I vaguely and dimly remember that a glass of wine can lead to casual sex.
What I fail to recall is what on earth is sex.
But whatever it may be, I will drink to it.
Esteemed colleagues. My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am a professor of psychology in Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, in Russia, and a professor of finance and a professor of psychology in the Outreach Program of SIAS-CIAPS, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies.
I apologize for inflicting this introduction on you, but it's part of my contract.
Today I would like to discuss the psychology of casual sex and one-night stands.
It's a much neglected topic, as you're all aware, and I would like to plug this whole pun intended.
You notice that I've made a distinction in the title between casual sex and one-night stands.
It's because I believe that casual sex is a continuum. There is a whole spectrum, a whole range of casual sex activities. For example, I would classify pornography as a form of casual sex. Similarly, sexting and cybersex are forms of casual sex, and then one-night stands, and only then casual sex.
Casual sex includes longer-term attachments and longer-term commitments, for example, friends with benefits. Usually casual sex is with acquaintances, with colleagues, with neighbors, with family members, with friends. It's on the way towards a relationship, while one-night stands, in the vast majority of cases, are with slight acquaintances or total strangers.
So this spectrum, this continuum, starts with the impersonal and ends with the totally personal. It starts with the visual, because pornography and sexting essentially is visual. These are visual cues and visual triggers, starts with the visual, and ends with a total, a totality of experience, incorporating the visual, the tactile, the olfactory, and all the senses in effect, also memories, identity fragments, gender roles, and so on.
So casual sex is a continuum, and at one end there is the rudimentary, unstructured, narrative-less form of pornography, and at the other end there are essentially relationships, perhaps not romantic relationships, but relationships.
If you were to ask, and people did ask, scholars like Lisa Wade, Catherine Helm, and others, if you were to ask people who had participated in casual sex, and by the way also in group sex, if you were to ask them, does it create in you any bad feeling? Do you feel bad? Do you feel dissonant? Is there a problem? Are you equally distrolling?
They will tell you no way.
For me, casual sex is great. We've had fun. So many people claim that they're into casual sex because it provides them with physiological release and arousal and gratification on the one hand, and with, and thus, improvised warmth, empathy, acceptance, affection on the other hand.
All in all, a positive experience.
There's only one problem with that. It's not true.
Now, you all know that in psychotherapy, we never ever listen to what the patient says. If you listen to what the patient says, you're not a very good psychotherapist.
Instead, we ask ourselves two questions.
Why did the patient choose to say what he or she had said, the act of choice, the act of selection?
The second question we ask, how does the patient behave? Is there any contradiction or discrepancy between the patient's behavioral patterns and the claims that the patient had made about her, for example, mental state?
In other words, is there an abyss? Is there a gap between observable behaviors and phenomena and self-reporting?
In this case, the abyss is huge, unbridgeable.
First of all, participants in one-night stands and in casual sex report an exceedingly low level of sexual gratification and satisfaction. Actually, less than 20% of women who had participated in a one-night stand had reported having an orgasm. The figure for men is not considerably better, 40%.
Participants in all these types of activities, the entire spectrum that I had described, insist that these activities, these actions are emotionless, meaningless, that they had meant nothing, and that the partner in these activities is a nobody, is of no consequence. This is true even when we talk about friends with benefits.
So there are no emotions, there's no attachment, and the act is meaningless.
Many compare casual sex and one-night stands and so on to masturbation. It's like masturbating with someone else's body.
Lidia Langelowska had observed that it involves auto-erotic empathy. It's like when you see yourself through the partner's gaze, when you gaze into the partner's eyes, you see actually yourself reflected there, and you can conjure up positive emotionality and empathy in a way a kind of self-love. So the partner is merely an animated sex doll or an animated dildo, depending on the sex of course, and also a mirror, an imperfect mirror, which allows you to fall in love with yourself, to develop limerence and infatuation with yourself through an auto-erotic process.
It's exactly, these are exactly the techniques deployed by narcissists and psychopaths, when they groom and love-bomb their partners.
And so there's a close affinity between casual sex, one-night stands, stranger sex, anonymous sex, group sex, in all its forms. It's close affinity between these and the kind of sex one might expect in the initial phases of the shared fantasy with a narcissist or a psychopath.
