Have you ever met someone and had it just immediately “click?” Just talking to them turns you on, a touch of the hand or a little flirty eye contact drives you wild, and you can almost physically feel the desire in the air around you. Hot, right?
What is sexual attraction and chemistry, though? Why does it happen, and is it something that you can recreate? Let’s find out!
First, a Quick Word On Chemistry and Attachment.
Attachment between any combination of people is fed by hormones, namely oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones get released because of all different kinds of touch — hugging, cuddling, and so forth — and make us want to get close and stay close (this is why oxytocin is sometimes called the cuddle hormone). All secure, lasting human bonds benefit from this kind of chemical intimacy, whether familial, friendly, or romantic.
Think about caveman times — physical attraction and chemistry meant literal survival. If reproduction didn’t happen, the survival of the entire species would have been in question — and we may not be here talking about sexual chemistry at all!
But chemistry was (and still is) about more than sex. Historically, the communities that did the best were the ones that supported all their members and had the strongest family bonds.
None of our relationships would be what they are without hormones (no matter the gender), although we’ll stick to talking about the ones that make us want to rip each other's clothes off. When we feel that delicious chemistry with someone, take a second to honor that very old part of our brain that may still be saying, “We could totally survive the Ice Age together,” — which is pretty romantic when you think about it.
What Causes Sexual Chemistry?
The first thing you need to know about sexual chemistry is that it cannot be easily defined — or defined at all! That makes it hard to study or describe, which is probably part of why there isn’t a lot of research on the subject. There are many signs of sexual chemistry, but let’s dig into the cause.
Two primary hormones are thought to be behind sexual chemistry — testosterone and estrogen. These are also the hormones that cause feelings of lust. First, we must stop thinking of testosterone and estrogen as being “male” and “female.” These hormones exist in all bodies, regardless of what you’ve got going on under your clothes.
When you think testosterone, instead of thinking about beards and stereotypical masculinity, think of libido. The more testosterone you’ve got in your system, the more likely you are to be interested in sex (either with yourself or someone else).
Estrogen is a little less obvious but plays a very similar role. If you’re someone with ovaries who still has periods, you’ve probably noticed that you’re extra horny a week or so before you bleed. This isn’t a coincidence; it’s your body trying to “trick” you into having sex while ovulating so that you get pregnant! Sneaky, right?
But just having testosterone and estrogen coursing through your body doesn’t immediately lead to sexual chemistry. If that were the case, you’d be sleeping with everyone you laid eyes on during certain times of the month. To experience that fluttery, sexy feeling, you must also be at least somewhat attracted to them (duh).
Interestingly, attraction has been closely linked to the hormone that powers our “reward” system — dopamine. When we do what feels good, such as having sex, going shopping, or playing a video game, our body responds by feeding us dopamine. That, along with norepinephrine, makes us happy, excited, and fired up. It’s also why we want to keep doing the stuff that feels good; our brains are unconsciously reinforcing us!
Similar to hormones, pheromones also play a part in sexual chemistry. Instead of staying inside our bodies, like hormones, pheromones form a kind of “aura” around us. While you can’t smell them like a warm-baked chocolate chip cookie, these chemical messengers are floating in the air all the same.
When your pheromones blend well with someone else’s pheromones, it ramps up that attraction significantly — even affecting the emotional connection.
How Do I Know if I Have Chemistry With Someone?
Although the connection between hormone levels and lust, love, and attachment is pretty cut-and-dried, how that plays out on an individual level is very different. We may experience those feelings at different levels at different times or, most critically, in a different order. How do you know if you’re both on the same level?
For some people, feeling safe and securely attached is a requirement to feel lust. Others can’t fall in love without first experiencing an intense physical desire.
These feelings extend into long-term relationships, too — some people put sex super high on their priority list, while others couldn’t care less how much they get intimate with their partner. It’s not unlike the difference between spontaneous and responsive desire — there’s no right or wrong answer!
However, a key component of sexual chemistry in a loving relationship is having your needs match up. If you’re not feeling it consistently and your partner very much is — or vice versa — that may be a sign you don’t have the chemistry that results in great sex or lasting bonds.
It’s nobody’s fault, but it’s definitely a reason to have a conversation about the longevity of your healthy relationship and if your incompatibility is a deal breaker for either of you.
