Anatomy of a Flirt

Most people often become too attached to the external appearance of flirting that they do not even bother to wonder what is exactly going on within the body while a man is flirting with a woman, and vice versa. Everything that goes on outside must have had a physiological basis  this includes ones emotions, words, choices and actions such as flirtation. Flirtation is in fact the result of the coordination of the external parts of the body, certain internal organs and most of all, the hormones. This paper seeks to investigate the roles of each of these three physiological components of flirting.

External Parts of the Body Involved
We know someone is flirting first of all with his external appearance and using the different parts of his body.

Male Body Parts. Men use mainly their body probably the trunk, arms and chin (Flirtation Body Language). They usually arch, stretch or swivel their bodies when flirting, sometimes consciously but most of the time unconsciously. With their arms, they make grand gestures or they place their arms behind their head while leaning back in the chair. Lastly, they often point their chin in the air (Flirtation Body Language). It is said that often times, these gestures mean Look at me, trust me, Im powerful, but I wont hurt you. And I dont want anything much...yet (Flirtation Body Language). Other parts of the male body that may be used in flirtation include the pectoral muscles and a hairy chest (Flirtation Body Language), and perhaps biceps whose strength men usually show off during arm wrestling matches.

Female Body Parts. Among women, the parts of the body commonly used involve the eyes, lips, mouth, eyebrows, neck, back, buttocks and chest. With their eyes, women glance and make a short or sustained gaze. The lips are mainly used for smiling, licking and pouting (Flirtation Body Language). The mouth is used for giggling and laughing (Flirtation Body Language). Women use their eyebrows to make eyebrow flash or an exaggerated rising of the eyebrows of both eyes, followed by a rapid lowering (Flirtation Body Language). Women are also good at combining gestures using different parts of the body. A woman might make a coy smile while tilting her head downwardpartially avertingthe eyes and coveringthe mouth (Flirtation Body Language). Lastly, a woman may also expose her neck, force the buttocks to tilt out and up and her chest to thrust forward (Flirtation Body Language). All of these flirtatious movements with the appropriate body parts indicate the idea of submissiveness.
Aside from the body language and body parts previously mentioned, there is also body language that stops flirtation. Among women, one type of body language that stops flirtation is by orienting her body away slightly or cross her arms across her chest, or avoid meeting the mans eyes. (Flirtation Body Language)

Internal Organs Involved
Aside from the external parts of the body, flirtation involves also certain internal organs.

Brain. The area of the brain called nucleus accumbens is the part known as essential pleasure centers, and it is where oxytocin and dopamine receptors overlap (Johnson).

Several areas of the brain are also considered receptors for sex steroids (Blair). These specific areas of the brain mediate the effects both of circulating gonadal steroid hormones and of locally produced neuroactive steroids and are involved in autonomic regulation and a wide range of homeostatic regulatory processes (Blair).

Other parts of the brain involved in flirtation include the areas that respond to visual stimuli. Aside from the visual cortex, the part that is directly concerned with visual stimuli is the hypothalamus. It is believed that physical characteristics stimulatethe hypothalamus, which is followed by sensations such as elevated heart rate, perspiration, and a general feeling of sexual arousal (Fernandez). It is worth mentioning that for men, such visual cues usually refer to young women for A preference for youth is linked to a womans reproductive capacity and that healthier and more youthful women are more likely to reproduce take care of the children after birth and perpetuate the males gene (Fernandez).

Heart and Cardiovascular System. The cardiovascular system is involved in the sympathetic response of the body to the emotions associated with flirtation. The specific parts of the cardiovascular system that are affected by such emotions involve coronary function, blood pressure, and volume (Huxley). It also follows that ones heart rate and respiratory rate also go up (James), and with the rise in blood pressure that follows, one immediately gets a flushed feeling from head to toe (James).

Hormones Involved
The process of flirtation is also hormonal in nature. Aside from the involvement of body parts and certain internal organs like the heart, flirtation also involves hormones, or proteins secreted by the endocrine glands.

Flirtation usually makes up the first three stages of love lust, attraction and attachment.
During the first stage when lust takes on an individual, the hormones involved are testosterone and estrogen  in both men and women (The Science of Love).

Testosterone. It is believed that Women with high levels of testosterone are more attracted to masculine-looking men and that men, whose levels of the hormone are increased, are more attracted to feminine faces (Testosterone Levels). Testosterone is produced by the testes in males and released into the blood but the formation of which is triggered by the pituitary gland that constantly releases the hormone from puberty.

Dr. Ben Jones, a psychology lecturer at the Aberdeen University Face Research Laboratory, stated that sex drive is higher when testosterone levels are also high and that men and women in hormonal states where their interest in sex is highest show stronger attraction to high-quality - or healthy - mates although studies show that attraction is affected by fluctuations in testosterone levels (Testosterone Levels).

