While orgasms are (rightly) highly sought after, feeling an unexplainable sadness after sex is something a lot of women experience sometimes. But what many people don’t realise is that the same thing can happen to men.
A group of researchers at Queensland University of Technology suggest that making love can make men occassionally depressed. So depressed in fact, that they suffer something called post-coital dysphoria (PCD).
“Everyone assumes what happens in the bedroom is normal but there are a wide range of responses in the period of time immediately following consensual sexual activity, known as the resolution phase,” explains Robert Schweitzer, study author and a professor at QUT.
“For example, some people like to cuddle, others like to be alone and there are others, as we have found in previous research that experience what is described as post-sex blues.”
He noted that most of the time, the period just after sex elicits good feelings. But it’s also pretty common for some individuals to feel melancholy or tearful after the act.
While researchers seem stumped about the true cause of PCD, some suggest post-sex blues could be the result of negative emotions coming to the surface after an orgasm (or lack of one). But Schwitzer is determined to find out for sure. He’s now recruiting participants for a new study which will survey men and women (of all sexual orientations) to explore their experience directly after sex.
“There is anecdotal evidence that postcoital dysphoria is not uncommon in both men and women. If we can better understand what is happening in the bedroom and the prevalence of post-sex blues, we can start looking at causes and possible solutions,” he added.
“One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.” – Aron, Melinat, Aron, Vallone, & Bator (1997)
By Justin J. Lehmiller
In order to develop a close, intimate relationship with someone else, you need to be willing to open up to that person—to let your defenses down and become emotionally vulnerable. As you may have found in your own personal experience, this process sometimes takes a very long time to unfold. However, research suggests that it doesn’t necessarily have to.
In fact, scientists have found that it’s possible to generate a significant degree of closeness between strangers in as little as 45 minutes by asking a series of 36 questions. These questions are divided into three sets that escalate the degree of self-disclosure required as time progresses.
These questions allow people to become “fast friends,” but they also have the potential to lay the groundwork for romantic attraction.
To get a better sense of how this works, check out the video below from our friends over at ASAP Science. The full list of questions appears beneath the video.
Want to learn more? Check out the original study here.
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … ”
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
What is sexuality? When we talk about sexuality, what do we really mean? Are we talking about how many times a person has sex, or with how many different partners? Are we talking about who a person wants to have sex with?
Sexuality is all of those things…and none of those things. It’s actually a relationship, which means that it’s complicated. Lucky for you, Sex Positive Parents, I’ve got a simple way to explain this complicated relationship:
First, we have a person’s identity. I’ll use myself as an example: I identify as a cisgender female. This means I was assigned the female sex at birth, I have consistently identified as female, I perceive myself as female, and I identify as female today. This is my identity.
Next, we have a person’s sexual orientation, which refers to the identity of the people that person is attracted to. Examples of sexual orientations include, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or pansexuality, among others. I am heterosexual, meaning I am consistently attracted to men and those who are male-identifying.
Lastly, we have a person’s sexual behavior. Sexual behavior is not necessarily constrained by a person’s identity or sexual orientation, or societal perceptions thereof. The Kinsey scale, which is the result of groundbreaking research into human sexuality, speaks to the non-linear nature of sexuality. As an example, a person might identify as a cisgender male, see themselves as heterosexual, and sometimes have sex with other men. Perhaps a transgender woman is homosexually oriented, and sometimes have sex with men. Or, a cisgender, heterosexual woman regularly fantasizes about having sex with women.
Sexuality is the relationship between identity, orientation, and behavior. For some, those things stay pretty consistent through time, which means their sexuality is fairly static. For others, however, those pillars may shift or evolve, making their sexuality more dynamic.
Why am I telling you about this? Because it’s important to focus less on labels and more on specific behaviors when we talk to our kids about sex and relationships. Focusing on behaviors allows for human difference and it also prevents leaving inadvertent gaps in traditionally heteronormative sex ed conversations (which unplanned pregnancies and STI’s are all too happy to slip through).
In practical terms, focusing on behaviors looks like this:
“You should to wear a condom because the birth control pill doesn’t protect against STD’s” becomes:
“You should wear a condom during any kind of sexual activity, including oral, anal, and vaginal sex.”
“You need to be serious about saying no because guys only want one thing” becomes:
“Healthy relationships involve mutual respect where no one feels pressured and sex is always consensual.”
“You don’t have to learn about anything except for condoms because you’re gay” becomes:
“There are a lot of different STD prevention and contraception options on the market and it’s good to be aware of what they are, how they work, and where you can get them.”
