Sex on the Brain

Voice Card  -  Volume 13  -  John Card Number 11  -  Tue, Mar 27, 1990 02:58 AM

I recently had a lively discussion about sex differences with a female friend of mine. She insisted that I read an article titled "Sex on the Brain" in the April issue of Playboy. The article reviews the dramatic neurological differences scientists are beginning to find between male and female brains. I would have liked to lift the whole thing, but it was rather long. The following snippet makes an interesting point:

Everywhere and at all times, sex has been seen as a service or a favor that women choose to provide or offer to men. There are no cultures in which the opposite is the cultural norm. It is the males who hire prostitutes and engage them purely for the purposes of having sex, while the use of male prostitutes is extremely rare and usually involves not simply a woman purchasing sex but also companionship and a stable relationship. It is men who court women, give them gifts, take them to dinner (just as primitive hominid hunters millions of years ago shared their meat with the female), woo them and ask indirectly or directly for sex. It is women who resist, are coy, reserved, cautious, "modest," calculating (to ascertain the man's potential value as a loyal and protective mate) and who choose indirectly or directly to have sex.

This is true throughout the world. Margaret Mead described this sex difference in Polynesia: "It is the girl who decides whether she will or will not meet her lover under the palm trees, or receive him...in her bed in the young people's house. He may woo and plead...[but] if she does not choose...she does not lift the corner of her mat, she does not wait under the palm trees."

As Donald Symons, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, asserts, "Women control what males have always needed - the ability to carry and reproduce their genes for them. And so a man tends to pursue sex aggressively - it's a trivial expenditure of energy with a potentially big payoff. For a woman, though, sex is something else. Women, after all, have always had one of their few, expensive eggs and their bodies on the line. And so sex for a woman remains a valuable service, a service that has to be carefully traded."

These differences in sexual strategies between males and females spring not from sex-role training but from traits and behavior patterns that over millions of years of hunter-gatherer culture proved to have survival value, were favored by natural selection and, as a result, became hard-wired into the expanding human brain.

--From "Sex on the Brain" by Michael Hutchison in the April 1990 Playboy.

Another quote from Harvard anthropologist Irven Devore: "Males are a vast breeding experiment run by females."

By the way, Roger: on the phone you mentioned an article about male/female communication that Rose Anne thought we should see. I read the article and I'd love to include it, but I've lost track of my copy. Do you still have a copy? