al., 2004).

What Sexy Voice Is Attractive in a Relationship?

Sexual dimorphism plays an important role in this regard, since men’s voices are different from women’s in several characteristics. For example, men’s voices have:

  • a lower pitch, due to the fundamental frequency and
  • lower formant dispersion, due to a lower averaged difference between successive formant frequencies (Fitch, 1997; Titze, 1994).

According to some studies, both males and females consider low voices to be sexy and use a lower pitched voice when speaking to the more attractive opposite-sex person (Hughes, Farley, & Rhodes, 2010; Tuomi and Fischer, 1979).

Both men and women tend to lower their pitch of voice when they are speaking to an attractive person of the opposite sex. The voices directed toward an attractive person (versus an unattractive one) have a noticeably different pitch and sound more pleasant. The low voices also sound sexy (Hughes, Farley, & Rhodes, 2010; Tuomi & Fischer, 1979).

The Man’s Sexy Voice Is Attractive to Women

Many studies have shown that attractive men’s voices are medium or lower in average fundamental frequency, medium to higher in variance of the fundamental frequency, less monotonous, with high or medium pitch variation, which sounds masculine and mature (Riding, Lonsdale, & Brown, 2006; Zuckerman & Miyake, 1993; Zuckerman, Miyake, & Elkin, 1995, see for detailed review Karandashev et al., 2016, 2020).

Men’s voices with a medium or lower pitch, due to the fundamental frequency of speech tone, are more attractive to women (Collins, 2000; Hodges-Simeon, Gaulin, & Puts, 2010; Riding, Lonsdale, & Brown, 2006; Zuckerman & Miyake, 1993).

Women prefer low-pitched male voices in general, but especially when women are ovulating (Feinberg et al., 2006; Puts, 2005).

Sexy Voice and Body Morphology

Biologically, voice parameters correlate with sex-specific body morphology. It was found that men and women with attractive voices usually have better bilateral body symmetry (Hughes, Harrison, & Gallup, 2002; Hughes, Pastizzo, & Gallup, 2008; Pisanski et al., 2016).

Women with attractive voices have a lower waist-to-hip ratio, while men with attractive voices have broader shoulders relative to their hips. These body characteristics indicate reproductive maturity and genetic quality (Hughes et al., 2004).

Men’s Sexy Voice and Masculinity

Data has shown that men with low voice pitches have higher testosterone levels (Cartei, Bond, & Reby, 2014; Dabbs & Mallinger, 1999).

They are perceived to be taller, heavier, and older (Cartei, Bond, & Reby, 2014).

Psychologically, low voice pitch is associated with judgments of greater male dominance (Collins, 2000; Hodges-Simeon, Gaulin, & Puts, 2010).

It is evident that men’s voices that are masculine and sound mature are more attractive to women (Feinberg et al., 2006; Zuckerman, Miyake, & Elkin, 1995).

All these findings support the evolutionary standpoint that women are attracted to men with low voice pitches because they are perceived as strong, masculine, and dominant, and thus capable of enhancing their genetic survival (Barber, 1995; Buss, 1989).

Both the evolutionary theory and the theory of traditional gender-role stereotypes explain why women are attracted to strong and dominant men, which can provide a better opportunity for their survival and wealth. And greater men’s dominance is associated with a voice with a lower average fundamental frequency (Apicella, Feinberg, & Marlowe, 2007; Collins, 2000; Dabbs & Mallinger, 1999).

For example, among Hadza hunter-gatherers, a low voice pitch is associated with higher numbers of offspring (Apicella et al., 2007).

The expressive, sexy voice is attractive in a relationship

Expressive voices are romantically attractive. It is important not only what men and women say to each other, but also how they say them. Men’s voices that are less monotonous, with medium or high variance in fundamental frequency and high or medium pitch variation, for example, are perceived as more attractive. (Ray, Ray, & Zahn, 1991; Zuckerman & Miyake, 1993). These qualities of voice give the impression that males are dynamic, feminine, and aesthetically inclined (Addington, 1968).

However, other variables can mediate these characteristics, producing multifaceted effects. For example, Brown, Strong, and Rencher (1973, 1974) found that medium variance of the fundamental frequency, rather than increased variance of the fundamental frequency, was rated as more attractive. Recently, however, it was found that men with monotone voices have greater numbers of heterosexual sex partners (Hodges-Simeon et al., 2011).