All of these are actually continuums, but we think of them as being mutually exclusive, either/or, and sometimes don’t even pay attention to them as relevant.
1. Culturally female versus culturally male is an assortment of continuums depending on what culture is involved. Female might “read” as male in a different context, either cultural or situational and vice versa. So many times the real continuum is between those who believe only their own culture’s idea of what male or female is, and those who are able to imagine or who have actually experienced a variety of possibilities.
I hasten to say that not only do I think that sex in all its dimensions is very much a matter of infinite possibilities, but also that subtle changes can have major consequences, and that every change or divergence is ALWAYS political.
2. Appearance may be a subcategory of the above. The real continuum might be how much the person pays attention to conformity or is interested in exploring what it is like to cross-dress (gender, ethnic, fantasy) or really doesn’t care and dresses for practicality. One might highly value appearance even at the expense of comfort: corsets, pointy-toe shoes, tight ties -- and another might only think of comfort and good health. There is another category dealing with aesthetics: some fit their cultural ideas but are exceptionally skillful or fashionable in their dressing. The other extreme might be people who wear nothing, as in tropical countries, but even there the absolute minimum (penis sheathes) might be very fancy. In my parents’ youth, it was the height of innocent fun to cross-dress. Not now.
3. Body alteration itself goes from plastic surgery (like the two people who had their faces altered to look the same) through tattoos, piercing, welts or keloids from scoring, insertions, removed tissues, and so on. Any of these might make the person more desirable -- or not. Elaborate decoration contrasts with the valuing of being entirely natural, not even shaving different parts, not even using things like chapstick or sunscreen for purposes of comfort and health. Such abstentions could shade over into self-affliction or self-denial. But they could also be fulfillment.
5. Not only is the intensity of sexual response different from one person to another, ranging all the way from simply not caring or even repelled to being irresistibly obsessed, but the intensity of response of any one person varies all the time according to dozens of influences. Human bodies are a process, not store window mannequins. And even an inflatable partner might need a little pumping up now and then to remain attractive. Maybe a good scrubbing. Or would that be a disaster, like washing a child’s security “blankie”?
According to Google Translate, these animals (sheep?) are saying:
"Through his morbid over-production of lockstofren Walter fell into the rotting quickly away into."
6. We are told pheromones, which are invisible molecules not exactly perfume, often prompt subconscious reactions. Researchers say -- after testing with t-shirts aromatic from wearing -- that we are more likely to be attracted by pheromones from people whose DNA is more like ours. Many theories about why. Some people love strong perfume, some begin to sneeze.
7. Circumstances might have quite different effects. To some people athletic competitions or other exertions that raise a good sweat are a turn-on. To others any condition less than fresh from the shower shuts down response.
8. Tolerance for rough stuff or the kind of rough stuff is extremely variable. This is the sort of thing that can be criminalized.
9. Likewise, sex for pay will attract some, turn-off others -- maybe for quite different reasons. Pain, confinement, disrespect, and other more extreme forms of domination are attractive to few people but they exist. Money does not exactly compensate. The transaction may be criminalized, in some places the provider -- and other locations the consumer. Some will criminalize the go-between, esp. if they are trafficking the actual provider of services.
10. Domination of all kinds (in many species) is a key variable. Some will hope to be dominated, seeing it as protection, maybe even a return to childhood, while others must be the dominant one -- maybe only by size, education, or social status -- to remain engaged.
11. Mysticism or spirituality may be variable considerations. One thinks of the use of sexuality in the various yogas.
12. The intention of both parties (or all parties if there are more than two involved, which is another continuum to consider, like “ménage a trois” or outright orgies).
13. Each party might be on a continuum between the desire to destroy themself or the other and the desire to -- what? Exalt? Celebrate?
14. Desire to cause the conception of a new human being may vary from being an active deterrent to being an absolute magnet. Coitus may be done joylessly but dutifully in order to create a family. Or -- with precautions -- it could be a celebration of freedom from involving another life in a moment of abandon. Or the gamble itself might be an attraction.
15. Awareness of disease can range from oblivion to the problem, through taking sensible precautions, to the hard-to-understand (for me anyway) desire to become infected. There’s a song about that last. Urk.
16. Involvement of drugs and toys may range from people who consider these immoral and obscene to people who are paralyzed without batteries and a popper. Again, criminalization is possible.
17. Some people like surprises but some people don’t. They can get violent about it.
I ought to think up more factors so the total is twenty. But you do it.
It seems that the bottom line is “fittingness,” in the sense of two people (or more or maybe only one person) finding the level of relationship, situation, preparation, risk and all the other variables, being in tune. An orchestra, of course, needs a little fiddling around to get to that state. Fitting together means sensitivity to the other, resourceful in responding to the unexpected, seeking consent or acknowledgement enough to be confident that nothing is a deal-breaker. (Assuming the two in relationship desire to continue.)
"The Pope sent me."
Given all these considerations, the fuss about homosexual versus heterosexual seems pretty inadequate to the complexity of the situation. Some men are homosocial at least in a public setting -- consider tribal chieftains in their deliberating circles -- and some still think of women as being a specific category marked for intimacy. In that case, their ability to attach to and bond with one well-known person is quite different from just grabbing (sometimes literally) whatever woman is handy.
If a person (I’ll say male or female) is dominance-based, needing dominance at any price in order to be successfully sexual, then they are more likely to look for someone of lesser status, or a child, or an ethnic category associated with compliance -- like dark-skinned. (They'd better watch out.) But the progressive liberal notion of equality has its problems as well. Maybe it’s an ideal that is not achievable except by identical twins on a good night. And maybe then only if one just bested the other at tennis or chess.
Continuums can be carefully calibrated and negotiated, but usually it takes a gradient to create commerce. The bottom line is “what’s your logorithm?” Are you mild, passive, sensual, all dressed up, adventurous? Are you fierce, independent, insensitive, unwashed, intellectual? Even if you’re simple, it’s a complex question with many dimensions. Someone will make up a questionnaire, give it a catchy name, and make a lot of money. Hmmmm. How about "Men Are Bonobos; Women Are Chimps."