Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

post by Raphaëll · 2020-11-23T21:35:50.535Z · LW · GW · 43 comments

I’m someone who doesn’t do drugs or drink alcohol for a variety of reasons, the most important to me being so that I’m as “true to myself” as possible. By that, I mean that I do not want to do actions that I wouldn’t do sober (and might regret or might not identify with), or having my appreciation of people or things altered (ie. finding a person annoying just because of my state of mind, or finding a movie way funnier than I would normally do, and so on) or misremembering them. I want to say that I appreciate something and recommend it genuinely, and not just because I was intoxicated at the time I experienced it.

There is a movement for people who do not consume psychotropic drugs for self-control and “authenticity”: straight-edge people. So their motivations vary and some are drastically opposed to my values, but at its core these people share similar goals to me. This is relevant to know only in that one of the things some of them do avoid is promiscuous sex (and sometimes more specifically premarital sex, but I don’t see any strong reason backing this). I brushed it off at first, not seeing how sex could really go against my quest of being true to myself. But it was still on the back of my mind.

I stumbled upon a post on a polyamory group on Facebook asking people if oxytocin (which is produced when having all kinds of physical contacts, like hugging or kissing) could lead to some bad trips or other negative effects similar to drugs.

First things first, people in the comments debunked the idea I had (and that others might have) that hormones produced from physical affection are very different from the effects of drugs since they’re generated naturally, and therefore non-threatening (I know, naive, but eh). Turns out that their mechanisms are closer than what I thought:

“Yes, oxytocin and other hormones released during hugs/sex have a similar effect to drugs. Actually, most drugs don’t add anything into your body but will simply increase/activate or affect hormones naturally present, which will give you an altered state of mind. It’s therefore exactly the same for hugs/sex and other practices which release these hormones (there’s a pretty long list, and it’s not just for oxytocin). It’s even possible to rely on some practices without substances involved to activate a trance state similar to the experience of taking MD or LSD. As with substance uses, we can live a “drop” after a big hormones high [induced by hugs/sex]. (For context, let me specify that I’m a therapist in somatic treatment)“ ^Rough translation of one of the comments

So I knew about the drop, but the rest was all new to me. Now this doesn’t prove by itself that I should be cautious about physical intimacy[1].

Another more worrying comment mentioned that oxytocin has the side-effect of fostering our in-group / out-group mentality. The person linked an article on it, which is backed by several studies. [2]

The key points of the article are the following (found under the section “THE PROMISE OF ADMINISTERING OXYTOCIN FAR AND WIDE”):

“[O]xytocin promotes pro-social behavior in a variety of ways. In both laboratory experiments and naturalistic settings, it makes people more trusting, forgiving, empathic and charitable. It improves the accuracy of reading people’s emotions. Moreover, oxytocin makes people more responsive to social cues and social feedback”

“Excellent recent work has shown that oxytocin does indeed promote pro-social behavior, but crucially, only toward in-group members. In contrast, when dealing with out-group members or strangers, oxytocin’s effects are the opposite. In such settings, the hormone decreases trust, and enhances envy and gloating for the successes and failures, respectively, of the out-group member. Moreover, the hormone makes people more pre-emptively aggressive to out-group members, and enhances unconscious biases toward them (De Dreu et al., 2011a,b; De Dreu, 2012). [...] [W]hat it does is worsen Us/Them dichotomies, enhancing in-group parochialism as well as outgroup xenophobia.”

From the first excerpt, it feels like more effects are desirable (being responsive to social feedback, making people more empathic…). I would rather not be more trusting and forgiving because of it, as I’d rather have my trust and forgiveness earned differently and that misplaced trust can be harmful, but it doesn’t sound too alarming and it would seem the benefits outweigh the costs.

The second excerpt does sound more negative. To what extent does it affect me and how much should I avoid it, I don’t know.

There is also a second reason for worrying about the hormonal effects of physical intimacy. This thread reminded me of an old article I read about a year ago on hormones and their role in keeping us in a bad relationship: The Real Reason Why We Love Bad Boys, Toxic Partners and Emotionally Unavailable Men

The key points are that:

Note that these effects are stronger within people who produce predominantly oestrogen over testosterone, but everyone is affected by them.

