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Extramarital Sex and the ‘Bonding Hormone’

Plus kissing your friends and a Roe Vs. Wade note from Dan in this week's Savage Love.

Probably not the most applicable photo... but look at this fuckin' guy!
Nikolas Noonan via Unsplash

Weekly deadlines being what they are, this column was written before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. We knew this was coming, thanks to the SCOTUS Leaker, but that didn’t make last week’s news any less devastating. (Who’s the leaker? My money’s on Ginni.) So, what can we do now? We can march, we can donate, and we can vote like the Right has been voting for 50 years, i.e., we can vote like judicial appointments matter. But if you want to do something right now that will piss off the people out there celebrating Dobbs, consider making a donation to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Actually, don’t just consider making a donation, do it right now: abortionfunds.org/donate.

This is going to be a long fight — and we’re not just in a fight to re-secure a woman’s right to control her own body, we’re in a fight to protect all the other rights social conservatives want to claw back, from the right of opposite-sex couples to use contraception to the right of same-sex couples to marry to everyone’s right to enjoy non-PIV sex. (When they say they want to overturn Lawrence v. Texas, which Clarence Thomas said in his concurrence, they’re not just talking about re-criminalizing gay sex but re-criminalizing a whole lot of straight sex; Lawrence overturned sodomy laws, and anything non-PIV meets the legal definition of sodomy.) If you live in a state where abortion became illegal overnight, you can find information on self-administered medication abortion—everything you need to know about M&Ms (mifepristone and misoprostol)—at plancpills.org.— Dan


My partner and I are a heterosexual couple with a large age gap. He is the older one, and our sex life is amazing. We’ve been talking about the idea of having me fuck a new guy for about four years.

However, because he is older and experienced more casual sex is his young adulthood, he felt it was only fair that I got to do that as well. (I was in my early 20s when we started our relationship and I’ve only been with two other guys.) At first, I told him I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything but over time, the more we talked about it, the more I realized I wanted to do this just for fun. And now we just got back from a vacation where I found a guy on a hookup app for a one-time meeting and (safely) fucked him while my partner watched. (He’s not a cuck and didn’t participate.) It was just plain fun for all of us! 

My question is about the “bonding hormone.” I’ve always heard that when a woman has sex, her body produces oxytocin, a hormone that causes her to emotionally attach to her sex partner. That has certainly been true for me in the past. But with this most recent fuck, I didn’t feel any emotional attachment at all! I’ve never had casual sex like this before, so I’m wondering if the “bonding hormone” only releases when you’re seeking an emotional attachment to a sex partner. Or did I fail to bond because my own partner was in the room? Honestly, I feel more bonded to my partner than ever now!

Curious Casual Newbie

For some guys—for some cucks, for some stags—watching the girlfriend with another guy is participating. So, the fact that your partner “only” watched isn’t proof that allowing you to hook up with another guy was pure altruism on his part.

As for your failure to romantically attach to that vacation rando…

“Oxytocin alone does not create the bond,” said Dr. Larry J. Young. “There are brain mechanisms that can inhibit bonding after sex with another individual.”

Dr. Young is a neuroscientist at Emory University, where he has extensively studied hormones and the roles they play in forming partner bonds.

“It’s not correct to think of oxytocin as the ‘bonding hormone,’ although you will see that frequently in the media,” said Dr. Young. “Oxytocin amplifies — amplifies in the brain — the face, the smell, the voice of the person an individual is having sex with, so the brain can really sense those intensively. But it is the interaction of oxytocin with dopamine, which creates the intense pleasure of sex, that causes the bond — that is, the combination of the pleasure (dopamine) and the senses of the sexual partner (oxytocin) create a bond with a sexual partner.”

And according to Dr. Young’s fascinating research—which focuses on prairie voles—you can safely enjoy all the pleasure/dopamine you want without fear of bonding with some rando, CCN, so long as your bond with your current partner remains strong.

“Once bonded, the pattern of dopamine receptors changes in the brain so that the occasional sex with another doesn’t create a new bond,” said Dr. Young. “One type of dopamine receptor helps create a bond and the other type inhibits. Unbonded individuals have more of the bonding type of dopamine receptors. After bonding, the inhibitory receptor become more prominent, thus inhibiting a new bond.”

Which means, CCN, it’s safe for you to have sex with other men—with or without your partner present—so long as you still feeling bonded to your primary partner, who may or may not be a cuck. (I mean “safe” in the unlikely-to-catch-feelings-for-someone else sense, not “safe” in the minimized-risk-of-STI-transmission sense.) There is, however, one important caveat…

“This may not work 100% of the time,” said Dr. Young. “If the bond to the first partner has faded, this reader’s experience may not be shared by everyone.”

To learn more about Dr. Young’s research, go to www.larryjyoung.com. 

I’m a dude. A woman friend of mine in an open marriage recently told me that a male friend of ours greets her by kissing her on the cheek. This is something he only does with her. She feels this happens because she’s physically intimate with someone in our friend group, who’s not her husband and that therefore my friend sees her as “publicly available.” 

I’ve personally heard this guy describe this woman friend of mine as “DTF.” I’ve known this guy for years and I just feel bad about the whole thing. The strangest thing is that this dude is in an open relationship himself and really should know better. It seems like he could be a lot less hypocritical and a lot more respectful. Do you think I should say something? How should I go about it? I’ve asked the friend he’s kissing, who is also a big fan of yours by the way, and she wants to be left out of this.

Bad At Creating Catchy Acronyms

Let’s say you say something, BACCA, but leave your woman friend out of it. The kind of guy who thinks a woman in an open relationship is sexually available to all — not just down to fuck, but down to fuck him — is the kind of guy who will interpret any ambiguity in an order to “stop” as license to keep doing exactly what he’s been doing. So, if you can’t tell this guy your mutual friend explicitly told you she 1. wants him to stop and 2. deputized you to tell him to stop, this dude is going to tell himself you were only guessing at how she feels (she doesn’t like this, she doesn’t want him) and that his guess (she likes it, she wants him) is as good a guess as yours. He may even play a little three-dimensional-pseudo-male-feminist chess and accuse you of being the sexist and controlling one — it’s her body, her cheek, you shouldn’t be speaking for her, etc.

To get this guy to stop without saying something to him herself, BACCA, your friend needs to give you the okay to make it abundantly clear that she deputized you to speak on her behalf. (“She asked me to tell you to knock it off, and now I’m telling you. Knock it off. If you don’t believe me, ask her.”) She’ll need to be prepared for the almost inevitable follow-up question (“Have I been making you uncomfortable!”) and the maudlin, self-pitying apologies (“I’m so sorry! I feel terrible!”) and/or rationalizations (“I was just being friendly!”) that are likely to follow.

And if he ever comes in for a kiss again, she needs to be ready to either use her words (“No. Don’t. Stop.”) and/or stick her hand out in front of her — not a hand held out for a shake (she doesn’t want him pulling her in for a kiss), but a flat hand that’s going to land on his sternum if he keeps coming toward her, with a stiff arm (lock that elbow!) so he can’t come any closer.

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