The act of sexual intercourse goes beyond the conjoining of physical bodies. It is quite impossible for an individual to engage in sex without some degree of emotional or mental attachment being formed, whether or not the experience was a positive one. Therefore, not only are psychological connections possible for individuals’ first sexual partner, but it is also true for anyone with which one subsequently has sex. This attachment is as uncontrollable as it is unconscious; with more and more research attributing attachment between copulating individuals to the chemical and physical make-up of the human body. (1,2,3,4).
Signals of Attachment
Marnia Robinson, author of “Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow” and several other books related to the biology of intimate relationships makes the conclusion that individuals are much more likely to develop an addiction to the act but to bring it further, develop a strong attachment to their partner. During sexual intercourse large amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine is produced. This neurochemical is related to addiction, memory, etc. Peak levels of dopamine are produced in adolescents engaging in sex and as their brains are much more susceptible to signalling from this chemical, it has been concluded that having your first sexual encounter during that time makes individuals more prone to becoming attached to the sexual partners as well as the physical act itself.
Love and Sex, Close Neighbors
When people have sex, besides the physical arousal, they also activate their emotions and memory and are therefore much more likely to become attached to their partner as well as recall some aspect of the event. One team of researchers led by Professor of psychology at Concordia University, James Pfaus, whose primary focus is on sexual desire and behavior, found that the areas of the brain which account for experiences of love and sexual desire were actually linked. Interestingly enough, it is this same area that receives messages about emotions, memory, motivation and addiction, among other functions. His team also found that there is an overlap in the brain between sexual desire and emotional love in the cortex which signifies that transition from one to the other is quite easy. (2)
Caught in the Act
It appears that women are more susceptible to becoming emotionally attached to their first sexual partner than men are, and this is not just an attempt to stereotype. The words of a native Nepalese saying goes: “the penis entered and love arrived”. Seminal fluid has been found to contain significant levels of dopamine and an associated transmitter, tyrosine. Therefore, during the act of intercourse women’s bodies are flooded with extra doses of the neurotransmitter which makes them more likely to remember the event, increase their desire and attach some sentimental value to their sexual partner. (3)
Bonding in Climax
However, men do not escape becoming attached to their sexual partners. In her qualitative research, “Drive to Love”, professor and researcher in human interactions, Helen Fisher, states that sexual activity can actually result in partners becoming attached to their sexual partners when they have orgasms. When individuals reach a climax a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin, the neuropeptides associated with attachment in both men and women. (3)
- 1. 1. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy: Gone but Not Forgotten: Virginity Loss and Current Sexual Satisfaction.
2. Journal of Sexual Medicine: The Common Neural Bases Between Sexual Desire and Love: a Multilevel Kernel Density fMRI Analysis.
3.Drive to Love
4. Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow; Marnia Robinson