Tag Archives: Women

Chinese New Year

 

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Happiness

I always celebrate the Chinese New Year. I like being aware of what energies the new totem carries, asking people which year they were born, and what the astrology says about me. And there is a certain excitement with the Lunar New Year, because it means spring is on its way.

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I was just out of high school when I learned there was a whole way of keeping track of time by the moon. That always felt like a more accurate way to base a calendar. Plus, I like looking up at the night sky, I like remembering that the power that moves the moon moves through me.

The study of astrology came naturally to me. For decades I did charts for people, and had causal conversations with others. It was always fun, the Chinese Zodiac, in particular.  I liked the perspective that instead of one sign a month, there was one for a whole year. Not the year like we in the West knew it to be, one that started in February, and that made a difference. For instance, my father and mother are born the same year, but he is a Dragon, and she is a Snake. (And they so are.)

The characteristics are there, for sure, with a particular bent for men, and another for women. Men who are Tigers, or Rabbits, or Dogs seem to stand out in my life. A dear female friend is a Fire Monkey, born in the hour of the Monkey. She totally fits the profile. (And is totally looking forward to this year!) I admire the energy of the creative Dragon women, and the active Roosters. My year – those of the Sheep/Goat, well, we are quite the bunch. My graduating class has yet to have a reunion, and we just passed the big 30.

bluemoonsm300Here’s an except from my memoir, A Blue Moon in China, about the time when I was 21 years old and in China having a conversation with an American woman who was 45 years old that I had met the day before. The words come basically straight from the journal I kept while I travelled through China in 1988.

Chapter Seven: The Way to Yangshuo, A Blue Moon in China

“What year were you born?” she asked, popping the pineapple into her mouth.

“I was born in the spring before the Summer of Love,” I said. I liked thinking of it that way.

“Ah, 1967. I knew we had a kinship,” she smiled. “In the Chinese horoscope you were born in the Year of the Goat, like me.” She took a sip of her drink. “Supposedly we are born to love.” She rolled her eyes.

“I know, that’s why I call it the Year of the Sheep. I like the image of a sheep grazing on a green hillside, happy as can be.”

Our year was the only one of the twelve Chinese horoscopes to have two different totems.

“Sheep are vulnerable to predators,” Sherry countered. “Year of the Goat. That suits me better. The surefooted ability to scamper a mountainside, self-reliant. Fits with me always being off on adventure.”

 

As a special New Year’s Gift, if you order* the softcover of my memoir, A Blue Moon in China, you will receive a little black bag that reads: If you want a vacation, go to Hawaii. If you want an adventure, go to China.

*orders from website: abluemooninchina.com, while supplies last, in continental USA only

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The two photos were taken at the Lan Su Chinese Gardens in Portland, OR. I did a reading there while on my book tour. The Chinese character was made for me. You can see a video of it on my youtube channel, only it’s sideways (I don’t know why it came out that way).

 

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Excerts from A Blue Moon in China – Musings on the One Child Policy in 1988

People on a bus in Guangzhou, China 1988

People on a bus in Guangzhou, China 1988

From Chapter Three, Black Bicycles set in Guangzhou, China

A billboard caught my eye. It was a picture in pastels of a smiling mother, father, and a very round little girl with rosy cheeks. Curiously, the message was bilingual, both in Chinese and in English: One couple, One child. I had only recently heard of the One Child policy. It was a collective effort; sacrifice really, for the good of the country, a necessary measure for population control, handed down from the government. It looked like Big Brother in action. I wondered how it was enforced.

From Chapter Seven, The Way to Yangshuo

Sherry and I stopped for a moment to sit on a park bench. Across the street was a billboard for the One Child campaign.

“Do you know why it’s in English?” I asked her.

“Propaganda of some nature, I’m sure,” she said. “I did hear that birth control is widely available and that women are ‘encouraged’ to have abortions.” Sherry made it clear there wasn’t much choice. “What grieves me is the killing of baby girls. The rumor is they drown them. At least out in the countryside. The Communist Party doesn’t condone the infanticide, but certainly seems to have turned a blind eye to it.”

I was stunned. I didn’t want to believe it. At first I couldn’t speak, then I stammered feebly, “That must be heart-wrenching for the parents.”

“A male farmhand is more valuable than a female,” Sherry stated matter-of-factly. “Maybe it’s easier to do it because males have always been highly prized in traditional Chinese society. The old concept that females are expendable, less valuable than men – being that they are merely there to serve, lingers tenaciously on. We have Confucius to thank for that.”

