I left his house Sunday morning in a daze. I was physically exhausted, and the inevitable migraine was looming, but the rays of sunlight and cool breeze from the pier perpetuated my high.
Despite our incompatible personalities and widely divergent interests, we have a sexual chemistry that is remarkably coordinated and mutually satisfying. Our awareness of each other’s rhythms and our physical magnetism is so in sync that every single time we have sex, I am guaranteed a great orgasm.
It wasn’t until maybe halfway through my broken slumber on the BART ride back to the East Bay that the euphoria of the weekend finally simmered down. I was once again left with an all too familiar sense of dread. After having felt so good, it was unsettling to be feeling so low.
Orgasms produce one of the most addictive highs available to humankind. When Dutch scientist Gert Holstege mapped out the events in the brain during an orgasm, the brain scans were comparable to those of people shooting heroin. Orgasms, like drugs, cause a boost in dopamine levels followed by a distressing and tragic crash. Like any other chemically induced addiction, the imbalance in hormones result in heightened irritability, an overall sense of dissatisfaction, anxiety and depression.
I frequently experience these neurochemical hangovers the morning after. It’s hard to simply walk away from a rendezvous and accept the postsexual dopamine level as my own. Approximately 12 hours after the deed, I begin to feel a hollow pit growing in my stomach. In hopes of disregarding this peculiar surge of unhappiness, I focus my attention on finding a fix through alternative means.
This time the malaise has surfaced once again. I am searching for a dose of comfort and strangely enough, I am convinced that I can find it in this guy. Overnight, I seem to have developed an unusual sense of affection towards him. The things he would talk about that were so uninteresting to me suddenly sound like lyrical sonnets. All of a sudden, I am certain that his lack of personality is some sort of fascinating stoicism. Even his misspelled texts that used to make me scoff are endearing to me now.
He has not escaped my mind. At night when I lay down in my bed, I can still faintly smell his cologne and his scent remains to haunt me. The fact that I am obsessing over a man who was, until this point, simply a casual encounter is making me question my sanity. The number of times a day I replay our sexual escapades is confirming my neurosis. He lingers in my thoughts between classes, saunters in my room uninvited and then continues to accompany me in my dreams through the night.
The indispensable sense of bliss and ecstasy of an orgasm occurs at a time when you are highly vulnerable, exposed and defenseless. Because our bodies are biologically wired to want to repeat actions that create pleasure and eliminate pain, we seek out ways to repossess the high.
Some people substitute the elation through new distractions such as food, alcohol or drugs. In my case, I have manifested a sense of comfort and affection towards somebody to divert myself. My original affliction has subsided, and in my sober state I can clearly see that because of the feelings of pleasure that I associated with him, I created an idealized lover out of another face in the crowd.
Shakespeare often explored the strangeness of human nature to repeatedly succumb to bodily desires. The transition from emotional intensity to indifference suggests a certain mockery of lust — the irony in undergoing such anguish for something so momentary. The process of fits of madness followed by a dreamlike realization of the emptiness in lust is common and something the world well knows.
Like the hangover after a night of heavy drinking, we repeatedly put ourselves in this situation and consciously risk the inevitable pain. With alcohol, it is understood that the clear source of monstrous headaches is last night’s extra glass of Pinot noir. We tend to forget that sex not only causes the sensations in between our legs but that it also creates changes in our mood and distorts our perceptions of relationships.
By remembering this, we can save ourselves from the unnecessary turmoil, guilt and complications and start enjoying the perks of nonmonogamous relationships. Even after the nasty hangover and promises to yourself that you will never drink again, the next weekend you will find yourself gladly accepting that beer and drinking it with pleasure.
We do so because it feels good. And it is completely okay to want to feel good.