Sunday, March 25, 2007

Testosterone and Love

I don't often talk about sex here, though I admire those bloggers that make it their mainstay, such as Chelsea Girl and Tom Paine. Talking about sex will definitely gain one a loyal audience.

I don't talk about sex much because it usually involves another person, and it may be an intimacy that other person would rather not have shared publicly. Chelsea Girl found herself confronted with karma from a past lover, and not at an optimal time. Her readers had various views on that. Some bloggers seem to feel anything is fair game, and if someone has a problem with that, someone can start their own blog. I think Chelsea Girl did the right thing for herself, including making amends somewhat by sharing the positive things about her past lover that she hadn't before.

Some bloggers write about socially taboo things, and try to protect themselves by remaining anonymous. That doesn't always work. I tend to feel that there is safety in transparency. (A friend of mine said that very thing today regarding civil disobedience. Makes sense, doesn't it?) I don't flaunt my identity, but I don't try to hide it either. I want people to know I am polyamorous, that way they can't accuse me of sneaking around. Along with transparency there must be tact and courtesy, so if I'm "working something out" in my writing, I can't just be thinking of myself. This is why I was so happy when Tom's wife C. starting reading and participating in his blog, there wasn't a big splash (publicly anyway) of hurt feelings and embarrassment. Tom has written of some very intimate stuff...and his wife has brought even greater intimacy and boldness to his posts.

I intended to talk about patterns of libido, and here I am talking about blogger anonymity. I also don't talk about sex much because it doesn't necessarily happen all that often. I'm busy, my lovers are busy, we don't get a chance for that intimate time together. Parents aren't the only ones who have to put sex time on their calendar. I can go through periods of time where I just don't think about sex much at all. I've never been one to masturbate much by myself. I prefer help. I also prefer a buildup to a big orgasm, and that rarely happens by my own hand, or my own hand holding machine. Sometimes I realize I'm blue or cranky and my body is sluggish because I haven't been flushed with the heat of desire lately, and the proper medicine is a good body-rocking orgasm.

This has been my pattern lately. I have so many other things on my plate. Other times I have been hungry for sex. Often it has been when I am flush with a new love, or about to fall in love. I've come to believe that there is a biological rhythm to falling in love, and there is an emotional ripeness to falling in love. When those two come together and happen upon an object of desire that is compatible enough, along comes "true love." That third element, compatibility, is so key to a lasting relationship. I happen to think the absence of it does not negate the validity of the love, just makes it something that is unwise to nurture. I'm getting away from my intention again...

Who hasn't noticed that people in love sparkle and glow and are suddenly quite sexy? Early in our relationship Steve pointed out to me that so often no one is interested in a person sexually when they've long been single and involuntarily celibate. That person hooks up with someone, starts having great sex and intimacy, and suddenly more people are flirting, sniffing around for some of that. I think it has all to do with those love chemicals stirring around in a person. After a couple settles in to couplehood, those chemicals simmer down and the sexiness withdraws, like coals banked for the next day's fire.

That mad sparkly time of new love can last from a couple of months to four years. That giddy excitement can't go on forever, too stressful. Those that have studied this hypothesize that's about the time a female could use a male sticking around to help care for a baby. After that, a primitive human couple could go their separate ways, and mama could take care of baby on her own. Our body chemistry possibly reflects a natural serial monogamy, or natural pattern of adultery. I wonder from that if people have a natural rhythm of susceptibility to love. Every few years, a monogamous couple might find a resurgence of passion, or a cheater might succomb to new temptations, or a polyamorous person might seek new dates and new loves.
The other part of my equation of ripeness for love is an emotional state of mind. Some wiser unconscious part of me didn't allow me to fall in love until I was ready and able to withstand gale force winds of love. Other people perhaps don't have those unconscious walls. Some people may live their whole lives, become grandmothers, and not experience that psychic awakening to eros.

While omnifarious possibilities of love abound, I'm interested at the moment in examining that sex-infused giddy time of new love. Discovery News recently reported on two studies about sex making people feel sexier. One showed that the more sex you have, the more you feel like having sex. This is due to the raised levels of testosterone that result from cuddling and intercourse, for both men and women. The second study found that monogamously partnered couples had the lowest testosterone levels, and polyamorous people had the highest overall levels, even above single people. My first thought, well that depends. I would guess those would be actively dating polyamorous couples. I would guess my own testosterone levels are kinda low at at the moment.

The Discovery article said,

The team of scientists theorizes the hormone may be involved in "bond maintenance" and in preparing the individual for competition.

Such competition may be either external, as in fending off other suitors, or internal, as in strengthening the person in preparation for a possible child. Other studies have demonstrated that sperm from different men compete with each other to fertilize the egg, although women also appear to exert some influence over which sperm achieves the feat.

That seems to me to explain that glow effect of ripe new sexual contact. Sex doesn't only make a person feel sexier, it makes one sexier. I wonder what they meant by competition. Could it be this enhanced attractiveness sparks a dance of competing sex-partners? Could it mean we're naturally inclined to 'play the field' with our raised testosterone levels? Then, when we settle for the one and only, we ride that testosterone wave, forging connections, until other bonds hold us together, like oxytocin.

Our bodies will ripen again, ready for another child, another pairing. Is it any surprise that we don't always ripen for love with the same person? Perhaps in the case of polyamory, we freeze ourselves in that moment of ripening, with multiple partners the chemistry doesn't quite settle. Maybe our bodies think we're 'playing the field.' I do know that having sexual activity with another makes me want it more with my closest lover. A self-feeding loop raises those levels of libido.

Some people have no wish to raise libido levels. They're perfectly happy being asexual. As Dan Savage so often says, "You can have strict monogamy or you can have a low libido, ladies, but you can't have both. If monogamy is a priority, you're gonna have to put out." I'm with Figleaf, the best sex is the sex you want. But if I don't want much sex, it's not fair to impose that on my significant other. If my significant other wants more, he or she is welcome to find more with more people.

1 comment:

Tom Paine said...

Thanks for mentioning me. I have been called a "sex blogger" because my blog contains explicit discussions of sex, but always within the context of my relationship with C. I have little interest in describing our sex lives for the salacious joy of it as say, for example, "Sharing Dee" or even "La fille mariee" (who's both erotic AND classy).

I'm more interested in how sex and love (polyamory, for example) shape the way we interact. If the hormone theory is correct, it certainly would explain why C. and I have been happier in the past few months than in most of our married life.