“Confucius? How?” I was surprised. “Didn’t he preach virtuous conduct and being a good person? Noble pursuits? How does that translate to favoring men over women? Wasn’t he about the betterment of society?” I felt so upset I was babbling. Confucius says… I took a breath, shut up, and looked out at the city. Who was I kidding? I knew the words of well-meaning influence have often been perverted throughout history. Just about every wise man’s benevolence had been manipulated by the corrupt in search of power. I knew that ordinary men dominated most societies, many with an aim to keep women submissive and in the background. Barefoot and pregnant was the phrase that came to mind.

“It’s all a matter of interpretation, isn’t it?” Sherry’s voice was cold. “Anyway, it is a rare culture than honors women. You know that.”

I stared up at the billboard and wondered what other choices this country might have to keep its population down other than to regulate the number of children born. I had a feeling, religious belief or not, that having an abortion was a big deal emotionally, regardless of the reason. I totally agreed with the legal right for a woman to choose; it is her body and raising a child is a big deal. I was lucky I lived in the U.S. and had the right to decide for myself what I felt was best.

Young girl on a boat to Yangshou

Young girl on boat to Yangshuo

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A Blue Moon in China is my memoir about the 2 months I traveled through China in 1988 when I was 21 years old. I went alone with only $400 in my pocket.

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ebook coming soon

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A paragraph from A Blue Moon in China, musings on the One Child Policy

“I stared up at the billboard and wondered what other choices this country might have to keep its population down other than to regulate the number of children born. I had a feeling, religious belief or not, that having an abortion was a big deal emotionally, regardless of the reason. I totally agreed with the legal right for a woman to choose; it is her body and raising a child is a big deal. I was lucky I lived in the U.S. and had the right to decide for myself what I felt was best.”

A Blue Moon in China

one paragraph of me contemplating the Chinese One Couple One Child policy in my travel memoir set in 1988.

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A Spontaneous Travel Decision – A city so nice I went thrice, then I went again.

NYC graffitti covered van

A few weeks ago I was on the Amtrak with a Rail Pass for an eight-city book tour promoting my travel memoir, A Blue Moon in China, about the two months I traveled through China in 1988 when I was 21 years old.

My last scheduled author talk was in St. Paul on July 13, and my next event wasn’t until July 26 in Ann Arbor. That left 12 days for a wild card adventure. I could go anywhere in the USA for free. My mind opened up to the plethora of possibilities.

I considered going back to Santa Fe where I started my book tour at the Summer Solstice. I have good friends there and could visit more of my old stomping grounds from the decade I called New Mexico home.

Los Angeles was inviting, too. I love the city, and had even been contemplating relocating there from Detroit once my tour was completed. The cool thing about that idea was the full circle synchronicity of it, for I had moved from LA back to the Motor City eight years before to write the memoir that I was now promoting. But even though I have friends and family in Los Angeles, it would be a three-day train trip from St. Paul, and I would have to rent a car again, further taxing my limited funds.

The idea of New York City popped into my mind. I hadn’t been there is over a decade.

I contacted a friend to stay with, and the decision was made: I was going to go, I really was. I was so excited.

IMG_2309The first time I went to NYC was in 1986 when I was 19 years old. It was the 100-year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty and a big celebration was planned. I was supposed to meet a friend who flew in from Detroit ahead of me, but we didn’t connect. There I was, alone at the airport, without a place to stay. Luckily my mom had given me my cousin’s phone number, “just in case.” I put a coin in the payphone and crossed my fingers he was home. He was. I got on a graffiti covered subway car, then transferred to another one just as gritty, and climbed a set of stairs out into the lower eastside of Manhattan.

It was late, but people were everywhere, many sitting on blankets on the sidewalks selling all manner of things. I’d never seen anything like it. It was a night bazaar. I quickly realized most were probably homeless and earning money so they could at least eat.

