We know it to be true of cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate and a plethora of other substances, but is it really possible to be "addicted" to another human being? Author and sexual purity expert Dannah Gresh thinks so. In a recent op-ed for CNN, she describes the emotional dangers young people face when they lead promiscuous lifestyles. In discussing the increasing culture of "casual sex," she writes:
Just like the hippie culture found a pill that conveniently removed the “inconvenience” of pregnancy, today’s hookup culture believes it has found a recipe for removing the inconvenience of emotion: friends with benefits.
Scientifically, though, that’s impossible. We know that thanks to what neuroscientists have learned about a walnut-sized mass in the brain called the deep limbic system.
The deep limbic system stores and classifies odor, music, symbols and memory. In other words, it’s a place for romance, capable of processing a splash of cologne on your lover’s neck, a particular iPod playlist or a bouquet of red roses.
While many young people claim that they can have sex without feeling a personal connection to their partner, Gresh
says that's impossible. This "hook up culture," as she calls it, ignores the inherent connections sex creates and, as a result, can actually lead to emptiness and pain:
Here’s where the hookup culture starts to be a problem. What happens if you get caught up in the friends-with-benefits-game and have multiple partners? What happens when the partners you’ve become addicted and bonded to are gone?
You experience withdrawal symptoms in the emotional center of the brain.
According to Gresh, young women are particularly susceptible to depression when the "source of their addiction" no longer wants to have casual sex. According to The Heritage Foundation, "...25.3% of sexually active teenage girls experienced depression, compared to 7.7% of sexually abstinent girls." The suicide rate is also much higher among sexually-active girls.
While Gresh points out that the average number of partners is 9.7 for college men and 7.1 for college women, she does cite research that shows a higher proportion of young people are abstaining. Still, this culture of casual sex is problematic, in her view. If she's right -- that people become addicted or bonded to those they sleep with -- her view that multiple partners can impact future relationships may hold credence (after all, it's tough to let go of all of those past connections once one finds his or her soul mate).
What do you think?