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Physical Attraction To The Opposite Sex

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...its not as if The Fountainhead is a manual describing the ideal relationship.

I never claimed it was. My point was to show that your view is inconsistent with a major Objectivist hero's actions.

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When evaluating another human being in any way, you are looking for the potential value to your own life.  That is the purpose of valuation.  There is no such thing as valuation for valuation's sake.

I don't even know what these means. Evaluation is the appraisal of something, the determination of the value of something, presupposing the answer to the question "of value to whom" (to the evaluator). In life, I am a valuer, and I value beauty, which is harmony. I value seeing this, whether in nature or in the man-made. The sight of beauty is a value. In this sense, evaluation is the commitment to thinking. Why would I refuse to evaluate the feature of a human being simply because I must know that somehow that feature has to benefit me in some other way than simply the image of beauty it provides me with?

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Why would I refuse to evaluate the feature of a human being simply because I must know that somehow that feature has to benefit me in some other way than simply the image of beauty it provides me with?

Why would you evaluate a feature of a human being simply to valuate it for its "harmony" (to something nebulous and fuzzy, apparently) and for no other purpose? What value does this add to your life? How does it make you a happier man?

To determine that something has beauty is to say that it has some value to your life. There is no other purpose for doing so. Unless you care to introspect on the nature of this "harmony" and name its subject, we won't go any farther.

Edited by TomL

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Let me put this a different way. Finding something beautiful is a valuation of its worth to one's life. If that is true, then the beauty is not itself the value, but the method of valuation.

If beauty itself were the value, then beauty could not be a valuation. Either beauty presupposes a valuation, or a valuation is made presupposing beauty. You can't have it both ways.

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What is the purpose of valuing the sight of an immaculate horse? What is the purpose of valuing the sight of a setting sun on a beach? What is the purpose of valuing the sight of a clear nightsky full of stars? Why do I find these sights beautiful and value them? Do they (the vision, sight, whatever) provide me with some other value beyond the sight they provide me with? What value does the sight itself provide me with? Beauty, since beauty is a value. Why? Because it is a reflection of what I value in myself -- consistency, non-contradictory constituents that fit into an integrated whole. That we can isolate features and judge as beautiful things that have no relation to the character of a human does not necessarily mean that we advocate fuzzyness or intrinsicism or mind-body dichotomy.

In the simplest terms possible: harmony is the non-contradictory fitting of constituent parts of the object being judged as harmonious. Objects that can qualify as harmonious are not limited to those rooted in the cognitive realm. What purpose does judging non-character based objects as beautiful serve? Identifying yet another example of what I value myself in life -- integration, non-contradiction, consistency. Just as friends and loved-ones are valued because they reflect what we ourselves value, so do I value the image of consistency in nature or in the man-made. Again, constituent parts do not have to be cognitive in nature in order for the whole to be judged as beautiful.

Now, our posts to this point are sufficient for any reader to judge for themselves who's view is consistent with reality. As such, this is the final word on the issue between you and I. I will not hesitate to delete any post that does nothing more than restate the unsubstantiated, arbitrary assertion that to judge something not cognitive in root as beautiful and to value its sight is wrong, mindless, purposeless, intrinsic, etc.

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What is the purpose of valuing the sight of an immaculate horse?  What is the purpose of valuing the sight of a setting sun on a beach?  What is the purpose of valuing the sight of a clear nightsky full of stars?  Why do I find these sights beautiful and value them?  Do they (the vision, sight, whatever) provide me with some other value beyond the sight they provide me with?  What value does the sight itself provide me with?  Beauty, since beauty is a value.

No. These other objects have no character as a human has character. They cannot be judged for something they do not have. And yes, they can still be judged as beautiful, because of the values they do possess and grant to a man's life. But beauty itself is not a value, it is a value-judgement.

But why you would want to equivocate between non-humans and humans in the realm of value-judgement I cannot surmise.

