Intimacy and the brain: Lessons from genital and sexual touch
Georgiadis JR., Kringelbach ML.
© 2016 Springer Science+Business Media New York. The fusion of the male and female gamete is usually preceded by intense interpersonal touch, especially involving stimulation of parts of the genital tract. However, the effects of sexual genital stimulation reach beyond fertilization and reproduction, as shown by experimental evidence that the pleasure drawn from it drives sexual desire, mediates the formation of sexual preferences, and improves general well-being. The brain processes sexual stimuli like other pleasurable stimuli, which means that they go through a cycle where they are identified, desired, consumed, and devalued. Genital receptors and nerve fibers may thus primarily serve a proximal master-pleasure. In this chapter, we outline what is known about the peripheral and central processes involved in the perception of pleasurable sexual touch and intimacy. As sexual behavior is typically social (i.e., involves human stimuli), genital afferent input might well adhere to the principles of the social touch system.