Why learn about Erotic Intelligence?
Most people, particularly therapist, psychologists and sexual health professionals, view erotic intelligence as the key to helping people discover what could be missing in their relationships especially those spouses who tend to show an interest to stay in a relationship but just seem to have lost the spark. Erotic intelligence can also help people find their passions in the bedroom. Understanding neuroscience and its relation to sexuality can be the window that provides invaluable insights to help us grasp the nature of human relationships from a physical, emotional, and spiritually standpoint.
The study of erotic intelligence encompasses the history of sexuality relative to human relations. Enhancing sexual awareness starts with learning to be mindful of what your body is trying to communicate to the rest of your being. Sexual and overall well-being begins with ‘conscious relating’ which simply refers to the practice of promoting genuine, open and honest communications about sex and among sexes to get a better understanding of our dispositions.
Erotic intelligence has also been shown to be crucial in modelling sexual behaviours. Imagine if sexual sciences had not advanced through the groundbreaking work in sexual health science, psychology, genetics neuroscience and endocrinology to name a few – we would still be classifying homosexuality as a mental illness for instance. This is why it is important to keep the science communities engaged with the public through government and private initiatives to ensure sex education continues to bring about inclusivity and harmony in society. Furthermore, better erotic intelligence education can help people come to a deeper understanding of what intimacy really means.
Erotic intelligence can also help to create new behaviours that ultimately enhance our relationships. This goes to show the close link between the physical act of sex, sexual impulses, behaviours and tendencies with the brain. Because of erotic intelligence it is easier to understand how as humans we are wired for love and how sometimes we can be hijacked into pursuing illusory ideal and expectations.
When people possess a healthy erotic intelligence we can overcome or prevent sexual addiction or unhealthy sexual leanings. Often people who can’t control the sexual desires are chasing the novelty of meaningless sexual encounters but with erotic intelligence people are equipped to form meaningful relationships.
What Neuroscience tells us about
Neural science studies focus on how our nervous system develops; its structure and functions with the aim of discovering how the brain impacts our behavioural and cognitive functions. Erotic intelligence on the other hand, looks into our capacity to trust ourselves, and how we establish our values and boundaries through self-awareness and regulation of sexual energy.
To understand erotic intelligence, it is crucial to comprehend the fundamentals of how our brains work in relation to our instinctive sexual nature as biological entities whose existence is depended on propagation of the species through the sexual act.
As far as sexual motivation is concerned and the impact that has on our behaviour, some scientists assert that sexual motivation is one of the most important aspects of our survival since if this motivation was lacking then we would not indulge in the sexual acts that make procreation possible. In simple terms, the feelings of being horny or desiring sex are critical to our existence as a species.
Where sexual orientation is concerned, it is important to note that there is a link between brain science and our sexual preferences. In the exploration of sexual relations and our attempt to gain an appreciation of the influence the brain has on sexual orientation, we find that sexual differentiation of the human brain occurs during foetal and neonatal development and programs our gender identity - our feeling of being male or female and our sexual orientation as hetero-, homo-, or bisexual.
The study of sexual preference has revealed some surprising results such as scientist Simon LeVayii’s discovery that certain brain structures are different in homosexual and heterosexual males. He does however emphasize that this does not suggest that these differences are of a genetic nature.
Other studies have however indicated a genetic influence on sexual orientation as noted in twins who are more likely to be gay if their identical siblings are also gay. Some have even suggested that the prenatal environment in the womb may alter brain structures and influence sexual orientation. With time more research is bound to shed a brighter light on this subject.
In further studying the psychological factors in sexual motivation, one quickly learns that unlike most animals, our sexual desire is not only motivated by hormones. Numerous studies show that sexual motivation is controlled to a large degree by psychological rather than biological factors. It is interesting to note that sexual desire can still be present even when the capacity to have sex is lost or restricted. Researchers have found that even victims of accident who may lose the ability engage in the sexual act physically often still have sexual desires.
There are many different factors, situations or psychological states that can trigger erotic desires. The most common being materials of an erotic nature in the form of images, thoughts, objects, dress, music, drugs, attraction, beauty, intimacy, etc. – all which inspire sexual feelings and physiological responses in both men and women, including elevated levels of hormones. The interaction between our physiology and psychology creates the myriad of sexual desires we observe or experience.
The Role of Neuro-Hormones in Regulating Erotic Intelligence
There are four main neuro-hormones that impact the way our bodies behave. All with the exception of one are released in both sexes. The fourth is only released in males. These hormones influence our minds and perceptions of reality and can be critical in shaping sexual tendencies.
Dopamine comes in the form of ecstasy. Usually associated with the pleasure high and the fireworks or chemistry we feel towards those we are sexually attracted to. Because dopamine is a neurotransmitter, it helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. People with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction.
