Written by Drake Baer for New York Magazine. Originally published November 1st, 2016.
One of the main questions in life is: Why is sex so good? According to a new review paper, it’s because sex — like dance, yoga, and other body-based pleasures — is rhythmic, and that rhythm has a way of uniting and heightening the senses.
Authored by Northwestern University researcher Adam Safron and published in Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology, the paper argues that intercourse can be such a magical experience because of “entrainment,” which is a fancy way of saying that it gets your brain, sensory, and bodily systems all rowing in the same sexy direction. What happens in the run-up to orgasm, he argues, is what goes on in most ecstatic experiences (consider how a “beat drops” in your favorite new disco anthem). Rhythmic perception and action lead you to attend more to the stimuli that’s turning you on, leading to greater enjoyment, and greater attendance, making for “further enhancing entrainment, thus creating a positive feedback cycle of deepening sexual absorption,” he writes.
It’s not enough to call this increased arousal or pleasure: A better way to understand the way people can lose their sense of selves during the act of sex is with trance, the same way that you might feel a sense of absorption on a particularly good night of dancing, a particularly strenuous yoga session, a particularly deep meditation, or a particularly satisfying run. “Intensely focusing on immediate sensations — such as those produced by rhythmic stimulation — is likely to reduce the amount of mental capacity available for other things,” Safron writes, like ruminative self-narratives, wondering about what could have been, or generally having your mind someplace other than where you currently are. “Such an experience of sensate focusing and altered self-processing may be most appropriately referred to as a kind of trance state,” he writes. “If this trance occurs in the context of another individual who is similarly absorbed, then it could potentially contribute to feelings of connectedness along with the expansion of self-other boundaries.”
To read more about why sex is so good, head over to the original article!