Love hormones and chemicals associated with our sexual chemistry play a huge part in our drive for lustful gratification and the need to procreate. While we probably know our instincts and biology are endeavouring to get us to continue the survival of the species, why not take full advantage of these feel-good natural highs and use them for our own sexytime satisfaction.
Just what are love hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted into the bloodstream from endocrine glands then carried to organs and tissues of the body to perform their function.
The main hormones involved in sexual attraction are testosterone, oestrogen, dopamine and oxytocin.
So how do they work?
According to research, there are three stages to attraction and the flood of feel-good chemicals racing through us, that have us reaching for our partners.
The lust stage of our love hormones
This involves testosterone and oestrogen, both these sex hormones drive our lustful feels and our need to procreate. Testosterone is made in the testes and traditionally has a bigger reputation for lust, but higher levels of oestrogen from the ovaries around ovulation has been reported to increase libido and sexual appetite too. Which makes sense – that last big attempt of the body to find a mate to impregnate it before menstruation.
So we’re feeling horny, we need somebody to love, it’s not just as simple as eyeing our target, we need to be attracted to them! Just like Gigi Engle explains in her recent article for us on female sexual desire, “There is an activating event in the brain that then triggers the brain to send signals to the genitals to become aroused. These messages are circular—the brain talks to the spine, which talks to the genitals, which talk to the spine, which talks to the brain and so on.”
Our breath catches as we spy someone who sends us into a giddy spiral of desire—so what is happening?
A fool for love
We’re horny—we’re crushing hard on that special someone. Our brain chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin are released when we do things that feel good, like spending time with people we love, fancy or are having sex with. These hormones are important in attraction as they give us that thrilled feeling, we’re high and excited, we can barely concentrate on anything other than our crush.
Dopamine is likened to the high you might get from substances like cocaine so as you can imagine, the release of dopamine is quite addictive, and if our crush is the one inducing this high, we will be quite unable to focus on much else. Dopamine release is an important factor in the reward centre of our brain. We do something that feels good, we’re rewarded by a hot shot of dopamine and its glorious pals.
Lust and attraction also shut off the part of the brain which regulates rational behaviour… Which could explain some of our choices in sex partners and whether they’re really suitable life partners!
Strangely, during this stage, there is a lowering of serotonin, a hormone you usually think of as enhancing the feel good factors, but a reduction could be the cause of that exhausted listless feeling where nothing but thoughts of your love can satisfy your activities. Lying around unable to function might be due to the flooding of this particular hormone. What a rush! All these things going on.
OMG Now What? I’m exhausted with all this passion!
We’ve made the connection, we’ve been giddy as goats, shagging like there’s no tomorrow, but what’s next? We surely can’t continue flying high on dopamine and norepinephrine (similar to having a shot of adrenaline) for evermore, we need to at least eat and sleep at some point during this relationship!
The attachment phase
Yes, we’ve been having a wild hot love affair – but what keeps us with a person?
Well, oxytocin also known as the love hormone is released during intimacy, therefore after sex, the bond will be reinforced by this hormone flooding our brain and bloodstream, that coupled with dopamine, remember that powerful hormone and neurotransmitter involved in the reward part of your brain, means the more time we spend being intimate with that special someone, the deeper the bond will become. The rushy adrenaline-fuelled feelings from norepinephrine recede during this stage so things calm down a bit, phew!
So once we’ve gone through this cycle, we should be left satisfied, fulfilled and full of the joys of this amazing sexual connection. Especially if you’ve had the orgasm of your life! Your brain will send signals to say – ok we have a keeper!
But of course, it’s all way more complicated than this – our personal response to what and who we find attractive relies on many factors.
Remember Gigi’s three-stage bio-social guide? “Sexual desire is a bio-psycho-social event. Bio (our body) needs to be receptive to arousal; psycho (our mind) needs to be in a mindset that allows for desire (ie: feeling calm, relaxed, in our bodies, sexy etc); and the social aspects need to be in place—we need to be with people we find attractive.”
And what about pheromones?
Pheromones: “a chemical substance produced and released into the environment by an animal, especially a mammal or an insect, affecting the behaviour or physiology of others of its species.”
We all have our own scent made up of pheromones and our own personal biology and body chemistry – some people might be inexplicably attracted to us while others might be slightly repulsed. It’s an incredibly fascinating aspect of being a human.
And this has been explored in the perfume industries – musk from roe deer being most commonly known as an ingredient to elicit desire from a potential suitor. The scent market has also been exploring these potent chemicals over the past few years bringing out products designed to elicit the same response and desire from emitting your own pheromones.
Copulins are a pheromone released in the female pubic region and vaginal secretions. According to research on pheromones, if copulins are detected by a potential lover, it increases the production of sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen, so again, we will experience heightened desire and chemical attraction. Androstanol is produced in the sweat glands and works a treat for attraction – when the sweat is fresh and you catch a whiff, you will be putty in their sweaty hands! Sadly, we cover up this vital sexy magnetism with perfumes and antiperspirants so might not see optimum results.
Next time you know your crush is going to be close, why not ditch those deodorants and go fresh and free, let your personal pheromones enhance your natural wit and charm…
Where and who would we be without these natural highs?