There are no emotions there. It's highly pyrotechnical and technical and mechanical.
To the participants, the sex is meaningless. It means nothing. And the other partner is a nobody or just a body.
At least that is the self-reporting.
Well, if this is the case, why do people do it?
The claim that casual sex is casual, this claim is easily falsified. It's easy to prove that casual sex is anything but casual. It's easy to prove that casual sex, like any other form of sex, involves intimacy and involves deep meaningful activities and reactivity.
Casual sex, one-night stands, group sex, anonymous sex, all these stranger sex, they are all full of emotions and they are all very, very meaningful.
So why do people report the opposite? They admit that the sex is seriously bad, nothing to write home about. Then why do they engage in it? And why especially do they choose to say, do they choose to cast it?
In these terms, emotionless, casual, meaningless, he is a nobody, she is a nobody, she means nothing to me.
Well, it's a narrative.
This meaninglessness and emotionlessness and it's just for fun and it's nothing serious and he means nothing and she means nothing and we just bumped into each other like ships in the night and it was just two hours.
All these, these are narratives and we know from psychology that we come up with narratives in order to bridge across gaps. We come up with narratives to resolve issues, usually issues of dissonance.
Casual sex involves multiple dissonances. These could be axiological dissonances, clashes of values, value, bridging of values.
Everyone has a belief system or a value system, maybe casual sex violates this belief or value system. So they would create an axiological dissonance. It could create a moral dissonance.
For example, if it involves cheating, cheating on the spouse or the intimate partner, it could involve a cognitive dissonance. If it conflicts, if the casual sex and the one night stand conflicts crucially, head on, frontally with one's self-image and self-perception.
For example, if you believe that you have self-respect and self-dignity and then you trash yourself drunk in a sleazy hotel room with a stranger, this would create a dissonance.
So the only way to exit the dissonance, to resolve the dissonance is to devalue the partner and to devalue the situation, to say that it was meaningless and the partner was meaningless.
So no problem here, move on, nothing to see.
And this narrative intends to paper over the dissonance which is triggered essentially by a lack of subsequent bonding.
Sex inevitably always, never mind the circumstances, creates bonding on the physiological level, on the hormonal level and we associate bonding with long-term.
We tend to try to perpetuate attachment in bonding. We never consider bonding in terms of one hour.
And so this creates a break, a cognitive break and also an emotional schism, chasm.
When the sex act is finished, is doneand you have to say goodbye and never see this person again, it creates enormous dissonance.
It's like short-circuiting, it short-circuits the brain and the hormonal system and the body and your emotions and your expectations and your social values and your socialization process and everything you've been told and your moral standing. Everything becomes garbled. It's very disorienting and dislocating. It may even lead to dissociative reactions, trying to forget, trying to pretend that it's not you, depersonalization, trying to pretend that it's not happening, derealizationamnesia.
So the sex act, even in a onenight stand, leads to expectations of continued bonding.
Many of these expectations are of course unconscious. A lot of them are grounded in physiological and hormonal processes, but they're there.
The expectation for continued bonding is there and when it is suddenly snatched away, when the discontinuity of casual sex sets in, when your partner who had just had sex with you, loved you, held you in his arms, whose sweat you tasted, not to mention other fluids, this partner suddenly gets up, turns his back on you, walks away.
This creates enormous reactions, psychological and physiological and the narrative to compensate for this, to somehow reconcile it with who you are.
Then you create this narrative.
Ah, it's okay. Anyhow, he didn't mean anything to me. He's a nobody.
And this situation, it's nothing.
Okay, I can move on.
It's like the famous story with the fox and the grapes. When he couldn't get the grapes, the fox said, well, actually I didn't, I never wanted the grapes. They're horrible.
Okay. Casual sex is anything but casual and it is a narrative. It is a rupture, a rupture of the typical sexual script.
Even when both parties are fully aware of what's happening, even when they had communicated and negotiated in advance, even when they had formed a consensus and a new mutually agreed upon script, even when it's consensual sex and they are not inebriated or drugged, even then it's a rupture, nothing short of a rupture.
And I'm going to prove it to you using six points.
Intimate partners react with extreme jealousy and even break up the relationship when their mates have had one night stands.
