The Chemistry of Attachment
We've been fed a steady diet of Sex and the City and single-woman sexual empowerment. But can women really have casual sex like men?
Our evolutionary background suggests that the deck is stacked against us. When girl meets boy (and girl likes boy), the brain releases a chemical love cocktail: Dopamine produces feelings of bliss, norepinephrine makes the heart race, and we are driven to want sex. Then, during sex, the brain triggers the release of oxytocin — the warm fuzzy of the hormone world — which leaves us wanting to bond with the person we've just done the horizontal mambo with. These are primitive urges that have helped ensure the survival of our species.
The problem is that oxytocin may have a more powerful effect on women, at least initially. The theory is that testosterone (which men have more of) turns off oxytocin, making women more sensitive to oxytocin's effects. So although you may intellectually and even emotionally approach sex with a no-strings-attached attitude, these primal brain circuits can override the decision.
Of course, brain chemistry cannot explain everything and there are times when recreational sex is just that — recreational. However, as anthropologist Helen Fisher puts it, be careful about having sex with people you don't want to fall in love with — because you may end up doing just that!