He’s infuriating…but also kind of sexy. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Some guys are easy to love. (We’re looking at you, Ryan Gosling.) Others stir up feelings of emotional disgust and something kind of like hate. And yet…you’d still probably do them if given the chance. Like, um, we won’t name any names (Vince Vaughn).
Why is that? How can you possibly be physically attracted to someone who you simultaneously find utterly despicable? We asked two sex experts for some answers.
He’s Taboo, and That’s Hot
“Attraction and sexual chemistry can be somewhat intangible and hard to define,” says sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of She Comes First. It happens on the subconscious level, so you don’t proactively select who you’re attracted to. In fact, we all have the potential to be attracted to an extremely wide array of people, but we typically only allow ourselves to be consciously attracted to a small minority of people, he says. So when you find yourself pining after someone you don’t think you should be interested in—like the office a—hole—you self-censor and end up feeling badly about it. But since you’ve tagged the dude as off-limits, he becomes all the more attractive in your eyes.
He’s Something New
You might actually find yourself yearning for a man who is your complete opposite just for the novelty factor, says Kerner. “You may end up being attracted to a guy who would offer an escape from the way you normally operate.” In these cases, the person may rub you the wrong way, but he represents an antidote to your otherwise predictable life. And hate is a strong indicator of some sort of interest. “Even if I hate you, I’m intently focused on you as I would be if I loved you,” says Tatkin.
He Knows Who He Is
Another big aspect of attraction boils down to simple self-esteem. “Someone who is confident in their life, their skin, and their body would be attractive for that very reason,” says Kerner. So while his confidence may come across as cockiness—something that can irritate you—the fact that he’s living life fully and succeeding on his own terms is undeniably alluring. Even if that person is living a life that’s alien to your own, his self-assuredness in what he’s doing may be what’s hooking you.
He’s a Challenge
The guy you love to hate may be playing hard to get, whether he realizes it or not, and this dynamic sets off the reward centers of our brain, says Kerner. Him turning up his nose at you is rude and annoying—but can also make you want to go after him. “The more we pursue a reward, the more valuable that reward becomes,” says Kerner.
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