Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Science of Sexuality in "Sherlock" (BBC): Missed Clues on Naked Irene Adler, Phenylethylamine Float, etc

The BBC production of "Sherlock" is played so impeccably by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch. What makes this show unique is how Sherlock utilizes the study of body language in combination with logical deduction in order to assess human sexuality, usually to hilarious effect. Not many shows have a scientific (or even accurate) perspective on human sexuality, and that is one of the reasons why "Sherlock" is my favourite show!

"Sherlock" Season 2 "A Scandal in Belgravia" Now this is a classic scene where Sherlock meets Irene Adler, who appears nude in order to shock and confuse him. What I find perplexing is that he fails to pick up on a myriad of obvious signs.


He could still analyse a nude person in the following ways: 
1) Jewelry ostentatious or of sentimental value?
2) Tweeze her eyebrows?
3) Dye her hair? 
4) Is her body language open or closed? 
5) Angle of her face as she looks at him, what is she trying to convey?
6) Is she lying?
7) Behaving sexually or non-nonchalant regarding her nudity, and why?
8) Long or short nails?
9) Real or fake nails? Looking at a woman's nail speaks volumes about her sexuality. Short nails increases the likelihood that she has clitoral orgasms (since long nails would simply scratch too much) 
10) Is she a smoker?
11) What sort of perfume is she wearing? (I thought he was good at detecting scents, remember Anderson?)
12) If she was so adamant about being nude, then why was she wearing shoes? And why specifically stilettos? High heels alter body posture, it's so obvious what effect she intended that to have. 
13) Judging from the way she walks and stands, did she attend private school? Finishing school?
14) Which part of UK is she from?
15) What can he deduce from her speech pattern? Use of words/language can tell so much.
16) Any accent? Does she speak a foreign language?
17) What is the nature of her relationship with her "assistant"?
18) What can be deduced from the decor of her place? A person's taste speaks volumes about them.
19) Are there any bookshelves and if so, what books does she have? That also speaks volumes.
There is a scene where John Watson meets with Irene Adler and tells her that she should text Sherlock (without giving anything away here). After Sherlock receives that text, we see him going home rather dazed and dissociated. This is what I love to call "the Phenylethylamine Float." Phenylethylamine (a.k.a. PEA) being a chemical in the brain that gives us the euphoric feeling of being in love. This scene has the best depiction of a Phenylethylamine Float I've seen in film...EVER! They truly captured it. That is, if you believe that he is in love with her. His dissociative behaviour can just as easily be interpreted as him being in shock. It is up to the audience to interpret his emotional state at that time. This is when writing, acting, and the gestalt of production converge to make film a beautiful art form! Well done!

Youtube: Sherlock - Shock

to be posted once I can download the video (the scene when Sherlock returns home after the text from Adler)

Phenylethylamine - The Love Hormone (very addictive, handle with care)

What Sherlock is referring is the early stage of the Excitement phase (identified in the research of Masters and Johnson). Although the Excitement phase mainly refers to what would be called snogging (a.k.a. petting) in laypeople's terms ( pun intended), this also applies to mental stimulation. This stimulation results in 1) increased heart rate, 2) an increase in blood pressure, and 3) slight increase in breathing rate. Vasocongestion of the skin would create a flush in some, but not all, individuals. More recent research has measured the dilation of the pupils of the eyes as a response to sexual attraction, and sometimes simply just seeing something that one desires (on a nonsexual level).

Phenylethylamine is particularly experienced in the initial stage of a pair-bond (i.e. dating) relationship, which has been scientifically measured to last between 24 to 36 months. This is called the Passionate Phase (face-to-face ignore the world), as opposed to the Companionate Phase (side-by-side face the world together) of a pair-bond relationship. That is why it is ill-advised to make any kind of long term plans such as marriage or parenthood within this first stage (2 to 3 years) because these feelings are fleeting and they will change. To be much more logical to wait until the pair-bond is safely within the Companionate Phase of a relationship in order to make such life altering decisions.

For more on the science and chemistry of love, please read my post Where Love Resides in the Brain and the Related Hormones

His deduction that Molly's date, Jim (Moriarty, in disguise), is gay is too funny for words. In the German version, this scene is my favourite since it rhymes so nicely ("schwul" and "cool").

Sherlock is written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the same team which created the modern incarnation of "Doctor Who." "Sherlock" Season 1 & 2 are out on DVD, with production of season 3 currently underway. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (playing John Watson, of "Hobbit" fame) are signed on for season 4 as well.

The show is a hit around the world, which makes me, as linguist, very happy since I can watch it in a multitude of languages. I own the French, German, and English versions and am planning on acquiring the Russian and Spanish versions. Arguments are always so much hilarious in Russian than in English. I only wish they had it in Lithuanian, which I highly doubt (if you know otherwise, please let me know). I enjoy it tremendously nonetheless!

Let's talk sex...
The various stages of sexual arousal were measured by Masters and Johnson following the pioneering research of Kinsey. Masters and Johnson studied the anatomy and physiology of human sexual response using direct observation between 1957 in 1965 and published it in their book Human Sexual Response. Masters and Johnson categorized the human sexual response cycle as follows: excitement phase, plateau phase, orgasmic phase,and resolution phase (aka  refractory period).

Orgasm research which is currently being undertaken by Beverly Whipple et al, reveals that the human sexual response cycle may not be quite as simple as Masters and Johnson categorized it. Here is their book Science of Orgasm. Male multiple orgasm, the non-ejaculatory variety, a.k.a. coitus reservatus, Tantric, Taoist (depending on your sexosophy), has been found to have no refractory period, therefore, no post-intercourse fatigue. A non-technical book discussing this method is Multi-Orgasmic Man. Another form of orgasm which is currently being researched by Whipple, is that of the mental orgasm (a.k.a. hands free orgasm) which is psychologically and neurologically based, requiring no physical stimulation. For details see
is that still leaves usthat still leaves us with its publishedI digress...this research is so engrossing, I can't help it...for more on the subject see my post Male Multiple Orgasm and the Science Behind it



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