Sexual “chemistry” means much more than what attributes attract you to your partner, or even what you muse about after a great date.
Mother Nature uses sexual chemistry to make us mate, procreate, and bond with a partner. It is her way of ensuring that our infants will have two parents contributing to the baby’s well-being. And, it starts way before we begin looking for a husband; it begins when we are young teens.
At puberty, girls receive a huge surge of estrogen, which causes the release of dopamine and oxytocin. These potent juices cause young girls to spend huge amounts of time cultivating intense emotional connections with their friends. In fact we become “hooked” on these reward substances that close relationships provide. When we do not have oxytocin and dopamine, when a companion carries out that dreaded threat, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore,” females actually can go into withdrawal. Because of our brain chemistry, even minor social isolation is painful for girls. On the other hand, guys are likely to just shrug their shoulders and find someone else to hang with.
By the time we search for a life partner, we are programmed to connect talking, telling secrets, trust, spending time together in other words, emotional intimacy with tremendous outpourings of brain reward substances. No wonder foreplay is all day for women! Mother Nature had reason to set us up this way: If your man was willing to be around, to attend to you, to love on you, he was likely to be a much better father/provider for your children, who will benefit from having both parents around.
So, we have Stone Age brains determining who and how we select our mates, but what happens when we actually participate in a sexual encounter? Again, there is a fascinating interplay of brain centers that determines our experience. First of all, for women to respond sexually, the vigilance and fear center of the brain the amygdala has to be turned way, way down. It has to be safe physically and emotionally to have sex; your feet have to be warm, your body relaxed, your sense of trust has to be solid, the tasks are done, the kids are settled . . .
This scenario is impossible to imagine for many of us! But MRI studies have shown that until the amygdala quiets, women are not orgasmic. Letting go into bliss and being hyper-vigilant just do not mix. When women are mentally plagued by their to-do lists, they need to turn their focus away from these “tasks” and instead focus intently on the body sensations that they are experiencing that very moment the temperature of his fingertips, the smell of his skin, the light in the room. I also advise women to put distracting thoughts in an imaginary cloud and let them pass as if they are sailing away in a calm sky.
Once our amygdala is settled down, our bodies get to respond to the sexual arousal chemistry. As we begin our sexual dance, we receive a jolt of energy from norepinephrine before even getting close to the big O.
Norepinephrine causes our heart to beat faster, makes us breathe heavier, and sends more blood flowing into our pelvic network. Our entire body is primed to respond to lovemaking and to send positive feedback to our brains. Endorphins, the body’s natural morphine, are released so that minor discomforts and pains won’t distract us. (Pinch tests on the backs of women’s hands during sexual arousal can be much harder before she says ouch!) During orgasm itself, dopamine floods our brain circuits, rewarding us for having sex and making us want to do it again and again. And oxytocin, that bonding chemical we encountered in puberty, produces an overwhelming experience of love, trust, and openness a natural ecstasy high, which we can bask in for hours. All of those annoyances we had with our man before sex seem to magically disappear in the post-orgasmic closeness created by our emotional reconnection.
So, how do we work with our mates to enhance our sexual chemistry? Create the connection. Make sure your man understands the critical importance of trust and affection to your female brain. Remind him that women are different than men in requiring safety and security in order to access sexual desire. Receive and give the touches, the love whispers, the tokens of commitment that lead you toward sexual openness. Learn what relaxes you: a warm bath, sensual music, fragrant incense, foot rubs or a slow massage. Reassure that anxious amygdala that you will attend to all the problems but that just for now, just in this sweet moment with your partner, you are going to dive into that delicious chemical soup that Mother Nature created for us to enjoy. You get to savor the sensations, connection, peace, and the renewal of making deep, expansive love.