If you want to be healthy in body, mind and soul, then do not lie about how little pleasure you receive in bed.
By JOACHIM OSUR
Up to 60 per cent of women have faked orgasm at one point or another. In fact, a quarter of married women fake orgasms all the time. That was my overarching message to Jane when she walked into the sexology clinic distressed. She had just been thrown out of her marital home for faking orgasm.
Trouble started when Jane revealed to her husband that she had faked it for two years of their marriage. “I meant well all these two years. I did not want to hurt him by revealing that I was not satisfied,” Jane explained, wiping her tears.
It was 8am and she was the first patient of the day. She had come in in her nightdress – her husband had pushed her out of the house and locked the door after they disagreed the night before. She spent the night on her verandah.
“He throws me out of the house because I tried to find a solution, but he never wants to talk about sex,” she lamented.
Faking orgasm is not unique to Jane. Studies have shown that it is the best and most friendly way to end a boring sexual act, performed by women who want to reassure their man that he has not laboured in vain.
We now know that it is not just lack of sexual skills that leads to faking orgasm. The faker could also be having her own problems, either with the sexual function or with the relationship and intimacy. Take it this way: you are responsible for your own pleasure and your lack of it cannot be fully blamed on the man.
Some women dread sex, because of fear of disease or pregnancy, and values that teach them to look at sex negatively. The impact is that the person switches off sex, and orgasm is impossible under such circumstances. “Well, I am not such a big fan of sex anyway. I find it dirty,” Jane interrupted.
Whatever the reason is, it is important to note that faking is totally against the natural purpose of sex. Sex does not just give physical pleasure; there is something divine and supernatural about it. Good sex leads to enhanced self-esteem. The person’s feeling of well-being goes up and there is emotional healing. This improves a person’s happiness and gives them a positive outlook on life.
People who have healthy sex feel loved and radiate love and compassion to others. They have a sense of acceptance, beauty, reverence, grace and a feeling of rejuvenation. They feel powered to face life; in fact, they get a better sense of spiritual connection with their God. Healthy sex is therefore not just good for the body but also for the spirit and the soul.
Faking orgasm denies the faker all this. In itself, it is a symptom that the sex or the relationship is no longer healthy and needs attention. Unhealthy sex destroys emotions and the wellbeing of the people involved, and influences the way the affected people view life and other people. Unhealthy sex is not good for life.
I enrolled Jane and her husband in counselling and coaching on intimacy and sex. John, the husband, grudgingly came to the clinic after my pleas. He believed that it was Jane, not him, with a problem. It however turned out that they both lacked sex skills. Further, they had never freely discussed their sexual feelings and so were sexually illiterate about each other.
It took months of skills training and sexual values clarification before the couple could have healthy sex. Fortunately, they were both dedicated to having the relationship work out.
“This is what we needed to have gone through before our wedding,” Jane said on their last day of counselling. “I feel we have wasted two years of our marriage.”
“Yes, but better late than never. We are finally up to the task!” John replied. The couple burst out in laughter as they waved goodbye and walked out of the consultation room holding hands.
In the prologue to her new book, What Love Is and What It Could Be, philosopher Carrie Jenkins is walking through Vancouver, from her boyfriend’s apartment to the home she has with her husband. She wonders at how the romantic love she experiences firsthand is so different than the model presented by popular culture and academic theory alike. “If indeed romantic love must be monogamous, then I am making some kind of mistake when I say, ‘I’m in love with you’ — meaning romantically — to both my partners,” she writes. “I am not lying, because I am genuinely trying to be as honest as I can. But if romantic love requires monogamy, then despite my best intentions, what I’m saying at those moments is not, strictly speaking, true.”
Her book examines the long, sometimes awkward legacy of philosophers’ thinking on romantic love, and compares that with a new subfield in close-relationships research — consensual nonmonogamy, or CNM. While singers and thinkers alike have been riffing on a “one and only” for decades, she argues that space is being made in the cultural conversation to “question the universal norm of monogamous love, just as we previously created space to question the universal norm of hetero love.” These norms are more fluid than they appear: In Jenkins’s lifetime alone same-sex and cross-ethnicity relationships have become common.
When I asked Jenkins to describe how it feels to have both a husband and a boyfriend — she rejects the “primary relationship” moniker altogether — she said that it’s like having more loving relationships in your life, like a close family member or friend. She and her boyfriend, whom she’s been with for about five years, used to work in the same building; he was teaching creative writing on the floor above her philosophy department, though they didn’t meet until they matched on OkCupid. While both men have met each other, they’re not close; Jenkins describes the relationship as having a “V shape,” rather than a triangle. Both helped in the development of the book: husband refining philosophical arguments; boyfriend editing the writing, and helping her to sound like a normal person, rather than an academic.
