Choosing a mate is a complicated process, but some of it can be simplified into genetic preference for self-preservation of a species. People naturally want their offspring to be healthy. There are many cultural aspects to mate selection that can eliminate genetic factors in some circumstances. One prime example of this is wealth. However, when it gets to the most instinctual or primal aspects of our choice in mates, genetics are the major influence. Three physical aspects that lead to my genetically-related mate selection are bilateral symmetry, physical fitness and healthy teeth.
The first characteristic that I find attractive in a mate is bilateral symmetry, meaning each side of the body seems proportionate. This is especially important in facial features, where having one eye bigger than the other or an ear that is in a different position can be unsightly even at a subconscious level. Bilateral symmetry is a gene deep trait because it implies that a human developed properly. It shows that a person had healthy and resilient enough genetic material to survive the challenges of development (Carey, 2006). Improper balance in facial features or limbs could mean that the genes were damaged on underdeveloped during development, and this could be passed on to future generations. Part of mate selection is undeniably purposed toward creating genetically sound and strong offspring, and fully-developed genes are part of that objective. I find it interesting that I don’t mind scars or even crooked smiles to a certain extent. It seems as though my mind picks asymmetries that appear to be genetic, and it rejects those. A broken nose, which may be crooked even after repair, is not as unsightly as unequal cheekbones. This is never a very conscious like or dislike, as I do not immediately search for symmetry as something on a mental checklist of suitable mate traits, but I notice that it is something that I unconsciously consider.
The second characteristic that I find attractive in a mate is being physically fit. When looking for a mate, one is also looking for a long-term partner, and physical health ensures longevity (Geary, Vigil & Byrd-Craven, 2004). This is a gene-deep characteristic because the ability and drive to be physically fit implies good genetic propensity for health. If a person is physically unfit, they may pass disease risk factors to offspring, such as type II diabetes. They also may have problems that inhibit development in the fetus, such as in the case of alcoholism or drug addiction. The average physically fit person makes other healthy life choices that are responsible for longer lives, and they do not have the damage done to their bodies from poor life choices that can lead to shorter lifespans and mal-developed offspring.
The last characteristic that I find attractive in a mate is good teeth. White, mostly-straight, intact teeth are a sign of healthy genes, healthy environments and healthy lifestyle choices. Culturally, they can also be a sign of socioeconomic status. I don’t need perfect veneers, as that is a mate selection advertising ploy that shows status but reveals little about genetic and physical health. What is actually important is that they appear well-cared-for and do not have unsightly stains or wear that could be indicative of poor diet or poor health. If a person has a poor diet to the extent that it has affected their teeth, there could be a genetic impact caused by diet or poor hygiene. Likewise, many health conditions can lead to damaged teeth despite good hygiene. These conditions could be viewed as genetic weakness. There is a notion that attractive parents have attractive children (Geary et al., 2004). I find people with healthy teeth to be more attractive than those with unhealthy teeth, so this definitely affects my mate choice.
When considering whether a sexual trait is related to advertising or competing, one must look at each of my chosen characteristics individually. For example, bilateral symmetry is definitely related to competing sexual selection. Compared with other individuals, a person must compete to show that their genetics are more symmetric. It is not advertising but could be in cases where people use makeup to hide asymmetries or undergarments to equalize body fat. Physical fitness is an advertisement in many cases because people show off their bodies to reveal physical fitness, but it can also be a competing characteristic when people are merely physically fit but not willing to advertise that fact. Lastly, teeth are typically related to advertising. If a person has good-looking teeth, they are more likely to smile and show off their “pearly whites.” People also often have to alter their teeth to correct or hide things that are not considered attractive. In these cases, it is very similar to dressing up to impress a member of the opposite sex. In my opinion, teeth are a major aspect of a first impression, so they should be advertised when they are a positive trait.
The physical traits that I have chosen are not atypical, nor are they absolutely necessary even by my own standards. Instead, they are traits that I find favorable when considering a mate. There are many cultural and personal aspects of people in general that can overpower genetic proclivities such as good personalities or socioeconomic status. In these circumstances, compatibility in a sexual or cohabiting setting can outweigh things that may be considered genetically-lesser. During first encounters, genetic impressions are arguably more important, and they give cultural considerations a change in the complex action of mate selection.