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mX Column: Casual Sex? Not Always Casual.

In the age of the casual hook-up, I’d hazard to say most people have had a bonk-buddy up their sleeve at some point for times of need.

It’s a common belief that women, in particular, have difficulty adjusting adapting to a casual sex arrangement.

But it turns out that is not our biggest worry when it comes to no-strings-attached casual hook-ups.

I recently heard an interesting detail from the mouth of Dr. Helen Fisher that stopped me in my tracks.

Fisher is a highly regarded biological anthropologist working on the phenomenon of love.

Beware the Casual Hook Up

Her findings centre on the chemicals that course through our brains when we fall for someone.

Different hormones, honed through centuries of evolution, come out to play during the three phases of love.

The most common and most exciting of the three stages is one we’re all familiar with – lust.

That’s when our sex drive propels us out our front doors and onto nightclub dance floors or into internet chat rooms, looking for a mate. Piloted by estrogen and testosterone, it’s heady, delicious, high-octane stuff.

Stage two is romantic love, when we fall for one person in particular rather than just browsing the field.

Characterised by cravings, feelings of intense attachment and uninhibited adoration, this is the butterflies-in-the-tummy, puppy-love stage that poets and dreamers have waxed lyrical about for centuries.

Along with romantic love comes its fuel of choice: dopamine. Little Dopie is a happy hormone. In fact, the brain of a person in the romantic love stage mimics the brain of someone on a cocaine rush: You are, quite literally, drugged up on love.

If a relationship has the right stuff, after about 18 months or so the silly-with-love feelings will start to fade and attachment sets in.

You experience surges of vasopressin and oxytocin, both bonding hormones that make you feel tied to a person, which sets you up for a life-long commitment.

Here’s the tricky part: These stages can come in any order. Love can start during any of them.

“Casual sex isn’t always casual,” Fisher says.

Having sex drives up the levels of dopamine, the romantic love hormone, leaving you primed to fall head over heels. On top of that, every time you orgasm, you’re delivered a surge of vasopressin and oxytocin, the attachment hormones.

So even if you just tell yourself it’s casual sex, you’re in real danger of becoming attached.

Is it any wonder hook-ups often end in complication, confusion and tears?

Fisher even thinks that men and women continue to hook up to unconsciously trigger those feelings of romance and bonding.

Tread carefully – you may end up more attached than you think.

After all, that’s exactly what happened to us….

Go on, spill your casual hook-up stories. Did it get messy? Did you get married? Or are you clever enough to steer well away from it unless you’re sure about a person?

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Author |

Writer, dating columnist, wife, coffee addict, foodie, fashionista... Melburnian through and through. Muser, dancer, blogger, tweeter. Likes to get her head on telly now and again. Sleeper, dreamer, a sucker for romance. And of course... a cheap date.


3 comments for “mX Column: Casual Sex? Not Always Casual.”

  1. Posted by natalie | August 20, 2010, 2:06 am

    i think i have the reverse affect. i have this guy who is waaaaaaaaaaay too attached.

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