Your thinking is this area is where the term "objectifying women" comes from. Here, let me mail order you a gorgeous blow-up doll -- if realistic it should be just as "beautiful" as any real woman you know.

In the simplest terms possible: harmony is the non-contradictory fitting of constituent parts of the object being judged as harmonious.
Insufficient. To take music as an example, a "harmony" is when two instruments or signers complement each others notes with notes from the same scale, but not the same notes. There is no harmony without {a} the scale, and {b} the first instrument. Then and only there is there something to harmonize to.

What purpose does judging non-character based objects as beautiful serve?

Non-character based objects add value to man's life, just as character based ones do. The problem I see is judging a character-based object as if its character were somehow a separate value from its physical body, when in fact you cannot have one without the other.

Again, constituent parts do not have to be cognitive in nature in order for the whole to be judged as beautiful.

Of course not. But if the object does possess a consciousness, then its consciousness should not be excluded from the subconscious integrations resulting in the end value-judgement.

What I mean is this: a woman can have a beautiful face or a beautiful body, but that does not make her beautiful.

As such, this is the final word on the issue between you and I.  I will not hesitate to delete any post that does nothing more than restate the unsubstantiated, arbitrary assertion that to judge something not cognitive in root as beautiful and to value its sight is wrong, mindless, purposeless, intrinsic, etc.

It is unsubstantiated and arbitrary to say that a woman does possess character? It is unsubstatiated and arbitrary to say that a value-judgement is an integration of many facts of reality, and that the exclusion of any of those facts leads one's subconscious to incorrect conclusions? It is not wrong to view a woman who may have a beautiful body and declare the woman to be beautiful? If so, I gladly depart.

Edited by TomL

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All I meant was that things that are beautifal are of value, not that the value-judgement itself is what is of value. The value beautiful things provide one with is the reflection of what one values.

Harmony as I described is perfectly consistent when applied to music. The constituent parts (parts played by specific instrument or what not), for them to be non-contradictory, have to follow specific rules, which are the ones you outlined. That I did not define the specific rules does not make my description inapplicable.

I never said that when judging a human one can seperate the inherently character-based constituents of the human. These constitutents of a human have to be in non-contradicton with what it is to be human, which is inherently character-based. In the case of people one doesn't know, assessement of beauty to them involves a projection, this has already been discussed. And further, yes, one should validate this projection to the degree that one expects to act on it.

My basic point is that there's nothing wrong with judging someone as beautiful if it involves a projection, say, like when judging someone on a magazine cover or on some random picture. Are we to abstain from judgement if we do not know first hand the person's character?

Further, are there not specific features of a human that aren't cognitive in nature? Would you call mindless a physician that calls beautiful the sight of a live 3-D video feed of someone's heart beating? His admiration of how consistent and non-contradictory its operation is would be mindless? My point is that there are human features that aren't character-based, and to the extent that they aren't, one can judge the beauty of them just fine without considering character, which it isn't dependent on.

I don't think we disagree, actually, it's just that there have been massive misinterpretations of the implications of statements. So that I'm clear, I don't advocate the view that features which are, by identity, inherently character-based, can be judged as beautiful without consideration of character. Further, when the person's character isn't verified, the assessement invovles a projection. Even further, quite another question is to what extent should one validate this projection, which I say is dependent on the extent to which one intends on acting on this projection.

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My basic point is that there's nothing wrong with judging someone as beautiful if it involves a projection, say, on a magazine cover or based on some random picture.  Are we to abstain from judgement if we do not know first hand the person's character?

What purpose does the projection serve? For me, if I view some particular person and they have some physically beautiful feature, I can select it and identify the specific feature and connect that to the facts of reality which cause me to value it -- in other words, put it in its proper place. If I were to lust after them or judge them to be a beautiful person, or act differently towards them because of it even without (or despite!) knowing their character, I would be mindless to not introspect on that and root out the error so that the next time I would not make it.

Actually, I don't think we're too far off from agreement, either.