Still, CNM faces lots of stigma; even the study of it is stigmatized. Yet in the limited yet rich vein of research out there, the evidence suggests that it’s a style that, in some populations, leads to greater relationship satisfaction than monogamy. In any case, the researchers tell me, the insights into what makes more-than-two relationships work can be applied to any given dyad, given the communicative finesse required when three or more hearts are involved.
In a forthcoming Perspectives in Psychological Science paper, Terri Conley, a University of Michigan psychologist who’s driven the field, defines CNM as “a relational arrangement in which partners agree that it is acceptable to have more than one sexual and/or romantic relationship at the same time.” That’s distinguished from the “polygamy” practiced by some religious groups, where it’s not always clear whether wives can opt out of the relationship.
I was surprised to discover how common it is: A 2016 study of two nationally representative samples of single Americans — of 3,905 and 4,813 respondents, respectively — found in each case that about one in five people had practiced it during their lifetime. A 2016 YouGov poll found that 31 percent of women and 38 percent of men thought their ideal relationship would be CNM in some way. Other research indicates that around 4 to 5 percent of Americans in relationships are in some sort of CNM, be it swinging, where partners have sex with people outside their relationship at parties and the like; an open relationship, where it’s cool to have sex with other people but not grow emotionally attached to them; or polyamory, where both partners approve of having close emotional, romantic, and sexual relationships outside of the couple itself. People are curious, too: From 2006 to 2015, Google searches for polyamory and open relationships went up. Other data points to how sticking to the boundaries of monogamy doesn’t come easily to lots of people: A 2007 survey of 70,000 Americans found that one in five had cheated on their current partner.
Jenkins says that as a tenured philosophy professor at the University of British Columbia, she’s in a unique, privileged position to openly talk about being in a nonmonogamous marriage. She’d been interested in being in more than one relationship ever since she can remember, but it used to seem like some sort of impossible dream situation — she didn’t realize it could be an option in her real life until she was about 30. (She’s now 37.)
Jenkins met her husband, Jonathan, who’s also a philosopher, back in 2009, at a philosophy workshop that he organized at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland; they later got married in the same hall the conference took place. They took one another’s last names as middle names.
Now married for almost eight years, they talked about polyamory early on, though defining the relationship that way came later. As philosophers are wont to do, they soon wrote a bit of a manifesto about their arrangement. They observed that even if their wedding guests were woke in any number of ways — not batting an eyelid if a colleague was gay or bi, eschewing heteronormative assumptions, and the like — there’s still the shared assumption that a nonmonogamous relationship is less sexually safe and less committed than a regular ol’ monogamous one. “Even our very liberal pocket of our relatively liberal society is massively — and, to us, surprisingly— mononormative,” they write. “Acquaintances, friends, and colleagues are constantly assuming that our relationship, and indeed every relationship that they think of as ‘serious’, is a sexually monogamous one.”
To Jenkins, the biggest struggle with polyamory isn’t from managing multiple relationships — though Google Calendar is a crucial tool — but rather the strong, sometimes violently negative reactions that she gets, especially online. When I spoke with her by phone, she was struck by a comment to a YouTube interview of hers, where a pseudonymous user invited “everyone” to read her column in the Chronicle of Higher Education about having multiple loves.
“THIS WOMAN IS A DISGUSTING ANIMAL,” the troll wrote. “Every bit as twisted and queer as the Mormons with their multiple lives [sic]. This femme-pig is the spectral opposite of Trump; a far far left-wing freak that desires to completely overthrow Western Christian Civilization.” Jenkins walked me through a deep reading of the bile: Bundling in politics — the “left-wing freak” bit — with the monogamy norms signals to her that there’s a judgment of what it means to be a good person in here, since politics is about living correctly, collectively. Plus “if you’re an animal, you’re out of the range of humanity,” she says. She’s also gets a lot of “get herpes and die, slut” suggestions, she says, which speaks to the hypersexualization of CNM. Nonmonogamy leads to lots of sex, the presumption goes, and with that STIs, and it proceeds from there. The way news articles covering CNM tend to be illustrated with images of three or four people in a bath or bed doesn’t help, either.
“The way we normally think about romantic love, we don’t imagine that it’s entirely about sex,” she says. “For a lot of people sex is a part of it; if we’re just having a hookup or a friend with benefits, we don’t call that romantic love. When it comes to polyamorous relationships, if you’re in love with more than one person, the same applies — to fall in love with someone is not the same as to sleep with them. We’re clear with that distinction in monogamous relationships, but in CNM that distinction between love and sex gets collapsed.”
