Understanding how your body works will help you understand why some things feel good, where our moods come from and why we do the things we do. Unfortunately we are really only beginning to understand just how complex our bodies are in terms of our body chemistry and how everything inside us really works. Hormones play a key role with regard to moods and sex so I’m including a brief overview of what is currently known about this subject in relation to sex. We still don’t know, as of this writing, just how many hormones there are or what, exactly, they do.
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by various glands in your body and transmitted through the bloodstream to various organs and tissues on which they have a regulatory effect. There are several different glands producing a number of different hormones that affect a wide variety of organs and cells in your body. The way your body uses and reacts to hormones are the reason, for example, when you get angry, depressed or happy you stay that way for awhile; because they are still in your system affecting your mood until they get “cleaned up”.
Estrogen is a generic term for any of the female sex hormones including but not limited to: estradiol, estriol and estrone. These hormones are produced in the ovary, adrenal cortex, testes (yes men, you make estrogen too) and fetoplacental unit. They are responsible for secondary sexual characteristic development and maintenance such as breasts, rounded hips and those characteristics you think of as “feminine”. They also promote the growth and maturation of long bones like those in your arms and legs and are responsible for estrus.
Estrogen is closely linked with a woman’s well being; depression and anxiety affect women more often in their estrogen producing years than men or women in their post-menopausal years. Estrogen is also linked to mood disruptions that affect only women such as premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and post-partum depression. We still don’t really understand how estrogen affects moods, only that there is a link.
Beginning at puberty a woman’s ovaries begin releasing estrogen in a monthly cycle that coordinates with her period. At mid cycle estrogen spikes triggering the release of an egg then falls just as quickly. Over the month the amount of estrogen will rise and fall gradually. This is how the birth control pill works, by changing the amount of estrogen in a woman’s body to “convince” it that it’s pregnant so it won’t release a new egg.
Estrogen acts everywhere in the body including parts of the brain to control mood, this is part of the reason why men produce it too. The known affects of estrogen include: increasing the amount of serotonin and serotonin receptors in the brain, modifying the production of endorphins in the brain and protecting nerves from damage and possibly promoting nerve growth.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter; it carries signals along and between nerves, it is also thought to be a hormone. It’s commonly regarded as a chemical that affects mood balance with a lack of serotonin causing depression, or it may be that depression causes a lack of this hormone. Serotonin may affect mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function. Low serotonin levels caused by intoxication can contribute to an increase in libido, in other words; getting drunk makes you horny because it lowers serotonin levels in the brain.
Endorphins are also neurotransmitters and also, probably, hormones. There are over twenty different kinds of endorphins, they can prompt or suppress certain signals along the nervous system. Opiates such as heroin, morphine and opium are similar to endorphins and mimic their ability to suppress pain signals. While endorphins block pain they are also responsible for our feelings of pleasure, it’s thought that they do this to help us to know when we’ve had enough of a good thing and to desire that thing in the future. This is why, for example, opiates are so addicting as is any activity that causes a rush of endorphins to the brain.
The majority of your emotions and memories are handled by the limbic system of your brain. The hypothalamus, within the limbic system, is the region of your brain that controls a range of functions including; breathing, hunger, emotional response and sexual satisfaction. The limbic system also contains a large number of opioid receptors. If everything is working correctly, when opioids reach the limbic system you will experience a surge of euphoria.
The hypothalamus is like the command and control center of your brain. It maintains an awareness of every part of your central nervous system and releases hormones to make adjustments to other portions of your body.
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, it’s also a steroid. It is produced primarily by the testes in men and, to a lesser extent, the ovaries of a woman. It is responsible for producing secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle and bone mass and body hair, the things you think of as “masculine”. Testosterone is necessary for normal sperm development and it also regulates acute Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis response under dominance challenge. You know that phrase “dick measuring contest”? Yeah, testosterone regulates that.
During sexual arousal and orgasm an increase in the amount of testosterone is released into a woman’s system by her gonads, semen also contains this hormone and will enter a woman’s system through her vagina during intercourse. It has been attributed with positive sexual response and relaxation in women. During orgasm both males and females get a surge of oxytocin and this is the only time that male’s oxytocin levels rival those of a female.
In men higher levels of testosterone are associated with increased sexual activity, they are also shown to rise when simply talking to a sexually desirable person and when watching sexually explicit movies, peaking sometime around 60 to 90 minutes after the end of the film. Men also report increased motivation, competitiveness, and decreased exhaustion during periods of heightened testosterone levels.
In women, increases in testosterone will tend to result in an increased sex drive and women who have a higher baseline of testosterone will tend to show more sexual aggressiveness but will also show less of an increase in testosterone levels from sexual activity. A continuous increase in vaginal sexual arousal may result in increased genital sensations and a stronger sexual desire. So, in other words, if a woman has more vaginal orgasms she will be able to have more orgasms more easily and she will want to have even more sex.
Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction in both sexes and childbirth. It is released in women by stretching of the cervix and uterus during childbirth and with manipulation of the nipples during breastfeeding. It helps with birth, bonding with the baby and milk production. It is also released during orgasm and is, in part, the cause of social bonding after sex. It also modulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity which will cause males to become less aggressive towards each other. Oxytocin produces anti-depressant like effects; it is the “feel-good” hormone.
What I want you to take away from this chapter is an understanding of just how similar men and women actually are. Hormonally we’re almost identical with just a few variations that account for certain behaviors. Also I wanted you to understand why it is that making a woman insatiable is achieved through excessive numbers of orgasms whereas making a male insatiable is achieved through preventing orgasm. Women often enjoy having their nipples played with because doing so releases oxytocin, which is the same hormone that helps us bond through sex.
In any event I hope you now have a better understanding of how your body works and I hope that this will help you to have better relationships, improved understanding of your mate and, of course, incredible sex.