Do You Need Sexual Chemistry To Have Good Sex?
Honestly, this depends on the relationship! While intense sexual chemistry is never a bad thing, it doesn’t necessarily have to be present to have great sex, at least right from the get-go. And, what’s even more promising, there are ways that you can develop great sexual chemistry if it hasn’t come naturally.
In some cases, really bangin’ sexual chemistry can even stop you from developing a deeper relationship that exceeds physical touch. We’d argue that a bit of sexual chemistry and a lot of compatibility make for a satisfying, long-term romantic relationship.
How Can You Grow Sexual Chemistry?
Don’t be sad if you don’t experience intense sexual arousal with your partner anymore — get busy working on growing it! Don’t worry; we’ve got some tips to help you build it. Be warned — it’s not going to happen overnight! What is sexual chemistry but a combination of hard work and dedication?
Sometimes it’s a thunderclap moment, eyes meeting across a crowded room — but sometimes, especially with help, sexual chemistry can also develop over time. If you’re unsure whether you and your partner (or potential partner) have good sexual chemistry, you may just need to be patient!
Be patient with them, and be patient with yourself. Get to know your erotic responses and what you need to feel comfortable, lusty, and loving in your body and mind. Consider getting rid of that mental checklist of romantic must-haves you wrote in your diary as a teenager; people who “tick the boxes” aren’t always the same ones who make for hot sex or lasting partnerships.
Plus, think of the type of people you were attracted to back then. Can you imagine still being with them now? You’re a whole different person — and that’s a good thing!
If you had to rate your stress on a scale of one to 10 right now, what would you rate it? If you’re like most of us, it usually hovers around five or six on a good day. Life is stressful, especially these days!
While sex can act like a stress reliever (after all, orgasms release a whole bunch of feel-good endorphins), stress can also be a total mood killer. It’s hard to feel the vibes and chemistry with your partner if you’re lying there worrying about everything you need to be doing.
Remember how we talked about all of the hormones involved with chemistry? Many of the same hormones get released when you’re around people that care about you, even in a non-sexual way.
Having your partner show they care about you enough to help find ways to reduce your stress level can also make them more sexually attractive to you — so if they want to help, let them help! Getting help is hot.
Grow Your Intimacy Level
Yes, sexual chemistry is ultimately about sex, but that’s not where it starts and ends. Sexual desire in a long-term relationship comes from enjoying sex with your partner.
Are you going to keep wanting to have sex with someone who doesn’t consider your pleasure, has sex with you, and immediately rolls over and falls asleep without so much as a goodnight kiss? Likely not (also — red flag!).
Intimacy, and not just the sexual variety, is absolutely crucial. We talked about how sexy it is to have your partner help you reduce your overall stress level, so imagine taking that even further. You may never get out of bed!
Try to focus more on foreplay — really build that heat with your partner before you even start to shed your clothes. Slow-burn sexual encounters that get (and keep) you aroused for hours before the main event are great sexual chemistry builders. Take a sexy bath together, then use an arousal oil to increase your pleasure even more; you’ll both be begging for it in no time.
Talk About Your Fantasies
It can be intimidating to chat honestly with your partner about your secret fantasies, no matter how long you’ve been together. But let us reassure you — everyone has fantasies and kinks, whether they talk about them or not.
Talking openly about some of those fantasies and feelings can build intimacy (see above), plus you may finally get to try something you’ve only thought about! Good communication is a non-negotiable factor if you want a solid, long-term relationship; this is a great way to put it into practice.
However, just because you talk about them doesn’t mean that either of you must act on them. If their fantasy crosses a boundary for you (or vice versa), it’s perfectly okay to say that.
The Bottom Line
What is sexual chemistry? While the concept may be hard to define in exact terms and can be elusive, it’s also something you can build if you have the right tool kit. Sex never has to feel routine or boring, even in the longest long-term relationship, so stick with Foria for all of your intimacy needs!
Pheromones and their effect on women’s mood and sexuality | PubMed
Sexual chemistry: Theoretical elaboration and clinical implications | Sexual and Relationship Theory
Why Sexual Desire Is So Important to a Relationship | Psychology Today
Want more? Sign up for our newsletter