If one night stands are meaningless, if they are emotionless, if they don't involve any intimacy, if your partner will never see the other guy or the other girl again, if it's just two ships passing in the night, some 20% of all casual sex encounters, one night stands are anonymous, no names.
Why the jealousy? Why the aggression? Why the hysteria? Why is this a significant deal breaker?
presumably, your partner has had his share of casual sex. He had experienced it firsthand. He knows it's meaningless. He knows it's emotionless. Why is he reacting this way? Why is he all over you? Why is he angry at you? Why is he jealous?
And what had happened if he knows that it's meaningless and emotionless?
Because it's not.
Casual sex and one night stands are not meaningless and emotionless. And your partner knows this.
Because he knows this, it's a deal breaker.
The behavior of the partners, in the case of one night stands which constitute cheating, adultery, extramarital, the behavior of the partners is prime proof and evidence that casual sex and one night stands are not perceived as meaningless and emotionless. They are perceived as deal breakers because they are full of emotion, full of intimacy and very, very meaningful acts. That's why people break up after one night stand when one of them had cheated with someone else.
Proof number two, son, one night stands, not all small, small minority of one night stands evolve and become full fledged relationships.
How can this be? If casual sex is totally emotionless, totally meaningless, involves no intimacy, it could never ever evolve into a relationship.
You cannot go from zero emotions, zero involvement, zero commitment, zero intimacy and zero meaning to anything meaningful, emotionless and intimate. There's no way to do this.
So the fact that some of these encounters become more serious, more long-term, more committed, proves that the seeds, the seeds of emotionality, the seeds of investment and commitment, the seeds of meaning exist in every single sex encounter regardless of its character.
Every sexual encounter has the potential to become a relationship because every sexual encounter is a relationship, nascent, embryonic, reduced, minimal, very true, but it's a relationship.
Even a quickie, a five minute quickie is a relationship.
Proof number three, participants in one night stands and casual sex report negative or positive emotions after the sex.
Many of them report shame, guilt and anger.
This is very common among women or following substance abuse, alcohol, drug abuse.
So people who got involved in casual sex in one night stands feel these negative emotions. They feel ashamed, they feel guilty, they feel angry themselves at the partner.
Others feel satisfied, they feel proud, they feel elevated. Their self-esteem is restored and this is more common among men and among women with personality disorders.
They use sex to regulate their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Still, it produces positive results.
But how is this possible? If casual sex in one night stands are devoid of emotions, divorced from any meaning, insignificant, the partner is a nobody and a nothing, how can these encounters produce any type of emotion, negative or positive?
We react with emotions to meaningful events, to meaningful people, significant people, significant others. We react with emotions to circumstances which somehow are significant, to narratives that make sense of our lives and of ourselves.
We react with emotions to loss, we react with emotions to gain.
The fact that we react emotionally, never mind how delayed the reaction is, the fact that we react emotionally to casual sex in one night stands is absolute proof positive, 100% distilled proof, signifies that the sex was meaningful, a meaningful experience and that it triggered an emotional cascade.
Now here's the fact, all people, 100% of people who participate in one night stands in casual sex had reported emotional reactivity following the sex.
All, not one of them said, what, sex, ah yeah remember, no I had no reaction, it meant nothing to me emotionally, not one.
Some of them were smug, some of them were guilt-ridden, some of them were extremely unhappy and remorseful, some of them were in the sky with elevated arrogant grandiose self-esteem, some but all of them reacted somehow to this allegedly totally meaningless and insignificant act with a meaningless and insignificant other.
You see the impossibility, you see the paradox.
Sex, any sex, any sex including by the way self-stimulation, sex involves multiple steps, to be precise close to 4,000 steps.
Did you hear that? Well, a one-night stand involves at least 4,000 discrete and distinct steps.
There's an initial exchange of information followed by hormonal cascade, followed by the formation of short-term memories, followed by the relegation of short-term memories to the long-term memory bank in the hippocampus.
Activation of every part of the brain, seven or eight major parts of the brain, amygdala, hypothalamus, they all activated.
The brain is deeply immersed and involved in any sex act, however speedy, however fleeting, however immaterial, sex takes over the body and the mind totally, let alone a one-night stand which usually consumes one or two hours and usually follows a period of getting to know each other, which is another two or three hours. That's a long, very long sexual act.
