Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.
In the Song of Songs, you can almost hear the awe and the anguish in the poet’s voice as she pleads with her friends to be patient until the time when they can have an outlet for their sexual passion. Awakening your sexuality can be a startling experience. Desires you never even knew you had can grow to be so strong that they’re hard to resist. It feels like you’ve awakened a monster.
But really, it’s more like a roller coaster that won’t stop until the end. It’s meant to go forward at break-neck speed, and it won’t let you off, no matter how thrilled or terrified or out-of-breath you become. Biologically, this is dopamine, a chemical released in your brain that gives you feelings of euphoria, contentment, and love. The trouble with dopamine is that the effects wear off, so that you become addicted to the feeling, and need to seek more intense experiences in order to get it.
For example, you may get a dopamine release when the man you like smiles at you for the first time. It’s a spine-tingling feeling. But the trouble is that you don’t get it the next time he smiles at you. You may feel happy, but there’s no dopamine release. So you have to try something else. Maybe brush his arm or let him stroke your hair. There it is again. But still, the effects wear off and so you have to hold hands, then kiss, then kiss on the neck, and it all keeps leading towards something and so quickly.
It’s leading toward sex, the ultimate shot of dopamine. And this is the thrill ride that the poet is talking about. She says not to start the journey unless you’re prepared to ride it out to the end. If you can’t, it’s going to be incredibly difficult and painful to stop the ride. It will go against every single atom of your body. You’ll be screaming on the inside to just…move…forward. Because you’re supposed to. God created sex to begin and end in marriage. A place where you can stay on that ride for all the thrill and excitement and feeling that you can possibly squeeze from it. He doesn’t ever want you to have to tear yourself away.
Because here’s the other thing you need to know about dopamine—it is intended to bond you with the person with whom you have the experience. In fact, there’s one other occasion when you get a jolt of dopamine besides sex. Can you guess what it is? When you deliver a baby, a surge of dopamine floods your body so that you feel so happy that you forget every moment of blinding pain during labor and instantly form an unbreakable bond with the child wiggling in your arms. Mothers aren’t talking in metaphor when they say something happens the first time they see their child. Dopamine happens. God put it there as a beautiful, natural, powerful tool to bond a mother with her child.
But he also gave it to every man and woman whenever they have a sexual experience with each other. Because, like I said, he never wants them to get off that ride with each other. It’s meant to not only make them happy and euphoric, but to bond them to each other, so that they’ll work towards the intimacy that God’s hoping to produce. If they get off the ride, they’ll rip apart a bond that will leave them wounded and hurting.
Sex is so powerful. There are certain elements of sex that you can’t even control and God intended it that way. It contains special elements that come together to form this elaborate picture of the intimacy that God experiences within the Trinity—perfect happiness and contentment and satisfaction, coupled with perfect intimacy and selflessness and commitment. This is what he’s inviting you into, both in marriage, but ultimately, in a relationship with himself.
What are your thoughts? Do you recognize the effects of dopamine? What is the place of dopamine in a woman’s life when she’s single? When she’s engaged? When she’s married? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
(Top photo by Robert Doisneau)