More and more couples are having sex before forming a deep emotional bond, and now new research shows that sex before emotional intimacy can help jumpstart romantic relationships and forge important connections between partners.
A series of four studies were conducted by researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel and the University of Rochester who examined the roles sex and desire play in the early stages of relationships.
According to the studies, sexual desire drives people to connect with the people they’re attracted to in non-sexual ways.
“Sex may set the stage for deepening the emotional connection between strangers,” said Gurit Birnbaum, the lead author of the study, in a University of Rochester news article. “This holds true for both men and women. Sex motivates human beings to connect, regardless of gender.”
There are limitations to the studies as the researchers only focused on heterosexual couples, but the results showed that gender made no difference in the desire to initiate relationships when sexually aroused.
The studies were published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and the researchers found that sexual arousal creates opportunities for both men and women to form deeper connections.
The first study had 36 women and 22 men face a partner of the opposite sex that they had never met.
The participants didn’t realize that their partner was actually a researcher in the study. Once the participants were paired up, they were asked to lip sync to a song with their partner and later rate how desirable they thought their partner was.
The more attracted a participant was to their partner, the more likely they were to use non-verbal clues showing their interest in a potential relationship like getting close to their partners, matching their partner’s movements and frequently making eye contact.
For the second study, 38 women and 42 men slow danced with a partner. The more attracted the participants were, the more likely they were to sync up their movements with their dance partner.
The third study had participants watch a screen on which non-pornographic but erotic images subliminally flashed for 30 milliseconds at a time. This activated the sexual system, according to the researchers.
After watching the images, the researchers paired the participants up with members of the opposite sex and the participants were asked to share interpersonal dilemmas with their partner.
These discussions were recorded and later judged based on how caring and responsive each participant was toward their partner.
The fourth study asked 50 men and 50 women watch either an erotic movie scene or a video about rainforests in South America.
After watching the videos, the participants were again paired up with an inside researcher and asked to help with a verbal reasoning task.
The participants that had watched the erotic movie were more willing to help their partners with the task compared to the participants that watched the rainforest video.
“Sexual desire may play a causally important role in the development of relationships,” said Birnbaum. “It’s the magnetism that holds partners together long enough for an attachment bond to form.”