In married couples the typical sex act is about 15 minutes.
Ironically one-night stands are much longer than any sex act within a married couple and you want to tell me that one-night stands are less meaningful, less imbued with emotion and less physiologically arousing, then of course they are not.
The body is fully mobilized, followed by the mind, the handmaiden of the body.
Number five, many, there are no exact numbers but among college students majority of people use alcohol and drugs to alter the perceptions of the potential partner's attractiveness.
So they use alcohol and drugs so that they can find a partner more attractive. They use alcohol and drugs to enhance intimacy.
Drinking is a ritual, drug consumption of drugs is a ritual, so the ritual, the ceremony, bind.
So they use alcohol and drugs to inhibit, to remove the layers of inhibitions imposed by society via the process of socialization.
The use of alcohol and drugs is a massive feat of brainwashing, reprogramming, deprogramming.
There's a lot going on when you consume alcohol and drugs.
Why would you want to change your perception of the partner? Why would you want to enhance fake intimacy or perceived intimacy? Why would you want to engage in bonding and mating rituals and ceremonies? Why would you want to disinhibit yourself and overcome socialization? Why would you want to change the locus of your empathy because when we drink we are much more empathic towards strangers? Why would you like, in other words, to reprogram yourself?
Because casual sex means nothing, because one-night stands are emotionless, a hazard, meaningless and significant and passing and fleeting. If they are, why go through the let me drug myself, let me get myself intoxicated? Why do you intoxicate yourself and drug yourself and alter your consciousness if what you're about to do is meaningless, insignificant, emotionless, stupid, passing, and the person you're doing it with is of no consequence? Why? Why not just get to it? Get, go straight to it. Just do it.
Why do you need this period of preparation of essentially altering your brain and consequently altering your mind?
You need to be out of your mind, literally, to engage in casual sex in one night stand. You need to have a different mind.
And people use drugs and alcohol to secure a secure, this alternative mind.
But they do this because casual sex and one-night stands are very, very momentous events. I'm using the word momentous, not meaningful, much more than meaningful, because one-night stands, casual sex, involve breaking social mores and norms. They are defined in antisocial acts, I mean, as perceived by the environment.
There's a lot going on. It's a taboo in many ways.
So you need to overcome yourself and your inhibitions just to do it. It's much more meaningful than consensual sex within a loving, committed relationship.
It requires a massive effort, investment, an alteration of the personality and your dating and sexual scripts.
Number six, casual sex and one-night stand involves trust. You have to trust the partner not to be a serial killer. You have to trust the partner not to beat you up. You have to trust the partner not to abuse you emotionally, humiliate you, sadistically taunt you. You have to trust the partner to be a benevolent, essentially good person.
There's a lot of trust that goes with even the most minimal quickie in a restroom.
So this trust, physical and emotional, there's a sense of safety. And that's why studies consistently show that women are gravitating, moving away from what used to be called alpha males to beta males. Beta males are much more safe.
Women place a premium on safety. These women are becoming more like men.
And so they are grandiose, they are independent, they are self-sufficient. So they don't need to import or to outsource these from men. What they do need is a kind, reliable, empathic, attentive, supportive, better male.
And indeed, a plethora of many studies, recent studies demonstrate conclusively that women prefer what is called beta males to alpha males, even when it comes to casual sex and one night stands.
The emphasis now is on trust and on safety.
Because in the sex act, you have to undress. And undressing means a suspension of defenses and an exposure of vulnerabilities.
And when we take all this together, all these elements, trust, safety, no defenses, exposure of vulnerabilities, these are some of the most profound transformational emotional experiences one could ever have.
These are the pillars of intimacy.
What is intimacy?
Intimacy is trust. Intimacy is safety. Intimacy is no defenses. Intimacy is total openness and exposure of vulnerabilities.
These are profound elements, profound things, transformational, as I said. You can find them, for example, in therapy, in psychotherapy. You can find these kind of experiences in love, when you're in love with someone.
And all of them exist even more so in casual sex and one night stands.
You need to trust your partner much more in a one night stand than on a date. It's in a one night stand, stand your potential hostage. You need to feel safe much more with a total stranger than you are with your lover. You need to suspend your defenses and to expose, expose your vulnerabilities, not knowing whether you will be accepted as you are. It's a huge risk. It's a huge gamble. And it's done only in casual sex and one night stands.
