Brain Circuitry and the Risks of Casual Sex

Once we learn how the brain works, we will be careful selecting a partner in which to copulate.  (Copulation is the scientific term used for sexual intercourse.  Sex is a sensitive topic, but one of the most popular.  We will discuss this topic in the interest of science and medical research.  Our purpose is to provide the information necessary for making better choices.)  Over half of the marriages in America fail.  When I was growing up, adults always said, “Do not have sex before marriage.”  The discussion was over quickly, without discussing the ramifications of poor choices.  I vowed that in my lectures I would give more information.  I am finding that giving the details to young people compels them to make the best choice.  Plus, we take away the desire to do something simply because it is forbidden.

The research we will be exploring was performed by an evolutionary anthropologist named Helen Fisher.  Professor Fisher notes that casual sex is not always casual.  Our brain is similar to an electrical system in a house; it is intricately connected or ‘wired’.  The brain is more complex and sophisticated than a computer.  We are contemporary and liberated today, and it is common for adults to copulate with someone whom they do not have enough compatibility to love.  But after 6 months of casual sex, extreme attachment has complicated the casual sex.  Have you ever heard a friend say, “How did I fall in love with this guy?”  Women have evolved into creatures who experiment with casual sex very well.  But the consequences still exist no matter how cosmopolitan we have become.

Male love is very intense.  Men fall in love more quickly than women and they love very deeply.  Three out of four people who commit suicide after a romantic relationship has ended are men.  Think about all of the stalkers and murder-suicides we hear about on the news.  Many women know how to heal, get counseling, start networking, and move on.  Examine male and female behavior.  Some men have fewer friends than their female counterparts and thus put more into romantic relationships than women.  (We are careful not to generalize, because we have similarities and differences based on gender.  We cannot all fit into a neat package.)  Men tend not to be as expressive as women.  Many women have tightly woven networks with co-workers, biological sisters, mothers, aunts, sororities, and neighbors.  Despite the negative views of female relationships depicted in all of the new ‘housewife’ shows, girls are very supportive of each other.  There is always a sister-girlfriend around when another girl is in emotional turmoil.

Love ’em and leave ‘em is easier said than done for both sexes.  A girl can be the other woman for a while, but then science kicks in and she falls in love.  The sex drive, romantic love, and attachment are three brain systems that are connected.  Romantic love and the sex drive are very closely connected.  Here’s how the brain works.  When you fall in love, you want to start falling into bed with the person.  Elevated levels of dopamine associated with romantic love can trigger testosterone, the hormone of desire (i.e. sex craving).  But the reverse can also happen.  Testosterone can elevate the activity of dopamine and you can fall madly in love with someone you did not intend.  When people sleep around they run the risk of falling in love with the wrong person, getting married, having children, and eventually getting divorced after the roller coaster ride.

Wait!  There’s more information.  When a woman has an orgasm, levels of oxytocin increase.  When a man has an orgasm, levels of vasopressin increase.  Oxytocin and vasopressin are satisfaction hormones.  They give a sense of peace, security, and unity.  If you have enough of these soothing feelings with even the wrong person, you WILL feel attached to them.

Professor Fisher cautions her audience about the use of antidepressants.  In particular, SSRI’s, or selective serotonin uptake inhibitors have an effect on mood and emotional response.  Antidepressants are needed in managing the mental health of people who cannot get out of bed or are contemplating suicide.  Consult your physician before altering your medication schedule.  Do not take an unauthorized drug holiday to experience satisfying sex.

Serotonin-enhancing medications dull the emotions, but can affect romance and attachment in other ways.  SSRI’s dampen the ability to have orgasms, which is a mechanism of attachment.  Having an orgasm is also a form of assessing a mate.  Thus, if a person is not having an organism with their mate on a regular basis the brain is not being flooded with attachment chemicals.  A woman learns a lot about a man in bed.  For instance, is he a self-centered lover who is only concerned about his satisfaction? Is he patient and affectionate?  Does he understand a woman’s body.  The female orgasm does always happen.  In the past researchers called this a maladaptive trait, but now evolutionary psychologists consider it an adaptive trait because it allows a woman to distinguish between Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong.  So, killing a woman’s capacity to have an orgasm destroys the mechanism by which she can assess her potential partner.  The clitoris has over 8,000 nerves.  The only function is feminine pleasure.  (I am thinking about female genital mutilation, FGM, and its capacity to destroy a woman’s sex life.  I will discuss FGM in another session.)  These nerves become less sensitive when taking SSRI’s.  From the male perspective, seminal fluid contains norepinephrine and dopamine, as well as serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen.  All are affected by antidepressants in a negative way.  When a man does not deposit these substances into the vaginal canal, he is not able to influence a woman’s mood positively.  Thus, he is not able to chemically trick her into liking him!  Professor Fisher likens this to taking a medication that blurs your vision.

Now this is the real birds and bees!  I hope you have enjoyed exploring the physiology of sex and all of the hormones involved.  I hope you share this information with your children and grandchildren.  They need to know the exactly how the body works in order to take care of their body.  Do well with this information.


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