You know the scene – the passionate embrace fades into the afterglow, and someone inevitably lights up a cigarette. But why do so many of us feel compelled to smoke after getting intimate?
In this article, we’ll dig into the fascinating science, psychology, and cultural conditioning behind this steamy habit.
Smoking after sex prolongs feelings of pleasure and relaxation by causing the brain to release dopamine, similar to an orgasm. It also helps bring the body down from the aroused state.
There are psychological associations between smoking and sexuality due to decades of marketing campaigns and depictions in media and pop culture.
Oral fixation may also play a role since smoking continues the arousing of oral stimulation from kissing and oral sex during intimacy.
Breaking the habit requires a conscious effort to replace post-sex smoking with new rituals like deep breathing, yoga, or taking a shower to relax. Over time, the associations can be overwritten with healthier non-smoking rewards.
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According to one study, nicotine from cigarettes causes the brain to release dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter also activated during orgasm. Essentially, smoking prolongs the pleasurable high. “After a romp in the sheets, I just feel completely relaxed and satisfied,” says Ryan, 32. “Having a cigarette is like an instant wave of euphoria on top of that.”
Additionally, both sex and smoking stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, increasing arousal. Lighting up helps bring the body back down. “My heart is always racing after sex,” explains Sarah, 29. “Taking those deep breaths of smoke seems to calm me.”
Of Mad Men and Mistresses
Today’s intimate association between smoking and sexuality was carefully crafted decades ago through marketing and media. Classic films and ads depicted post-coital smoking as glamorous, using it to sell images of sensuality and rebellion.
“I grew up watching old movies where the femme fatale always lit up after seducing some hapless man,” laughs Chris, 41. “I guess on some subconscious level I still connect smoking with being suave and sexy.”
Psychologists also point to oral fixation as a factor, since the mouth is an erogenous zone heavily featured during intimate acts. The deep inhalation and exhalation patterns mirror rhythmic breathing during sex.
“Kissing and oral sex get me so revved up,” shares Rebecca, 35. “Afterwards, I think I smoke to kind of prolong that arousing oral stimulation.”
Breaking the Cycle
If you want to break the habit, forego the usual cigarette and try relaxing rituals like deep breathing or a warm shower. Over time, you can overwrite those associations.
“I started doing 10 minutes of yoga after sex instead of reaching for a smoke,” says Mike, 29. “At first it wasn’t the same, but now I don’t even think about cigarettes.”
While the link between smoking and sexuality made sense in the past, today we understand the impacts on health. With some willpower, you can start forging new and better rituals.
So next time you feel that urge to light up, pause and consider if it’s just nostalgia pulling the strings. With conscious effort, you can retrain those old habits and fully savor intimate moments smoke-free.