I have recently debated the importance of looks in a potential partner with a friend. He thinks you can divide people into 3 groups: The ugly ones that you'll never ever be with, the regular ones that you'll be with if you like them, and finally the hot ones that you'll be with even if they suck.
He and I think very different when it comes to this. Looks have never really been important to me. I'm not sure if they're even in the "nice to have" category for partners. It's just so ... irrelevant. When I try to describe the perfect guy, it's not until afterwards I think, "Hey, I totally get to pick and choose here. Perhaps I should have mentioned that he should be good-looking. Narh. It's not like I care anyway."
Personality is very important to how I perceive people's looks. I have a hard time finding people hot if I don't like them. When I look at pictures of hot guys, I also project some kind of personality onto them. I like it if they smile. I don't like it if they look mean, tough, or arrogant. When I watch movies I almost always end up finding the "hero" good-looking. I remember watching movies and thinking, "Yeah, he's not hot. I'm not gonna find him hot after watching the movie." And then when the movie is over, "He's kinda cute." Similarly I often end up finding the villain unattractive.
While I can certainly appreciate guys that look good, their looks don't really qualify for anything else than getting me to look at them. I wouldn't accept shit from people just because they looked good. Similarly I wouldn't disregard a guy as a potential partner just because he's bad-looking.
Of course it's important that you're sexually attracted to your partner. But for me if
1) You're a guy
2) You take regular showers
3) I have any form of of crush on you
we got that covered. Yeah, I'm a simple person. Besides, it's more about what he does than how he looks.
So while this should boil down to "looks don't matter", to be quite frank, I might have a bias against good-looking guys. Not that their looks disqualify them. It's more that guys don't just wake up being buff and all that. They need to spend time and money to look like that. First, I can't really relate to that. Second, as Vix points out, you might get self-conscious around a too buff guy. Well, maybe self-conscious isn't the right word for me. It's more that if you believe that looks are that important, then it just seems like a strange choice to date me.
So I guess it's, "Looks don't matter. But it matters if you think they do."