Consider the politics of body image. On the most basic level, our society seems obsessed with defining one particular kind of body as the ideal of beauty. In recent times, that body type, for women, has become fairly unrealistic and down right unhealthy for those who strive to mold themselves to it. Thankfully, we, as a society, are recognizing this, and there are movements to effect change to this idea, in various ways.
A number of people, myself included, reject the idea that a woman must conform to the latest Hollywood or fashion magazine flesh-fashion to be beautiful. However, it is a fact of human nature that everyone is not beautiful to everyone else. Is it shallow to prefer fashion models? It is certainly unrealistic.
Consider, though, a preference for people of "unfashionable" body type. This is almost always presented as a perversion; men who like muscular women, or rubanesque women, women who like hirsute men, or short men. Older women. Younger men. Etc. It's a "kink". It seems that any way of reasoning towards a healthier ideal of beauty (one attainable without starvation diets and surgery) is reduced to a perversion, an eccentricity.
So where does this leave us? In my experience, it seems that even the people who recognize the unhealthiness of our current beauty ideals regard a preference outside of them as a slightly twisted. Perhaps, then, we should simply transcend the physical, and focus solely on being attracted to the person inside? Most people, I think, would agree that love and relationships are forged on something deeper than the physical.
We're physical creatures, though, and outward appearance does make a difference. There has to be a basic physical attraction for anything more to develop.
Are one's physical tastes in partners an inborn thing? Or is it learned, acquired? An examination of shifts in beauty ideals in societies suggests the latter. Can they be changed once they are acquired? Perhaps not.
I wonder why it is that we have fixated on such a narrow range of acceptable beauty? Where does that come from? Is that social, learned, or is it inherent in us? Are we as a culture capable of learning to accept that people have different ranges of tastes? Or will we always need to group ourselves into the normals and the perverts?
It's possible that this catch 22 doesn't really exist; I have a knack for reducing situations to hopeless dilemmas. But it's something I've been thinking about, regardless.