I told my friend that I didn't pursue a second date with a woman I met through an Internet dating site because she wasn't physically attractive enough. My friend said it was wrong to "judge" a person by their looks. I said that I wouldn't date my friend Travis either based on his looks and you wouldn't disagree with that. My friend said that the reason that I wouldnt date Travis was that Travis is a man and I'm a heterosexual. Yes but what is a man I asked other than someone who "looks" different than a woman? So isn't heterosexuality about discriminating against a person based on their looks? And if that's the case and if we as a society are okay with diacriminating against a person just because they don't look like a certain gender then why is it often considered wrong to not date someone based on looks that go beyond gender? It might sound like I am resorting to a kind of logical trickery but I think I have a good point. People often speak of a romantic relationship as if it were an elevated friendship where looks should not matter but then the very fact that a romantic relationship involves people of different sexes in heterosexual relationships seems to imply to my way of thinking that such a way of thinking is not actually correct. Of course I don't think that means that a relationship should be based on looks but certainly their must be something that people desire in the opposite gender that transcends the (physical attraction=lust/platonic friendship=love)dichotomy or else we are just talking about something platonic aren't we?

Physical attraction is part of what makes a romantic relationship, and so if romance was what you wanted, not being attracted would matter. This also explains why it would be strange to say that a heterosexual is discriminating in an objectionable way against people of the same sex just because s/he doesn't have romantic relationships with them. (We can turn this around, of course. A gay man isn't discriminating against women in some untoward way just be cause he doesn't want to have romantic relationships with them.)

That much is obvious. But there's still some subtlety in the background. You said you didn't pursue this possibility because the woman "wasn't attractive enough." That could mean a couple of things. One is that you didn't find her sexually attractive: for whatever reason, there was none of that sort of spark. More on that below, but so far, no foul. However, you might have meant that she didn't meet some conventional standard of attractiveness, quite apart from your own reaction. If so, there'd be room to wonder: is it a matter of what other people will think? If so, why do you care? Or is it a matter of some merely arbitrary standard you've set for yourself? In either case it would be worth giving some further thought to your decision.

But let's suppose it's not that; let's suppose you simply didn't find yourself attracted to her, whatever anyone else's view might be. The caution here is that even though chemistry is sometimes obvious from the start, it doesn't always work that way. As you get to know someone better, your sense how "attractive" they are can change. The ways people move and talk, what they think and feel, make a difference to how we see them in a rich sense of "see." People regularly find themselves becoming attracted to someone they had little response to on first meeting. After all, there's a whole genre of romantic storytelling built on this premise, and it's for a reason: it really happens. So there's a practical point here: don't be too sure that you know on the first meeting how you'd feel on the third.

But before we end, you raised a more philosophical issue: where's the room between sheer lust and mere platonic friendship? The broad outlines surely aren't that hard to see. When you love someone in the romantic way, lust is part of the picture, but so is friendship. It would be too simple to say that romantic love is just the sum of lust and friendship, but then even non-romantic friendships aren't all alike; some are much deeper than others. Most of us want our friendship with our romantic partner to be of the deep kind, though if you want more depth about the depth, poets and storytellers might offer more insight than philosophers.

Summing up: discrimination doesn't seem to be the right word for cases where we don't pursue romance because we aren't attracted. However the cautions above both apply. And whatever the essence of romantic love may be, a complex combination of friendship and old-fashioned lust is surely part of the story; no need for an "either/or."

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