The presence of a certain kind of dopamine receptor is also associated with sensation-seeking people or risk takers.iii Physical experiments have been conducted in which the brains of a couple newly in love were monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Scientist discovered that the minds of both participants reflected high levels of dopamine comparable to being high on stimulants. It has been long-established that dopamine is a natural stimulant that provides us with the feeling of ecstasy and it plays an important role in erotic intelligence. When people are sexually aroused by close contact their dopamine levels rise significantly and at the time of orgasm they reach a peak. After the sexual intercourse and orgasm the dopamine levels seem to take a dip.
Oxytocin is deemed the bonding agent that makes people want to connect with others on a physical level. Some people even refer to it as the bonding agent or cuddle chemical. Often when you hear typically men whine about their partners wanting to cuddle as part of intimate relations or when you hear ladies complain that after sexual intercourse their partner didn’t give them cuddles it’s all because of oxytocin – that’s who really is to blame.
The amazing effects this chemical has on erotic intelligence are phenomenal. Although similarly oxytocin levels drop after orgasm, they can often remain relatively high when couples remain in close contact. So while the dopamine system appears to be designed to produce genetic variety by inducing people to mate with as many different partners as possible, oxytocin seems to induce an opposite effect thus keeping us more inclined to develop more meaningful bonds with our partners.
Seratonin is a neurotransmitter that carries signals along and between nerves and is commonly associated with mood regulation. Often people talk of ‘being in the mood’ but little do they know that this chemical has a lot to do with it. What’s fascinating about serotonin is its impact on social behavior and sexual desire. Low serotonin levels found when people are under intoxicated are regarded as having an effect on increased libido which often leads people to take sexual risks or to be more open to act on their sexual desires.
On the other hand, people who take certain medications that increase serotonin levels tend to have a reduction in libido and sexual function. There are ways which helps increase serotonin levels in the body such exercise and diet.
Vasopressin is a male neural hormone which is responsible for the protective instincts common in males especially when it comes to their sexual partners. This hormone is also associated with some irrational behaviors such as being possessive and jealous.
The best way to sum it up is by noting that during the honeymoon period of a typical relationship, we can observe that couple stay closely remain bonded by high oxytocin levels. This is what excites partners and you often hear about the ‘great sex we used to have in the beginning of our relationship’ type of remarks.
The thing about sex is that initially sex stimulates us to crave for more sex which causes the rise and fall in dopamine levels and corresponding emotional fluctuations in relationships. As time progresses most couple report that they become less interested in sex with our partner. This behavior is not only common in human but primates, mammals and reptiles alike. The reason for this is because it originates from the primitive part of our brain.
Understanding Social Signals
Signals of Receptivity and Attraction
The female savannah baboon’s hindquarters swell and turn bright red when she is signaling her sexual receptivity. This is a result of vasocongestion related to sexual arousal and reproduction. Essentially what happens is that increased vascular blood flow and localized blood pressure causes tissues to swell when the baboon is aroused.
This same process also takes place in humans and it’s evident in what we call ‘blushing’ which reddens the skin during sexual excitement, intercourse, orgasm or ‘sex flush’iv. Vasocongestion is also responsible for nipple and penile erections, swelling of the nipples and hardening of the clitoris during sexual arousal.
Pupil dilation can also signal sexual receptivity because when pupils dilate they increase attractiveness in humans. Tombs and Silvermanv have been able to demonstrate that both sexes are attracted by larger pupils compared to smaller ones when looking at their sexual partners.
Experience seeking is common in both sexes according to Prof. Zuckermanvi who notes that although tend to seek more active forms of sensation such as intercourse, women are just as open to novel sensory experiences as men. Sight and touch or vision and tactile senses play a key role in eroticism and sensuality. The olfactory sense is however just as important because scent influences our chemistry. vii
Pheromones which are the substances animals secrete to serve as invisible sexual signals to other members of the same species are the most effective and natural sexual attractants. The underarm sweat of men or Androstenol is seen as a primitive form of communication which can turn women on. Ovulation serves as a natural call which attracts the females to healthy, attractive males. The fatty acids in the vaginal fluids cause the special effect of heightened testosterone levels in the males around an ovulating female.
The Coolidge Effect
Now that we have a basic understanding of how brain functions and hormones can influence a person’s sexual orientation and motivation, it’s important to touch on the aspects of social signals, attitudes and behaviors in relation to neuroscience and erotic intelligence.
A simple way of illustrating how is by looking at the Coolidge Effect. It is essentially a phenomenon after the American president Calvin Coolidgeviii. The story goes that on a visit to a farm President Coolidge’s wife had been intrigued by a rooster she was shown and which could copulate with hens all-day long. She apparently was fascinated by the idea and asked the farmer to inform the president. After hearing it, President Coolidge is said to have asked: “Does he do that with the same hen?” “No, Sir” answered the farmer. “Please tell that to Mrs. Coolidge”ix he remarked. Whether there’s truth to this tale one can’t tell but the hypothesis is sound.
It has been observed in experiments that when a male rat in situated in a cage with a receptive female rat, an initial frenzy of copulation can is evident. Then, progressively, the male seems to tire of that particular female and despite her receptivity he reaches a point where he has little libido-and simply ignores her.
