The Science Behind Dark Gothic Feels
by Madeline Iva
Hello lovely people! How are you? I’m pretty obsessed these days with one thing and one thing only: dark, gothic feels. I like all aspects of suspense–preferably set in intriguingly gloomy surroundings, and chock full of complex, morally ambiguous or hard to read characters. I love how gothic reads make the heart race from a pinch of fear, a heaping amount of romantic tension, and a bit pit of secrets. But that obsession has branched off into more basic question: If you’re feeling a bodily reaction to someone — is the other person feeling it too? This is often an underlying question in gothic romance, where Things Must Not Be Said. But how can we not question this in the times we’re living in?
I’ve had moments in the past where suddenly out of the blue, my radar begins pinging around someone. I’ve later found out that the other person was *really* into me at the time. Because of that, I’ve come to trust my inner radar–and my advice to friends is always: if you’re feeling it, it’s cause there’s something there.
Of course, I always add, the knowledge may not do you any good whatsoever. Most of us are not ruled by our heart or groin. With most of us, our head is firmly in charge. There can be multiple reasons–exponential reasons even–why the guy or girl in question may decide not act or want to act on the vibe between you. They may be committed elsewhere, they may think that despite chemistry you’re a dork, or crazy, or difficult, or for whatever reason you just don’t match (either inwardly or outwardly) what their head requires in a date, mate, or f*ckbuddy. 🙁 And they may deny that there is any chemistry at all if you try to initiate something. SEE BELOW.) The last thing you want to do is start off a conversation asking for an admission that ‘there’s something going on between us.’ Trust me, more than half the time that conversation is not going to go well.
But am I even right that if you’re feeling it, then the other person is too? Science has been bending the microscope towards this question as well, and so far the answers are hacking big chunks out of my theory. For one thing — if you present a sense of danger and even mild stimulants, it will raise levels of sexual attraction in men. (Artificially?)
The Science of How Thrills Leading To Feels: the article below from Scientific American reveals how men are much more likely to risk engaging with an attractive woman out if they are near a high suspended bridge and have had a major shot of caffeine.
In fact, both men and women are very susceptible to mixing signals of danger for emotional feels towards another person. The TED talk below explores the dangers of SSRI’s like Prozac in our society — because they inhibit dopamine. Without dopamine, we have a hard time feeling attraction, or falling in love. But we also get a dopamine rush from a sense of thrilling adventure, or danger.
And finally, science is starting to reveal that as more men and women feel it’s acceptable to form mixed gender relationships, a very high proportion of men assume that at the core of the friendship is a mutual attraction for each other that is being deferred for some reason–like one of them is in a committed relationship. Women however, do not report similar assumptions at anywhere near the same rate. They see the guy friends more often than not as “just friends” and there is no attraction on their part.
What can we understand from these limited studies?
The bad news: just having a vibe around someone all of a sudden is not definitive proof that they’re feeling something too–even just sexual chemistry. One hopes that men all across the world will take this message to heart and that many of them who do assume this will immediately stop being creeps.
The good news: men are REALLY susceptible to having feels for women they’re around. If you *are* feeling something for a cis-man, and you’re a woman–the chances are pretty high he could be feeling it too. Again–he may not want to do anything about it–or even acknowledge it.
In the face of this scientific news–and compounded by the sexual harassment issues we’ve been facing lately as a society, I simply must revise my theory:
Here’s my new version: If you’re feeling vibes coming off someone, can you assume they’re feeling it too? No. But they *might* be. And the best thing you can do in that situation is hug that knowledge to yourself.
Because there are a ton of reasons a person can be sending out the sparky feels. The passion of what they’re engaged in–career, hobby, or creative endeavors–can explain so much of why you’re getting those tingles down low. The truth is men benefit from women’s company and friendship in so many ways — from the feeling of being able to confide in someone, to basic career assists, to the care-taking that women often provide. There are TONS of reasons why a man may be in a state of high anticipation around you that has nothing to do with actually being into you–either sexually or romantically.
Which brings me back to the glorious wonder of Dark Gothic Feels. What we can no longer assume in the real world we can heartily assert in the fantasy world of the gothic. Is he a vampire? He’s totally into you.
Is he a reclusive member of the upper class, harboring dark secrets in his decayed castle mansion? Into you.
Is he an elf lord amidst rotting splendor and magic, cursed with the power of bespelling women? Oh he wants you.
Is he a nice guy who happens to be ridiculously hot and because of some misunderstandings between you early on, sincerely wants to help you fight the vicious demon eating your soul? Yeah, he not only wants dirty sex with you–asap–he luuuuvs you.
Retreat with me to these fantasy fictional worlds where every twinge of a vibe means something hot, pure, and true.
I’ve got a free novella you can check out — about the hot guy and demon infected heroine.
I’ve got a brooding elf-wizard in his lonely tower — sample the first 100 pages of WICKED APPRENTICE.
If your pleasure poison is the reclusive guy with dark secrets and a mouldering castle follow me and you won’t miss out on the glorious gloom.