I'm going to try something different here. Instead of writing about facts I'm going to think, write and speculate about a subject that I know little about. Then I'll do some research and see where I was right and where I was wrong.
For the past few days I've been trying to answer, can you choose who you're attracted to? Is attraction innate or a product of society? Is it shaped by past experience or a product of present circumstances? And if I were living somewhere else, in a different time, would I find the same physical features and personalities attractive?
This question really touches a dozen different topics. First, what do I mean by choice. I suppose what I mean is can attraction be willed, if I'm not attracted to someone but for whatever reason I want to be, can I make myself feel attracted to them? So its similar to the question, does believing something make it so? First I'll go over what I already know about this. No doubt part of attraction is due to nature and a part due to society. Fundamentally it is necessary for the continuation of the human race, plus throughout history many of the same physical features have been considered attractive even if other aspects have changed. For example while tanned skin is generally considered attractive today a few hundred years ago it signaled farm work and peasantry and consequently not leisure and nobility. So there are certainly components of both.
But how big are these two components? As I grow older, have more experience and my circumstances change will what I find attractive change as well? Or is my current perception of attraction set for life? And if it does change should I consider how it will change in my choice of a long term partner? So far over the last 14 years or so there really hasn't been much change, with the exception of being attracted to women my age - thankfully as I've grown older I'm no longer attracted to 14 year old girls. But that makes me wonder if I was or if that attraction was just a product of my circumstances?
Now that I've been writing for a while I realize that I haven't made clear what I mean by attraction. Its one of those things that easier to feel than to describe. In the spectrum of positive and negative feelings it certainly falls on the positive side. Being around someone I'm attracted to makes me feel good and being apart creates a desire to be with them. I can simulate the feeling of attraction via certain thoughts, not much differently than simulating happiness or sadness, but can I change the trigger for those feelings? Its hard for me to think about WW2 and not feel sadness, much less force myself to feel happy while thinking about it. Is it similarly difficult to change who we find attractive?
And finally is there is a difference in all this with respect to men and women? Is one sex more influenced by society? More capable of shaping their feelings?