Sexuality and the Human Brain

For males, sex traditionally has been the primary proving ground for masculinity. For females, sex becomes something she can barter for “love.” In general, societal conditioning makes men and women a mismatch in bed. This polarization can actually influence them to become sexual enemies. (Goldberg, Herb, PhD. The New Male-Female Relationship. p 68-71. NY: Signet Books, 1983.)

Hormones released in the brain (e.g., testosterone) trigger a sex drive. In females this tends to happen in the presence of factors such as closeness, trust, and overall sense of well-being. In males it can be released at any time. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 195-200. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

The sexual drive likely centers in the hypothalamus. It spreads out to encompass a wide range of other brain areas in both the limbic area and the cortex. (Carter, Rita, Ed. Mapping the Mind. p 72. CA: University of California Press, 1998.)

Male sex drive is focused and not easily distracted. Female sex drive heats slowly and takes longer to cool down. The male sex drive at age 40 is more compatible with the female sex drive in early 20s. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 191-200. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

Women’s sex drive is influenced by several factors (e.g., physical, psychological, emotional). Situational stress tends to lower one’s level of libido. Women under pressure are much less likely to fantasize about sex than men. (Bost, Brent W., MD, FACOG. Hurried Woman Syndrome. p 101, 111. NY:Vantage Press, 2001.)

Males usually have high interest for most of life, although performance levels can fall with age. Teenage females can be interested but feel limited desire for sex, with greater desire in late 30s. Study of link between sex drive and intelligence: the cleverer a person is the less sex he/she tends to want or have. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 191-200. NY:Broadway Books, 1998.)

Both genetically male (XY) and genetically female (XX) fetuses start out with two sets of internal primordial structures, the Wolffian and the Mullerian.

  • In the presence of testicular hormones, the Wolffian ducts develop (e.g., prostate and vas) and the Mullerian ducts regress.
  • In the absence of testicular hormones the reverse happens. The Wolffian ducts regress and the Mullerian ducts develop (uterus and fallopian tubes).

Both male and female fetuses also start out with a single set of external primordial structures:

  • Testosterone stimulates these structures to differentiate into penis and scrota, becoming recognizably male by about week 9-10 of gestation.
  • In the absence of testosterone, these same structures become clitoris and labia, regardless of the levels of estrogen or progesterone. So, no hormonal influence from the female gonads (ovaries) appears to be needed for differentiation of female external genitalia.

(Hines, Melissa, PhD. Brain Gender. p 21-43. NY:Oxford University Press, 2004.)

Sex is defined as biological differences in genitals and reproductive functions; gender is defined as referring to classifications of masculine and feminine that may vary with the culture, the time, and the place. (Eakins, Barbara Westbrook, and R. Gene Eakins. Sex Differences in Human Communication. p 5. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co,1978.)

There are more than thirty conditions, mostly identified in males, that are due largely to sex-linked genes. For example, color blindness (its explanation is the same as for hemophilia), Glaucoma of juvenile type, Myopia, and Parkinson’s. (Montague, Ashley. The Natural Superiority of Women. p 82-84. NY:Collier Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1952, 1974.)

Just because a person is aware of sexual feelings doesn’t mean that he/she needs to act on them. (Schaeffer, Brenda. Is It Love Or Is It Addiction? p 6-7. CA: Harper & Row, 1987.)

A sexual high is generated primarily by the hypothalamus. (Newberg, Andrew, MD, et al. Why God Won’t Go Away. p 125-126. NY: Ballantine Books, 2001.)

Sexual identity is in place at time of birth and relates to hormonal processes that template the brain near the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. Other factors (e.g., child rearing, societal conditioning) likely do little except reinforce or disturb one’s core sexual identity. (Seligman, Martin E P., PhD. What You Can Change…and What You Can’t. p 148-173. NY:Fawcett Books, 1993.)

For most people, heterosexual impulses predominate, although all are bisexual to some degree. (Viorst, Judith. Necessary Losses. p 107-109. NY:Simon & Schuster, 1986.)

Some things can be changed and some can’t (e.g., Sexual identity is unchangeable, Sexual Orientation is likely unchangeable as well). (Seligman, Martin E P., PhD. What You Can Change…and What You Can’t. p 244-260. NY:Fawcett Books, 1993.)

Males and females could live more happily if they acknowledged their differences and built lives on twin pillars of distinct sexual identities. (Moir, Anne, and David Jessel. Brain Sex. p. 8. NY:Carol Publishing Group, 1989, 1991.)