The point I want to make is that one's value-judgements have a purpose, and to act on them and shrug off errors as DPW suggested without corresponding introspection to identify the source of the error and reprogram the subconscious is to idle cognitively and not try to improve oneself. Make no mistake: to judge something as valuable and then find out later it is not valuable as previously judged means an error has been made. It is an even graver error to not do something about it.

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Let me add this rather large hint to those readers trying to figure out what facts of reality give rise to the valuation of a particular woman's body as being beautiful or not.

A lot of it has to do with overall health. A healthy woman is a beautiful woman, an unhealthy woman is not. A healthy woman makes a more valuable mate, both in terms of adding value to the partnership and in terms of child-bearing ability. Child-bearing ability is itself also a fact of reality that contributes to beauty -- for example, wide hips are better suited for birthing.

That should get you started :D

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Tom, you've made some great points here that I have never considered before.

What do you think about the idea of a value-judgement of "beautiful" as being emotional? For example; a beautiful woman's face. Isn't my judgement of a face as "beautiful" automatic and subconscious? However, I am conscious of the traits of excellent health (as it benefits me) which I judge to be beautiful. The judgement itself is a lightning-fast, automatic integration and recognition of these virtuous traits.

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What do you think about the idea of a value-judgement of "beautiful" as being emotional?

I think that is correct, which is why I have been mentioning the subconscious and "summation" (with respect to beauty as value-judgement) over and over again in this thread.

A valuation of something as beautiful is an emotional response. The fact that the emotions themselves are based on facts of reality doesn't make the valuation any less emotional. If you judge something as being beautiful right before it strikes out to kill you -- you have some errors or omissions in your subconsciousness.

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If you judge something as being beautiful right before it strikes out to kill you -- you have some errors or omissions in your subconsciousness.

Right. It seems that describing beauty as an isolated value in itself is based on the same misconception as is used in the support of hedonism.

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Hal    0
A lot of it has to do with overall health.  A healthy woman is a beautiful woman, an unhealthy woman is not.  A healthy woman makes a more valuable mate, both in terms of adding value to the partnership and in terms of child-bearing ability.  Child-bearing ability is itself also a fact of reality that contributes to beauty -- for example, wide hips are better suited for birthing.
Then is it wrong of me to find many female athletes unattractive? And are cultures where fat women are considered desirable simply mistaken?

Why do you believe that people should pick partners based on their 'child bearing ability' (if indeed you do believe this)? What about those who have no interest in having children?

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Yea. Here's where the harmony comes from:

In music, a harmony is multiple notes in the same musical scale. Musical scales are actually quite mathematic -- there is a reason that certain notes, though different, sound pleasant together. It has to do with the way the peaks and valleys of the multiple frequencies align periodically.

In valuation of female beauty, the harmony the female has is with her ability to live as a female. If she is healthy, she will most likely not get sick and place an undue burden upon the man. She will be able to contribute her share of work to the partnership's benefit. She will be strong and able to carry pregnancy with less complication and with less loss of function during pregnancy. And so on.

So in each case, real beauty is harmony with actual facts of reality that have real positive value, not with "innate ideas", "genetic subconscious content", "beauty in itself", or anything else.

The biggest errors made are by second-handedness. "Lots of people think woman A is beautiful, so she must be beautiful". This is what goes on implicitly in the mind of a prepubescent male in our current culture, and it does make things very difficult for him later on.

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Then is it wrong of me to find many female athletes unattractive?

Not at all. Many women athletes are not healthy women.

And are cultures where fat women are considered desirable simply mistaken?
Is there a long-standing or recurring food shortage in this culture? A fat woman would have reserves during a famine and would be better able to survive than her skinny sisters.

Why do you believe that people should pick partners based on their 'child bearing ability' (if indeed you do believe this)? What about those who have no interest in having children?

