This post is for men although women are welcome to read, learn and comment. I’m writing this because with recent discussions on Donal’s blog it would be good to have a place of commonly defined terms and how we use them.
The mansophere and related subset of blogs uses the following terms in such a manner:
- Attraction — What is attractive to the opposite sex is what draws them to get to want to know them better. For men this is primarily physical appearance, and for women tends to be classified in terms of Donal’s 5 criterion acronym PSALM: Power/personality, status, athleticism, looks, and money. That which is attractive is only approximation for a man’s dominion.
- Desire — Desire describes traits that are preferable in a mate, although not necessarily attractive because they can overlap. For example, being a Christian is not attractive, but for a Christian man or woman looking for a spouse it is a desirable trait. And it should be a dealbreaker if a man or woman is a serious Christian. The vast majority of the fruits of the Spirit are desirable traits — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control as well as intelligence, industriousness, fidelity, good with kids, and the like. However, occasionally these overlap with attractiveness.
- Chemistry — The common term for chemistry is when “two people just click.” Chemistry is a vaguely defined term. Although Myers-Briggs is somewhat pseudo-scientific, it does generally describe people well. There are certain personality types that mesh well with each other in terms of how well they get along and want to be around each other. This is one part of chemistry. Another part of chemistry is the senses around other people. For instance, there have been various studies on smell and sexual attraction. One of the factors involved with this is major histocompatibility complex differences which tend to smell good to the opposite sex.
- Arousal — Attraction and desire are not arousal although they overlap. Arousal is commonly referred to as “sexual desire.” This is what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 7 “9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” This is also what is meant in Song of Songs where it says “Do not awaken love before its time.”
Nemesis commented in Donal’s like that attraction and arousal taken to the extremes of each other represent the madonna/whore complex.
For Christians, attraction, desire, and chemistry before marriage aren’t sinful. However, the Scriptures consistently warn of stimulating arousal before marriage as this is unchaste. It leads down to the slippery slope of hugging -> kissing -> inappropriate hand placements -> clothes coming off -> masturbation -> oral sex -> sex.
In other words, it’s not wrong to feel the way you do, but it is wrong to stimulate the body to physiological arousal outside of marriage. As many a man may attest, this is quite difficult. It is also one of the areas in which a man must learn to exert dominion over his body. Attraction and chemistry all make a man want to be around a woman and vice versa, but it is escalating it in an unchaste manner which is the sin.
Attraction and desire relationship
From what we’ve seen in the manosphere, women tend to have the inability to recognize the difference between attractiveness and desirability.
There are some women who do recoginize what they find attractive, but it is usually mixed in with other traits. For example, common attractive [personality] traits that some women would be privy to saying are confidence, knows-what-he-wants, not-afraid-to-speak-up, being a leader, etc.
However, rarely do women discuss, with men at least, that they are also attracted to the status of a man, his athleticism, abilities or talents (unless directly complimenting him), his looks, or money. Rarely do they talk about that they are attracted to and respect a man when he is willing to stand up for what he believes in rather than cave to her demands. Perhaps this is due to not wanting to be seen as shallow [like men who value physical attractiveness].
There are times when attraction overlaps with desirability which can be confusing. For example, a Christian who is willing to go out and witness to people confidently is going to be attractive to a Christian woman. Is it because he is a Christian that he is attractive? No. It is because he is confident to willingly go out and do something about his faith.
Likewise, is a Christian leader of the worship team attractive because he is a Christian? No, it is because he is exhibiting leadership in a group of people (status), and as talent to place at that level (talent is grouped under athleticism).
Desirable traits tend to be disqualifiers.
For example, a man who is not a Christian is going to (or should be) disqualified by a Christian woman. Similarly, the fruits of the Spirit, intelligence, industriousness, fidelity, and the like are examples of disqualifiers. If a man does not have these, he may be disqualified as a mate choice even though he may be attractive.
