Love. Biology. Are the two things as diametrically opposed as, say, god and science, or art and industry? Love is spiritual, Mom approved, an end-goal all humans strive for. The biological aspect of love—sex—is carnal, frowned upon except inside society’s constraints, and well, an end-goal all humans strive for.
It’s a topic I try to tackle from the female point of view in my third novel, Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe. My middle-aged heroine Mira is dedicated to a long-term marriage, but troubled by her very, well, healthy libido, a concept rather risqué these days. We’re conditioned to think of sexual women as the “Girls Gone Wild” set (who always seem more like victims to me than young women in pursuit of something of value for themselves). Consequently, some have a hard time reconciling that women who look like our mothers, our aunts, and now, US, may love the physical act as well as the love.
Of course, most women I know would say that it’s preferable for love to precede sex, but that’s not actually how it works. The chemical state known as infatuation comes first, that phase during which two humans subconsciously perform molecular research to determine biological viability of each other as mates. Yes. We like the way he smells, the way he smiles, the way he takes our arm because deep in our brain we sense that he is packing enough testosterone to both produce offspring and protect them. What is kissing after all but a way to get close enough to smell and taste the merchandise? What causes the zip zap zoom of our hearts (and other regions) when we do partake in that first kiss? Pheromones. Hormones. Brain activity, neurons firing, whispering, “Yes, yes, he’s the one.” The first blush of love, the thing that feels magical, is chemical.
But biology does not negate love. Far from it. Biology just turns on the faucet through which we can experience the emotional, physical, and spiritual connection with another. A year or so of that, and your brain concentrates more on producing the bonding chemicals that keep you and your beloved committed to each other. Biology at that point is more important than ever: through repeated physical closeness, we swap the bonding chemicals of vasopressin and oxytocin. Too much time apart, too much time without physical love, and we feel separate from rather than attached to. We “fall” out of love, we lead separate lives, we “grow” apart.
So, while sex—or biology—doesn’t not necessarily require love, love, it seems, requires biology. And that's good news for those of us, like Mira, who love the act of love.