If women like pillow talk after sex and men desire a nap, they are united by healthy post-coital cravings of cigarettes and Chinese takeout.
That’s according to long-standing gender tropes, facilitated by bad Hollywood movies and worse romance novels. The allure of smoking between the sheets post-coitus has been a fixture in films and on television for so long that it has hardened into cliché. (When was that last time you reached for a pack of Marlboros after collapsing in orgasm?)
It’s a rare thing to find a sitcom that hasn’t riffed on these stereotypes: a woman whispering sweet nothings to her male partner, only to have the camera pan out, revealing that he’s drifted to sleep, satisfied and disinterested.
But if a new Yelp survey is to be believed—and one can’t help but take it with a chunk of salt—young people these days exhaust themselves in bed with a “summer fling” and reach for the... pizza.
Of the 2,000 single and sex-hungry millennials who participated in the survey, 75 percent of them said they crave pizza more than any other food after a one-night stand. Coming in a “distant” second: the after-sex taco. (The survey results also concluded that pizza was “the top food favorite that make millennials most attractive,” whatever that means.)
It’s worth noting that our bodies produce chemicals that make us feel buoyant and giddy during the infatuation phase of a relationship, so that we may actually have less of an appetite for food after a one-night stand.
That may not fit Yelp’s food narrative, but there is a body of academic literature on why men and women behave like different species after having sex—and why we crave certain things.
A 2011 study published in The Journal of Sex Research measuring “sex differences in post-coital behaviors” came to rather more expected conclusions, while failing to mention any Mexican or Italian dishes.
The authors found that women in both short- and long-term relationships placed greater importance on post-coital behaviors related to “intimacy and bonding,” like cuddling and “professing their love.” Men, on the other hand, were more likely to engage in “extrinsically rewarding” behaviors, like fixing a drink or making a sandwich.
In short: Women want to get closer to the man in her bed, while men went to make sure they can get back into the very same bed, for a future bout of sweaty sex.
These study authors write that their findings may reflect “divergent adaptive reproductive strategies” in men and women for “evolutionary purposes.”
Indeed, there are bodies of research that say men may be better adapted to one-night stands and casual sex in the interest of spreading their seed. Male indulgence of emotions could have threatened our species, and—as recent studies have shown—that biological instinct still manifests in post-sex behavior.
Hormones released after orgasm like oxytocin, prolactin, and dopamine also play a role in our behavior. In both men and women, high levels of oxytocin manifest in feelings of satisfaction and fatigue.
But prolactin may be the biggest determinant of post-coital instints in men and women. Post-orgasm, it decreases sexual desire and can even make us temporarily less attracted to our sexual partner.
Indeed, prolactin has been shown to dominate all other chemicals during the post-orgasmic refractory period. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Urology International found that while prolactin levels surge in both men and women after orgasm, prolactin inhibits arousal in men more than in women. (This explains why women are more likely to be multi-orgasmic than men.)
There’s also research that explains why some of us may feel unexpectedly depressed after vigorous lovemaking, a phenomenon known as post-coital dysphoria (PCD).
The International Society for Sexual Medicine defines PCD as a feeling of “deep sadness or agitation after consensual sex,” when one partner becomes “tearful or depressed after orgasm” or “argumentative... even if the sexual encounter has been satisfying and enjoyable.”
Almost half the women surveyed in a 2011 study by Australian researcher Dr. Robert Schweitzer had experienced PCD. Curiously, men weren’t included in Schweitzer’s study, though there’s anecdotal evidence that they too suffer from PCD—though for very different reasons, reporting that after orgasm they “felt irritated or unattracted to their sexual partner.”
But who among us isn’t depressed when coming down from climax? Yelp didn’t make the connection, but post-coital blues may well facilitate post-coital pizza cravings. Pizza is the ultimate comfort food. All the better, then, if men and women can put their post-sex biological differences aside and dig into a large pepperoni pie.