My cousin lived in a small cellar studio apartment. It was crammed full of everything, including a girlfriend. She took my surprise visit well, and we three walked to the firework mega-display together. What a blast that was.

pproseThe next time I came to NYC was 1997. I came in on the Amtrak from Lamy, New Mexico, arriving on my 30th birthday with the intention of living in the big city. A friend met me at the station and gave me the welcome gift of a taxi ride to my new digs on the upper west side. I was to stay with a friend’s grandmother, a 90-year old Hungarian Jew named Rose who would prove to be quite the hardcore character. She enjoyed her vodka and beer, and moving furniture around by herself. The pre-war apartment was spacious, and there was a doorman. The upper west side felt like a world away from where my cousin lived on the lower east side. His part of town was where the actors and artists struggling to make ends meet lived; this neighborhood was much more affluent.

New York in the mid-90s was a transformed world from the mid-80s. I remember the moment I realized this was fact. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was walking from a friend’s house in Greenwich Village and wandered under an archway into a big public park. People were picnicking, playing Hacky Sack, and hanging out listening to the live music of a lone saxophone player. The water splashing from a large fountain reflected the bright sunlight. The sky was blue. It was an idyllic environment.

ppmanwithbananasThen it hit me: I was in Washington Square Park! Ten years prior this place had been full of drug dealers offering me every kind of substance at a good price. I couldn’t believe it! The change was astounding. I knew it was due to the new policies under the new mayor, a man called Giuliani. But where did all the homeless people go? And the drug dealers? It was like they had vanished without a trace.

The last time I had been in New York City was in 2001. I had moved there once again from New Mexico. I left on Buddha’s birthday – May 5th. From the moment I arrived I noticed the city felt different. The usual vibrancy of New York and its people seemed off, subdued somehow; a negative energy was palpable. I kept saying to a friend: It feels like the apocalypse has happened, but no one knows it yet. I wanted to leave immediately. I stayed only two months before I drove with a friend to Burning Man out in the desert of Nevada, then onward to San Francisco. It was there that I awoke to the news that the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. The horror and sadness I felt was only intensified by the fact that I had walked those streets so recently. I wondered if the unsettled feeling I had experienced in New York was some eerie premonition of 9/11.

NYC graffitiBut now it was 2015. And I wanted to go, just because I could. So I did.

To my eye, Manhattan was the same as it ever was – lots of people of every demographic and ethnicity, some in penthouses, others on the street. Though this time the homeless looked young, as I noticed they did in Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Like always, people played chess in the parks and sold used books on the sidewalks. Drivers honked horns impatiently when traffic stopped too long, and ambulances still had to squeeze their way through the congestion. And I caught whiffs of garbage as I walked down streets. But the subways were cleaner, and there was less graffiti. When I searched out remnants of old New York I found them – old bakeries, 24-hour delis, produce stands, street musicians, repertory theatres, and museums.

Chinatown NYC

I didn’t see too many signs of what I had been reading in magazines and hearing from friends – that NYC was now more for the wealthy than for the everyday person. Maybe the change is subtle, like in the cost of living rather than an increase of blatant bling. But in Chinatown I did see the encroachment of boutique stores, and in the Bowery I found the legendary music venue CBGB’s was now a high-end men’s clothing store.

church with rainbow flagThe biggest difference I noticed between my short stint in 2001 and this one in 2015 was that people seemed more relaxed and nicer to each other. I was able to make eye contact and engage in a little conversation with strangers on the subway, merchants in stores, and lovers of music hanging out in parks. I had the sense that a lingering residue of 9/11 hung in the air, reminding people that life is precious. I felt more a part of the big family of humanity living together in the Big Apple than I ever had before.

My spur of the moment decision to go to NYC was definitely the cherry on top of my five-week book tour.

einstein at the highline NYC

this article was edited by Christopher Ross and was first published in the women’s travel magazine Pink Pangea

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Blame it on the Bucket List, Part 2

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Five novels by Pearl S. Buck & three by Carlos Castaneda

When I saw my partner on the floor and realized he had had a stroke, the strangest thing happened: it was that my life that passed before my eyes; my mortality stared back at me.

The awareness of death lingers as a constant deep in my consciousness. It’s part of my being. I hear Don Juan tell Carlos Castaneda that Death hovered behind his left shoulder and would tap, “It’s Time.” My mother would say that on the day you are born, the day you are to die is already written. These concepts felt ethereal. The picture before my eyes of the fallen man with drool on his chin was tangible, tactile.

I sat in silence next to my partner who lay in a hospital bed. I heard a voice tell me I had to make a “bucket list.” It sounded so cliche. I blamed Jack Nicholson. I didn’t see the movie, but I was living in L.A. and the promotional campaign was everywhere. The jargon stuck, as did the concept which I understood as “the doing for the sake of doing.” Like “art for art’s sake.” Something bourgeois, self-serving.

