Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Words of Attraction: Important Distinctions

There is a very subtle distinction to make between three common terms to describe the physical attractiveness of a person – one that is rarely made.
The words sexy, pretty, and beautiful are often used interchangeably. But there is a world of difference between the three terms – and great peril results from not drawing a distinction between them.
I will attempt to make a distinction between these three terms.
Sexy can be defined as arousing or appealing to the sexual appetite of another. 
Pretty can be defined as possessing naturally physical pleasant qualities. 
Beauty can be defined as possessing goodness in a physical sense. Someone that is physically beautiful possesses some measure of visible goodness. Beauty is the physical manifestation of virtue.
It is very possible for each of these three levels of physical attractiveness to exist simultaneously in a person. It is also possible for only one of these levels to exist in a person. They are not mutually exclusive but nor are they necessarily found in a person.
I may be aroused by a woman who I do not consider attractive or possessing virtue.  I may notice a girl is “easy on the eyes,” but am not sexually attracted to her nor see physical goodness in her. And I may see virtue in a woman who I do not find visually attractive and who does not arouse my sexual appetite.
Ideally, of course, a person who is seeking marriage should find all three in the person he or she is seeking to marry. Certainly at the very least, the person should see beauty (on some level) in his or her spouse.
But the three terms do not have the same meaning, and should never be confused with one another, as they often are.


  1. I feel like these words came straight from my mouth. I have been trying to articulate this exact thing for a very long time, although I used the distinctions "hot, pretty, and beautiful". Another question, where does "cute" fall in?

  2. Good question! Cute can be used in a couple of different senses - describing physical qualities or just attractive qualities in general (the way someone talks, flips a curl of hair, etc.). In a purely physical sense, I would say "cute" is a mixture of sexy and pretty, because as it is used it usually combines transitory elements of attractiveness with more permanent elements, while not necessarily containing an element of virtue.


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