The same is true from a different perspective as a man. If a man sees an attractive woman acting in an unchaste manner he may be attracted, even sexually attracted, to her. But he is very likely going to disqualify her as potential marriage material because such unchaste or slutty behavior consciously or subconsciously tells him that she is unlikely to have fidelity during marriage. It also shows a deficiency in character in that she is starved for attention, and the only way to get it is to act out with promiscuous behavior.
Attraction and chemistry
Attraction and chemistry are two factors that are often molded into one, aside from the confusion of attraction and desire. If a woman doesn’t meet a man’s attraction threshold but they have crazy chemistry together then he may consider her as a potential mate.
There is some interplay between these two in that a man may choose to marry a woman who he has exceptional attraction for and little chemistry, or he may choose to marry a woman he has somewhat attraction for and crazy chemistry. Normally, these spectrum outliers are quite rare, and it is combination of both that a man is looking for in a partner.
Nemesis brings up a good point in the comments that we may see a difference in preference for certain traits.
- Men seem to tend to prefer attraction and chemistry in regard to potential mating prospects.
- Women seem to prefer attraction and arousal in regard to potential mating prospects.
I suspect this may be an intrinsic facet of initiator versus receiver of mating where men have to approach and women receive the approach. For women, attraction/arousal is more important to signal a man is higher quality and dominant. For men, attraction/chemistry signals that a woman is high quality mating prospect and will likely follow his leadership.
Attraction for women signals high quality in terms of abilities for men (dominion) which keep women provided for, safe, and the like. Attraction for men signals high quality in terms of physical beauty that a woman is less likely to have children with birth defects. Chemistry signals compatibility, and arousal is the psychological and physiological submission of a woman to the man’s dominion.
The temple analogy
The analogy I like to use to explain the difference between attractiveness and desirability is a house, although I changed it to temple since we are temples of the Holy Spirit. I discussed this briefly in my first post, which was a portion of what was deleted from a Boundless post.
A temple that has a very well taken care of lawn and a beautiful exterior is going to attract many people to look at it and want to take a look at it. This symbolizes attractiveness.
Once you enter through the door, you get a view of the interior of the temple. You can see well does the owner of that temple actually takes care of it. This symbolizes desirability.
The reality is that unless the temple looks good most men and women are not going to take the time to investigate the inside of the house. Yes, man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. That valuation (time/timao) is true, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the first part is important to know as a reality: man looks at the outward appearance. Likewise, it would be unwise to upkeep only the inside at the expense of the outside. The whole building is the temple not just the inside. We recently discussed at Donal’s that an exterior deficiency often shows an internal deficiency as well.
Attraction is the drawing force, and the desirability traits are the disqualifiers.
Chemistry comes into play where maybe the particular architecture of the house, the smell of the house, or the interior decorations mesh with you on a fundamental level where you really enjoy it even if it’s not the best looking.
As a Chrisitian man my goal is to aim for 3-fold improvement in all of the areas above in order to please God. If there is attraction and and chemistry there will be no problem with arousal in marriage.
Obviously, the things that are “desirable” are the most important because they represent serving God with all my heart and women are by far and away secondary. However, in the process of serving God I’m not going to neglect becoming an expert in my field, learning how to lead groups of people in the Church, working out, eating well, and the like because they will also help me to show discipline and grow in my faith.
This is the meshing of a life that is devoted fully towards Christ where because your heart is fully set on Him everything starts to blend together in terms of attractiveness and desirability. You become confident talking about Christ and what He has done for you. You take the initiative to go help other people, and lead other people in worship or in small group or in serving. You live out the Christian life fully and in doing so become a man that is both attractive and desirable.
I’m not perfect, and I still sin. But I repent. I am growing and learning and allowing Him to become strength in my weaknesses. By the same measure, a woman to marry only becomes a want and not a need, and it allows me to love women and not respect them.
You don’t want to get to marriage and find out that you had the time to prepare and you didn’t prepare. That’s the analogy Christ used for His second return.
Matthew 25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
The goal is to ultimately become a man who is growing in the roles and responsibilities of marriage before marriage.