Defines five layers related to human sexuality: Sexual identity, orientation, preference, role, and performance. According to Seligman, the deeper the layer (e.g., core sexual identity) the more difficult it would be to achieve change. (Seligman, Martin E P., PhD. What You Can Change...and What You Can’t. p 148-173. NY: Fawcett Books, 1993.)

The vomeronasal organ (sex nose), which detects pheromones, the scent essential for mating, is the only sense with a direct link to the limbic system. Nonsexual smell organs reach the limbic system only after they’re passed through the higher centers. Thus, they are under greater control. (Howard, Pierce J., PhD. The Owner’s Manual for the Brain. p 712-713. GA:Bard Press, 1994, 2000.)

Core gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as gender role behaviors, are each independent characteristics and could show different types of relationships to hormones. (Hines, Melissa, PhD. Brain Gender. p 21-43. NY:Oxford University Press, 2004.)

Sexual orientation is controlled by the hypothalamus. It is half the size in the gay brain as compared to the heterosexual brain. Between 5%-10% of boys have a smaller nucleus and a stronger biological tendency toward homosexuality. (Gurian, Michael. The Wonder of Boys. p 232-233. NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1996.)

Most homosexual orientation develops during gestation. Patterns tend to be firmly in place by age 5. Discusses lack of success of change therapies (e.g., push bisexuals to confine behaviors to opposite sex only, or enforce celibacy, or push the individuals to attempt suicide). (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 171-186. NY:Broadway Books, 1998.)

Study: Exposing a pregnant rat to stress can alter testosterone levels that lead to brain masculinization. Many more offspring exhibit homosexual behavior. (Quartz, Steven R., PhD, and Terrence J. Sejnowski, PhD. Liars, Lovers, and Heroes. p 164-165. NY:HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2002.)

Study: testosterone injected into pregnant guinea pigs during 30th-65th day of gestation resulted in the birth of masculinized female young. As adults they showed more masculine components in sexual behavior patterns. The effects of androgens administered during pregnancy were permanent. (Foss, B.M., ed. Brain and Behavior 1, Mood, States and Mind. p 394-395. Britain:Penguin Books, 1969

The term “life-style choice” is sometimes used by individuals who do not want to acknowledge the biological (e.g., genetic and chromosomal) basis of homosexuality. (Gurian, Michael. The Wonder of Boys. p 231-233. NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1996.)

Sexual preference is set in the human brain about 6-8 weeks after conception. Theoretically, at least, this could be controlled with hormones during fetal development. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 180-186. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

Because it is based on the impact of male hormone on the brain during fetal development, homosexuality is mostly genetic rather than a choice. The genetic combination of red hair and freckles occurs at the same rate as homosexuality. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 171-186. NY:Broadway Books, 1998.)

Sexual orientation (heterosexual or homosexual) is a close cousin to sexual identity in both depth of layer and inflexibility. (Refer to Sexuality for additional information.) (Seligman, Martin E P., PhD. What You Can Change…and What You Can’t. p 148-173. NY:Fawcett Books, 1993.)

Male sexual orientation is more complex and falls into a less clear set of options than the female's. Evidently, the degree to which a baby's brain is masculinized varies from child to child. If so, then the strength or weakness of any group of males' sexual preference might be expected to extend across a spectru;m, even if all were predominantly heterosexual in preference. (Joy, Donald, PhD. Unfinished Business. p 28-29. IL:Victor Books, 1989)

Refer to Sexual Orientation for additional information.

Study: males ages 12-19 think of sex an average of 20 times per hour or every 5 minutes; males ages 12-40 think of sex an average of 6 times per hour. (Farrell, Warren, PhD. Why Men are the Way They Are. p 118. NY:Berkley Book, 1988.)

Kinsey study: More than 1/3 of males think about sex every 30 minutes compared to only 11% of women. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 194-200. NY:Broadway Books, 1998.)

Males in the 1940s had average sperm counts that were twice as high as males today. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 206. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

In ½ second a male can produce more sperm (smallest cells in their body) than the eggs that can be produced by a female over her entire lifetime. (Durden-Smith, Jo, and Diane deSimone. Sex and the Brain. p 210-215. NY: Arbor House Publishing, 1983.)

