Elude the Coolidge Effect with a forgotten approach to sex
Recent posts discuss (1) why lovers might want to know more about what's going on in their limbic brains, (2) how too much intense stimulation of the brain's primitive reward circuitry can lead to subtle mood swings and a need for more stimulation, and (3) how dopamine fluctuations drive the Coolidge Effect (the tendency to lose interest in a mate after sexual satiation.) I've also mentioned that there's a way to make love that helps ease dopamine extremes and promote harmony.
Put away your vacuum pump, heavy-duty auto booster cables and edible latex Brad Pitt face mask-and-abs combo. According to a study released Thursday, such items are simply litter along the road to great sex. The study, titled The Components of Optimal Sexuality: A Portrait of 'Great Sex', suggests that sexual fulfilment has far less to do with technique and perfect bodies -- elements most often ascribed great significance by popular culture -- and more to do with such factors as presence, connection and erotic intimacy.
The Coolidge Effect can trump our best intentions.
This essay is from a 1956 book of essays by Aldous Huxley entitled "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" (or in the UK, "Adonis and the Alphabet"). It appeared on this web page in one block of text, and to make it more legible, I have inserted paragraphs as I saw fit, with apologies to the late Mr. Huxley.
Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work. The domestication of sex presents a problem whose solution must be attempted on two distinct levels of human experience, the psycho-physiological and the social.
What happens when you drop a male rat into a cage with a receptive female rat? First you see a frenzy of copulation. Gradually, the male's enthusiasm wanes and, finally, he goes off to take a well-earned nap. He is sexually satiated.
I was a once a contented product of the sexual revolution--or so I believed. My family was open and sensible about discussing sex, and barely religious. I concluded that orgasm was pure pleasure and the best possible relationship glue.
Finally, a psychiatrist is acknowledging that intense orgasm can create a hangover for some people, without any apparent psychological issues. Maybe as professionals begin to explore the neurochemistry of extreme cases they will realize that the same neurochemical fluctuations are at work in more subtle ways in the problem of habituation between couples (as well as sex addiction).
As we’ve seen in earlier articles, neurochemical urges motivate mammals to eat, drink and have sex. Specifically, dopamine surges in their primitive reward circuitry send them after the things that further their survival—or at least the survival of their genes.
But what about the handful of mammalian species who have evolved to team up in order to do a better job of raising their young? They may get all the food, water and sex they want, and still feel that something is missing—until they are mated.