In this sense, you would say pretty easily that the level of intimacy one night stands is higher than it is in established couples in committed relationships.
However bizarre it sounds, it happens to be the truth.
I would explain perhaps why we had discovered that casual sex and one night stands are addictive.
If people who engage in casual sex tend to engage more and more until finally it becomes the exclusive mode of engagement.
Sex is a drive. Sex is an urge. It's physiological foundations.
But we channel it. We sublimate it to use Freud's language. We convert it into socially acceptable, socially condoned patterns of behavior based on choices and decisions.
We suppress our impulses, impulse control.
We are not reckless, most of us.
But one night stands, casual sex, they dispense with sublimation. They are reckless.
And you see that in this sense, we are closer to who we really are when we are having a one night stand.
And within a committed relationship with a loved one, society is the third partner, always.
Inhibitions, rules, boundaries, do this, don't do this, I accept this, I don't accept this. It's encumbered, it's cumbersome.
One night stand is liberating. You throw away all the layers of socialization and acculturation, what your mother had told you, interjects, everything goes out the window with the help of alcohol or drugs sometimes, but often without.
It's just a statement of pure interrelatedness, pure interactivity founded on unmitigated, unlimited trust, a sense of total safety, the suspension of all defenses, the exposure or revelation of all vulnerabilities. It's a total experience. It's exceedingly meaningful.
And where there's meaning, there are emotions, emotions like affection, comfort, empathy, support.
Now, we discovered that there's a lot of intimacy because of the aforementioned attentiveness, kindness, succor, passion, because one night stands are usually a communication of lust, a communication of passion. The parties are telling each other, I find you irresistible. Directness, honesty, matching expectations, there's leadership sometimes, it's a good time, it's fun, it's non-judgmental and non-critical, and it's totally an equal relationship.
So what's missing?
This is the definition of intimacy. All one night stands and casual sex involve intimacy. In all its manifestations, the panoply of all the elements and all the figments of intimacy exist there.
And many people use one night stands and casual sex as a form of mate selection. It's like test driving the potential partner.
Many attempt to convert a one night stand into some type of relationship, friends with benefit or even romantic relationship. But about 20% of one night stands are with total strangers with the express knowledge that you're never going to see them again.
And so ironically, it is because you're never going to see this person again that you can be totally you. You're not afraid to be judged. You're not afraid to be reminded of your misbehavior or for power or mistakes or you can be totally you. It's very, very calming and relaxing. And you can behave in any way, shape or form. And you can share your fantasies and your wishes expressly and openly. The sex is bad because there's no mutual acquaintance of the bodies. Your partner doesn't know which buttons to push, never mind how much you verbalize.
Still, the practice is missing.
But otherwise, it's a very meaningful and emotional laden experience. It's an experience of liberation and freedom and liberty are always accompanied with emotions, sometimes negative emotions, such as angst, sometimes positive emotions, such as happiness.
So one night stands and casual sex are opportunity driven.
Because they're opportunity driven, the selective pressures much reduced.
Even in a standard dating scenario, or on dating apps, there is selective pressure.
We respond to visuals, we respond to text, we respond to speech, respond to smell, respond.
So the potential partner has to go through hoops, jump through hoops, and the hoops are numerous. And very, very few people make it.
And then finally, when there's a committed relationship, the expectations are very heightened. They're increased, amplified.
And as the expectations increase and are amplified, so is the disappointment.
And so relationships which are longer term, more committed, more invested, are very difficult to maintain their energy depleting.
Not so one night stands and casual sex, it's opportunity driven.
Studies have established repeatedly that people end up sleeping with each other, strangers end up sleeping with each other, even when they find the other partner, when they find the partner unattractive, incompatible, foul smelling, even when they regard the partner's behavior of quitting. For example, if he's stingy or cheap, if he's pushy, if he's vulgar, if he's aggressive, snidey. Even so it ends in sex. It's very rare. It's very rare that having failed a compatibility test, the sex will be off the table.
When the two partners have made up their minds to seek casual sex, to engage in a one night stand, the partner's specifications, attributes, traits and behaviors are not relevant. Not relevant because as I've mentioned before, it's essentially an autoerotic act.