Even if you do not worry about ever finding yourself in a toxic relationship, I do think it’s important to consider how these hormones affect us, and how they do distort some of our memories, give us an elevated opinion of someone and even make us addicted in some cases. I think it can also keep us in a relationship where we are unhappy or not truly fulfilled, and even when the relationship isn’t as bad as a toxic one, I don’t think that’s a desirable position. Relationships and sex can take up a lot of your time and energy, so I think it’s good to reflect on them sometimes to see if they’re worth it (which can be hard to do when you’re under the influence of the hormones they make you produce).

I’m still unsure what conclusions to draw from all of this. I think it is sensible to try to avoid romantic relationships where the desired person is unavailable and not able to commit in the way we wish they would (especially when they’re leading you on and making you believe they’ll “soon” be available; it’s sometimes dishonest), as it does seem to lead often to addiction. It’s obviously more easily said than done.

We might also want to refrain from sex in some situations, for example when we’re in a more tense period with our partner, in order to really reflect on whether or not we want to stay in this relationship without having our judgment impaired.

I know I’ve personally been thinking of a rule for a while where I wouldn’t sleep with someone I’m considering getting romantically involved with before a certain amount of time (the time I had in mind was a month, maybe two, but it might be longer if I don’t see the person every week). The drawback with that being that there might be people I sleep with that I think at first I won’t want to get romantically involved with, but with which I discover later on I’d actually want to. This didn’t ever really happen to me, and I think I have a pretty good model of what kind of people I want as partners, but I still think it’s a possibility.

Maybe one should refrain from having sex in other situations, always for the purpose of self-control and not altering their judgment. Maybe a periodic moment where you refrain from having sex with any given partner just to reflect on your relationship with them would help? (Like 2 weeks every season, or whatever). Or identifying moments of vulnerability where one should abstain from the huge rush of hormones that come with sexual activity (and the addiction that could ensue)? And what about extending those rules to kissing and hugging?

All that to say I don’t have a definite answer on how harmful physical intimacy can be, and what should be done about it, but it’s definitely something worth thinking about for ourselves.


  1. When I refer to physical intimacy, I always speak in broad terms of anything affective and physical (holding hands, kissing, hugging, sex, and so on). I never use it as a simple euphemism for sex like many people seem to do. ↩︎

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6306482/pdf/fpsyg-09-02625.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0bGTRjo_Uh5PUnwnOiY9_ZLnoAjSev_Y4O05wmaISbUPvTz_Nq8PpOLvU Three studies are linked in the article (note that only the third one is fully available for free; it does include all the process behind the study, and I appreciate the transparency): Oxytocin modulates cooperation within and competition between groups: An integrative review and research agenda https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0018506X11002868?via%3Dihub The Neuropeptide Oxytocin Regulates Parochial Altruism in Intergroup Conflict Among Humans https://science.sciencemag.org/content/328/5984/1408 Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2016/05/the-real-reason-why-we-love-bad-boys-toxic-partners-and-emotionally-unavailable-men/ ↩︎

43 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by alex_lw · 2020-11-23T23:58:52.264Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I genuinely don't understand, what exactly is the "true self" you're trying to protect in this case? I can see how drugs and alcohol are essentially wireheading, making you feel like you achieved something of value while in fact your didn't (or otherwise affecting your judgement through various "undocumented back doors"). But hormones and neurotransmitters are not something external, they are you, or more specifically a part of the physical implementation of any reasonable definition of "your self". Your motivation for whatever is it you feel it's appropriate to be motivated for is also mediated by hormones, only (maybe) slightly different ones.

To be clear, I completely understand a position "I want to be more motivated by X and less motivated by Y of my lower-level desires", e.g. more motivated by the fear of death and less motivated by impulse to eat tasty food. But, I don't understand how the fact that all of those desires are mediated by hormones makes some of them "less true" than others? Or what does it even mean for them to be "less true"?

Replies from: Jay, Raphaëll
comment by Jay · 2020-11-24T01:17:00.652Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect that he's using "true self" to refer to facets of himself that a psychologist would call ego-syntonic.  Simply put, ego-syntonic facets of oneself are in accordance with a person's self-image and ego-dystonic facets of oneself are at odds with one's self-conception.  The actual person is ultimately the "true" self, warts and all.