Even if you have no interest in children, as I do not, that doesn't change the fact that a woman is a woman, and has that capability. Wide hips are a trait of femininity, and femininity is what a man seeks in a partner.

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Hal    0
Not at all.  Many women athletes are not healthy women
I dont know what this means. You seem to have switched from using 'healthy' in a sense that seemed like evolutionary fitness, to something entirely different. Most female athletes are physically healthy, and yet there are many I do not find attractive based on their pictures alone.

Is there a long-standing or recurring food shortage in this culture?  A fat woman would have reserves during a famine and would be better able to survive than her skinny sisters.
But what does this have to do with beauty? At best, this is a pragmatic reason for wanting to be with someone - its almost analogous to me choosing someone as a partner because I've just found out they are a millionaire.

Even if you have no interest in children, as I do not, that doesn't change the fact that a woman is a woman, and has that capability.  Wide hips are a trait of femininity, and femininity is what a man seeks in a partner.

I have no idea whether wide hips are a trait of feminitiy, nor do I know who or what to consult in order to find out if this statement is true. It isnt something I'd ever thought about before, nor is it a criteria I'm going to explicitly use when selecting a partner. Why should I base my choice on 'wide hips' if I dont care about having children (or, for that matter, if I do)?

Edited by Hal

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Hal -

"You seem to have switched from using 'healthy' in a sense that seemed like evolutionary fitness, to something entirely different. Most female athletes are physically healthy, and yet there are many I do not find attractive based on their pictures alone"

-----------Specify what you don't find attractive and you will find the answer for yourself. (Personally, I don't find many female athletes beautiful because they have such a low percentage of body fat. There's nothing healthy or evolutionarily advantageous about a woman being so abnormally underweight from physical exercise that she loses her period.)

"I have no idea whether wide hips are a trait of feminitiy, nor do I know who or what to consult in order to find out if this statement is true."

LOL!!! Really!? You'd choose to date someone who looked like you from waist down?? Think about the hips in proportion to the waist size and the height of the individual. Of course women, in general, have wider hips. If they didn't, the cartilage that held their pelvic bones would split apart in childbirth. Actually, this happens to women whose hips aren't wide enough and the doctor fails to notice it and prepare for a Caesarean accordingly... It's extremely painful and requires 6 months of absolute bed rest for the pelvic bones to come back together and the cartilage to heal.

"But what does this have to do with beauty? At best, this is a pragmatic reason for wanting to be with someone - its almost analogous to me choosing someone as a partner because I've just found out they are a millionaire."

A lot of traits (shiny hair, bright eyes, clear skin, white teeth) are secondary sex characteristics for both sexes. They indicate good health and a lack of parasitic diseases. I'm sure you wouldn't date someone who had the body of a man and the face of a woman. Certainly there are a lot of masculine-looking female bodies out there, even thin ones. Most men are not sexually attracted to that, and I think this is all TomL is getting at. Other things, like body fat percentage and skin color are more culturally determined.

This whole issue of beauty doesn't really have to be that complicated. Think about what you find beautiful in a person and what you don't find beautiful and introspect on it. For instance, I think most Polynesian people are beautiful (Hawaiians, Samoans, Maori, etc.). I've recently introspected and discovered that their look symbolizes certain things to me: the large musculature and body frame seem strong, the slightly greater body fat percentage reduces the severity of the musculature and indicates that the person is fit but has had plenty of food and has a relaxed attitude about life. The dark coloring, for me, indicates health (my own blond hair and blue eyes do not seem healthy to me, as they are a mutation in the northern European population making people susceptible to skin cancer).

Conversely, the Chinese are not an attractive race to me (overall). The skin of most people is too white, and reminds me of a hospital patient. The body frame is too small and the muscles are not bulky enough, neither is there enough hair on the body. Thus, to me, the people seem improperly undeveloped. Just my opinion, not a stamp on the entire Asian race as "ugly" or sexually undesirable!

