What is this thing we call sexual chemistry? For many, it’s the electric shock of sexuality that surges through our bodies when we accidentally brush up against a cute stranger in a crowded subway car. It's the desire that oozes from our pores when all we want to do is touch the bare skin of the gorgeous entity sitting on the other side of the bar. It's that palpable heat, that irrepressible tug drawing us toward another person; and it is often a sensation that lies beyond the realm of our own control.
Sexual chemistry is more alchemy than science, and thus it is slippery. Even Luke Thao, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (LMFTA) and the newest member of the PNW Sex Therapy Collective based in Seattle, struggles to craft a truly precise Sexual Chemistry Definition. “I love this question because there both is and isn’t this idea of chemistry,” Thao tells Elite Daily. “There’s this idea of being sexually atrracted, whether it’s this ‘love at first sight’ sensation, which often is defined by these immediate, sensual, erotic feelings. But there’s also the chemistry that you build and foster over time in relationships. I tend to think from those different perspectives when I try to define sexual chemistry.”
So, that blissful inebriation from the way another person smells? That full-body delight in the way another person tastes? That feeling of drowning in the bubbling jacuzzi of another person’s warm body? That is sexual chemistry. But also, the freedom to be completely yourself with another person; the knowledge that you’re safe with another person — that’s chemistry, too.
As much as we can try to intellectualize the sensation of sexual chemistry, it is not theoretical, nor is it cerebral. It's visceral. It lives in the body. And it has major implications for our relationships. Read on to find out the hidden secrets of your sexual attraction, and what your body might be trying to tell you when you get all hot and bothered.
Dating App Chemistry Doesn’t Always Lead To Sexual Chemistry
So you match with a hottie on Bumble and they respond to your witty and charming opening line with something equally charming and inviting. The conversation flows like milk and honey; you make each other laugh, you share the same relationship goals, you can’t stop thinking about them. But, on your first date the following week, as you stare at each other over generous pours of a delightful Cab Sauv, they seem awkward and stiff and nothing like they were on the app. You were so ready to jump their bones before you met, but now you feel nothing for this person. You can practically hear the crickets chirping in your pants. Nada. Zero.
It’s totally possible that the chemistry you feel online just won’t transfer to the 3-D world. When you’re chatting on an app, the only feedback you’re getting from the other person is whatever they’ve chosen to send you (however carefully crafted it may be). But when you’re face-to-face with someone, you pick up on their body language. Consciously or not, you observe how they interact with the space around them, how they carry themselves, all of which contribute to or detract from the physical attraction that you feel for them.
Britanny Burr, editor-at-large at Psych N Sex, tells Elite Daily, "Even just in terms of attraction from afar, you're seeing the way that someone engages with their surroundings and moves about a room, and you feel drawn to them. Or, you see the way that they're engaging with you and your body and the space surrounding you, and you feel drawn to them or connected with them."
A great virtual flirtationship does not solely make a hot date. Amazing vibes IRL will seal the deal.
...But Also, Sexual Chemistry Can Change With Time
Now let’s say you’re out on that same date, savoring that same juicy Cab Sauv, but this time you’re both really enjoying yourselves. You’re connecting on lots of different topics, and the conversation is as seamless as it was on the app. But for some reason, your erogenous zones are only at a flicker, not a raging bonfire.
Contrary to fairytales and rom-coms and most mainstream depictions of love and attraction, sexual chemistry often takes getting to know a person at least a little bit before it truly blossoms — and even then, it’s not static. Nebraska-based AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator Kristen Lilla explains just how crucial sexual attraction can be. “It is an important piece [of a relationship] because it is part of what sets someone apart from being a friend,” Lilla tells Elite Daily. “But people don’t always experience sexual chemistry right away; it may grow as they start to fall in love. I also think sexual chemistry can wane in long-term relationships. So, while it is an important aspect for some people, I wouldn’t base a relationship on it or decide to date, or not date, someone based on this alone.”
Of course, it’s perfectly possible (and perfectly hot) to lock eyes with a stranger across the room and feel a flutter in your belly, before ever learning their name or their favorite character on The Office. But if you’re out on a date with someone new and you don’t immediately combust from the sheer power of the chemistry, it’s not an indication that this person is necessarily incapable of lighting a fire in your loins, given a little time.
"Connecting physically besides sex builds trust and confidence,” Sonya Schwartz, relationship expert and owner of Her Aspiration, tells Elite Daily. “It helps the partners become comfortable with one another and improves their overall relationship."
If you click with a person on an emotional level and you’re excited to see them again — even if the sparks didn’t fly on date one — don’t be afraid to schedule date two to see if anything changes. (And pack a fire extinguisher in your overnight bag for good measure.)
Arousal Is Not (Always) The Same As Attraction
Our bodies can experience sensations that are disconnected from our minds, including sexual arousal. In a blog post outlining the differences between sexual attraction and arousal, the Asexuality New Zealand Trust defined sexual arousal as “the physiological element of sexual experiences. It involves physical changes such as getting erections and vaginal lubrication, among other things. Sexual arousal is affected by physiological processes and hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. This process … can also exist without sexual attraction.” Sexual arousal can be triggered by a number of subconscious factors, even around a person with whom you don’t really want to have sex. Sexual chemistry on the other hand is more than pure arousal — it’s a mind-body alignment of sexual desire.
Thao tells Elite Daily that chemistry can be impacted by all kinds of non-sexual indicators, such as a feeling of safety, support, or welcoming. “From a therapeutic perspective, arousal in those erogenous zones, like penis, vulva — those vascular feelings that are going on — don’t always indicate attraction or interest. So I’d say even if these things are happening for you physically, [ask yourself] if you’re actually interested in the person,” he says. “There’s a bodily component to sexual attraction obviously, but there’s also a psychological component. Those two may not always be congruent. So paying attention to those sensations is key to identify if you do have chemistry with a person.”
Grace Lee, co-founder of A Good First Date Online, elaborates. “Physical affection increases/iterates the all-important message: I love you, I want to be with you and most important — I love you specifically,” Lee tells Elite Daily. “It's easy to find somebody that you want to have sex with but much harder to find somebody that you want to hold hands with.”
Sexual chemistry is indeed a magical, mystical, and sometimes mercurial phenomenon. But luckily, it’s not really all that complicated: If it feels good, roll with it. If it’s not explosive right away, give it some time. Or just move onto the next. No one knows your body better than you do.
Additional reporting by Iman Hariri-Kia.
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