What is sexual chemistry? It’s a hard concept to define and yet, the best way to describe it is “you know it when you feel it.” It’s unmistakable for those who’ve experienced this feeling of an electric spark and instant attraction. It's that desire to (consensually) make out with or rip the pants off someone you’ve locked eyes with from across the club dance floor. Or that unexpected shock that hits your senses when you brush arms with the hottie sitting next to you on the metro.
But putting the all-consuming passion aside, how can we truly define this intangible force of attraction? Let’s delve a bit deeper into the science behind sexual chemistry, and better understand if this is a factor in sustaining a lasting relationship.
Sexual Chemistry, Defined
Sexual chemistry is quite elusive. With so many different terms and labels being used to identify attractions and orientations, it can be difficult to understand what constitutes a "sexual" connection between two people. Does it have to involve physical attraction? Or can a connection founded on emotional intimacy be just as powerful?
For instance, a sapiosexual is someone who is primarily attracted to intelligence and has a deep appreciation for conversations and ideas. For sapiosexuals, the intellectual connection is the most important part of their attraction and the physical is secondary. They are drawn to people who can stimulate their minds and engage in stimulating conversations.
On the other hand, someone who is greysexual and biromantic is someone who often experiences little or no sexual attraction, but may still occasionally feel an emotional or romantic connection to someone. They may find themselves more drawn to the emotional and intellectual aspects of a relationship than the physical.
What Causes Sexual Chemistry?
Sexual chemistry essentially stems from lust, a desire for sexual gratification. The brain’s hypothalamus influences the production of the hormones testosterone and estrogen. This drives our feelings of sexual desire.
When we are attracted to someone, our brains release high levels of “feel good” hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Feeling sexual chemistry, strong attraction or mutual lust can send these chemicals into overdrive, lighting up our brains.
Additional causes of sexual chemistry can include:
- Biological factors: Physical appearance, hormone levels, pheromones (chemical substances produced and released by animals, including humans, to stimulate other individuals of the same species)
- Social factors: How similar someone looks to what you've been taught is attractive (via cultural beauty standards)
- Developmental factors: Whether someone reminds you of an earlier pleasurable experience or someone/something familiar or comforting
How Attachment Styles Affect Us
Falling for someone and having great sexual chemistry can sometimes be connected to past attachments, these forms of attachments are something Quanna has previously explored with our experts interview series. From the way we approach relationships to the way we handle conflict, our attachment style can have a major influence on how we experience our romantic relationships and even our sexual chemistry with our partners. Attachment styles are formed in childhood and are based on our interactions with our primary caregivers. Secure attachment is the ideal, when we feel like we can rely on our caregivers for love, support, and understanding. Insecure attachment, on the other hand, is when we feel like our caregivers are not reliable or safe. These negative attachments can lead to difficulties in trusting and connecting with others in adulthood.
When it comes to sexual chemistry, our attachment styles can affect the way we approach intimacy with our partners. Securely attached people may feel more comfortable expressing their feelings and desires to their partners, while insecurely attached people may feel more guarded and unwilling to open up and be vulnerable. Securely attached people may also be more likely to trust their partners and feel less anxious, making it easier for them to feel relaxed and connected during sex, while insecurely attached people may feel more suspicious and worried, which can lead to a more guarded approach and reduce emotional and physical connection.
In addition, our attachment style can also affect the type of people we are drawn to. Securely attached people may be more drawn to people who are open, honest, and reliable, while those with insecure attachments may be drawn to people who are unpredictable, unreliable, and unresponsive, potentially leading to unhealthy relationships.
Attachment styles of course can evolve over time. This progress can be made with awareness, communication, intention, and the openness to heal and grow into a more secure attachment.
Is Sexual Chemistry Important for a Relationship?
Ultimately, it’s up to each individual couple to decide what works for them. Some may find that maintaining strong sexual chemistry is essential for their relationship, while others may not place as much emphasis on it in order to have a stable and loving relationship.
The better question is if sexual chemistry is a must for you in your relationship. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you determine whether or not sexual chemistry is important for you in a relationship:
How Can Sexual Intimacy Be Cultivated?
The cultivation of sexual intimacy is a complex, yet rewarding endeavor. It requires both individuals to be open, honest, and willing to explore new boundaries when it comes to intimacy. Many relationships lack sexual intimacy for a variety of reasons, but with some effort and understanding, it can be restored. Here are some tips for cultivating sexual intimacy within your relationship.
Open & Honest Communication
One of the most important aspects of creating a sexually intimate relationship is open and honest communication. Be unabashedly vocal before and especially during sex with your partner about your needs and desires. You might say: “Keep doing that!”, “It feels so good when you..”, “Can we add more lube?”
Explore each other's love language daily in little ways that build up – we all like a bit of foreplay, right? Give genuine compliments, simple touches, and grazes, and take some time to just cuddle and kiss (without it needing to lead to sex, ironically enough). Make the effort to flirt with each other as well! Unfortunately in many relationships, flirting doesn’t go much further past the initial dating stages. This is, in part, what causes a relationship to get stagnant and for the sexual chemistry to die. This can be an “accidental” brush-up against them or a bit of a cheeky texting situation.
Explore New Things
Exploring new things can help to spice up your sex life and create new experiences together. Talk about what you and your partner are interested in and consider trying something new. This could include role-playing, using sex toys, or experimenting with different positions.