A friend recommended a book to me recently, The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine, M.D., and I found it an interesting read as a writer and a woman--love those books with two-for-one pleasure, kind of like chewing Doublemint gum.
Of course, as I read, I was constantly battling with my natural resistance to generalizations about the sexes which abound in this book. I prefer to think of differences between men and women as closely overlapping bell curves. I read this argument in another book a few years ago, whose title escapes me alas, but the wisdom has stayed with me. In this model, men and women share much, much more in common as human beings than socially exaggerated differences suggest and while a small portion of men do have superior spatial abilities for example, any given woman could have superior abilities to any given man.
Brizendine prefers the racier path of emphasizing differences in colorful transportation metaphors, although of course, her theory that hormones construct our brains seems to call for such an approach.
Anyway, she has convinced me to take a closer look at the benefits of a low dose of estrogen at perimenopause when that time comes, to preserve my brain function, which otherwise would shrink by 40%. Wrinkles, age spots, bring 'em on, but a little shrunken brain, that's scary (if it's true).
She also came up with a few other interesting observations that do ring true to me, although again, it depends on the person.
For example, males are apparently more interested in bonding/fucking under high stress situations than women, who tend to turn off under high stress, whereas men will "mate" with the first willing female after a physical challenge (like war). So says, the doctor, anyway, and history seems to support her argument.
She attributes the longer time required for women to reach orgasm to an extra neurological step required by the female brain. "The impulses can rush to the pleasure centers and trigger an orgasm only if the amygdala—the fear and anxiety center of the brain—has been deactivated. Before the amygdala has been turned off, any last-minute worry...can interrupt the march toward orgasm." But you knew that, didn't you? And apparently science shows that it's easier to conceive if the woman comes after the man does, another evolutionary reason for the differential. "Ladies' first" as birth control?
But here's the one that gets me. Brizendine claims--several times--that 85 percent of (twenty to thirty year old) males think about sex every 52 seconds and women think about it once a day or up to three or four times on fertile days. (Sometimes she gives the ages, sometimes she just generalizes, although I think the ages make a huge difference for comparison).
Jeez, am I a freak? Am I actually a twenty-five year old man with a vagina? I think about sex all the time, and it's not just since that became my career! I love this quote, too:
"Just as women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion while men have a small country road, men have O’Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex whereas women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes."
Damn, I've always thought 747's were so sexy, too! Guess I'll have to transfer my affections to those empathetic little Cessnas.
I will say it was gratifying to see some of the reviews on Amazon taking the author to task for her sloppy conflation of neuroscience and psychology, her simplification of sex and gender, and her love of pharmaceuticals as a cure-all. Still, I enjoyed the book, as an erotica writer as much as a female (if I indeed am one because now I'm wondering since I just thought about sex like five times as I wrote this), and I certainly recognized enough in her case studies to have the luxury of blaming my own psychology on biology, which is always fun. It's easier to attribute my sensitivity to movie violence to my greater capacity for emotional mirroring rather than a candy-ass wimpishness (a self-accusation). My body literally throbs with pain when I see graphic torture or injury while Herr Doktor just shrugs and says "it's a stupid movie." There's probably also a neurological basis for the effectiveness of beer ads on men versus women, but Brizendine didn't go there--Craig Sorensen did though!
So, yeah, time to take the brain back to the library, but I thought I'd give a book report to fuel that sex difference debate that's been around since the Stone Age!