So when I was about 15, I was rather frightened (okay, more like heart-stoppingly terrified) of having sex for the first time – and not because it was my ‘sacred’ virginity. It was because I’d been led to believe a huge and hideous myth about sex.
I was told by the internet and by many of my peers, in frantic whispers behind textbooks in Biology, that when a girl does a bonk, she is overcome with this legit biological phenomenon. She produces a hormone which induces and endorses love within a female. More specifically, it means the woman will experience intense feelings of attachment to her sexual partner, and results in her yearning for a serious commitment.
Meanwhile, men allegedly had the ability to ‘switch off’ this feeling within them and so obviously had more success in one-night hook-ups. They could take a girl home, do the deed and then the following morning scrub up and stroll out the door confidently and without any lingering longing. They could easily carry on with their manly existence free of the fear that someday they’d fall head over heels for a woman as they laid her down on their bed.
There is, apparently, an ‘overlap’ between the sexual desire and love sections of the brain, somewhere in the insular cortex. That’s normal for both sexes, however only women have a significant increase in oxytocin, ‘the cuddle hormone’, when they climax. Meanwhile men get a nice amplification of testosterone, which suppresses their love hormone and keeps them grounded and disconnected. They also experience lower dopamine levels after sex and thus suffer negative withdrawal indications, meaning they are immediately overpowered by the need to cut any cords and flee.
This is all, quite frankly, nonsense. But it’s believable nonsense, it seems. Not only did every girl in my class when I was sixteen assume this was scientific fact without even questioning it, but after a quick check online this is still a very popular and present theory. There are numerous articles on trendy sites explaining how it’s totally inevitable for a woman to fall madly in love after just one bang.
Despite hearing all about this horrifying scientific discovery, I still went ahead and had sex when I turned sixteen. The actual sex was all well and good (a pleasurable experience for both parties, huzzah!) but I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I sat up against the pillows afterwards, the duvet pulled up around my chest, and I was not overcome by a sudden mind-blowing urge to marry this guy. Strangely, I didn’t want him to impregnate me with quintuplets post-haste.
I panicked. There must be something wrong with me, surely. Maybe my hormones were messed up, maybe I did it wrong, or as a human being I was simply incapable of feeling love! I stared intently at the guy, the lucky guy who will now forever be labelled as my ~first, as he merrily brushed his teeth in the bathroom across the hallway, humming along as he did so. He’d quite clearly had what was the classic reaction for a male – happy at having got laid, but that was that; carefree and non-committal.
Now imagine my shock when he returned to the room and smiled when he saw me, then promptly got back into the bed and snuggled up next to me, kissing me on the cheek. What, affection?! That was unheard of for the man after sex. Usually he would just get dressed, throw in a casual remark that congratulated me on earning his interest and shut the door behind him, skipping down the street to scour the local bars for his next doe-eyed conquest.
So what on earth was the matter with him? Had he gotten confused mid-love making, somehow absorbing my love hormone through my skin as he kissed it so sweetly? That must be it. He’d accidentally felt things when that was my job. How awful for him!
It wasn’t until I’d had a few more successful one-nighters over the next few years that all came (tee hee hee) without any strings attached that I realised there was nothing wrong with me (at least not in this respect, shh). Of course I wasn’t meant to be falling in love with every one of these fellas and nor were they meant to be zooming straight for the door after getting out from under me.
We cannot be boiled down to simple biology when it comes to love and sex, and myths that misuse scientific information can balls up our expectations and our reality. There will always be ridiculous whispers that spread around the playground, but that’s where they should be left.
- Grace Latter