What’s more interesting is how, when the original female rat is replaced with another, the male is almost immediately revived and he begins copulating again. This process can be repeated until the rat cannot physically manage from exhaustion. This experiment goes to show that the rat's renewed vigor does not reflect an increase in his wellbeing. It is clear dopamine is responsible for his surges of energy upon introduction of a new female rat. Glen Wilsonx gave a perfect example of the Coolidge effect in The Science of Sex wherein he writes:
Before marriage it is usual for men to initiate intercourse at a fairly high frequency with their fiancée. After a few years of marriage, however, the husband's sexual appetite begins to wane and an apparent reversal of libido may even occur, with the now frustrated wife demanding more lovemaking than her 'tired' husband is able to supply. He, of course, is still perfectly capable of being aroused by his mistresses and office girls and, if fortunate enough to secure an invitation to an orgy, would have little difficulty completing intercourse with two or three anonymous young women in the course of the evening's festivities. Sex therapists see many men who are reported as 'impotent' by their wives, but who privately confess to considerable prowess with a succession of mistresses.xi
For those wondering if the Coolidge effect is a phenomenon observed only in males, the answer is no. This effect has been female rodents for instance that tend to exhibit increased flirtatious behavior when under the observation of new males compared to males with whom they had already sex.
Generally people find certain characteristics as attractive and others repulsive. In Western culture for instance, youthfulness or the appearance of it is valued as essential to the classification of beauty. This explains the multi-million dollar industry of cosmetics and other things which are marketed as youth preservation or restoration antidotes.
This however is not the case all across the globe. Patterns of mating behaviors tend to differ depending on cultural factors. Learned gender roles although disintegrating slowly as the world becomes more open-minded about differences and more flexible about what are concerned the norms, they still play a role in influencing erotic intelligence.
The lessons of erotic intelligence
A lack of erotic intelligence can lead to sexual pervasion or even sexual dysfunction in the sense of having impairment either in the desire for sexual gratification or in the ability to achieve it. The most common complaints in case of women are lack of sexual interest, and inability to experience orgasm. In case of men, the most frequently reported complaints were premature climaxing, performance anxiety and lack of sexual interest according to a survey conducted by Laumann et al.xii
With so many men and women in the world today under enormous pressures to either conform to sexual norms or express sexual freedoms; neuroscience and sex education have never been more pertinent. Our understanding of the sexes, their sexual characteristics and idiosyncrasies play a vital role in shaping human sexuality. Most of the factors most related to erotic intelligence are neuroendocrinal, dietary and psychosocial in nature. In order to enhance your erotic intelligence the prerequisite is that one comes to grips with eroticism. For instance, most people aren’t aware that men tend to have an estimated average of treble the number of erotic fantasies compared to their female counterparts. It should be noted that sex is one field where women and men are attracted to each other but are driven by very different motives. Often it is observed that women long for emotional warmth while men seem to have a passion for novelties.
We saw how hormone can make quite a powerful impact on our brains and behaviours. Men tend to have higher arousal thresholds and both sexes react very differently to stimuli. The male brain seems to require more defined signals and craves more intense stimuli and adventure. This explains why people stereotypes men as more prone to indulge in risky and impulsive sexual behaviours.
The high levels of testosterone found in males can make them more impatient and thrill seeking. Oxytocin, dopamine and vasopressin also play a significant role in the social and sexual behaviour of humans. We discovered that oxytocin which is found in greater levels in females, affects sexual responsiveness, socialization and maternal nurturing. Vasopressin when found in greater quantities in the males causes them to want to be protective of their female sexual partners and guard them against the solicitations of other males. Vasopressin and oxytocin display different effects in men and women.
Most important, erotic intelligence relative to neuroscience shows us that in order to have fulfilling sexual relationships, mental health and the promotion of normal brain functions are necessary. Erotic intelligence plays a key role in helping sexual health professionals to deal with patience who may have psycho-sexual disorders. Knowing how our brains are connected to our sexual impulses, preferences and behaviours is essentially what erotic intelligence is all about. With that erotic intelligence comes more fulfilling sexual experiences and more desirable behaviours which will create harmony between sexual partners and harmony in society.
ii (LeVay S (1991). A difference in hypothalamic structure between homosexual and heterosexual men. Science, 253, 1034–1037.)
iv Mah K, Binik YM. The nature of human orgasm: a critical review of major trends. Clinical Psychology Review. 21: 823-56.
v Tombs S, Silverman I (2004) Pupillometry: Asexual selection approach. Hum Behavior 25: 221-228.
vi Zuckerman, Marvin (2009). "Chapter 31. Sensation seeking". In Leary, Mark R.; Hoyle, Rick H. Handbook of Individual Differences in Social behavior. New York/London: The Guildford Press. pp. 455–465.
x Wilson, Glenn (1982). The Coolidge effect: an evolutionary account of human sexuality. New York: Morrow.