Sexual Connection is often more than just our bodies.
“Can you hold me down for one night, like I’ve got three strikes?
I need you to free me, it’s a prison inside my mind
Break me, taste me
Roll me up like the northern lights
Can you hold me down for one night, like I’ve got three strikes?” – Terror Jr, 3 Strikes
Our culture is obsessed with sex. Everywhere you look is another article on how to have hot sex, harder erections, mind-bending orgasms, and ejaculations that go on for days. What people seldom realize, though– and which the latest science backs up– this is a myopic view.
In a series of clever studies, Frédérick Philippe, Robert Vallerand, and colleagues studied a concept they referred to as Harmonious Sexual Passion: passion for sex that is well integrated and in harmony with other aspects of the self, creating minimal conflict with other areas of life. Harmonious integration of ones sexual desires frees one up to fully engage and enjoy sexual activity in an open, spontaneous, and non-defensive manner. Items measuring harmonious sexual passion include: “Sex is in harmony with the other things that are part of me,” “Sex is well integrated in my life,” and “Sex is in harmony with the other activities in my life.”
When we are sexually authentic, and we intimately connect with someone, is it really “just sex”? Is it something more? What is at play each time we have sex with someone?
When it comes to the physical act of sex, there is a tremendous amount of emotional bonding that is being created that most probably do not even think of. We can think of this bond as the glue that ties two people together. This bond can have a positive effect as well as a negative one. Let’s dive into the physiology and psychology of sex to investigate this phenomenon.
Traditionally, it has been artists, poets, and playwrights who have made the greatest progress in humanity’s understanding of love and desire. However, recently endocrinologists, who were never considered very romantic, have challenged this notion, and now rather have a lot to say about how and why people love (and lust) for each other.
So, what have reproductive endocrinologists contributed to the demystification and understanding of love and lust? They found that oxytocin – the hormone of labor – is also the hormone of love. It took no time for oxytocin to acquire fancy names such as “the bonding hormone,” “the cuddle hormone” and even “the love hormone.”
During sex this chemical is being produced in both individuals, creating a bond between them both. Released in the brain, this hormone is creating an emotional bond between the partners. One of the prominent figures in neuropsychology is Dr. Daniel Amen. Dr. Amen does cutting edge research in neuropsychology. He writes in his book “Change Your Brain Change Your Life, page 41:
“Whenever a person is sexually involved with another person, neurochemical changes occur in both their brains that encourage limbic, emotional bonding. Yet limbic bonding is the reason casual sex doesn’t really work for most people on a whole mind and body level. Two people may decide to have sex ‘just for the fun of it,’ yet something is occurring on another level they might not have decided on at all: sex is enhancing an emotional bond between them whether they want it or not.”
In light of some of these effects on our limbic system, is casual sex really possible? Is emotional connection always the outcome of a shared sexual experience?
A study entitled “Who Benefits From Casual Sex? The Moderating Role of Sociosexuality” aims to address that by focusing on sociosexuality, which according to the authors is a “relatively stable tendency toward or away from casual sex, determined by a combination of heritable factors, sociocultural learning, and past experiences, and reflected in three key components: motivation for, attitudes toward, and past experience with casual sex.”
Sociosexuality has a lot more to do with personal authenticity-if you’re simply being consistent and true to your preferences and personality, wouldn’t that carry psychological benefits? Well, basically. Ryan Jacobs at PS Mag has a great piece about the study. When it came to those who were sociosexually unrestricted, having casual sex was associated with higher self-esteem and life satisfaction and lower depression and anxiety. He explains:
“Typically, sociosexually unrestricted individuals (i.e., those highly oriented toward casual sex) reported lower distress and higher thriving following casual sex, suggesting that high sociosexuality may both buffer against any potentially harmful consequences of casual sex and allow access to its potential benefits,” the researchers write.
In the end, sexual connection is an individualistic experience which can foster varying degrees of emotional connection. Remember that with some people we get only a moment, and with others, many moments….some will be fun, and others can be intoxicating, producing waves of deep, penetrating ecstasy. Stay pleasure centered, and be authentic.
Image Credit: Archival – Philadelphia – Rodin, “Damned Women” 1885, cast 1927