Concrete passion had a habit of eluding me. I didn’t feel the purposeful drive people who accomplish a lot have. I know people of that caliber, women in particular. I am in awe of them, often wish I was like them, but I am more a person behind the scenes, wanting to be in the shadows. I felt my purpose was to to be of service, in whatever way I could. Or I was before I asked myself that question. I went for walks, read books and wrote in my journal.

That was enough. Until…

“What do I want to accomplish before I die?”

The answer was immediate: write the story of the two months I traveled through Communist China in 1988. I would call it an epiphany, but I had already attempted it over the years. I had three sets of typed sheets of paper, word for word from my journal, done on an electric typewriter and a manual one.

Watching the green lights monitor my companion’s heartbeat, I determined to make it a story. It was a journal written by a young woman of 21 years who studied fine art, not creative writing. (Years later I would read Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg scribble into notebooks stream of consciousness.**)

I began in earnest, fired up for the first time in a long time with a burning desire to complete a long term goal. I figured if that answer was so immediate it must be “my bliss.” I blamed Joseph Campbell for making me want to “follow my bliss.” (And Bill Moyers for interviewing him and introducing him to me.) I did like to draw with pastels, oil sticks, crayons, charcoal, pencils on paper, but that wasn’t the answer that came to me. It was the story of my traveling through China. I didn’t know why it was so important, one doesn’t need to when it’s a matter of the bucket list. It just is important for no reason.

My personality began to change. I became mono-focused, obsessed, impatient, totally self-centered. A Narcissist I think is the word.

A few months later was my 40th birthday. I celebrated on the equator in an eco-cabin high on a cliff. The windows were wide, without screens or glass. There was ocean as far as the eye could see. The royal blue canvas could be zippered close for when the monsoons blew in. And they did.

I had with me my first black spiral bound manuscript and several pencils. I read what was written out loud, protected from embarrassment by the surf pounding against the rocky shoreline, and the company of friends.

I also had with me what would turn out to be the first book I read related to my story: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. I bought it in the airport. I knew her name from the old hardcovers on a shelf of my mother’s. Their presence during my childhood may have one of two subtle conditioning toward my desire to know China. The other were wall plaques my mother bought on a trip to San Francisco just before I was born.On each was a reproduction of a watercolor engravings of a scene in China at the turn of the century. The time of Pearl S. Buck’s stories. The pictures were dark, one had to stand close to study the details, to peer into the past. For my mother they were a treasure, a souvenir purchase from a fancy department store. She hung them in every house we lived in, usually in the kitchen – her domain. For me, they were haunting. They spoke of a foreign land, a time that had stood still. (Little did I know what was really going on in China in the early 1900s, but that information came years later when I chanced upon another old hardback by Pearl S. Buck titled: The Man Who Changed China, The Story of Sun Yat-sen.)**

My partner made a stellar recovery and I stayed on task with finishing my book. (Little did I know it would take seven years.)  I had a story to go with my mother’s plaques.

The next thing on my list: learning to play the fiddle. (How is that for bourgeois?) I’ve been practicing for six months steady. Now that I’m finally sounding better I can feel a mono-focused passion coming in again: all I want to do is play my violin.

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Each pictures was done by a different engraver: Samuel Bradshaw, F.F. Walker, W.H. Capone, J.Sand, J.B.Allen, H. Adler. All were drawn by T. Allons.

*Any skill I might have writing can be attributed to one man: Christopher Ross, my editor extraordinaire.

In my book, there are 18 black and white photographs I took while there; an index; and recommended reading, movies, and music from the book lists. I hand-drew the map. Library Journal‘s verdict was that it’s a “nice addition to women’s studies readings as it chronicles the kind of travel undertaken with a tattered map and the recommendations of students met on trains.” Feel free to contact me: elizabeth@elizabethpilar.com  My website has lots of pictures: elizabethpilar.com If you want to read my story, I’d love for you to order it from your local bookstore and ask your library to add it to their collection. $18.99 softcover ISBN: 978-0-9904251-9-9

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Blame it on the Bucket List, Part 1

My cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number. I answered anyway. To my surprise it was a friend of my friend’s, a respected artist known by the name, Wisdom. I was jarred, immediately on alert. Wisdom told me he’s not one for drama, “Normally I wouldn’t call… but Keith and I were talking on the phone and he stopped making sense.”

