When it comes to human attraction, there can be an unspoken and subconscious element called the “mommy” or “daddy” factor. Before you balk at the name and get creeped out by the incestuous thoughts popping up in your head, hear me out.
Humans, biologically speaking, are meant to reproduce. Thus, physical attraction to another is dependent on factors that would make that person a possible mate. Everyone has certain traits he or she is attracted to.
Big butts, pretty eyes, strong arms, abs, a good smile, boobs: Whatever you're into, you look for certain features in another that cause you to turn your head, bug out your eyes and drop your jaw to the floor. Honestly, those who say “looks don't matter” are kidding themselves.
This sounds harsh, but the reality of it is, you don't need to look a particular way. Everyone has different opinions on what he or she finds attractive. But from a biological standpoint, physical attraction to another is a natural occurrence, and it's necessary to assist us in finding a viable mate to reproduce with.
Particularly for women, certain physical features are symbolic of their childbearing abilities or possible fertility and nurturing behaviors. In the times of cinched waists and wide hips exaggerated by hoop skirts and bustles, women were attempting to make themselves seem more attractive by creating the illusion of large, healthy, childbearing hips. Studies have shown that men seem to be attracted to breasts because they are representative of the nourishment for future offspring, as well as a symbol of fertility and health.
For men, physical attributes like height are on display for physical abilities and strength. These factors prove that he can protect and provide for his family. This is reflective of survival skills and the ability to ensure a family's safety. This is why a man with a larger build and strength tends to be more attractive to women.
Behaviors such as being nurturing and having a natural maternal or paternal instinct make people think of that person in a familial way. Women holding babies on their hips, getting them to stop crying while keeping calm is a factor of attraction. This is the same reason why men who like kids and are willing to hold them make women swoon.
This, my friends, is the “mommy” and “daddy” factor in human attraction. Would this person be a good mother or father to my children? Think about it. What features in other people attract you to them (both physical and emotional)?
Is it their compassion and understanding? Their biceps? Their ability to forgive? Their curvy bodies?
Is it the way they take care of others? Is it how comfortable they are while holding children?
Some of these features and behaviors can be traced back to an innate desire to find someone who we believe is a good mate to rear our children. Admittedly, I have found myself swooning over my own boyfriend when he holds my nieces and nephew. Watching him with a baby in his arms naturally makes me think of a possible future family with him.
When I held my cousin's newborn in my arms, thereby making her giggle and smile, he looked on with a glint in his eye, projecting a similar thought of the future. Just the other day, when my roommate and I watched a father and his 4-year-old daughter interact as he helped get her ready for ballet practice, we found ourselves fawning over this older man, simply because he was fathering a child.
This unappealing “mommy” and “daddy” factor is a real thing, and it explains our personal opinions about certain attributes. It explains why we do or do not find other people attractive. Freud would have had a field day with this one.