It is as much a function of a person's self-concept as it is of the person's behavior.  For example, homosexuality can be ego-dystonic (closeted; in denial) or ego-syntonic (self-accepted, if not necessarily public).

It is often mature and appropriate to pursue ego-syntonic goals to try to become the person you want to be.  On the other hand, each of us has behaviors that resist improvement (as our self-concepts define "improvement"); learning to accept and accommodate the facets of yourself that resist change can also be healthy.  

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-24T01:28:50.959Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, that was an interesting reply :)

comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-24T00:40:01.527Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think your comment shows me I've failed to clearly communicate my intent with this post. So to me, not drinking and not doing drugs help me being my true self(which is a big topic on its own, and one I don't wish to explain here), but not having sex does not - I was mostly discussing this for the context of how I stumbled upon the idea that there might be benefits to not having sex, in that it's an idea frequently discussed within the straight-edge community. In the end, I do not believe having sex prevents you too much from being your true self (apart from the discovery of the in-group / out-group mentality that is amplified by it). I know other straight-edge people say it also has to do with self-control, and it is true that sex can be addictive to some (or make you interact differently to people), which are both factors that I'd say prevent you from being your true self, but I'm not super sensitive to those two arguments -> except when it comes to toxic relationships, which was one of the core interests of this blogpost. And making a big place to someone who doesn't actually deserve to be there can be dangerous in the most extreme cases, and a waste of time at best. I wanna spend time with people because they bring me value, not because I'm addicted to them (and yes, sex can definitely be a value, but when it comes with a toxic relationship, or with time together outside of the sexual encounters that we'd rather put somewhere else and that we just spend in the hopes of having sex, I think it might not be worth the cost).

Replies from: alex_lw
comment by alex_lw · 2020-11-24T04:49:38.057Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, may be my sloppy reading but I definitely didn't realize that you're saying sex is not potentially harmful to true selfhood, I thought you're saying it is. I agree that the hormonal effects you're describing can be counterproductive to many other goals (or even to the goal of having sex in some cases) and worth being aware of. It's only the idea of them being somehow qualitatively different from other motivations that I was arguing against.

 

discovery of the in-group / out-group mentality that is amplified by it

Can you elaborate on that? Is it supposed to mean that sex amplifies us vs them mentality?

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-24T18:39:14.085Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes that's what it means. It's specifically addressed in my blogpost (based on 3 studies, referred in the footnotes):

"Which is where this hormone’s double-edged sword emerges. Excellent recent work has shown that oxytocin does indeed promote pro-social behavior, but crucially, only toward in-group members. In contrast, when dealing with out-group members or strangers, oxytocin’s effects are the opposite. In such settings, the hormone decreases trust, and enhances envy and gloating for the successes and failures, respectively, of the out-group member. Moreover, the hormone makes people more pre-emptively aggressive to out-group members, and enhances unconscious biases toward them. In other words, a hormone touted for its capacity to enhance pro-sociality does no such thing. Instead, what it does is worsen Us/Them dichotomies, enhancing in-group parochialism as well as outgroup xenophobia."

And I do say sex can be potentially harmful to true selfhood, but it's not my main point/concern at all.

comment by Rupert · 2020-11-24T13:16:24.485Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My main thought would be that you consider the risk factors of physical intimacy but possibly ought to look a bit more closely at whether there are risk factors associated with avoiding physical intimacy (are you sure that that's not harmful as well if taken to sufficient lengths?) 

comment by alo · 2020-11-23T22:36:52.904Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What about food? Which has arguably a much bigger effect on your hormones, mood, and lived experience? Will you commit to a bland and static diet to remain true to yourself? 

What about illness or injury, and what about trauma? Will you commit to an ultra-low-risk lifestyle to avoid your "true self" being altered by adverse experiences?

What about sleep loss and tiredness? Will you commit to a strict sleep schedule? Are you capable of that without the use of substances?

What about the way successes and failures and the way they make you feel? Will you commit to a state of not-doing to preserve yourself from the dopamine highs and lows from achieving or not achieving your goals?

Anywhere you draw the line seems incredibly arbitrary to me. Life will affect your hormones and neurotransmitters, which will in turn affect your personality, moods, affect, and experience. Unless you plan to become a monk and remove yourself from stimulus, you can't avoid this. It makes sense to me to avoid doing highly mind altering substances and activities when you need to make a big decision or have a clear head, but I don't see any sense in abstaining completely or especially in drawing a line at sex but not food. 

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-23T22:58:07.604Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with the statement that it's kind of arbitrary where you draw the line, and honestly it's up to anyone to determine where they do. I wouldn't advice everyone to refrain from drinking or doing drugs, I've just personally decided it was not something I'd like to experience. However, as much as I think this observation is fair, the rest of your comment makes me feel like you either didn't read my blog post to the end to write this the way you did, or completely distorted what I said - I see a lot of slippery slopes here. (But also, if anyone wanna commit to any of the things you said because it makes them feel like they're closer to being their more authentic selves, so be it).

I understand sex can be a sensitive topic, especially since some cultures are really sex-negative; however, this post is not advising to abstaining from sex at all. I'm personally polyamorous and have several romantic / sex partners (not that I need to tell that about myself to justify where I come from, but thought it might help understanding how not extreme I am in this proposition at all). It was only meant to serve as food for thought to reflect on how someone wants to approach their physical intimacy (which could also be cuddle parties or the likes, doesn't have to be sexual).

Knowing in greater details the impacts that physical intimacy have on someone, we're in a better position to take decisions about it (and yes, that can include doing nothing about it and going on with our lives). I'm personally a bit afraid of committing to romantic relationships (and have worked through that fear) based on anecdotical experiences (mostly from people around me), and I'm super interested in the topic of toxic relationships, and how to avoid them and get out of them. It does empower me to know a bit more about the mechanisms behind them, and as said in the last paragraphs of my post, even though I'll continue to have sex, it does make me reevaluate when I'll have sex with them. I think that's the most important takeaway; when sex is the most susceptible to impair your judgment (such as during a tense period with a partner).

But regardless, even if you don't change anything based on all this info, I still think it's interesting to learn about :) The studies on the fostering of in-group / out-group mentality was particularly new and interesting to me!

comment by DaystarEld · 2020-11-25T10:34:43.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for writing this out! I consider myself pretty "straight edge" too, in that I've never done drugs or gotten drunk for many of the same reasons you've stated, and I've never considered other forms of mind-alteration such as intimacy to fall under the same category, but it makes sense to. One exception to that, however, is that lust is very clearly a result of mind-altering chemicals, and the solution (for guys at least, not sure how it works for women) is very effective. I've actually advised young men quite often to masturbate before making romantic decisions to see if it affects their judgement... basically if you still want to go on a date with someone even after recent release, you probably like them for more than just horniness.

Replies from: Raphaëll, Nacruno96
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-12-03T05:09:35.792Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Glad you enjoyed it, and it's good to meet another straight-edge here (although you don't seem to fully identify with the term, which is ok! I'm not sure I do either).

I heard of the strategy of masturbating before going on a date before, but I mostly heard it as an advice to be less nervous (somehow). Your advice seems sensible, although I'm not sure how effective it would be, in that it would release a ton of hormones that make you happy right before meeting someone, and could alter your vision of them. I really don't know haha, just saying there are probably a lot of unknowns unknowns here (and I'm not sure how much they're worth figuring out).

comment by Nacruno96 · 2020-11-29T07:48:48.488Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Lol you are a very wise man 

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-12-03T05:03:42.853Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not a man but ok

comment by Rupert · 2020-11-24T13:17:21.221Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My main thought would be that you consider the risk factors of physical intimacy but possibly ought to look a bit more closely at whether there are risk factors associated with avoiding physical intimacy (are you sure that that's not harmful as well if taken to sufficient lengths?) 

Replies from: Raphaëll, remizidae
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-24T18:48:13.754Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting point. I do think there are risks in avoiding physical intimacy altogether, for vastly different reasons. Now, trying to navigate when it's harmful to have physical intimacy and when it's not is the hard part!

comment by remizidae · 2020-11-24T15:22:22.692Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be an unusual partner who would agree to no physical intimacy (possibly including kissing and hugging) for two weeks so that OP can "reflect on the relationship." That sends a strong signal that you're about to get dumped. 

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-24T18:13:06.940Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good thing I only date unusual people :P I mean, people "take a break" all the time, I don't see why this kind of break in particular would be more alarming.

Also, this was meant more as a rough example of a policy that could be taken from this knowledge than anything; you can use it any way you see fit (including doing nothing about it of course).

comment by Mati_Roy (MathieuRoy) · 2020-11-23T21:54:04.087Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Strong like! For me, this is an important consideration to preserving my identity, staying productive / mentally sharp, and as independent as I want:)

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-23T23:32:09.608Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey! So I think my post went over identity preservation and independence (although not explicitly); it did not mention the impacts on productivity and mental sharpness, and I'd be curious to hear what you have to say about it (although I have my intuitions about what can be said of both).

Replies from: MathieuRoy
comment by Mati_Roy (MathieuRoy) · 2021-01-06T18:58:17.028Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

hummm, basically time-consuming, especially if/when it develops into an addiction + am less focused when horny

comment by Holly_Elmore · 2020-11-24T17:09:14.779Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My only question is, why privilege your “natural state” so much? Seems like naturalistic fallacy. For example, why would I think my anger at my partner is more authentic than how I would feel if we had sex? When that happens, I usually remember how much I love them and let go of my anger, which feels a lot more true to me. And what’s the true amount of funny for a movie?

I think saying “everything in moderation” is a really unsatisfying answer, but it’s true here. Sex can warp your judgment but it’s also a need for most people. Overeating can make you complacent with a bad situation, but that doesn’t mean your judgment is better when you’re hungry. Unfortunately there’s no one true base state and we need to keep applying inputs as well as abstaining to stay in the right zone.

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-24T18:31:06.852Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My only question is, why privilege your “natural state” so much?

I don't; I value my sober state, and I already addressed why at the beginning of the article. I don't really see anything to add here. And anyway, having sex is one of the most natural things, so trying to moderate it wouldn't really fall under a naturalistic fallacy.

For example, why would I think my anger at my partner is more authentic than how I would feel if we had sex?

This was pretty much addressed in the blogpost already, with the 4 key points I extracted from the article on toxic relationships. Sex can kind of wirehead you to feel close to someone, regardless of if they're a good partner or not. I do feel like this cocktail of hormones could tie me into a relationship that I wouldn't actually want if I stopped having sex with this person for a while and really thought about us - but I agree that "authenticity" is a vague, subjective concept, and you make of it what you will.

If your partner hurt you or was disrespectful to you in anyway, you'd be right to feel anger at them. I know some people use sex as a band-aid in their relationship, but that never addresses the underlying issues and doesn't seem to work in the long run.

I think saying “everything in moderation” is a really unsatisfying answer, but it’s true here. Sex can warp your judgment but it’s also a need for most people.

I do agree here. I never once mention in my text that people should abstain from sex completely, and I far from want that for myself. I specifically say "We might also want to refrain from sex in some situations". The last 3-4 paragraphs point to idea of how one could decide to navigate their sex life if they want to continue having sex but avoid some of the drawbacks of it.

comment by remizidae · 2020-11-23T21:59:05.265Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The big failure mode I see with physical intimacy is people rushing into major commitments (kids, marriage, moving in together) in the first two years of a relationship, when they’re still in the tempestuous, exciting, misleading phase of being “in love.” The solution is to be slower to commit.

I am not sure you can avoid the cognition-distorting effects of these hormones by avoiding physical intimacy. It’s very possible to be in love without any physical contact.

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-23T22:29:53.752Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For sure, it's possible to be in love without physical contact, and I've personally experienced it. However, based on the article I shared about toxic relationships (which mostly focused on the effects of hormones) and my own sexual experiences, I'd say without being completely avoided, these hormones are produced in far less quantity without sex, and so their effects are mitigated.

I do agree that being slower to commit leads to avoid the failure you point out, and I personally have some rules as to how long I wait for some steps in a relationship (which are kind of arbitrary and open to changes). But I thing that's a generally pretty agreed-upon belief, and so I preferred to focus on impacts less talked about in this post.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-11-24T13:59:27.644Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Note that these effects are stronger within people who produce predominantly oestrogen over testosterone, but everyone is affected by them.

That's an odd way of phrase male/female. I would expect that blood levels of either are more important then how much a person produces (blood-levels include artificial supplementation). 

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-24T18:19:08.747Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting point. The article I link to talks more specifically about how these hormones interact with oestrogen, hence why I thought it was more relevant than blood levels. Thanks for specifying that.

Otherwise, talking about producing predominantly oestrogen is a more accurate way to talk about what I'm referring to than saying male/female. I know it sounds odd to some, but I don't mind. The thing is that some people have a penis (so someone you might call a male) and produce predominantly oestrogen, and some people have a vagina (so someone you might call a female) and produce predominantly testosterone. Be it because they're trans and on hrt, or because they're a cis woman and have PCOS, or because they're intersex, or for other reasons. I prefer to be accurate with my language so there's no confusion.

Replies from: Zack_M_Davis, ChristianKl
comment by Zack_M_Davis · 2020-11-24T19:42:54.351Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

some people have a vagina (so someone you might call a female) and produce predominantly testosterone [...] because they're a cis woman and have PCOS, or because they're intersex, or for other reasons

Really? An article in Clinical Medicine and Research claims that most testosterone values in females with PCOS are ≤150 ng/dL, whereas (for comparison) the American Urological Association says that low testosterone in males should be diagnosed below 300 ng/dL.

What specific intersex condition or specific other reason would result in people with a vagina producing predominantly testosterone? (Also, I'm not really sure what "predominantly" means in this context—as compared to what?)

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-12-03T04:58:59.079Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't know about these numbers for PCOS, that's good to know.

I'm note sure what you mean by specific intersex condition; afaik, intersex people can have all sorts of combinations of sex attributes (they can have a vagina and XY chromosomes for instance, or a vagina and internal testicles, and so on; one of those variables would be their level of hormones). Another specific reason someone with a vagina would produce predominantly testosterone is if they're a trans man on hormone replacement therapy.

What I mean by predominantly is that they would produce more testosterone than estrogen (or the other way around); since cis women are more sensitive to the effects of hormones produced when having sex because they produce more estrogen, is it my understanding that the same would be true of someone who produces predominantly estrogen, regardless of their gender.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-11-24T18:28:25.972Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My point is that transwomen who don't produce oestrogen but supplement it, have it in their blood. I would expect a trans women who takes hormones to be similarly affected as a cis woman.

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-12-03T05:03:02.534Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agreed. And a trans man who doesn't take hormone would also be affected similarly. I think saying man/woman or male/female is a bit inaccurate in this context because of that (also because not everyone means the same thing when they say male/female; some refer to a biological reality, so having certain genitalia, and some give it the same meaning as man and woman, so a gender identity). I prefer to use a term that is both accurate and unambiguous (+ that encompasses the other realities I mentioned in my former comment, like intersex people and such), even if that means a lengthier sentence.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2020-12-03T10:59:48.692Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The problem is that it's not accurate here as while a trans man has the hormones in their blood they don't produce them (or at least not all of them).

Replies from: Raphaëll
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-12-03T18:10:38.642Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok I understand. So maybe I should switch for another word than produce? Just as plain as "people who have more estrogen than testosterone in their blood", or something of the likes?

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2020-12-03T18:39:38.774Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I think that would match the intended meaning. 

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2020-11-24T03:29:49.192Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm coming to this article by way of being linked from a Facebook group though I am also an occasional LessWrong user. I would have asked this question in the comments of the FB post where this post was linked, but since the comments were closed there, I'll ask it here: What was (or were) the reason(s) behind:
 

  1. Posting this to a FB group with the comments open;
  2. Waiting until a few comments had been made, then closing them on FB and then asking for commenters to comment on this LW post instead?

I understand why someone would do this if they thought a platform with a higher variance for quality of discourse, like FB or another social media website, was delivering a significantly lower quality of feedback than one would hope or expect to receive on LW. Yet I read the comments on the FB post in question, in a group frequented by members of the rationality community, and none of them stuck out to me as defying what have become the expected norms and standards for discourse on LW.