Estrogen. According to Ivanka Savic, Associate Professor and Senior Consultant Neurologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, When smelled, an estrogen like compound triggers blood flow to the hypothalamus in mens brains but not womens (Fernandez) and when women produce less estrogen during their menstrual cycle, their scent can be more or less appealing to males (Fernandez). Similar to testosterone, estrogen is released by the female reproductive organs, the ovaries, before they are released into the blood and the production is mediated by the pituitary gland.

Pheromones. Pheromones are known as naturally occurring substances the fertile body excretes externallyto trigger a response from the opposite sex of the same species (What are Pheromones). The protein called aphrodisin appears to be a carrier protein for a smaller molecule thatmay be the real pheromone (Pines). Since the first pheromone was identified in 1956 as a powerful sex attractant for silkworm moths (Pines), scientists have tried isolating the hormone in the laboratory. It is believed that the most direct scientific route to understanding pheromones is through genetics (Pines) for there have been a great deal of evidence pointing to the likelihood of pheromone sensation through sensor neurons.

The second stage, or the attraction stage, is governed by the actions of three main neurotransmitters namely adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin (The Science of Love).

Adrenaline. Also known as norepinehrine, this hormone, which is produced by the adrenal glands, heightens attention, short-term memory, hyperactivity, sleeplessness and goal-oriented behavior (Cupids Arrow). Based on these, one can see that somehow adrenaline treats love like it is something worth working hard for like a goal. The reason is that, when one wants to achieve his goal, his attention is also heightened and focused, and he becomes restless and sleepless. Adrenaline, because of its function in triggering excitement, is also considered a natural mood enhancer (Vasquez).

Dopamine. When the brains of couples who claimed to be in love were examined, what they discovered were high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine (The Science of Love). It is believed that this neurotransmitter triggers an intense rush of pleasure and has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine (The Science of Love). Dopamine was also known to cause increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship (The Science of Love). Just like adrenaline, dopamine is also considered a natural mood enhancer(Vasquez). Dopamine is produced in various parts of the body including the gastrointestinal tract. (Eisenhofer)

Serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical which seems to explain why when youre falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts (The Science of Love). It is produced by the intestines and the brain (Manson) and released into the blood.

The third stage in love is attachment stage and the two major hormones involved in this feeling include oxytocin and vasopressin (The Science of Love).

Oxytocin. Oxytocin, also known as the trust hormone or cuddle hormone (The Science of Love), is actually one hormone released by men and women during orgasm (The Science of Love). This hormone is made in the hypothalamus and released through the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland into the blood. It is perhaps responsible for deepening the feelings of attachment and making couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex (The Science of Love). Aside from this, oxytocin is also said to help cement the strong bond between mother and baby (The Science of Love) upon the simultaneous release of the hormone during childbirth.

In one experiment with voles, neuroendocrinologist Sue Carter injected this particular hormone into the brains of voles and found out that they formed bonds more quickly than usual (Johnson). When Carter and her colleagues tried injecting chemicals that blocked the receptors of oxytocin to cut off the supply of the hormone, the result was indiscriminate mating without any lasting attachment (Johnson).

Vasopressin. Vasopressin, on the other hand, is considered an important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex (The Science of Love) although some sources say this is released by men during sex (Vasquez). Aside from the aforementioned function, this particular hormone, which is also called anti-diuretic hormone (The Science of Love), also works hand in hand with the kidneys in order to control thirst. Vasopressin is produced by the pituitary gland and released into the blood.

DARPP-32. DARPP-32, according to Rockefeller University in New York and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, is the essential ingredient in the brain pathway that makes female mice and rats sexually receptive (McManamy). Furthermore, the works of 2000 Nobel Laureate Paul Greengard PhD, the man behind DARPP-32 have provided new insights into schizophrenia and drug use (McManamy). Indeed further research on DARPP-32 is important in determining the exact pathways of hormones in the brain when one gets sexually excited. The practical purpose of this would be to determine which pathways represent actions that must be avoided or repeated to elicit the desired sexual response in human relationships.

Flirtation is indeed not only made up of three physiological components that include the external organs, internal organs, and hormones. It is also a process where these three components interact with one another to produce smooth flirtation. The external body parts in both men and women help each other form suggestive movements that imply either trust or submissiveness.  The internal organs are the seat of the production of hormones and these organs initiate, direct or facilitate the movements. Lastly, the hormones produced by the brain and the endocrine glands affect the brain itself in several ways that would encourage love, sex or simply attraction. A more thorough and in-depth investigation into the physiology of flirtation may bring about breakthroughs in eliciting romances as well as perhaps in maintaining wonderful and fulfilling relationships.


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