I grabbed my bag and shouted I had an emergency and bolted to my car. My speed was hampered by the winding mountain road – and by the four door sedan I was driving. The drive felt like forever and a second. I pulled up and braked so hard, the tires skidded on the gravel. I jumped out and ran for the door.

The heat of the day was searing and dry. The sun was bright overhead.  The house looked foreboding. I was afraid to look inside.

I entered the room. It was dark.  And quiet. The usual noise of television was missing.

In the shadows I saw him. He was on the floor leaning up against the bed. His legs were straight out, his torso tilted to the right. Drool pooled up in the folds of his faded flannel shirt. But it was his eyes that caught me by surprise – they were full of mischief. He saw me and said, “Hi. I fell. I can’t get up.”

I ran next door for help. I was in luck, he was hanging out with his friend, a paramedic. He took over, asking the questions that are now so routine for treating strokes.  “What time is it?” he asked. Keith blurted out, “333.” That was his favorite number. The paramedic shot me a very concerned look, it was noon. I sighed relief, somewhere his consciousness, the purity of his being, was there. I studied his face; it was glowing with innocence, the bright-eyed look of the Fool.

The ambulance roared him away. I followed behind wondering what this next bit in my life was going to look like in my life, as my hair whipped in the sharp wind as I sped down the highway. The temperature must have been 100.

I felt calm as I crossed the parking lot toward the overhang of the emergency room entrance. This was a familiar sight for me, part of the landscape – my mother worked as a medical technition drawing and analyzing blood. I grew up walking through the automatic glass doors opening wide, into the bright lights, past the receptionists, straight to behind the scenes like I ownded the place. And this time I was ready for a battle. I knew he couldn’t stay, he didn’t have health insurance.

The air-conditioning was a relief. The attendants asked me questions. I said I don’t know and kept walking.  I went through a swinging gray door. Straight ahead the grey-blue privacy curtain around Keith’s bed was open. The drab neutrality was soothing.

Keith was sitting upright, his legs rocking back and forth freely like a child. His bare chest hooked up to machines. His arms punctured by IVs.

I walked to the cold metal railing and stood beside him. He was beaming. A glow was literally coming from his entire being. He looked like a new born baby who delighted in just being.

“I want to go home. I’m all better.”

“If you can get up and walk out of here, I’ll drive you home.”

Curiosity replaced anxiety, I wanted to see how he would handle this particular crisis in his lifetime of physical ailments.

I went to get a nurse to free him from wires and needles. A nurse came over, I explained. She shook her head with a sad expression, she understood and didn’t like it was that way.

My companion swung his legs around, put on his pants, shoes. He pulled his shirt on as he stumbled, with focus, out of the room, bolting for the door.

I thanked the nurse and ran to catch up. I felt surprised and not surprised.

He was already out the second glass door and turning toward the parking lot by the time I went past the attendants. They shouted at me for his billing information. I shrugged and pointed and said, “I’m sorry but I have to go.”

As soon as we got home, he laid face down on the bed and said, “I’m just going to go to sleep now.” I told him okay and went outside to call in reinforcements, convincing him to go to the VA. I knew they would take care of him. He was a Marine.

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Orgasms & Bonding: An Academic Paper by me (posted for the fun of it)

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 Is Orgasm Sufficient to Create an Emotional Bond?

