THE BLOG
02/18/2013 03:12 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2013

Wired for Sex With Psychopaths?

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Psychopaths are wired differently, with less gray matter in regions critical for empathy, moral reasoning and guilt. So when it comes to feeling what other people feel, or feeling guilty about their own hurtful actions, their brains may be too damaged to even register this. Why then, if they care so little about what other people feel, would any woman find this attractive? And when women do start sexual relationships with psychopaths, how do they find ways to enjoy being with someone who essentially ignores their feelings?

Recent research teaches us that when women have insecure attachment styles, they may find the empty emotional core of the psychopath to be comforting. Rather than facing their own fears of intimacy, they settle for the emotional and physical detachment that they feel with them. In fact, such women, although they are persistently dissatisfied with vaginal sex, may have more anal sex and vibrator orgasms, and because of their fear of being abandoned, may even seek refuge in the emotional and physical detachment that comes with being with an unfeeling man. Mary Roach's TEDTalk on "10 things you didn't know about orgasm" points out that genitals are not necessary for orgasm, and this research adds to that by pointing out that genitals are also not sufficient for orgasm -- they need to be operating in a mental state of secure attachment. However, the repeated attraction to men who break their hearts may not be just bad luck -- it may be biologically determined by this insecure attachment style.

What is an insecure attachment style and why do we have this? People with insecure attachment styles are anxious about intimacy, or avoid real closeness. They would rather live the relationship out on the surface, and the more their partners will collude with this, the happier they are. It is better for them to be with someone at a surface level than to face the absolute fear of intimacy. It is a catch-22 situation. Avoidant or anxious women fear abandonment, and this fear is what causes their anxiety. But this anxiety is far less than the thought of actually being close, and then being abandoned-the latter is terrifying.

Some of the reason for this insecure attachment is genetic -- it may be due to an alteration in the serotonin-receptor gene. If this were the full story, then seemingly self-destructive and self-depriving women would have their fate cut out for them. But there is more -- only a third of "how often you have an orgasm" is likely genetic. How you are cared for as a child, your first best friends and how much you succeed socially can also impact your attachment style.

If your parents forced you to control your anger as a child, you would be more likely to have an insecure attachment style as an adult. And if you were not able to develop deep friendships or comfort socially, you would also be more likely to be anxious or avoidant. This sets you up for choosing a disengaged partner, but it can be a path of diminishing returns, as the more disengaged he is, the more you yearn for understanding, and the more you yearn for this, the less you will seek real intimacy because it is too frightening. You become committed to a life of torturous superficiality. Men who are psychopaths are also insecurely attached, but for some reason, they are less distressed when the relationship ends. What's more, Mary Roach also points out that you may technically be able to induce an orgasm in a dead person -- and here we see that this applies to people who are "emotionally dead as well" -- as with a physically dead person, it is just not as enjoyable.

So why does all this matter? Can you change your attachment style? And if so, how? How can you erase years of feeling alone and abandoned and the fear that comes with this? There are many approaches one could take, but one that will help you make the change you desire -- to stop dating men who cannot appreciate who you are or how you feel -- and to start having vaginal orgasms rather than only anal and vibrator orgasms -- is to use a brain-based method called spreading of alternatives. If you are one of these women caught in this endless loop of surface relationships that cause anxiety for you, you may be able to stop the vicious cycle by using this technique. Alternative A is staying in an empty relationship without real intimacy or vaginal orgasms. Alternative B is moving on to something more fulfilling and facing your fears of intimacy. Your brain cannot make a distinction between the two -- so it simply reverts to what you know every time you make a decision. To help your brain along, you may need to spell things out. Make a list of why staying away from intimacy is hurtful to you -- it may exacerbate your anxiety or depression, may make you channel this anxiety into your body, make you less attentive to your own health, and paradoxically, seek and pay for care when it is not necessary. Switching to a different kind of person may help you change this. A man who is more attentive to your emotions, and who genuinely cares and does not need to be distant is likely to help you achieve vaginal organisms, and not force you into anal sex or vibrator use as a replacement, nor ask you give up the need to feel appreciated and loved.

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