It's perfectly natural for us all to have different concepts of physical beauty and to be sexually attracted to different types of people. The bad thing is when the characteristics are culturally determined, as TomL implied, and we go along for the ride because we haven't introspected about beauty for ourselves.

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But what does this have to do with beauty? At best, this is a pragmatic reason for wanting to be with someone - its almost analogous to me choosing someone as a partner because I've just found out they are a millionaire.

You asked a question pertaining to a culture and I asked for relevant information. Don't context-switch that into a question of an individual nature. Each person decides for himself, while a question of cultural trend is just that, and nothing more. If there is second-handedness in a culture, that's not the fault of the idea but of the individuals in that culture. Do you decide what is attractive and what isn't based on everyone else in your culture? How first-handed is your sense of beauty?

Edited by TomL

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Here's where the harmony comes from:

In music, a harmony is multiple notes in the same musical scale. Musical scales are actually quite mathematic -- there is a reason that certain notes, though different, sound pleasant together. It has to do with the way the peaks and valleys of the multiple frequencies align periodically.

In valuation of female beauty, the harmony the female has is with her ability to live as a female.

These are entirely distinct types of harmony. In music, notes harmonize among themselves; there is a simple ratio between the frequencies of the sounds in a chord. This is similar to what Rand described in Felipe's quote:

Beuaty is a sense of harmony. Whether it's an image, a human face, a body, or a sunset, take the object which you call beatiful, as a unit [and ask youself]: what parts is it made up of, what are its constitutent elements, and are they all harmonious? If they are, the result is beautiful.

In other words, in answer to your question, "Harmonious with what?", I'd say she meant with each other, the same as notes in a chord. How do the shapes of the eyes relative to the shapes of the cheeks and their positions relative to nose, lips, and chin indicate anything about a woman's ability to "live as a female"? It's an invalid analogy. Musical harmony comes from the abstract relation of the notes with each other, not with its suitedness to human flourishing in any but the wooziest, most abstract sense. The same is true of the elements of a beautiful face. This harmony can and should be outweighed by character flaws, I'm the first to agree, but it's a distinct quality.

So in each case, real beauty is harmony with actual facts of reality that have real positive value, not with "innate ideas", "genetic subconscious content", "beauty in itself", or anything else.

What are the "actual facts of reality" for why notes whose frequencies are in simple ratios to each other have "real positive value"? In fact, the value of harmonic sounds is the pleasure they provide, which probably has a physiological basis. After all, if it weren't physiologically based, then presumably a tabula rasa being could easily be trained to find pleasure in noise or in atonality. I don't think you've shown that there isn't a similar automatic evaluation of human features purely based on some sort of visual harmony that is distinct from evaluations of character.

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If you take everything TomL has said, you can conclude that if he, a heterosexual male, met another man with character traits which Tom valued, that Tom would be perfectly able to be sexually attracted to this man. Would you agree with this Tom?

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What are the "actual facts of reality" for why notes whose frequencies are in simple ratios to each other have "real positive value"?
I gave that answer. Acoustic waves have a period, like any sort of wave. The periods of harmonic sounds have a common multiplicative factor N: the peaks and valleys of the wave periods intersect every N periods. This is why they sound the way they do when they are played together. Without this very real intersection of wave periods, the sounds would not sound harmonious. It is thus not a purely psychological selection, and thus a tabula rasa being in touch with reality cannot be trained to find pleasure in noise or atonality. Only a deranged, physchologically distraught malfeasant could fool their subconscious into something like that (not that it hasn't been done, the current state of popular music is proof enough).

I don't think you've shown that there isn't a similar automatic evaluation of human features purely based on some sort of visual harmony that is distinct from evaluations of character.

Actually I have hinted at it, but really I don't need to. The fact is that the purpose of valuation is to add value to ones life, and that the subject of valuation in the case of human beings are existents which do possess character. Thus, any valuation which sets aside that character and attempts to determine the value of that person to one's own life is in error. It's very simple. If you attempt purposely to do so you are evading the fact that a person has a character. If you follow your subconscious valuations which do not include character, ditto.

