Question: “You want sex? Now??”

The more stressed I am, the more I want sex. Want it to the point where I can find repeated statements in my journal to the effect that I felt I needed sex. Not comfort, not conversation, not food, not sleep. Sex. Which many people I know consider rather strange. “How can you want sex at a time like this?” is a question I was asked recently, and not for the first time.

I’ve noticed a correlation between my drive for sex and my exposure to stress, especially that very un-sexy form of stress relating to death and dying. Given that in the past three years there have been five cancer diagnoses, two non-cancer related catastrophic illnesses, two deaths, and one impending death in my family, as well as my tendency to write down my thoughts and experiences, I’ve got a wealth of anecdotal material chronicling my responses to this sort of stress. And my response is usually: “Let’s fuck!”

When I examine it from psychological perspective it makes a lot of sense: sex is the exercise of the procreative urge and thus the antithesis of death. It is an affirmation of life. From a biological standpoint, sex stimulates the release of four important molecules responsible for feelings of bliss: dopamine, anandamide, endorphins, and oxytocin. Now, when you’re sad, stressed, and anxious, doctors are always eager to offer anti-depressants, mood-elevators, and anti-anxiety meds, but I’ve found that none of them work so well as that hormonal cocktail my body releases when I’ve had a really good session in the bedroom (or the bathroom, or the kitchen, or the beach, or… or…).

In some ways, I’m an orgasm-junkie. When I’m mad at my partner and my adrenaline is flowing, I want to fuck. Lets get some of that oxytocin and serotonin and vasopressin flowing as well. Frustrated at work? I take a break in my car or the ladies room for a quick release and almost instantaneous attitude adjustment. Sad? There’s nothing like a lover’s hands and eyes and voice to raise my spirits, make me feel loved and desired. Generally stressed? I want to lose myself in a world of pleasure and sensation and I seek it out as soon as I am able.

Now, as I’ve been researching the issue of Sex and Stress (see related articles below), I’ve noticed a lot of articles, reports, and blog posts stating that stress suppresses sex drive in men and women alike — which struck me as very odd. While I know I’m different in my own subtle ways, I am not a mutant freak of nature. So why is it that I turn to masturbation, intercourse, etc — self-soothing as my therapist used to call it — when everyone else seems to dry up to the point that sex seems to be the furthest thing on their minds?

The answer, I think, is that for most people, sex itself is stressful. Which totally sucks. The best stress-reliever in the world, the best source of bliss, well-being, and contentment drugs in the world — the act of making love with someone — is stressful for most people. Which makes me sad, and is a primary motivator for the erotic work I do: trying to make sex something positive in a society for which sexual self-expression has so many negative connotations.

There is a lot of material out there about how to deal with stress interfering with your sex life, but not so much out there about how to deal with feeling stressed about sex itself. Other than popping viagra or cialis, of course. Perhaps it is because there is a unspoken agreement that people should feel stressed about sex? I don’t know.

What I do know is that sex is natural, desire is natural, and the desire for sex is natural. Sex produces a wide range of positive biochemical effects in people. And it is a great stress-reliever in and of itself. So the next time someone asks you “You want sex now? At a time like this?” say “Hell yeah!” and head for the nearest bed.