Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study.

Our culture tends not to trouble itself with how men feel after sex—it's presumed that as the ultimate goal of much of male energy and desire, sex can only lead to feelings of pleasure. But a first-of-its-kind study found that men can get sad after sex, exhibiting a condition called "post-coital dysphoria" (PCD) that has previously been observed in women.

PCD is characterized by feelings of sadness, tearfulness or irritability following sex.

The study, authored by the masters student Joel Maczkowiack and Professor Robert D. Schweitzer from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, analyzed the data from an international survey of mostly heterosexual 1,208 men from the United States, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Russia, and other countries.

What they concluded is that 41% of the participants experienced PCD in their lifetime. 20% reported it happened to them in the preceding four weeks. 4% said they suffered from it regularly.

Maczkowiack said that the feelings reported by the survey's subjects varied from "I don't want to be touched and want to be left alone" to "I feel unsatisfied, annoyed and very fidgety. All I really want is to leave and distract myself from everything I participated in."

Some talked about feeling "emotionless and empty".

Professor Schweitzer thinks the results of the study show that how men view sex is much more complex and varied than assumed previously.

"It is commonly believed that males and females experience a range of positive emotions including contentment and relaxation immediately following consensual sexual activity," said Schweitzer. "Yet previous studies on the PCD experience of females showed that a similar proportion of females had experienced PCD on a regular basis. As with the men in this new study, it is not well understood. We would speculate that the reasons are multifactorial, including both biological and psychological factors."

Not only do men experience PCD, this condition can interfere with the interactions of the couple following sex. Maczkowiack stressed that the postcoital stage—"the resolution"—is very important for building the intimacy of the couple. Those that "engage in talking, kissing, and cuddling following sexual activity report greater sexual and relationship satisfaction," he added.

What is the cause of PCD? Scientists don't yet know but theorize it may have to do with the "dopamine rebound effect" when dopamine levels are lower after the sexual rush.

You can check out the new study in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.

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