    Various experiments with rodents, monkeys, even sheep, have led to a number of speculations about the role the neurotransmitter oxytocin has in pair-bonding, sexual behavior, social memory and support, and stress coping (Neuman, 2008).  Correlating subsequent behavior observed from hormone manipulation from experiments on animals to humans is proving too simplistic.  However, these initial experiments serve as important preliminary evidence into investigating its cause and effect.  The three types of voles (prairie, mountain, and meadow) have two distinct patterns of pair-bonding and of social interactions.  The prairie vole behaves monogamously, while the mountain and meadow voles are promiscuous.  Noting these differences with one species provoked inquiry into why that may be the case.  The difference was determined to be due to the varying degrees of oxytocin present in each subtype: the prairie voles showed higher levels than the other two.  It would make sense that a prairie vole living in wide open plains and vulnerable to predators, would have adapted biologically to favor receptors that facilitate trust and sociability.  It would also follow that to do so in pair-bonds creates micro-clusters of interactions.  For the purposes of this paper, though, the jump from the mating patterns of voles to the prediction of emotional bonding in humans exhibited as partner attachment or social behavior, will be regarded as premature, as the current research into the effects of oxytocin on human behavior is proving to be contradictory.  
    If when the neurotransmitter oxytocin is released into the bloodstream during an orgasm it facilitates an emotional bond or sets the stage for a monogamous pair bond, what is the essential quality of this bond?  It may not be love, per se, though Janice Hiller (2004) does define love as a neurochemical phenomenon, so perhaps it is.  For what is love but a feeling or emotion, and what is a feeling or an emotion but a complex interaction of neurons following a path of least resistance to a receptor ready to precipitate a behavior.  And it is in our behavior that the outward appearance of a bond, or partner attachment (Fisher, 1998), becomes apparent.  
    The neuropeptide oxytocin has entered into mainstream awareness as the potential key for affectionate partner attachment (Fisher, Aron, & Brown, 2006) and positive social interaction  (Campbell, 2010; Neuman, 2004).  Indeed, the observable behavioral changes in voles do indicate this peptide hormone plays a part in pair-bonding and affiliation for social interaction.  Oxytocin, once released into the blood stream, has both a central and a peripheral effect on the human body.  The central effect of oxytocin is that it works as a neuromodulator when this hormone is released through the hypothalamic pun and goes into the limbic regions before entering the brain stem (Landgraf & Neumann, 2004).  Its peripheral effect, stemming from the pituitary gland, acts to stimulate uterine contractions during labor and excretion of breast milk during lactation.  It is partly due to the connection with breast-feeding, and its calming affect on the woman, that has lead researchers speculate on its effects with bonding.  That idea is in line with the hypothesis behind the attachment theory: a bond is formed between a breast-feeding mother and the newborn infant.  Also, there may be a connection with the release of oxytocin and orgasm as studies on humans have shown plasma levels of oxytocin increase during orgasm in men and a high base level of oxytocin for multi-orgasmic women (Burri, Heinrichs, Schedlowski, & Kruger, 2007).  The same study showed that the simple act of hugging produced an increase in plasma oxytocin levels for men, thereby supporting its role facilitating affinity in affectionate bonding.  A world of speculations and postulations has opened up from these observations and correlations, but as we know, this does not mean there is an actual causal relationship.  There are inherent limitations preventing definitive conclusions to affirm this effect between oxytocin and pair bonding: we can not simply inject a dose of oxytocin into a human brain as we can into a vole brain.
    According to the Affective Primacy Hypothesis (Zajonic, 1980), to form a love bond, the love has to be communicated, i.e., each person has to know it is there.  How is this communicated?  Oxytocin has been shown to have an effect on the ability to trust and create a feeling of empathy (Campbell, 2010) by activating mind-reading abilities (Domes, Heindrichs, Michel, Berger, & Herpetz, 2007).  Indeed the external administration of oxytocin has shown an increase in verbal exchanges among partners, even during an argument (Ditzen, et al. 2009).  Trust and intimacy are interdependent, and the ability to “read” one’s partner to predict their needs is a crucial factor to sustaining a long-term relationship (Neff & Karney, 2005).  There is no doubt that communication styles affect the quality of a relationship or attachment, and knowing that one is loved allows a person to feel secure and relaxed, thereby creating a bond that enables true intimacy.  Cassidy (2001) sums it up by expanding on the definition of trust itself: the sense that the relationship is solid, the awareness of what one actually wants, the trust in oneself, and the trust in the other.  
