Vasopressin and Early Sex: Does Timing Affect Love?

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In this installment from my ‘Ask Me Anything’ series, which you can find on my social media channels, I delve into the topic of sex and pair-bonding.

“Do you believe having sex too soon squashes vasopressin in men, and does that affect their likelihood of falling in love?”

I want to start with the second half of this question: Mostly no. 

I don’t think that having sex too soon interferes with the pair-bonding experience. I’m sure it can for some men if they have sex before an emotional connection is present, but I would bet that these are a minority. For most, having sex early on could simply be the result of a strong attraction and good chemistry, both of which are necessary for pair-bonding.

As for vasopressin, my educated guess is that early sex could improve the likelihood of “falling in love” due to the surge of vasopressin that happens in men after they ejaculate. In this context, the entire purpose of vasopressin is to nudge the man towards developing an unconscious selective preference for the woman.

There are genetic influences here, as some people have SNPs in the vasopressin receptor gene which can impact social behavior and pair-bonding receptivity. But, you’ll never know what someone’s genetics are on the first few dates. Also, genetics is just one part of the complex equation that is love.

I also want to talk about women too. In our case, oxytocin is the pair-bonding love hormone, and it’s released in large amounts when we have emotionally connected and fulfilling sex, and especially when we orgasm.

Now, since most women, unfortunately, don’t orgasm from penetration alone and could even engage in sex without an emotional bond, it’s unlikely that meaningful amounts of oxytocin will be released and cause pair-bonding. Seriously, I get good laughs when men online claim that women are ruined if they aren’t virgins on their wedding night. 

Once again, there is a genetic component to oxytocin in women (how much is released; how receptive you are to its effects; etc.). But, there’s also a huge environmental influence. That is, the context surrounding the sex. Emotional closeness, mutual attraction (chemistry), and a sense of security can enhance the bonding experience. When women feel valued and respected by their partner, the release of oxytocin can be more pronounced, leading to stronger emotional attachments.

Just remember that human relationships are complex and influenced by many factors, including emotional readiness, individual values, beliefs, and personal experiences. While vasopressin may play a role, it is just one piece of the puzzle in understanding how and when people fall in love.

Final note: I’m not a purist regarding sex early in a relationship because I don’t think it really impacts the trajectory of a relationship outside of pushing into some beliefs. If a man believes that a woman who has sex early is not wife material, no amount of bonding will override him cutting you off. Which, in my brain, means that he’s not suited for you anyway.

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