Sexual Attraction
The Psychology of Allure
by James Giles
June 2015, 237pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3001-3
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3002-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Sexual attraction often seems inexplicable—especially when it arises unexpectedly.

How and why does sexual attraction happen? This book is an exploration of the universal yet highly individualized experience of being sexually attracted to another person.

Incorporating interviews, research findings, and excerpts from romantic and erotic literature, lyrics, and film, Sexual Attraction: The Psychology of Allure explores a subject that is central to the human experience and highly relevant not only in personal, intimate interactions but also other relationships as well. Although the causes and effects of sexual attraction have been studied, sexual attraction itself—how we experience others in terms of their sexual attractiveness—remains a neglected, rarely researched topic.

Scholar James Giles presents jargon-free information that is accessible and fascinating to the general reader as well as highly useful and informative to students and researchers in social psychology, sexology, sex and marital therapy, and relationship counseling. The book explores subjects such as how sexual attraction is fundamentally different from other forms of interpersonal attraction and how at the heart of sexual attraction lies the experience of allure—something that makes one feel helplessly drawn towards an intimate physical joining with the sexually attractive person. The allure of strangers, cross-sex friends, sexual friends (“friends with benefits”), and romantic partners are all addressed, revealing the often subtle heterosexual attraction that typically exists between males and females in all their relationships, including between those who are ostensibly “just friends.”


  • Identifies the numerous elements that surround and affect sexual attraction, including bodily features, relationships, and social factors, and examines each to illuminate the individualized experience of attraction that takes place in each case
  • Pinpoints the triggers for sexual attraction and identifies how men and women, though equally compelled, often express their attraction differently
  • Explains how males and females typically give attention to the various objects of attraction in distinctly different ways, allowing readers to better understand the complexities of heterosexual interaction
  • Reveals the relationships between sexual attraction, opposite-sex friendship, and romantic attraction, showing how these can blend together in various ways
  • Enables readers to understand the basis for sexual experiences and the role it plays in his or her life—a topic that is of great significance for many individuals, yet not a subject that is often or readily discussed
James Giles, PhD, is adjunct professor of psychology at Roskilde University, Denmark, and lecturer at the University of Cambridge Institute for Continuing Education. He has also taught at universities in Australia, Guam, and Hawaii. His published works include The Nature of Sexual Desire; No Self to be Found: The Search for Personal Identity; and A Study in Phenomenalism. Giles holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Edinburgh.

View James Giles giving his TEDx talk "Love, Vulnerability, and Care" here:


"Overall, this short book is an easy read that should be of interest to most sexologists. It should be accessible to a wide nonexpert audience. The author offers several intriguing hypotheses about the nature of sexual attraction."—PsycCRITIQUES, June 15, 2016

"James Giles’s Sexual Attraction: The Psychology of Allure makes a unique, interesting, and much-needed journey into blending an existing body of social scientific research with humanistic ways of knowing that includes experiential, non-empirical qualitative methods as well as original philosophic inquiry and excerpts from film, literature, and music. The resulting volume provides many good considerations for those who do empirical sexuality and relationship research as well as insights into ideas that would be difficult—if not impossible—to explore through traditional research methods."—Relationship Research News, November 14, 2016

"This book is charming. Its author writes in a comfortable style that reminds you of a grand uncle, sitting in a leather chair, chatting about things that he has thought about for some time. The observations are laced with the latest social psychological evidence. The text is also one of a kind—very few scholars, surprisingly, have written so engagingly on the nature and varieties of sexual attraction." —Elaine Hatfield, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of Hawaii. Recipient of Distinguished Scientist Awards and past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex. Coauthor (with Richard Rapson) of Love, Sex, and Intimacy, Emotional Contagion, and Love and Sex.

"Sexual Attraction: The Psychology of Allure provides an in-depth, comprehensive, and nuanced analysis of this distinct form of attraction. With thought-provoking insights on every page, James Giles answers questions about sexual attraction you didn’t know you had. Highly recommended reading for those who want a smart, articulate, and engaging investigation of the diverse body of sexual attraction research."—Heidi Reeder, PhD, Associate Professor of Communication, Boise State University. Author of Commit To Win: How to Harness the Four Elements of Commitment to Reach Your Goals, and Blogger for Psychology Today.

"Sexual Attraction: The Psychology of Allure is a wonderful follow-up to his previous, The Nature of Sexual Desire. Employing an engaging mix of philosophical, psychological, and literary analysis, James Giles will make you think deeply about this rarely explored phenomenon."—Robert Scott Stewart, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, Cape Breton University. Coauthor of Philosophizing about Sex.

“At a time when the internet and mixed-gender workplaces put us in daily contact with more people than any other generation in human history, we need to understand attraction far more than we do. Giles' book is a welcome step in that direction. Part psychology, part philosophy, and part anthropology, the book refers to a wide range of research and is a thought-provoking, enjoyable read. Many books discuss desire or arousal, but this book discusses both—and in the context of attraction, a terrific approach.”—Marty Klein, PhD, Certified Sex Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Author of seven books about sex, including Sexual Intelligence.

“Ever wonder about sexual attraction and how it differs from other forms of attraction and sexual desire? Well, look no further. Sexual Attraction: The Psychology of Allure, by James Giles (PhD), takes the reader on a fascinating journey to understand the personal, yet complex and multifaceted nature and experience of sexual attraction. The book is educational, illuminating, and colored with vivid quotes from interviews, as well as numerous examples from literature, music, internet videos, poetry, comics, relevant research citations, and historical data.”—Terri L. Orbuch, PhD, Professor of Sociology, Oakland University; Research Professor, University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great.
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