What remains is this: a properly and fully integrated individual will subsume into their subconscious valuations all relevant traits for selecting values that should add to the valuators life. This means one does not confuse a beautiful body with a beautiful person. End of story.

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This means one does not confuse a beautiful body with a beautiful person.  End of story.

That's not what this thread was about and that's not what you were saying initially. The thread is about "physical attraction", and you said earlier that you should never think someone looks beautiful without knowing their character traits. Now, in an attempt to save your argument which has holes that have been exposed, you are switching your stance to be something like "just because a person is physically attractive does not mean they have admirable character," which no one has asserted and no one here would argue is the case.

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That's not what this thread was about and that's not what you were saying initially.  The thread is about "physical attraction", and you said earlier that you should never think someone looks beautiful without knowing their character traits.  Now, in an attempt to save your argument which has holes that have been exposed, you are switching your stance to be something like "just because a person is physically attractive does not mean they have admirable character," which no one has asserted and no one here would argue is the case.

Not at all. This thread is indeed about physical attraction. I originally said and still maintain that physical attraction to a person should be primarily based on character traits, and if that if your subconscious does not work in that manner then it is ill-trained and unsuited for the task.

When you look at your beloved, they should look better to you than when you first met them. Knowing their character should change your subconscious estimate of their appearance. Most women almost certainly know what I'm talking about because they work that way almost by default. In general, men have to work at it, and put up great resistance to it which I cannot understand.

Now I'm sure many will reject the idea that the physical appearance of anyone can be an indicator of their character -- that outward appearance has nothing to do with the conscious mind of the individual. I can't disagree more on that point. If you identify some physical trait you do think contributes to beauty but you cannot connect it to some fact of reality, for example health-related or character-related, then you should eradicate that faulty premise from your subconsciousness. My favorite example of this is hair color. A particular hair color has no benefit to one's life in reality -- blondes are not more healthy than brunettes, or vice versa. Neither are they more honest or more productive. There is only in some men a psychological attachment to one particular hair color. This is the sort of thing that, if one finds oneself wanting, then the subconscious mind has subsumed something it shouldn't have, and its source must be rooted out and dealt with. On the other hand, relative body fat does say a great deal about one's character. Whether or not one has all of one's appendages and has no visible physical trauma or defects are certainly valid health concerns.

I think it should be obvious to anyone understanding my reasoning that many, many women can be considered beautiful by these standards. Remember that the subconscious mind is under your control if you choose to take control of it, you can train it to subsume whatever premises you can rationally determine. You do not have to be its slave.

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I think I understand where you got derailed.

When I said that physical beauty traits are connected to things such as health, I meant the popular notion of "physical attraction", not the normative concept of it -- which is the popular idea plus other factors being integrated into it.

Similiarly, when I said that a woman with a "beautiful body" is not necessarily a beautiful woman, I meant that the "beautiful body" conclusion was being made with the popular notion of physical beauty, while the latter would be made with the normative, correct approach.

Sorry if that was confusing.

As a further illustration, consider what I said earlier about hair color preference being a psychological error. What is more important than hair color is hair style, which is a volitional choice made by the wearer, and is an indicator of the person's character.

To me, there is nothing sexier than a woman with long, feminine hair, proportionate, healthy body and face, neat, feminine clothing, and the expression of concentration on her face as she works.

So here is how to start to build your rational subconscious estimate. Imagine the character of your ideal woman. Put aside any visions of her physical appearance, just identify the type of woman that she is. Write it down -- list out her character traits. Then ask yourself: what does that type of woman look like? If she's intelligent -- does "intelligence" manifest itself somehow in physical appearance? How? What kind of work does do? What will she look like when she's working? When answering these questions (and the ones which logically proceed from your answers), resist the urge to inject anything arbitrary that isn't connected to the type of woman you already defined.

Edited by TomL

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