Study: Exposing a pregnant rat to stress can alter testosterone levels that lead to brain masculinization. Many more offspring exhibit homosexual behavior. (Quartz, Steven R., PhD, and Terrence J. Sejnowski, PhD. Liars, Lovers, and Heroes. p 164-165. NY:HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2002.)

There is a connection between maternal stress (e.g., associated with insufficient amounts of androgen to the fetus) and sexual preference. Effects of stress to developing fetuses can be episodically epidemic (e.g., war, abandonment) especially if events contribute to stress between the 16-26th weeks of gestation. (Joy, Donald, PhD. The Innate Differences Between Males & Females(Audio Cassette). CO: Focus on the Family, 1967.)

Refer to Stress and the Brain for additional information.

The name describing discomfort in females if orgasm does not occur. High levels of sexual excitement can result in pelvic congestion that leads to pain, discomfort, and physical complications. (Stump, Jane Barr, PhD. What’s the Difference? p 36. NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1985.)

Sexual tension in a male can interfere with his hearing, thinking, driving, and operating heavy machinery. It can even cause time distortion (e.g., 3 minutes feels like 15). (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 213. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

Males typically say “sex” when speaking of physical sex with or without love. Females tend to view “sex” as loveless and commonly speak of “making love.” (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes. p 230-232. NY:Broadway Books, 2004.)

Study: researchers compiled and analyzed a list of 220 sexual terms applied to women (e.g., slut, whore, cat, kitten). Only 22 similar terms were identified for males. (Moir, Anne, and David Jessel. Brain Sex, the Real Difference Between Men & Women. p 113-114. NY:Carol Publishing Group, 1989, 1991.)

Different terms and metaphors are commonly applied to males and females. Many are used only with females (e.g., foods, plants, animals, inanimate objects). (Eakins, Barbara Westbrook, and R. Gene Eakins. Sex Differences in Human Communication. p 122-124. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.,1978.)

The main factor in determining testosterone levels (and resulting levels of assertiveness and sex drive) is the size of the testes as compared to overall body mass. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 204-207. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

Sex is associated with higher levels of testosterone. Testosterone can also increase dopamine levels. (Fisher, Helen, PhD. Why We Love. p 205. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2004.)

Study: testosterone injected into pregnant guinea pigs during 30th-65th day of gestation resulted in the birth of masculinized female young. As adults they showed more masculine components in sexual behavior patterns. The effects of androgens administered during pregnancy were permanent. (Foss, B.M., ed. Brain and Behavior 1, Mood, States and Mind. p 394-395. Britain: Penguin Books, 1969.)

Males and females who have higher levels of circulating testosterone tend to engage in more sexual activity. (Fisher, Helen, PhD. Why We Love. p 80-85. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2004.)

Some individuals decide to change their appearance to match their psychological gender identity. If they undergo hormone treatment and sex-change surgery, they are often referred to as transsexual persons. Some (e.g., genetic males who perceive that they are psychological females), may be interested in female sexual partners, whereas others are interested in male sexual partners. (Hines, Melissa, PhD. Brain Gender. p 84-86. NY: Oxford University Press, 2004.)

A transsexual is an individual whose brain does not match their genitals. (Seligman, Martin E P., PhD. What You Can Change…and What You Can’t. P148-173. NY: Fawcett Books, 1993.)

The hypothalamus in male transsexuals is size of hypothalamus in the female brain or smaller. Approximately 20% undergo a sex-change operation. One in 3-5 attempts suicide. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 173-186. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

Refer to Sexual Orientation and the Brain for more information.

A transvestite is an individual who wears clothing of the opposite sex in order to become sexually aroused. (Seligman, Martin E P., PhD. What You Can Change...and What You Can’t. p 148-173. NY:Fawcett Books, 1993.)

Between 1-2% of all embryos conceived are thought to have only one sex chromosome but most spontaneously die. Only 1 in every 3,000 babies is born with Turner’s syndrome (one X chromosome only). These individuals are infertile. (Nicholson, John. Men and Woman: How Different are They? p 10-11. NY: Oxford University Press, 1984.)

A fairly rare condition where a genetic female (XX) is missing an X chromosome. These individuals exhibit superfeminine behaviors and have little directional or spatial abilities. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. p 165-166. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

An individual with an exaggerated female appearance and behavior. Typically a female embryo who received exposure to high levels of estrogen during gestation and little or no exposure to androgen. (Howard, Pierce J., PhD. The Owner’s Manual for the Brain. p 215-221. GA: Bard Press, 1994, 2000.)

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