And as Vangelovska had mentioned, it involves self-empathy, which is a form of self-love. It's extremely powerful.
Now, I would like to read to you an excerpt from a book titled Hooking Up, I think it was published in 2016, written by Catherine Elm, H-E-L-E-L-M. And she says, Sternberg, in 1986, views intimacy as a constitutive element of love that encompasses feelings of closeness, connectedness and bondedness.
Components include emotional closeness, psychological relatedness, sexual intimacy, empathy, understanding between couples, interdependency and trust. Trust, which is the most important component of intimacy.
All this list applies perfectly and fully to a single sexual encounter in the night with a stranger. All of it.
Actually, in the majority of cases, people get to know each other before they have a one night stand. So they spend some time eating together, drinking together, talking and so on and so forth. Even in swingers clubs, swingers get to know each other before they swing. Usually they have dinner to be on. So there is always a preceding phase of getting to know the partner, which of course establishes increased intimacy.
Social scientist Russell van Ooy, in 1980, cited by King in 2009, argues that love is unnecessary and sex can and should be enjoyed for its own sake.
However, the predominating value in the United States is that sexual relations should be reserved for emotionally closed romantic relationships.
Says Catherine Helm in her book Hooking Up.
Many women report that they find sex unenjoyable outside the confines of a loving relationship.
Men are more likely than women to enjoy sex without emotional involvement.
The hookup culture may change the societal view that sex and relationships go together, but this is still the predominant view.
College students who have participated in research exploring hookup culture often state that they are too busy for long term romantic relationships and that hooking up fulfills both physical and emotional needs for closeness on a temporary basis.
Drugs and alcohol are sometimes involved in hookups, which can influence one's judgment and make it more likely to hook up with someone, an individual not under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Let me read this again. Drugs and alcohol are sometimes involved in hookups, which can influence one's judgment and make it more likely to hook up with someone, an individual not under the influence of drugs and alcohol, would not.
And here I mention studies by Lisa Wade and so on.
Catherine Hellman continues, many college students report that they regret hooking up.
Sometimes hooking up can lead to unintended consequences such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, hurt feelings, relationship disappointment and or date rape.
Research clearly shows that college students overestimate just how many of their classmates are actually hooking up.
For example, surveyed college students reported that they believed that over 85% of their classmates regularly engaged in hookups. Approximately 60 to 80% of college students did report having had some experience with casual sexual behavior, but research finds that the actual number is far lower, approximately 20%, only 20% of college students report having regular hookups.
The more an individual hooks up, the more likely he or she is to continue casual hookups.
College students who regularly hook up tend to have less experience in dating and long-term romantic relationships.
Although college students may talk about hooking up, the majority of college students still engage in serial monogamy.
Social psychologists and relationship experts fear that if the hookup culture persists, the security of long-term romantic relationships will be at risk, as hooking up does not develop the necessary relationships skills one needs in order to initiate, maintain and be satisfied in committed monogamous relationship.
Oxytocin is involved in the neuroanatomy of intimacy, specifically in sexual reproduction during and after childbirth, and also helps to stimulate lactation breastfeeding.
Oxytocin is released in large amounts during and after labor for maternal bonding directly after the baby is born.
It's a very, very powerful hormone.
Oxytocin is the basis of life. Oxytocin is also implicated in orgasm, social recognition and romantic pair bonding during and directly after sex.
Physical effects of oxytocin include increased sensitivity of nerve endings, stimulated muscle contractions, increased heart rate plus an urge to touch and cuddle, the emotional feelings it produces, associated with affection, bonding, caring, love, peace, nurturing, security, attachment and even the afterglow of sex.
Just to be clear, oxytocin is secreted during every sex act, including one night stands.
Catherine Helm continues, it is true that both men and women feel the effects of oxytocin, but they do so to varying degrees.
It is believed that men's levels of oxytocin rise about three to five times during orgasm, but women's levels rise even more dramatically and continue to rise during subsequent orgasms.
Women's brains also have more oxytocin neural receptors and pregnancy may increase the number of receptors.
Women's special connection with oxytocin may have wide-ranging influences.
