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What Music Actually Does For Your Mood (And Your Love Life)

Those sex playlists actually set the mood in more ways than one.

Love & Relationships

I’m far from someone who has an ear for music, still, I’ve always gotten so excited about music! It’s the way that music has the ability to carry you back to a moment in time. I always, always listen to lyrics, as I like to be able to relate to my music more often than not. (The exception here is the thug anthems.) Whether it be that summer jam that serves as the soundtrack throughout the season or a sexy, down on your knees, begging tune that makes you think of the time you were about to risk it all on love (hello, ‘80s and ‘90s).


Music evokes emotion regardless of how hard we may try to repress it. It’s one of the most powerful art mediums we have to date. And though I’m aware of how I feel when I listen to certain songs, I often wonder how music impacts us day to day plus how it has the ability to improve the sex we’re having. Those sexy playlists actually set the mood in more ways than one. If you have a sex playlist, here’s what type of vibe you’re creating, and if not, here’s why you should get on top of it.

Of course, I’m no expert, so we chatted with Dr. Shay Thomas, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Atlanta, to further understand the four benefits of music, from daily life to the bedroom (or wherever you like to take your hot sex).

1. Therapeutic

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Long workday? A new partner who you haven’t completely become familiar with yet? You probably need to get out of your head. Good news! According to Dr. Thomas, music has the ability to transmit us into a mindful, meditative state. She adds, “It is not only shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood as a general therapeutic technique but it is also used in the medical field to help patients with chronic pain.”

2. Release

I’ve said this before and it’s now been confirmed by an expert, that music can be a powerful catalyst for emotional release. “Music evokes strong emotion, as we reflect on powerful memories," Dr. Thomas says. "Music prompts movement, which helps release negative energy and relieve stress. Music makes us dance, cry, and literally release endorphins, which according to research is the brain's natural pain reliever.”

3. Intimacy

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If you are looking to really create a powerful bond, music might help signal just that. On a basic level music evokes pleasure from its listener due to the dopamine listening to music releases. Thus, science has found that music can improve your sex life, as well as your physical and emotional satisfaction during intimate experiences. “It enhances the experience, emotionally and physically. It intensifies our connection. That's why we feel a natural high at concerts," Dr. Thomas explains.

4. Arousal

According to Dr. Thomas, “Music during sex sparks passion and creativity. As we vibe with the beat, it guides our rhythm/pace. We can also get lost in the lyrics, which helps us escape our inhibitions. Music during sex (and in general) amplifies our arousal and intensifies our connection to the person and to the experience.” This makes a lot of sense, especially because music can often serve as the initiator of sex, setting the stage and the mood.

Next time you’re looking to have a romantic evening, turn the tunes on immediately and see how the whole vibe improves. Start with low music over dinner instead of turning the TV on immediately (something we’ve become far too accustomed to). I’d say this is especially ideal for new partners because it reduces some of that getting-to-know-you tension. Still, it’s equally beneficial to all pairs.

And if you are unsure about the music to add to your playlist, all platforms allow you to search for keywords and I have no doubt that you’ll be able to find something under “Soulful sex playlist.”

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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