    A securely attached person embodies these qualities of trust (Ainsworth, 1972). Yet only approximately 60% of the adult population displays this characteristic.  So what about the other 40% of adults who display behaviors of anxious- ambivalence or avoidance?  Does the release of oxytocin during orgasm attenuate these tendencies?  And what about the 20-30% of women who do not experience orgasm (Harris, Cherkas, Kato, Heiman, & Spector, 2008), or men with erectile dysfunction?  Does it follow that neither of these groups form positive emotional bonds?  I should point out that many of the women in the Harris, et al., study were experiencing marital difficulties or were not in a relationship.  This study also revealed a high correlation between emotional instability, demonstrated by high anxiety levels, and the inability to achieve orgasm (Harris, et al. 2008).  Although there are a variety of psychological and physiological factors involved in erectile dysfunction (Levay & Baldwin, 2009), stress and anxiety certainly do play a large role.  If oxytocin is the stress reliever it is reputed to be, then wouldn’t administrating a dose of oxytocin be the answer to these woes?  
    Alvares, Hickie, and Guastella (2010) noted an important component of the desire to be a part of a social circle, and its correspondence to levels of oxytocin: these effects were dependent on the quality of the precipitating social encounter.  When the social cue was encouraging, cooperation ensued after the release of oxytocin into the bloodstream, whereas if there was an element of uncertainty within the context of the quality of social inclusion, the presence of intranasally administrated oxytocin in both men and women did not reduce the state of stress.  This concurs with the idea that human behavior arises from within a psychological context, and that the effects of oxytocin are highly conditional to those psychological states (Hiller, 2004).  
      If patterns of attachment are created when one’s preconceptions from past experience set up paradigms of recurring patterns of behavior, as both Bowley and Ainsworth have proposed, and as many others have noted, then these are the psychological states which may influence the workings of oxytocin on one’s physiology.  In other words, the quality of an attachment is dependent on the expectations a person has before the release of oxytocin, of particular concern here before the orgasm.  The connection between a perceived threat of loss and ensuing anxiety is well known (Bowlby, 1980), and a person who is in a state of constant worry, from fear of rejection or abandonment, is certainly approaching their partner in a state of uncertainty.   
    Taylor, et al. (2008) found high baseline levels of plasma oxytocin in women, both young and old which seemed to correlate specifically to relationship stress.  If the woman was in a partner attachment, this relationship stress was conveyed as a feeling of distance from her partner, of being unable to trust and open up to her partner.  In short, the stressed woman conveyed feelings of anxiety.  There were also indications that these elevated oxytocin levels were shown in women not in a relationship.  Interestingly enough, it was also shown in woman either experiencing estrangement from their mothers or grieving the loss of a pet.  What is not known is whether an influx of oxytocin from an orgasmic release would contribute to a feeling of calm and openness to social connection, as it also not known if these woman were experiencing orgasms or not.  
      If desire is a combination of psychological and physiological responses, particularly for  women (Basson, 2003) (but also for men as evidenced in erectile disfunction studies), then what happens when the psychological precepts are those of anxious-ambivalent attachments or of  avoidant attachments?  Does an orgasm override these tendencies to block secure attachments?  Or does the attachment occur, but then either become manifest in total preoccupation and obsession with the partner or become repressed so as not to be consciously acknowledged?  And further, does gender make a difference?
    The psychological states of mind a person is experiencing, such as those displayed in the attachment theory, may be the key for the subsequent effects oxytocin has on the bond.  The study Birnbaum, Reis, Mikulincer, Gillath, & Orpaz, (2006) conducted reveals some pertinent evidence to support this claim: within the context of a relationship, both men and women demonstrated a decrease in maladaptive behaviors following sexual relations.  The key, though, did seem to be the quality of mindset prior to coitus.  If the mindset was positive, the interactions followed suit, but if it was not, then the opposite was true.  This correlation was most evident in partners who demonstrated anxious attachment tendencies.  In those who were avoidant, their tendency to regard sex as a separate entity continued to be evident (Birnbaum, et al., 2006).   While it can be safely assumed that, unless there was an erectile dysfunction, an orgasm occurred during coitus for the man, what is not known, is whether the women in the study experienced an orgasm during coitus.  According to the statistics gathered by Taylor, et al., only 36% of women are considered to be highly orgasmic, while 16% of women have never had an orgasm.  Granted, this study was geared toward older women- – mean age of respondents was 50, but these statistics may hold true across all age groups.
    Palk (2010) has looked at “state effects” at the time of sexual involvement, and has determined that people self-select into certain relationship types: some for sex, some for love.  His postulation that the quality of a relationship is determined by the mental mindset at the time of sexual involvement reinforces the findings of Alvares, et al. (2010) on oxytocin and subjective responses.  Birnbaum, et al. (2006) suggest that people with avoidant attachment tendencies are more likely to engage in casual sex.  Stinson (2010) has noted that people with secure attachment tendencies do not readily participate in the hook-up culture, and that the avoidant and anxious characteristics of others tend to become more pronounced in that culture.  Faley and Shaver (2000) even go so far as to claim that a relationship does not indicate an attachment.