Researchers who have studied stigma around CNM have found lots. In a 2012 paper, Conley and her colleagues found that monogamous relationships were better rated on every metric by different sets of the population, including nonmonogamous people. When 132 participants recruited online read relationship vignettes that were identical except for one being monogamous and the other not, the CNM was seen as riskier sexually, more lonely, less acceptable, and having a lower relationship quality. People in CNM were also seen as worse with non-relational things, like making sure to walk their dog or paying their taxes on time. Amy Moors, a co-author on the paper, says it had some of the biggest effect sizes she’s seen in her research. Elisabeth Sheff, a leading polyamory researcher who left academia for lack of grant funding, now frequently serves as an expert witness in custody battles; she says that often a grandmother or a former spouse will find out that a co-parent has multiple relationships, be scandalized, and demand to take the kids — even though her longitudinal research, reported in The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families, indicates that kids who grow up in polyamorous families aren’t any more screwed up than average American children.
That same paper finds that there were no differences in relationship functioning between monogamous and nonmonogamous couples. People in CNM had lower jealousy and higher trust — yet also lower sexual satisfaction with their partner. Polyamorists were more satisfied than people in open relationships, perhaps because it’s hard to block of feelings for people you sleep with frequently. Polyamorous people were a special case, with higher satisfaction, commitment, trust, and passionate love than monogamous individuals, though they had lower sexual satisfaction. CNM people also had higher sexual satisfaction with their secondary partners than their primary partners, though that difference fell away when controlling for relationship time, with primary relationships averaging three times the length of secondary relationships.
“Overall, the standard for human responses for relationships is habituation,” Conley says. “That involves a loss of sexual attraction, and we can tell that from stats from therapy. And to the extent that a couple is frustrated sexually, it spills over to other parts of life.”
There are other explanations for high satisfaction scores for polyamorous people, she adds. It could be that they’re just acting out a social desirability bias, given that they’re participating in a study about CNM and want the lifestyle to look good; it could also be that people who enter into polyamory have self-selected themselves into a hypercommunicative population — all the poly self-helpbooks emphasize the importance the need to explicitly talk things out. “People interested in polyamory are more relationship-y than the average person,” she says. “They like thinking about relationships, talking about relationships. That’s great in monogamy, but needed in polyamory.”
All this suggests the kind of people that are the right fit for CNM. Beyond being relationship-y, a Portuguese study out this year found that people with a high sociosexuality, or disposal to casual sex, had less relationship satisfaction when in a monogamous relationship, but those effects disappeared if they were in CNM. Still, they were just as committed to their relationships — signaling that exclusivity and commitment may not be one and the same. Harvard sexologist Justin Lehmiller has found that people who are more erotophilic — i.e., that love sex — will be a better fit for CNM; same with if they’re sensation-seeking.
Amy Moors, the Purdue psychologist, has found that people with higher avoidant attachment — where you’re just not that into intimacy — have positive feelings about and a willingness to engage in polyamory, but they were less likely to actually partake of it. While a correlational study, Moors explained that from a subjective perspective, it makes sense: “When you have avoidant attachment, you like a lot of emotional distance, physical distance, time by yourself,” Moors says, which is not a fit for the relationship-y remands of a poly lifestyle. Also, there’s reason to believe that folks who have relational anxiety, and are thus sensitive to separation, might be prone to the jealousy that’s known to flare up in CNM, though it’s not like that doesn’t happen in monogamy, too.
What motivated Jenkins to write What Love Is, she says, was a gap — or silence — in the philosophical literature, that polyamory was rarely discussed or even acknowledged as a possibility. “Noticing these philosophical silences and denials, while simultaneously being made aware of how society at large viewed me for being a polyamorous woman, made me realize there was something important here that I needed to do,” she says. “To do it meant bringing my personal life and my philosophical work into a conversation with one another. The familiar slogan says that the personal is political, but the personal is philosophical, too.”
Two key themes emerge from reading the book: that love is dual-layered, with social scripts overlaying evolutionary, physiological impulses. And that the “romantic mystique,” like the feminine one before it, assumes that love is mysterious and elusive and corrupted from examination — a sentiment that protects the status quo. But with investigation, and conversation, the mechanics of love reveal themselves, and norms can change socially, and be tailored locally. Like Jenkins, you can custom-fit your relationships to your life — if you dare to talk about them.