Formspring: Love without Sexual Attraction?

by Jason Stotts

Some time ago I received this question via Formspring.  Unfortunately, it got lost in the shuffle of getting things ready for ATLOSCon, but I thought it was a good question that deserved an answer.  Better late than never, right?

Is it still possible to fall in love with someone without being sexually attracted to him/her?


This is, in fact, a very common theme that is explored in some of the greatest fiction.  For example, this is the exact worry that Cyrano de Bergerac has with fair Roxane, he thinks that she could never love him because he thinks he is ugly and, implicitly, that love needs beauty to thrive.  Or, consider the case of Quasimodo in regard to the fair gypsy Esmerelda, who he desires, but who believes that she would never be able to care for him because he is (actually) hideous.  There is also the case of pauvre Eric in the play version of The Phantom of the Opera (not the book version, which is radically different), who worries that his hideous visage will make it so that no one could ever love him.  In each of these cases, one of the main characters worries that ugliness, whether real or imaginary, will prevent them from ever finding love and will condemn them to loneliness, since they worry that no one could be attracted to them.

Now, there is much more that could be said about this issue.  For example, sometimes we fall in love with a person to whom we are not sexually attracted and over time we develop sexual attraction for them. I know of at least one couple where the woman was not initially attracted to the man, not that she found him unattractive, but that she was not attracted to him, and after their relationship developed, she became sexually attracted to him because of his character and values.

In cases where you find a person completely unattractive or even ugly, I think it’d be a bad idea to pursue a romantic relationship.  As Objectivists, we consider people to be beings of both mind and body and we strive to keep these things integrated.  If you end up in a relationship with a person that you just cannot be aroused by, you’ll be put in a position where you’ll love someone, but be unable to bring this love into reality because your lack of sexual desire or even disgust at their physical appearance.  This is more than just a little problematic as human relationships and love involve sex and if you just can’t have sex with a person, you’re going to be missing out on a large part of what makes a good relationship and a good life.

I’d also like to point out that sexual attraction is more than simply an issue of physical beauty, although obviously physical beauty can be very important here.  See my essay “What Causes Sexual Attraction?” for a more detailed explanation of how I think sexual attraction works.

I might recommend that you consider having this person as a close friend for some time and see if attraction doesn’t develop.  If it doesn’t, then at least you have a new good friend.  If it does, then you can re-evaluate your position in light of this new information.


You can ask me questions via Formspring or by e-mailing me at Jason(at)  Unless otherwise stated in the question, I will assume that any question and response is fair game for Erosophia.

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