Ah, but the attraction can be non-physical.
Sure, but physical attraction is a major component of a romantic relationship for many if not most people. Physical attraction does not mean nothing else matters in a romantic relationship. Sometimes I get the vibe from some comments (not this one specifically) that some posters view physical attraction as shallow somehow. In a romantic relationship, for many people it is vital to a healthy relationship - not shallow at all. To choose friends based on physical appearance might be shallow, but not for a romantic partner.
I don't think saying it's inappropriate to compliment a stranger's physical appearance implies that physical attraction is shallow. Yes, physical attraction is important to romantic relationships
, but that doesn't mean that commenting on a perfect stranger's compatibility with your standards of physical attraction is necessarily appropriate. Some people find large breasts attractive, and there's nothing wrong with that preference, but that doesn't make it appropriate to compliment a stranger on her ample bosom. Obviously, opinions differ about whether complimenting other features is appropriate, but the opinion that is inappropriate isn't a judgement on valuing physical appearance--it's a judgment on whether commenting
on a stranger's features is polite.
Now, honestly, I'm not completely against compliments from strangers. I've received some very pleasant compliments from strangers that brightened my day. However, one common factor to most of the pleasant compliments was that there was no apparent romantic/sexual interest involved and most of them were on things that were personal choices (e.g. a cool T-shirt, a cute haircut, a piece of jewelry, etc.). Those I generally don't mind. I wore that T-shirt/jewelry/haircut because I thought it was cool/pretty/etc.; it's nice that someone else thinks it's cool/pretty/etc., too. But I am not here to be a potential romantic partner for random strangers. I couldn't care less if my physical characteristics meet (general) your standards for a mate unless I am romantically interested in (general) you. And if we've just met, so that physical appearance is all you have to go on, then by my standards neither of us has enough information to know whether we're romantically
(rather than sexually) attracted to one another, so (general) your opinion of my physical appearance is irrelevant and unwanted. If you get to know me enough to know you're attracted to the whole package (looks and
personality), then we're no longer complete strangers, and it's no longer a question of complimenting a stranger's appearance.