Sex and the Brain

Sex and the Mind

You’re a young adult now but you may have had to sit through classes where someone at your school talked to you about not having sex until you were married. The conversation may have seemed like a good idea (in a perfect world) but not in your world. After all, marriage is not even not on the horizon, it’s not even in the picture. You’re just trying to hustle to get the job, promotion, or degree. This season is anything but stable so getting married or getting pregnant is a definite no right now – we get it.

Can we discuss with you what puts you, your health, and your future at risk? This is important for you to know for today and for tomorrow. At-risk sexual activity doesn’t only put you at risk for an unplanned pregnancy which is why you may have mostly heard about abstaining from sex, it also puts you at risk for STIs as well as other emotional consequences.

At-risk sexual activity is simply defined this way: any time body fluids come into contact with body openings, there is a risk. And, any time there is skin-to-skin contact in the area of the body that is normally covered by underwear, there is a risk. (SOURCE)

Emotional consequences often go un-mentioned but we feel they are also major players in how we respond to a sexual experience with another. For example, when you choose to have sex with someone, you have completely redefined the relationship with that person.  The difference between ending the relationship before or after you have had sex is that if you break the relationship off prior to having sex, there is a part of you that was not known by the other and therefore healing will occur faster. When two people have sex and break off the relationship, there is physical and emotional and some would say even spiritual bonding that occurs that makes healing from a broken relationship after sex much more difficult. Here’s part of why that’s the case:

You may have heard people talk about how when two people share in sexual activity, a bond is formed. Biologically that is because your brain releases neurochemicals that respond when exciting and/or risky behavior takes places. One example of this is the release of the neurochemical called dopamine, otherwise known as the reward chemical. Because this chemical is neutral in morality (it doesn’t know right vs. wrong activity), it doesn’t matter if you are experiencing something exciting like asking a boy/girl out on a date or something risky like speeding in your car or having sex  – if you do something exciting or risky, your brain rewards you with dopamine. While some risky behaviors are not as harmful to your body and mind as others, sex is definitely one that is more risky and can hold very serious negative consequences.

The problem with dopamine and other neurochemicals responding the way it does to risky behavior, is that overtime these neurochemicals which bathe your synapses (or connections between nerve cells) tell your brain this is normal behavior and actually re-wire your brain into believing that this once risky activity is not risky and is actually normal. This is why it is difficult for people who have experienced repeated risky behavior like participating in at-risk sexual activity outside of marriage, to stop and postpone any further sexual activity. Is it impossible? No. It just takes time and diligence and getting a few new hobbies to retrain your brain. The brain is designed to form a long-term bonding relationship with the person you are married to, not multiple sexual partners. Acting against the way your brain is designed, or re-wiring your brain now with risky behaviors will make it more difficult for you down the road when you are in a committed relationship.

Although this is a very general overview, there is much more to the above and much more at stake when you participate in at-risk sexual activity before marriage. For more information, contact one of our medical centers and get your questions answered by medical staff.

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