Does Sex Make Us Happier?
Sex. It’s everywhere and on everyone’s mind. We cannot escape it. Sigmund Freud tells us that almost all of our behavior relates to sex, the sex drive, and in most cases the repression of this sex drive (1). Sex ends up entering into many different aspects of our lives, and is one of the most basic human desires. So then what makes sex so different? Sex is an integral part of our relationships, thoughts, and actions, and functions as a more pervasive force than other basic needs like eating and sleeping. Is sex just a powerful human need, or does it have more important uses? Can sex affect other things in our life like our emotions? Does the amount of sex we have affect our happiness?
Dr. C George Boeree says that in “our modern society, you will find that most advertising uses sexual images, that movies and television programs often don't sell well if they don't include some titillation, that the fashion industry is based on a continual game of sexual hide-and-seek, and that we all spend a considerable portion of every day playing ‘the mating game’ ” (1). It is true, much of our lives is consumed by sex. But what is sex? M.D. and PhD. Helen Singer Kaplan created a widely accepted model of the sexual response which includes three stages: desire, excitement, and orgasm (2). Desire can be explained quite easily as something that we crave with our minds, bodies, or both. Desires can be based on needs, but sometimes stem simply from human variation and psychology. “Excitement” as it is called is the simply reaction in the body to physical and mental stimulation, more commonly called getting “turned on” or aroused. Finally, we have the orgasm, the third and final stage of Kaplan’s model, and arguably the most important. An orgasm is a “sudden discharge of accumulated sexual tension resulting in rhythmic muscular contractions in the pelvic region that produce intensely pleasurable sensations followed by rapid relaxation” (2). Basically, it is a physical reaction to an external stimulus, which brings us pleasure and relaxation. The “accumulated sexual tension” is our sex drive, and the orgasm relieves this tension. Being the last part of the sexual model, the orgasm can be argued to be the most important part. The orgasm is the last of the stages in the model and is what the other two stages build up to. It is therefore the satisfaction of our sexual needs. We can reach an orgasm either with a partner (or partners) or on our own through masturbation. So if orgasms are essentially the root of sex, and can be reached by our own means, how important is the orgasm to our well-being?
The sensation of an orgasm has been described in many ways, but are there different kinds, or just one? A study was done in 1976 by Vance and Wagner testing the difference between male and female orgasm (3). Biologically, there are physical differences between the ejaculation, climax, and orgasm in men and women. However, the study tested the difference in feeling. The test took college students in a psychology class and asked them to write descriptions of their orgasms without using gender specific terms. Judges consisting of gynecologists, psychologists, and medical students read through the descriptions and noted the feelings and words attributed. They were ultimately unable to distinguish male descriptions from female ones, and did not find any substantial differences between the two. Descriptions were similar, and described the orgasm as an amazing physical and mental release. Words like “relief” “elation” “rush” “peace” and “euphoria” were used as a description. The general consensus in the descriptions was that orgasms bring about a good feeling, similar to happiness.
So if we feel good emotionally and physically before and after an orgasm, can orgasms give us a lasting effect of happiness or peace? It has been suggested by medical doctors and psychologists that regular orgasms can lead to a healthier lifestyle. A study in Whales was done by British scientists who interviewed nearly 1000 people in six little villages about their sexual frequency (5). They followed the participants up by recording their death date and looking at the average life spans. They ultimately found that men who had sex twice or more times a week died at half the rate of men who had sex less than once a month.
How does having sex or orgasms make us healthier? An orgasm is a “major neurological and physiological event” (5). After an orgasm the bloodstream is filled with hormones called oxytocin and dehydroepiandrosterone, both of which have been shown to reduce depression (5). Oxytocin in particular has been linked to aiding in sleep because of its power to release endorphins. Oxytocin also releases endorphins which can help to alleviate pain (4). It is also considered a bonding hormone, which helps with our relationships. Dehydroepiandrosterone has been proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks. It has also been proven to boost the immune system because it helps to balance chemicals in the body (4).
Along with these two important chemicals in our body, there are many other healthy effects of having orgasms. Orgasms relieve tension because they help to make your mind focus on the physical reaction, and reduce the stress in other areas (4). Sexual stimulation activates the production of phenetylamine, a natural amphetamine that regulates your appetite (4). Sex and orgasms have been said also to strengthen your body and increase blood flow because of the movement. As we can easily see, sex or orgasms help to make our bodies healthier.
However, because orgasms have so many benefits and can be attained on our own, the question is begged: do we need a partner to have a healthy sex life? The average man has 81 orgasms a year (5), but how many of these are with a partner? Studies do not include amount of sex versus amount of orgasms. However, the link between orgasms and sex with a partner has been said to be simply emotional. Men and women who masturbate to receive most of their orgasms end up being less happy than those who orgasm with a partner. Therefore the benefits are the same whether or not you are alone, but most people to prefer to have someone helping them out.
So orgasms are very healthy for us to have, and we can have them on our own! It is no wonder that sex is such a large desire and has such a great weight on our lives—our bodies crave it for a reason. So the reasonable solution would be to go out there and try to have as many orgasms as possible—after all it is a very healthy life choice. So, let’s take this a step further. An organization Global Orgasm has started an initiative called “Global Orgasm for Peace.” It will be an event on Monday December 21, 2009 for 24 hours, starting at 5:47 pm, wherein they encourage all who care to participate to “dedicate an orgasm to peace.” (6). They write that “to effect positive change in the energy field of the earth through conscious dedication of orgasmic energy to the vibration of Peace. Our minds and our biology influence Matter and Quantum Energy fields, so by concentrating our thoughts before, during, and after orgasm on peace and loving-kindness, the synergy of high orgasmic physical energy combined with the power of positive visualization could help reduce global levels of violence, hatred and fear. Orgasm is the largest possible instantaneous surge of human biological and spiritual energies. It is a biological gift! What better way to achieve your resolution for Peace?” (6). So the choice is personal, but it would seem that they best way to achieve peace both personal and universal is to orgasm and to do it frequently.