    Avoidant attachments often work in such a way that no matter what the underlying truth of  the emotion may be, there is a pronounced tendency to deny that truth.  Fisher, et al. (2006) makes the case the sex drive is distinct from both romantic love and partner attachment, therefore a person who is avoidant may engage in sex, even have orgasms, but the act is purely physical; they have detached themselves from any further emotional possibility.  Many studies have shown that highly avoidant people are less likely to fall in love or be interested in long-term relationships, while highly anxious people tend toward using sex to keep their partners from leaving them and yearn to merge with their partner (see Birnbaum, et al. 2006, for full review).
    Oxytocin has been shown to have a direct relationship with estrogen (Taylor, 2006); it needs estrogen to synthesize (Hiller, 2004).  Could this indicate that women are more susceptible to emotional bonding from an orgasm than men are?  Zajonc (1980) has proposed that women use sex as a means of creating bonding.  But does it work?  Do the men they have sex with bond with them?  Since men reach orgasm more frequently than a mere 36% of the time, are they also bonding emotionally with the women they are engaging in sexual relations with?  Hiller (2004) has stated that the oxytocin release for a man does indeed affect a sense of closeness.  The levels of plasmic increase of extraneously administered oxytocin remained high in men for about 80 minutes following their orgasm (Burri, et al. 2007).  This temporary emotional bond, experienced as the oxytocin is circulating through the blood, may simply be the hormone’s calming effect, and not something that creates a sustained secure attachment.  
        I find myself cautious about disregarding the potential effects of oxytocin on emotional bonding, especially for women who display anxious-ambivalent tendencies.  Due to the random occurrence of an orgasm, when it does occur, a woman might mistake the pleasurable feeling to indicate a love for the man.  Unless he can give her the constant reassurance she needs, e.g., he may be an anxious- ambivalent himself and respond in kind, she could find herself at the losing end of an avoidant’s game playing.  Men, in general, are known to play more games than women (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1991).  If a sense of trust is created by the release of oxytocin and the man is experiencing a sense of peace from his own orgasm, the woman may find herself even more vulnerable to rejection than if she had not experienced an orgasm.  She may be at an even greater risk for forming an inappropriate emotional bond, as studies have shown that administered oxytocin decreased fear in situations of betrayal, presumably by decreasing activity in the amygdala (Campbell, 2010).
    Those who are avoidant may have enough autonomy to remain emotionally stable, although if they are intent on using sex as a physical release only (Birnbaum, et al., 2006) with oxytocin’s effect on reducing fear, they may find themselves emotionally attached and in an active fight to resist the intimacy aroused.  And if, as Oberzaucher & Grammer (2009) noted, men tend to overestimate their sense of control in unfamiliar situations, then a relationship that began as a hook-up and then progressed to casual sex (friends with benefits) at the eleventh encounter (Palk, 2010) with reoccurring orgasms with the same person, an avoidant may find themselves experiencing a cognitive dissonance.  That may not lead to a dismal end if their partner is either in a secure attachment pattern, or is another avoidant who understands autonomy and negotiation. This would allow the partners to bond on a cognitive level rather than an emotional one.
    My conclusion is nurture rules the day with regard to how we humans actually do form our attachments, and nature plays a supporting, yet potentially dangerous role depending on one’s true intentions, motives, desires, and needs.  Perhaps what we might now learn from the voles is to be content with different mating patterns, and to know ourselves well enough to self-select into the pattern we want.  Those who have secure attachments may be like the prairie voles, at peace in their pair bonds and social interactions.  Avoidant attachments may be seen in the mountain voles, off on new adventures and seeking out novelty, moving from one vole to another.  Perhaps the meadow voles are caught in the middle and are anxious and ambivalent.  
    The preliminary results concerning the effects of oxytocin released into the blood stream, whether from an orgasm or intranasally, are not straightforward enough to be definite, but what behavior across the spectrum of human nature is?  One thing I have concluded about oxytocin is that it seems it can have a powerful effect, though it may be for only a short period of time. Perhaps if oxytocin is released upon simple affectionate touch, as well as during an orgasm, these intimate caresses may be the key to forming a sustained secure attachment.  I would suggest longitudinal studies could be done to inquire upon this effect.   As far as  emotional bonding occurring, it would seem oxytocin does indeed exert an effect, but the nature of its quality seems to be context-specific.  It does not appear to be as simple injecting oxytocin into the human brain and converting a promiscuous person into a monogamous partner, if that is what one wants.  At least, not yet.

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