Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘prehistoric origins’

The other day I was listening to the awesome Sex Nerd Sandra podcast and she was talking with guest Dr. Christopher Ryan, the co-author of an  interesting book on human sexuality called Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality [the paperback is called Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships].  Basically the theory is that we human animals have a million years of sexual and social behavior that’s been hard-coded into our bodies and brains, with just a thousand year thin layer of “modern” notions of sexual and social behavior trying — often unsuccessfully — to paper over our natures.  If you’ve never listened to her podcast this is a great one to sample (though she’s got a wide variety of topic and show-styles outside of this interview show).

Among the many topics he touched on was one that kinda blew me away… and really hit home.  Basically he said studies have shown that birth control pills tend to suppress the chemical responses in women that draw them to particular men as mates… and also supress similar chemical responses in women that repel them away from particular men as mates.  After listening to the show I Googled up an article he published in 2010 about the topic (How the Pill Could Ruin Your Life), and here are some of the key things he brought up:

“In 1995, Swiss biological researcher Claus Wedekind published the results of what is now known as the “Sweaty Tee Shirt Experiment.”  He asked women to sniff T-shirts men had been wearing for a few days, with no perfumes, soaps, or showers. Wedekind found, and subsequent research has confirmed, that most of the women were attracted to the scent of men whose major histocompatibility complex (MHC) differed from her own. This preference makes genetic sense in that the MHC indicates the range of immunity to various pathogens. Children born of parents with different immunities are likely to benefit from a broader, more robust immune response themselves.”

“The problem is that women taking birth control pills don’t seem to show the same responsiveness to these male scent cues. Women who were using birth control pills chose men’s T-shirts randomly or, even worse, showed a preference for men with similar immunity to their own.”

Consider the implications. Many couples meet when the woman is on the pill. They go out for a while, like each other a lot, and then decide to get together and have a family. She goes off the pill, gets pregnant, and has a baby. But her response to him changes. There’s something about him she finds irritating-something she hadn’t noticed before.

Now, I think it takes a lot more to make and break up marriages than pheromones and whether someone is on the pill or off, but I’m also a firm believer that biochemical reactions in our bodies and brains drive a lot more behavior than most of us realize.  What blew me away though was that this was weirdly the perfect answer to what had been a rather perplexing ending to my marriage.

My ex and I had a really long, on-and-off-again relationship before we got eventually got married.  I was always under the impression that there was plenty of love between the two of us, but once we had our two kids (nearly back-to-back) it was like a light switched off with her, and everything I said, did, didn’t say, or didn’t do annoyed the shit out of her.  Built up over time, it was pretty impossible to stay together.

In the aftermath, trying to make sense of things and learn Life Lessons from it, I cooked up several theories that I thought did a pretty good job of explaining What Went Wrong… but none of them easily “fit” as a good answer.  That’s okay– life’s complicated, people are complicated.  Sometimes you can’t explain everything.

But… our relationship prior to children, which spanned about 11 years of-and-on, while up and down certainly did not seem to lack passion and love.  I’m pretty sure she was on the pill that whole time.  Stopped taking the pill to have kids… and everything went to hell between us.

Both my heart and brain tells me that such a simple answer can’t be right, but then I think of Occam’s Razor, the pill + bio-chemical responses… and damn if it doesn’t seem to fit what happened much better than my other theories.

I know there are things we could have done — should have done — differently that might have made a difference, but I find it both fascinating and appealing to think that perhaps our bodies just weren’t bio-chemically compatible all along, and we just didn’t know it until we wanted to have kids together.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: