music rewards the brain just like sex

Does a tune in the background help kink up the sex, or is it merely a distraction? We asked a few people what they prefer and took a glance at the relationship between music and sex, a relationship that - according to Charles Darwin - is perfectly natural.

Photo: i heart him (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Is music sex for the brain?

In his work "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex," English naturalist Charles Darwin suggested that music is to humans what colourful feathers are to birds - specifically, to attract the opposite sex.

Darwin may have figured this out in the latter half of the 1800's, but the effects of music on humans continues to interest scientists today. A study from McGill University, Canada, earlier this year came to the conclusion that music makes the brain instantly release the pleasure-giving substance dopamine, the same hormone that helps us enjoy sex. An article in the Economist mentions Harvard theorist Steven Pinker's rationale: music is like cheesecake, singing is like masturbation and playing an instrument is like pornography.

Simply put, Dr Pinker means that music tends to a need that nature cannot tend to. He compares this to cheesecake: long ago, we humans did not have access to lots of sugar and fat, so they became desirable foods and we never developed a limit to stop ourselves from eating too much of it, once sugar and fat were no longer scarce. Dr Pinker suggests the same applies to music and our brains; we do not really have a natural need to sing or play an instrument, but doing it tickles our senses, much like masturbating and looking at porn.


So in theory - regardless of whether it's a theory from the 1871 or from 2011 - music can turn you on. What kind of music best serves this purpose then? In the words of Jeff Buckley, "Music should be like making love - sometimes you want it soft and tender, other times you want it hard and aggressive." We asked a few people across Europe what they prefer.

E&M: Do you like to play music when you have sex? If yes, which kind of music?

Karl, 27, Germany: Yes, it's good fun having sex to 90s hits!

Anna, 23, Latvia: No, because I like sex to be spontaneous and just the fact of preparation by turning music on would turn me off.

Dan, 21, United Kingdom: No, because I want to stay in beat with the music, which isn't always great for sex. But I'll play music if I need to cover the sounds - I don't like it when people overhear me having sex!

Photo: Vector Hugo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Sex to Marvin Gaye, why not?

Henrik, 26, Sweden: No I don't. It's distracting! 

Evan, 20, United Kingdom: Yes, as long as it's not cheesy I like to listen to romantic music, like Bon Iver. 

Carine, 25, Czech Republic: Ooooh yes, I LOVE music in the background! From my experience, music can influence the sex big time. To "You Can Leave Your Hat On," I imagine the sex being a little more hot and sexy, but to "Have you ever loved a woman" by Bryan Adams, the sex might be gentle and tender. I can imagine having nice, kinky sex to "Jingle Bell Rock" too, but that's probably because I haven't been laid in seven months!

Not surprisingly, opinions differ, but if you feel like creating your own bedroom bonanza soundtrack, the music publication Billboard has published a list of the 50 sexiest songs of all time, and we present the top 5:

1. Physical, Olivia Newton-John

2. Tonight's The Night, Rod Stewart

3. I'll Make Love To You, Boyz To Men

4. Too Close, Next

5. Let's Get It On, Marvin Gaye

Find the full list here and experiment away!

Teaser photo: cannonsnapper (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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