Replies from: Raphaëll, MathieuRoy
comment by Raphaëll · 2020-11-24T04:22:00.047Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wrote this blogpost but I did not post this article on Facebook myself, so I have no idea what were the motivations behind those decisions. I would be curious too see what they said!

comment by Mati_Roy (MathieuRoy) · 2021-01-06T19:17:39.530Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. was a mistake

turning off comments serves as a coordination mechanism to discuss the topic at the same place

comment by Elizabeth (pktechgirl) · 2020-11-24T02:57:43.316Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, oxytocin and other hormones released during hugs/sex have a similar effect to drugs. Actually, most drugs don’t add anything into your body but will simply increase/activate or affect hormones naturally present, which will give you an altered state of mind

This doesn't seem surprising or compelling to me. People say similar things about morphine and sugar, but of course drugs take advantage of existing systems that evolved (imperfectly) to help you: why would you evolve a neurochemical system set up for the sole purpose of fucking up your life if you took the wrong chemical? The surprising thing would be if drugs used a system that didn't have a normal, survival-aiding purpose.

comment by Mati_Roy (MathieuRoy) · 2021-01-16T04:54:56.842Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I largely agree with you, but just a thought: Mayyybe drugs can help us explore / learn about parts of ourselves that are usually "keep in check" (in some ways) by other parts_

comment by Mati_Roy (MathieuRoy) · 2021-01-16T04:49:30.687Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does your drugged self not want to get subber to stay their true (from their reference point IIUC) self?

comment by pjeby · 2020-12-03T22:35:43.378Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Speaking as someone who tends to be low-oxytocin by default, I've got to note that there are some serious drawbacks to quality of life without oxytocin-inducing activities. For me, my "true self" is more evident during the day or two of "afterglow" from high-oxytocin activities than in the dragging, "who cares about people and what's the use of living anyway" tendencies of lower oxytocin.

So I would be rather doubtful of the utility of avoiding "normal" amounts of oxytocin induction. Am I a different person while riding an oxytocin high? Yep: cuddling and zoning out in a satisfied way goes to the top of my preferences, followed by playfulness and silliness. But this phase doesn't last very long, and is quickly replaced by, "I feel/act like a normal human being again, with a greater sense of well-being", while oxytocin deprivation leads to a decreased sense of well-being.

Based on my experiences, I would expect that chronic deprivation of oxytocin-inducing activities would produce significant physical and mental stress and illness. I can't even imagine how I could have even survived the last two and a half decades without my spouse's affection... or that I would have even wanted to.

comment by Rupert · 2020-11-24T13:16:46.470Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My main thought would be that you consider the risk factors of physical intimacy but possibly ought to look a bit more closely at whether there are risk factors associated with avoiding physical intimacy (are you sure that that's not harmful as well if taken to sufficient lengths?) 

Replies from: MathieuRoy
comment by Mati_Roy (MathieuRoy) · 2021-01-06T19:21:41.960Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FYI, your comment was posted 3 times, probably because of a LessWrong bug that makes it seems as if your comment was posted when you click on 'submit'

comment by AnthonyC · 2020-12-03T21:27:57.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Others have already pointed out how line-drawing in any given place is arbitrary, because all of our thinking/feeling/motivation is chemically driven in many ways, so I'll come at this from another angle. No idea if it will help you, but I certainly found it helpful when I first encountered it.

Basically, this is an ancient problem despite the modern framing. Have you read Euripedes' The Bacchantes? Dionysus isn't just the god of wine and partying, he's also a god of balance and renewal, and the proper, mature use of all forms of intoxication. Intoxication can destroy, but with his initiation rites and rituals (translation: social context, training, self-discipline) it can intensify experiences, promote social cohesion, and enhance exploration of the full range of ways of being human. 

These days, our culture rejects letting others decide for us what the proper use of sex and drugs and so on are, and so refuses to provide much useful guidance or a reliable social context. But it's at least a way of thinking about the problem. If you find yourself in a setting/culture where use of intoxicating substances or practices seems to cause problems, avoid them. If you find yourself in a setting/culture where they seem not to cause problems, or even seem to make things better, then take the time to learn why and how that setting/culture uses them, and then decide if and when you want to follow along. Throughout, strive to monitor yourself and know your limits, and to have people you trust watching your back (and listen to them if they suggest you cut back on something).