Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sex & Stress

I found an old paper that I wrote while I was in college. I hope you enjoy:

The idea that sex and stress are related shouldn't sound as strange as it does. At first thought it seems like the two should cancel each other out. Sex, to most, is the most soothing, calming, relieving act that human beings can engage in. It’s like a mixture of a good yawn, a great message, that feeling just before you sneeze, and that tingle that a man gets at the end of a tinkle. Stress on the other hand is the inability to cope with a perceived or real threat to one’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well being which results in a series of physiological responses and adaptations: The exact opposite of sex. The trick is not finding where the relationship between sex and stress lies (no pun intended), the trick is finding out if the relationship is negative or positive. There is evidence to support both.

The positives are easy to identify and relate to. Hardly known to many, sex is good for your heart. Besides being a good cardiovascular work out (depending on how you go about things), sex protects the heart. According to a study of 918 men done by Duke University, men who reported the most frequent orgasms had slightly less than half the risk of death as other men, particularly from coronary heart disease. In fact, there appears to be a dose response relationship between orgasm and risk of death from coronary heart disease, according to their researchers. By increasing the number of his orgasms to 100 per year, a man may actually reduce his risk of death by heart disease by about 36 percent. A similar study by Duke University also found that women who said they enjoyed sexual contact also appeared to lower their risk of death from coronary heart disease. Besides what the studies reveal, sex, as a release of stressful, pent-up frustrations is a healthy relief exercise. Unfortunately, only truly mentally & emotionally stable people seem to be able to use sex as a means of relief or release from stress. When sex is mixed with mentally & emotionally unhealthy people or situations it could be lastingly and/or temporarily disastrous. Performance standards for sexual partners are are huge sources of stress in the bedroom; usually, because the standards are unrealistically set by the media. How sexual standards and individual expectations may create stressful situation for a couple may look something like this:
Meka threw a surprise party for her husband Donell when he turned 40. They danced and drank until 2:00am and fell into bed exhausted and exhilarated. Meka changed into a sexy teddy that she’d bought for the occasion. She then proceeded to do a slow, sensuous dance as she approached the bed. Donell was ready to get his freak on. Meka knew she was about to get her back banged out. As the years went by, Meka made every effort to relax, forget outside pressures, and focus on their lovemaking, but she was never able to be the freaky-deaky lover that Donell expected her to be. Donell was touched by Meka’s effort. He was delighted at Meka’s sensuality and told himself that tonight he would break her off something proper. However, after an hour of cuddling and foreplay, Donell had to give up in despair. “Sorry, baby,” he said, “I guess the alcohol must have taken over.”
“You don’t find me attractive anymore, do you? I saw how you looked at Shante tonight!” shrieked Meka. Donell was horrified. “I never looked at another woman since I married you. If you could just learn to relax and stop thinking about everything….”
“Oh, you’re saying this is my fault! Are you blaming this on me??” Hollered Meka. You can sort of guess where it goes from here.

In this scenario, a typical couple turns their sex life into a stress life. Not only is each partner worried about performing to a certain level, but also both are deeply affected by each other’s stress. Stress causes women to have far more interest in sleep than sex and can actually inhibit their ability to become aroused and/or reach orgasm. On top of that, when they are uninterested in sex or non-responsive to sex, it puts an added stress on the relationship. When you’re stressed, sex isn’t even a blip on the radar screen. When the stress goes unresolved and becomes a further distraction, sex becomes just another thing that is expected of you. A key way to avoid this from happening is to talk to your partner about your stress. More than likely, your partner understands the stress that you are under. Talking with each other can act as a release itself and can help you both rearrange you priorities. It is crucial for a couple to share the concerns of performance anxiety, work related stress, and sharing domestic duties. The only way to unearth buried concerns that promote stress is to talk about them.

For a more biological outlook, the body’s process for stress management starts with an emergency perceived by the cerebral cortex. This alerts the Hypothalamus that enacts the pituitary gland, which activates the adrenal gland that releases the stress hormone called Cortisol. This is an average everyday occurrence and it happens in side of our body everyday. The problem lies when the stress level of an individual become so high that there are increased levels of Cortisol in the blood system. Besides putting the individual at risk for developing Progeria, or rapid aging, it has an adverse affect on the sexual activities of a person. According to Russell Fernald, a Neurobiologist at Stanford University, individuals who were the least stressed out and had the lowest blood Cortisol levels, were more sexually active, satisfied, and dominant.

According to the research and findings of many, sex and stress are definitely connected. As most things that are physically, emotionally, mentally connected, it can be used or perceived as a positive or a negative. Ultimately it hinges on the attitude and ideology of the people involved to decide if the connection is going to be productive or counter productive. But that's just my opinion though, and who the hell am I?

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