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Dopamine is released whenever we encounter rewards, or “natural reinforcers,” that help us survive. Things like food, sex, novelty (new things may lead to new survival-boosting benefits), and friendship (you’re more likely to survive in a group) sit at the top of the natural reinforcer hierarchy. Once we encounter one of these potent rewards/reinforcers, a neural pathway is created (more on neural pathways below). Dopamine keys in on the reward system in our brain, and drives us to repeat the same behaviors that helped us attain those rewards previously.

The release of dopamine starts amping up your sex drive when you see someone attractive. This increase will motivate you to do whatever your culture says you need to do to woo that person and eventually get them into bed. If you’re the old-fashioned type, that process can take a while. If you’re a Don Juan and the gal is open to casual sex, maybe a few hours is all you’ll need. Whatever the timetable, dopamine levels and hence sex drive will continue to increase as you move towards consummating your desire.

We also get that shot of dopamine whenever we encounter a new attractive woman other than our current partner. Our brains are hardwired to seek out as many different (novel) sexual partners as possible. Again, from a reproductive perspective it makes sense that being exposed to a variety of attractive sex partners would jack up dopamine in our sexual reward circuitry, particularly in men. For males, the goal is to reproduce with as many different females as possible to create as many progeny as possible, with as much genetic variation as possible to increase our possible blood lines.

This drive for multiple new sex partners even when you already have an available and willing one is often called the “Coolidge Effect” .