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"Do you know," Ken told us, "there was a time when I was hooked on speed-and falling in love with every girl I met!"
We couldn't believe it. Ken is your perfect Image Projection of the proper executive-almost fifty, married, and with two grown children, he's an account executive at a large advertising agency in New York, and he is the very model of your basic good citizen. Ken hooked on speed? Impossible.
"Well," he explained, "we didn't call it speed then. It was back in 56, and I was just a kid in my first job, writing copy for a big pharmaceutical house in Philadelphia, and we manufactured an amphetamine product.
"In those days amphetamines were the new big break-through in drugs, and we thought they were absolutely harmless. Working for the company, it was pretty easy to get as much as you wanted, and I used them all the get as much as you wanted, and I used them all the time-to Keeping Sexual Chemistry Alive awake when I had an assignment to do at home, to stay alert when I was driving at night, to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I came to work after a night on the town. We all figured it for a miracle drug, and none of us knew we'd get hooked.
'I'm not going to go into the rough part of the story, how I finally woke up to what was happening and kicked the habit. It was awful, but the point I want to make, the point that should interest you two, is that during the two years I was hooked on amphetamines, I was in and out of love a hundred times."
"I'm not. I'm honestly not. That drug did something to me. Somehow or other it stimulated an erotic side of my nature and I went crazy over almost every girl I met. It was this Sexual Chemistry you talk of, but over and over and over! I'd be high on the stuff, meet a girl at a dance or a friend's house, and wham! I was off. Then I'd come off my high a day later and wonder what I saw in her. "
What Ken "saw" in those girls was something we put down to youth and a strong libido at first, but as we began to study the literature on sexual chemistry we realized that it was more than youthful ardor. Falling in love, that first excited flush that changes your entire outlook, that first excited flush that changes your entire outlook, that overwhelming attraction for another person, has to do with anal stimulation of the brain by chemical substance released by the body, most probably, according to researchers, phenylethylamine, a substance that acts in much the same way that the amphetamines do. Phenylethylamine, norepinephrine, and dopamine all have similar roles.
They cause our hearts to beat faster. They increase our energy and heighten our emotional outlook. They make us feel more optimistic, give us a better sense of ourselves-and make us more capable of falling in love. The seemingly trivial incident under normal conditions can trigger a sexual attraction under the heightened awareness of these substances- or of speed. Our friend Ken, high on amphetamines, was a sitting duck in every encounter with a woman.
What Ken experienced in his amphetamine highs, that constant The Many Phase of Sexual Chemistry with every girl he met, may seem strange, but it bears out a theory of emotion put forth by Dr. Stanley Schachter in an article called "The Interaction of Cognitive and Physiological Determinants on Emotional State" - a mouthful of a title for an intriguing theory. Schachter believes that emotions involve two steps. First, the body is aroused physiologically by hormones or shock or drugs or even exercise. Second, we label this arousal according to social cues in our environment, our situation at the time it occurs. If the arousal occurs when someone is criticizing us, we call it shame. If it occurs in the presence of an attractive person of the opposite sex by sex therapy , we call it love.
If a young man, for example, is aroused by the exertion of a very physical dance, and his partner is an attractive young woman, sexual chemistry is likely to occur. If both partners are romantics, they will call it love. If they're more cynical, they'll Labeling it a sexual attraction. If something goes wrong at that first meeting, the arousal can easily turn from attraction to dislike and even hate. The point is, both people are aroused, and there has to be a label for that arousal, whether it's love or hate or shame or fear.
A fascinating experiment was reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by three researchers, Dr. G. L. White, S. Fishbein, and I. Rutstein. They divided a large group of men into four parts. One of the divisions was read a very dull lecture on the anatomy of the frog. The other three groups were put through experiences calculated to arouse them. One group listened to a wild and funny comic on a record, another to a gruesome story of a murdered and mutilated missionary, and the third group was simply asked to run in place for a few minutes.
Afterwards, all of the young men were shown a videotape of an attractive young woman talking. When asked if they'd like to date this woman and kiss her, the three groups who had been shaken up by exercise, a comic routine, or a horror story all responded more positively than the men who had sat through the dull lecture on the frog.
These studies added some validity to Ken's arousal by amphetamine and his attraction to every pretty girl he met. Fortunately for him in those years, the emotions he felt were one-sided. The women he fell for were only occasionally attracted to him in turn, and since his mini-love affairs wore off as soon as the amphetamine did, he could always look at his situation rationally and back out of it gracefully.
Sexual chemistry, unlike sexual attraction, is a two-way street. Both partners must feel it if it's going to work, and there must be an interaction between the partners. Sexual chemistry can be ignited by anything - a phrase, a the healing touch , a certain glance, a hat or a dress or suit- but unless there are continuing elements to feed that momentary ignition it will fizzle out. For the chemical action to really get under way, there must be a constant fueling of the fire.