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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

science of sex appeal (part 2)

With chemistry-inspired flirting, lust, and love all continuously active below our level of consciousness, can we maintain attraction to one partner? Attraction has many stages, beginning with a single biochemical jolt resulting in a change reaction. Anecdotal reports indicate the ‘first kiss’ is highly memorable in the attraction that builds (or fails to build). The abundant testosterone in saliva increases the sex drive.

Even more sex appeal chemistry influences occur through the dopamine triggered in our brains. Dopamine is the brain’s pleasure chemical that produces a high that can be addictive, energy producing, and exhilarating. Biochemistry shows the link between dopamine and testosterone with exhilaration and lust. But dopamine is not uniquely linked to sex appeal. The thrill of sports, bungee jumping for instance, can produce a dopamine rush. What about love?

Researchers set out to find the ‘brain in love’ through MRI scans of people viewing photos of a significant other and strangers. And they did. Brain activity rose and fell according to the attachment. But science confirms that it is having sex (not being in love) that makes us want more sex. We can be in love, and never have sex. Professionally, I understand that loving a spouse (partner) does not (necessarily) include sexual attraction or the desire to engage in sex.

According to Science of Sex Appeal, chemistry brings us together and drives us apart. We are biologically programmed to mate for life and most religions and cultures urge us to do so. Still, there are two primary paths of choice — stay together or have an unrestricted strategy and remain noncommittal. Newer research shows that women also seek sexual variety similarly to how we have stereotyped men as wanting to play the field.

Many of our unconscious preferences and behaviors are conditioned by our chemistry. Studies report that women find slightly feminized pictures of the same man more attractive when they are not ovulating. Married women are biologically driven to promiscuous behavior as reported by an experiment based on digital movies of the female participants dancing during a "girls’ night out." The women with long term partners and on their fertility cycles were the most provocative. This was concluded from movement and appearance analyzed through pixels and an estimated percentage of skin showing. These committed women sent out more sexual signals than the available ones. In contrast, other research pinpoints the role of the chemical oxcytocin in monogamy for women.

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