One popular dating advice website has published what it calls the “Sexual Readiness Checklist.” It is amazingly complex, reflective of the complex nature of intimate relations between people. At the core of the checklist are 31 different items for a young person to consider before getting intimate with their partner. As an example, one says, “I can handle being disappointed, confused, or upset, as can my partner…” I wonder if the readers of the checklist truly understand exactly how “disappointed, confused, or upset” they may end up being, if they truly understood what was about to happen to their person in any sexual encounter (save one, to be covered later).
The National Institute for Sexual Health published a landmark book several years ago. This group had previously studied the impact of early unplanned pregnancies and STIs on sexual health. This time they took an entirely different approach; they studied what sex itself does to the person. They published a book called Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children (Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush, available in our bookstore) which reveals, as they put it, “startling new information on how sex affects our brains…we do know that sex can literally change a person’s brain, influencing the thought process and affecting future decisions.”
In other words, there is something so intense happening when two people engage in sex that it profoundly influences who we are from that point forward. When we consider possible disappointment, confusion, and upset, I do not know if anyone could be prepared for the potential relational problems that await the person who chooses poorly when it comes to sex.
Some of the most interesting research in the book deals with chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin. These chemicals bathe our brain during sexual intimacy and have a powerful influence on our relationships and behavior. Continue reading Ready For Sex?