Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!

13 October 2011

Sexual Desire and Sexual Pleasure

Sexual desire and sexual pleasure go a long way to helping make life worthwhile. Sexual desire can be lost temporarily in many situations of physical or psychological illness, stress, discomfort, or exhaustion. More tragic is the long term loss of sexual desire due to chronic disease, depression, or unknown causes.

Perhaps the quickest way for a person to earn a billion dollars would be to invent an aphrodisiac that worked every time in either sex, at any age -- even in persons suffering from mental stress or a physical ailment. We are still waiting for the lucky researcher to experience his Eureka! moment, but sooner or later someone is likely to hit the jackpot.

Sexual desire and pleasure are complex things, which can be triggered or inhibited by a lot of different things. In order for an aphrodisiac to work in everyone, every time, it will need to be able to set in motion a highly complex sequence of events in both body and brain, and have enough staying power to conduct the symphony through to the very end.

Syracuse neuroscientist Stephanie Ortigue looked at the brain's activity in sexual desire. She discovered a number of interesting things:
Several years ago, Ortigue’s team and two others sketched a network in the brain that is always activated when we experience sexual desire. The three research teams independently landed on the same brain regions. These included areas governing emotion, motivation, body image—and, notably, memories associated with life experiences. Memories can affect desire in subtle, subconscious ways. For example, if a person has a feature or personality that reminds you of something positive in your past, a subconscious association between that person and pleasant reveries may trigger desire, Ortigue says. In this way, desire emerges from a collaboration of emotional, motivational and intellectual parts of the brain, she says.

Ortigue and her team recently took a look at these brain regions in 13 women between 26 and 47 who qualified as having hypoactive sexual desire disorder. These women either had no feelings of sexual interest or those feelings had plummeted to a low level of late; many had no sexual thoughts or fantasies. They lacked any impulse to even try to become aroused. And they said the absence of these feelings and thoughts distressed them.

The researchers asked these women—as well as 15 women with no lack of desire–to look at both pictures of male models and nonerotic photos while their brains were being scanned. As expected, the women who lacked desire showed abnormally low activity in the brain network previously linked with that feeling. More surprising, however, was that these same women also showed more activity in prefrontal brain regions involved in inhibition of action, attention to and judgment of the self, and interpreting the actions of other people. That is, that proverbial headache probably has its roots in this decision-making, self-control, theory-of-mind part of the brain.

The increased activity there suggests that people with depleted desire have two problems. One is that they are spending time trying to interpret the intentions of the other person—and probably coming to incorrect conclusions, says Ortigue. The second is that, they are monitoring or evaluating their own responses to erotic stimuli. They are not “living in the moment,” Ortigue says. Such analysis can interfere with the erotic experience, perhaps in the same way that explaining a joke can sap it of its humor. _SciAm
We have discussed this issue several times here at AFYST!. A woman needs to learn to let go before her brain and body can do their thing. Any woman (or man) who tries to overthink the situation or her own response, will have a difficult time finding her full bounty of pleasure.

There is a lot more going on in sex than what is happening in the brain. But the brain is the master sex organ, so any viable aphrodisiac will have to work at least in part via the brain circuits.

To help think these ideas through, here is a quick look at some of the things involved in sexual function and response:
...sexual function and the normal sexual response cycle may be divided into four phases. a) The desire phase, which consists typically of fantasies about and the desire to have sexual activity. b) The excitement phase, which is characterized by the subjective sense of sexual pleasure and accompanying physiological changes, namely penile tumescence and erection in men; and pelvic congestion, swelling of the external genitalia, and vaginal lubrication and expansion in woman. c) The orgasmic phase, where sexual pleasure peaks with the release of sexual tension and rhythmic contraction of the perineal muscles and reproductive organs. In men, the sensation of ejaculatory inevitability is followed by the ejaculation of semen. In woman, contractions of the outer third of the vaginal wall occur. d) The final phase, resolution, which is characterized by a sense of muscular relaxation and general well-being. _patentsonline
If there is insufficient anticipation fantasy leading into foreplay, the process may come to a screeching halt before it truly begins. But once the woman is lubricated and the man achieves firm erection, the couple must find the right rhythm for building to one or more climaxes. It is particularly important to learn to let go at this stage.

Of course we all know that a wide range of drugs can lead to heightened sexual desire and disinhibition. But most of these drugs -- except for alcohol -- are illegal, or are prescribed for other purposes.

Here is even more to think about, in association with libido, or sexual desire:
Although sexual motivation is often viewed as an internal process built upon neuroendocrine mechanisms, such as alterations in brain neurochemical function set forth by steroid hormone actions, it is also modulated by experiences and expectations, learned patterns of behavior and underlying neural activity related to sexual arousal, desire, reward, and inhibition. In turn, these aspects of sexual function feed back on mechanisms of motivation, either to increase (as in the case of arousal, desire, or reward, Fig. 3.1a) or decrease (as in the case of reward or inhibition, Fig. 3.1b) the expression of sexual interest or libido. _Springer
In other words, the person's life history and sexual history play a key role in every sexual encounter he or she has. It is not easy to let go of past traumas or disappointments. Which is why disinhibitors have been so popular ever since men stopped using the technique of "clubbing the woman on the head and dragging her by the hair back to the cave."

Men should be aware that a woman can accuse him of "date rape" if the couple has sex while the woman is under the influence of alcohol or other disinhibitors -- even if she was fully aware of what she was doing at every moment of the encounter. Some university students have been thrown out of school in disgrace, and men have even served prison time, for such episodes of consensual uninhibited sex. Sex has never been without its risk.

And yet despite the risk, despite feminist indoctrination, despite the stresses of life, men and women keep coming back for more. And the ones who don't keep coming back, often wish that they still had the desire and opportunity to do so.

And that is where the $billion market for a true aphrodisiac comes in. By taking into account the many complex interactions of psychology and physiology an aphrodisiac designer can fashion his drug to perform a sequential ballet of exquisite dynamic. And it had better wear off in time to go to work the next day, without a hangover.

Well, what are you waiting for? Do I have to do all your thinking for you? Go on and start making your first billion. And did I mention: wealth and power are strong aphrodisiacs to women. Perhaps an added incentive for you men and lesbians.

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