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10 Interesting Facts About Your Brain on Sex

It might not look like the sexiest body part, but it really is.

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“Oxytocin is not only released during birth and breastfeeding but also during orgasm,” Salmon wrote via email. “As a result, you feel more attached to the guy who you shared that orgasm with, which is great if he's a good mate choice but maybe not so much if you're Rhianna and he's Chris Brown. He may be a good lover but poor dad material, and yet you'll be attached to him and perhaps stick with the relationship longer than you should.”

So if you hear  Dionne Warwick when he walks into the room and your friends -- who didn’t share an oxytocin moment with him -- hiss like wet cats, you may be seeing the situation through oxytocin-colored glasses (I have so many if I buy another pair I get the next one free).  

6. There’s a reason people shout “Oh, God!”

Sexual relationships are powerful enough to feel like spiritual experiences and there may well be a good reason for that. From  The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain by Judith Horstman and Scientific American: 

“Jefferson University neuroscientist Andrew Newberg scanned the brains of praying Catholic nuns and meditating Buddhist monks and found some overlap between their neural activity and that of sexually aroused subjects (as seen in scans from other researchers). The correlation makes sense, according to Newberg. Just as sex involves a rhythmic activity so do religous practices such as chanting, dancing and repetition of a mantra. Religous experiences produce sensations of bliss, transcendence beyond one’s self and unity with the loved one that is very like the ecstasy of orgasm. That may be why some mystics, such as St. Teresa, describe their rapture with romantic or even sexual language.”

The book also notes that another study found that thinking about God and religion goes on in various parts of the brain, including the same areas we use to think about mundane experiences. No single "God spot" has been pinpointed in the brain. So you'll have to settle for the other G spot a little lower down. 

7. Testosterone: The puppet master.

Speaking of heavenly, let’s talk about male anatomy for a moment. Wonderful though it is, it has its share of headaches and this certainly sounds like one. Oxytocin may keep us attached in ways we normally wouldn’t want to be, but testosterone has men doing things they don’t even know they’re doing, like getting erections. According to Louann Brizendine in  The Male Brain, “These reflexive erections are different from true sexual arousal because they come from unconscious signals from his spinal cord and brain, not from a conscious desire to have sex. The testosterone receptors that live on the nerve cells in a man’s spinal cord, testicles, penis, and brain are what activate his entire sexual network. Women are surprised that the penis can operate on autopilot and even more surprised that men don’t always know when they’re getting an erection….We women often notice the rising tide before he does.”

We notice because we care. 

8. So testosterone is pretty powerful; does it ever relax its kung-fu grip on a guy?

Indeed it does. Marlene Zuk, professor of ecology, dvolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota, notes in her forthcoming book  Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and How We Live that “conventional wisdom holds that men are unreliable long-term mates” because they’re always questing for new partners, but “what if the urge to find a new mate is ameliorated by the experience of fatherhood itself?”

In a long-term study of 600 men in the Philippines, anthropologist Lee Gettler of Northwestern University measured the men’s testosterone and predicted those with higher testosterone levels at the start of the study would become “partnered fathers” by the follow-up, four and a half years later. And he was right.

 
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