Self-Perceptions of Sexual Attractiveness: Satisfaction with Physical Appearance is Not of Primary Importance Across Gender and Sexual Orientation

Natalie Amos, Marita P. McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Research on self-perceived sexual attractiveness has predominantly focused on the importance of physical appearance, overlooking nonphysical traits that may contribute to these self-perceptions. The present study examined and compared the importance of a variety of traits for self-perceived sexual attractiveness. Self-identified heterosexual, gay, and bisexual men (N = 1,801) and heterosexual, lesbian, and bisexual women (N = 1,092) completed an online questionnaire examining self-perceived sexual attractiveness, body esteem, sexual esteem, adherence to gender norms, and sexual experience. Body esteem and sexual esteem were significant predictors of self-perceived sexual attractiveness, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Adhering to a masculine gender norm was a significant predictor among all groups (to varying extents) but heterosexual women. Adhering to a feminine gender norm was a significant predictor among heterosexual men and bisexual women. Finally, sexual experience was a significant predictor for all men and bisexual women. Furthermore, while body esteem was a predictor across all groups, for most individuals it did not appear to be of primary importance, with either sexual esteem or masculinity proving to be of greater importance. These findings suggest the need to consider traits related to both physical and nonphysical factors for improving an individual's self-perceived sexual attractiveness. 2016

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-185
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of Sex Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

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