Sunday, June 05, 2005

Female Pleasure 2

Following my previous post on the purpose of female pleasure, my attention has been drawn (by this post in the Now Economy blog) to a piece of research (pdf) that suggests that oxytocin increases trusting behaviour. (The Now Economy blog raises important questions about the reseach method for measuring trusting behaviour, but I'm not going to address these questions here.)

Oxytocin has often been cited as a mechanism linking female pleasure to a range of social and biological effects.
  • Oxytocin is an altruistic hormone, a love hormone (Michael Odent)
  • Oxytocin deficiency enhances stress, obesity and psychotic behavior, impairs cognitive functions and increases breast-cancer risk. (Wai Says)
Now if sexual pleasure makes you trust people, then POSIWID suggests that this may be a secondary purpose of sex. We may then intervene in this causal pattern by abstaining prior to those activities where we wish to remain guarded. (For example, sportsmen are often temporarily separated from their bedmates before a major event.) This kind of intervention is similar to that of Ulysses and the Sirens, brilliantly analysed by Jon Elster.

Meanwhile Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson argue that conventional sex tends to over-stimulate the pleasure/reward center deep within the brain. Over time, this leads to subconscious defensiveness and emotional distance between partners. Once uneasiness enters an intimate relationship, the bond between the partners tends to weaken, ultimately producing less oxytocin. In their view, biology's agenda unravels relationships over time despite oxytocin's bonding properties, and they advocate alternative practices that maintain and increase oxytocin between partners - in other words, intervening to subvert what they believe to be biology's agenda.

So now we have two theories. One in which the quantity of trust depends on the quantity of oxytocin, and one in which the quantity of oxytocin depends on the quantity of trust.

If we can't tell which is the effect, and which the cause, then POSIWID becomes a spiral.

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