Socially Normal Sadness

'This growing division between liberalizing social norms on the one hand and ingrained emotional expectations on the other may account for some of the post-coital sadness. After all, depression is most often associated with feelings of disappointment when our expectations are not met. And this is all the more true of sex, which is itself an emotionally and physically charged activity.

The link between shifting social factors and psychological stress is not new. It has been well-documented that some males feel depressed about the changing gender roles in the work place and the fact that women are increasingly the breadwinners in traditional family structures. The changing nature of sexual habits therefore may also clash with traditional norms, thus increasing feelings of anxiety and disappointment when the behavior fails to live up to expectations...

When sex is abused as a drug – purely for pleasure – it creates a similar problem in the individual. Sexual arousal releases the hormone called prolactin, which in women is used to support a biological process – making milk. Men also produce the substance during sex. But when people constantly have sex for reasons other than procreation, the hormonal signals can get crossed. Prolactin gets released in the blood stream to counteract the stimulative hormones released during arousal, and could therefore be responsible for feelings of depression.

When that happens, normal sex begins to lose its luster. At first, like a new stick of chewing gum, it tastes fresh. But the more you chew it, the less flavorful it becomes. After a while it loses any value altogether, and it gets discarded. This feeling of declining worth from so much casual use may well account for some of the post-intercourse depression. If so, a return to more traditional living based on common sense and moral values can help cure us of these strange ills.'

- Armstrong Williams, 'Socially Normal Sadness.'


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