Some research suggests that the regret many women often feel after casual sex may be tied to increased oxytocin levels and a need for physical touch after sexual intercourse that goes unfulfilled because there is no continued physical contact after a brief sexual encounter.
Additional studies imply that some women may have more addictive relationship patterns because they feel love and loss in relationships more intensely.
She refers to a study by Calaford, KALAFUT, 2008.
Today she says we know that strong feelings often strongly impact sexual intimacy.
This was Catherine Helm about lust in her book Hooking Up.
As distinct from love, lust is brought on by surges of sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. These sex hormones induce an indiscriminate scramble for physical gratification.
In the brain, the hypothalamus controls hunger, thirst, and other primordial drives and the amygdala, the locus of arousal, becomes active.
Attraction transpires once a more or less appropriate object is found with the right body language and speed and tone of voice and this results in a panoply of sleep and eating disorders should the relationship continue.
A recent study in the University of Chicago demonstrated that testosterone levels shoot up by one third even during a casual chat with a female stranger. The stronger the hormonal reaction, the more marked the changes in behavior concluded the authors and this loop is a part of a larger mating response.
In animals, testosterone provokes aggression and recklessness. The hormones' readings in married men and fathers are markedly lower than in single males still playing the field and still the long-term outcomes of being in love are lustful.
Dopamine, heavily secreted while falling in love, triggers the production of testosterone and sexual attraction then kicks in.
Many secretions play a major role in the onslaught of love and lust.
In results published in February 2007 in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley demonstrated convincingly that women who sniffed androstadione, a male hormone, a signaling chemical found in male sweat, male saliva, male semen, women who smelled this, sniffed it, experienced higher levels of the hormone cortisone and this results in sexual arousal and an improved mood. The improved mood lasted a whopping one hour just by smelling a male hormone.
And still, contrary to prevailing misconceptions, love is mostly about negative emotions.
As Professor Arthur Aaron from the State University of New York at Stony Brook has shown, in the first few meetings, people misinterpret certain physical cues and feelings, notably fear and thrill, and they misinterpret them as falling in love.
And so counterintuitively anxious people, especially those with serotonin transporter gene, anxious people, are more sexually active and fall in love more often.
We are attracted to people with the same genetic makeup, the same smell. We are not sure that there are human pheromones, but the smell, the smell of our parents.
Dr Martha McClintock of the University of Chicago studied feminine attraction to sweaty t-shirts formerly worn by males. The closer the smell resembled her father's, the more attracted and aroused the woman became.
Falling in love is therefore an exercise in proxy incest and of indication of Freud's much maligned Oedipus and lecture complexes.
Stale McClintock's work is very controversial because it contradicts other, less conclusive and far more controversial findings regarding the major histocompatibility complex, MHC, or the human leukocytes antigen, HLA.
Studies demonstrated either fewer HLA matches than were expected, studies by Ober, or no such effect, Chakes, Cow, and Donnelly in 2008.
Wedekind conducted body odor studies, again with sweaty tissues, that demonstrated a female preference for MHC dissimilarity, not like her father's, especially during ovulation, but only in women who did not use oral contraceptives.
Men also preferred MHC's disassortative mate choices.
You see, the minute we meet, the minute we set eye on each other, from a distance of a few meters, we inhale, we inhale molecules, and these molecules convey information. They convey information about the genetics of the potential partner, about the immune system of the potential partner, and then a whole train of hormonal manifestations and processes sets in, the brain reacts, the body reacts, and then intimacy sets in, gradually a feeling of trust and safety, followed later by the act itself.
During the act itself, oxytocin creates bonding and attachment, and when the act is disrupted and ruptured because it's a one-night stand, there is a general malaise, there is a very negative reaction, psychologically and bodily, and never mind what people say, because they are likely to rationalize the act, they are likely to come up with a narrative to bridge the gaps and to resolve the dissonances that they are experiencing.
But these narratives, these stories, these resolutions of cognitive dissonance and other types of dissonances, they are not to be believed.
The overwhelming bulk, the overwhelming weight of evidence is that every sex act, however casual, however incidental, with whoever, including strangers, involves deep intimacy, numerous emotions, hormonal cascades, physiological changes, brain changes, mood effects, and memories, formation of long-term memories, which later are incorporated into one's identity and have far-reaching influence.
Thank you for inviting me to this conference.