Why are some people so adamant in their stance about virginity and abstinence? Why do some people vow to never have sex before marriage? Though the answers to these questions vary, including religious beliefs and fear of creating a family unprepared, the main reason that pops up in my head is simple: oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone released during sex, especially, and other acts of intimacy including hugging, cuddling and kissing; it is released by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland, which is located at the lower end of the brain. Oxytocin is also referred to as the “cuddle hormone” because our bodies release it when we cuddle or experience any other type of intimate contact. According to a 2009 study published in the Hormones and Behavior Journal, even gazing into your dog’s eyes can increase oxytocin levels in your body. So how does this “cuddle hormone” affect us and our relationships?
Oxytocin is a key hormone released when you have sex. Dr. Arun Ghosh, a general practitioner who currently specializes in sexual health at the Spire Liverpool Hospital, says that oxytocin lets down our guard and makes us trust each other more. So when two people have sex, both bodies release considerable amounts of oxytocin, allowing the two to become more intimate and open with each other. This particular hormone, in addition to allowing more intimacy and access between people, is responsible also for bonding. The release of oxytocin in the presence of another person causes you to bond with that person, whether you want to or not. It boosts levels of empathy for each other, further contributing to the bonding and trusting that oxytocin causes between two people.
Even though oxytocin is a hormone found and commonly released in every human body, the problem with the production of oxytocin kicks in when you share acts of intimacy, particularly sex, with people whom you aren’t expecting to bond with emotionally. Your body produces and releases oxytocin without distinguishing who your sexual partner is; your body cannot tell a one night stand apart from your wedding night in terms of hormone production. What this means is that you will emotionally bond to a person whose name you don’t even know as much as you do to your spouse. So even though this “cuddle hormone” can help you to further bond and share intimacy with your significant other, it can also cause you to become attached to someone from a short-lived relationship.
A study found that oxytocin plays a role not only in bonding but also in maintaining relationships, if the relationship is meant to be more than a casual fling. In the experiment, men in relationships who were sprayed with oxytocin via nasal spray stayed farther away from an attractive woman than men in relationships who weren’t sprayed. When the oxytocin spray was administered on single men, the hormone seemed to have no effect, suggesting that oxytocin can help boost faithfulness in men who already have women to whom they are bonded.
If you are not affiliated with a religion that demands sexual abstinence or are not afraid of STDs and unexpected babies, oxytocin may be your reason for keeping your virginity until marriage. After all, who wants to feel the pain of withdrawing from a relationship or the lack of intimacy with a future spouse?