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Have you ever wondered why it seems like you just can’t stop thinking about sex? Or perhaps, why men have this uncontrollable urge for sex? Or why women still feel an undeniable attraction to someone they’ve had sex with years ago? Maybe even, how does someone fall in love at first sight? The answer to why and how are caused by tiny cocktails with incredible potencies. No, they aren’t drinks found in any bar or nightclub. These are chemical cocktails called hormones that are served up by our own bodies, and the mastermind at the helm of these concoctions is our very own brain.

The chemicals and hormones in our brain are working for and against us in the evolutionary design of sex; they keep us wanting it and ultimately coming back for more and more. Why? Obviously, the need to produce babies and expand the human race is naturally inherent. But, we have to want and enjoy sex in order to continue our species therefore these notorious instigators of our brain are always working and affecting us. Unfortunately, these master manipulators can sometimes temporarily affect our ability to think clearly. For example, the more we have sex with someone, the more we become bonded to them and over time we may wake up and find ourselves in a relationship with someone whom we may not really know all because our “pleasure center players” temporarily blindsided us. So, who exactly are these pleasure center players responsible for our satiable, or sometimes insatiable, appetite for sex, love, attraction and sexual desires? Let’s get into that, shall we?

Player # 1: Dopamine, aka “The Activator”

When we’re head over heels in love with or have sexual desires for someone there’s an active increase in the areas of our brain associated with romantic feelings which is triggered by dopamine, aka, “the activator.” Dopamine is the key to activating the pleasure center of our brain. When released, it produces feelings of pleasure and satisfaction when we’re doing things that we really enjoy. The pleasure center pumps this feel good hormone throughout our body, informing it that the activity is instantly rewarding with a feeling of pleasure. Dopamine production occurs during the excitement phase of sex, which is the building block of arousal and desire. At the moment of orgasm it is fully released followed by an immediate drop in levels. The drop in dopamine levels (along with player # 2, prolactin) could be the protagonist for that tired feeling after sex. Dopamine can also be highly addictive and some scientists have equated it to the brain pattern and rush experienced by heroin or cocaine users. This could explain one of the reasons why orgasm feels so incredible. Orgasms give you the highest dose of natural Dopamine. Who needs drugs when you can just have orgasms?

Player # 2:  Prolactin, aka The “Ahhh” Moment!

Prolactin is the afterglow chemical that creates the “ahhh” feeling after a man ejaculates or a woman has a clitoral orgasm. During sexual arousal there is a peak and then a crash because of this dopamine-prolactin effect, but often times people don’t realize the hormonal shifts that are happening during sexual activities. In some cases, this can create a disconnect between partners and cause them to pull away from each other afterward but thank goodness oxytocin (player # 3) is there to run damage control.

Prolactin also helps regulate our sex drive. If the brain isn’t producing enough of it, there is only the desire to have sex. However if the brain produces too much prolactin, it can repress the libido and result in a loss of sexual arousal completely. Prolactin is also very important during pregnancy, as it stimulates the mammary glands to produce milk and assists in the fetal development of the lungs and immune system.

Player # 3: Oxytocin, aka The Bonder

Oxytocin, affectionately labeled “the bonding hormone,” is another chemical hormone that is released during sexual activity. It produces feelings of trust, emotional intimacy, relaxation, attachment and contentment between people. It calms the spirit and lifts moods, reducing fear and anxiety and allowing a feeling of safety in the arms of your beloved. One of the best things about oxytocin is that it believes in reciprocity; the more you give the more you get. Nonsexual touch can also increase levels of oxytocin. Our pleasure center actually becomes more responsive and releases high levels of oxytocin when we touch, nurture and care for others. Just a 20-30 second hug can work wonders for both men and women. Oxytocin also provides balance between the highs of dopamine and lows of prolactin. So, if you are looking to create lasting bonds and to balance the effects of the dopamine and prolactin then do something sweet for someone you care about by giving them a lovingly stroke and/or telling them lovingly how you feel about them.

Player # 4 – Phenylethylamine (PEA), aka The Love Potion

PEA is known as the “love chemical” because it’s the reason we find ourselves thinking about and wanting to be with our beloved all of the time. Under the intoxicating influence of PEA, our beloved can do no wrong. PEA production commonly lasts for about one to 24 months. As soon as the production stops, the honeymoon may slow down or come to a screeching halt. The rose colored glasses come off and things in your partner that never bothered you before suddenly begin to irritate you. The relationship may begin to suffer or eventually end because we are simply not hard-wired to maintain that level of PEA production. But, all hope is not lost! The great news is that besides falling in love, PEA production can be simulated by participating in thrill seeking activities like sky diving and the eating of certain foods like chocolate! So even after the affects of PEA have trickled off, with the help of oxytocin, thrill seeking, or a little chocolate, we can still love and continue to form lasting bonds with our beloved and to stay connected, falling in love again and again!

So how do we balance it all?

With all of the ups, downs and hormonal shifts happening during attraction, desire, arousal, ejaculation and orgasm it is important that we learn how to be aware of them and find balance as we enter into relationships and love play. With awareness and practice we can participate in activities or do things to produce and/or activate our pleasure center players. Lack of awareness of our body’s neurochemistry and how it can wreak havoc on our relationships puts us at a huge disadvantage and increases the chances of relationship failures. When we are aware of these hormonal shifts, we can easily understand the changes occurring within ourselves and our partner who may also be experiencing these hormonal highs and lows. This helps both parties have patience and compassion with one another and establishes a place of balance and a positive relationship arsenal for the journey of love ahead.

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