Sexual attraction usually has some kind of visual component. Even if you see yourself as the least superficial human being on the planet, telling people you meet at bars that you're out searching for someone with whom you can establish a deep soulful connection, I'd wager that you approached those people based partly on the way they look.
So what about the 255,000 people in the UK who are registered blind? There are obviously other influences we all share that cause us to fall for people over time, but what replaces that raw, instinctive attraction that, for many sighted people, is based on looks alone?
Blind people can't admire someone's beauty from across the room, make eye contact or read body language. This means we need direct interaction with a person before we can experience sexual attraction. One of the biggest misconceptions about us is that we touch people's faces in order to identify facial features and decide if we like them or not. This doesn't happen. For me, sexual attraction is based primarily on instinct. My brain usually makes its mind up whether or not I like a person within five seconds.
I create a picture in my head of what I think a person may look like. It may be completely inaccurate, as I'm unable to verify it one way or another. It's like when you speak to someone on the telephone and imagine what they might look like. Although I can't physically see the person, the mental image I have of them in my head influences my view of them.
I tend to be more attracted to people who are taller than me, but I'm only 5'3", so that isn't usually much of an issue. I'm also sporty, so I lean towards others who share a healthy lifestyle, and am an English graduate, so I like a man who can use language eloquently. Men can enhance their sex appeal by investing in nice-smelling aftershave or shower gel, so I guess smell comes into play to at least some extent.
I experience sexual attraction to girls' personalities. I'm attracted to what they say, the way they say it, their voice, accent, etc. Some regional accents are more stimulating than others. The Brummie accent puts me off straight away!
Physical contact often also plays a more dominant role in sexual attraction for blind people. I pay attention to the softness and/or smoothness of somebody's skin, and the feel of their hair, especially if it's long. When I fanaticise, my mind conjures up visual images and I think about women with dark hair. This might stem from the fact that, although I was born blind, I was able to see black-and-white images as a young child.
I'm often holding someone's arm or elbow so that they can guide me, and can discern a person's height, weight and bone structure. Women with thin arms and a skinny waist are less appealing to me than those with more shape to their figure. I also like the feel of certain fabrics on a woman. Soft textures are more stimulating. I like the feel of silk and satin and also lace and leather. The sound of high heels on a hard floor turns me on as well.
I think some people just assume that blind people don't feel any sexual attraction, which is rubbish. I've been in a sexual relationship for nine years and there are blind people having happy and successful sexual relationships all over the world.
I find a really lovely smelling man with a good voice to be extremely attractive. I'm also very tactile and rely on touch to map things out, including bodies. I'm a bodybuilder, so I like a man to feel good. When I was younger, I would never have gone for a sporty, fitness-oriented guy, but now that I'm an athlete that's the type of person I'd prefer, as we'd have shared interests I'm also more sexually drawn to the thought of a fit body, but then who isn't?
I'm attracted to elements in other people's physical form that are present in my own body. I love the feel of my shoulders and back, and the muscles in my legs. If I was getting physical with someone I'd want them to feel just as good, if not better.
The way someone smells also really connects me to them. I can be aroused by a fragrance and, conversely, some male scents can turn my stomach. I train in a gym every day and am often confronted by some rather unpleasant-smelling guys. They could be Idris Elba, but smelling like that, I'd still say: no, thanks.
I met my fiancée, Ollie, before I lost my sight, so I know what he looks like, but the nature of my sexual attraction towards him has changed now that I'm blind. It now works on more of an emotional level. I like flirty language, and smell is also a massive factor. I love him wearing nice-smelling aftershave and the scent of his T-shirt when it's washed with lavender [Lenor] Unstopables.
When it comes to celebrities, I find voices attractive, and always say to Ollie that I fancy actors with Irish accents. I also take my sister's opinion about things of that nature more seriously now, and she lets me know if a celeb is good looking or not. Some people assume that blind girls will just fancy anyone because we can't see, but this is so wrong. In recent years, when people have hit on me in pubs I've sometimes questioned if it's because they think the fact I'm blind makes me easy. This simply isn't true.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.