chapter  5
20 Pages

Sexand theAttractionProcess:Lessons fromScience (andShakespeare) on Lust, Love, Chastity, and Fidelity

ByPamela C. Regan

This chapter explores the ways in which an individual’s sexual responses and his or her sexual attributes or characteristics are implicated in the attraction process and in the initial stages of romantic relationships. The first section focuses on the association between one particular sexual response-sexual desire or lust-and the state of passionate love. Theoretical discourse from a number of disciplines suggests that sexual desire is a distinguishing feature of the passionate love experience and may promote romantic attraction and relationship development. Empirical research substantiates this hypothesis. People believe that sexual desire is part and parcel of the state of being in love, assume that couples who desire each other sexually also are passionately in love, and report a similar associationwhen reflecting on their owndating relationships. In addition to experiencing desire (and other sexual responses) for their partners, individuals possess various sexual attributes or characteristics whose behavioral expression within a beginning relationship may have significant consequences for the partners and the relationship itself. The second section of this chapter focuses on four of these attributes-sex appeal, sexual passion, sexual chastity, and sexual fidelity. A consideration of social context and evolutionary theories, as well as a growing body of empirical work, suggests that men and women are most attracted to romantic partners who possess high levels of sex appeal (which primarily consists of an attractive physical appearance), who demonstrate sexual passion, who possess lower rather than higher levels of prior sexual experience, and who are sexually loyal or faithful (i.e., who confine their sexual responses to the primary relationship). The chapter ends with suggestions for additional research that might serve to advance knowledge in this area.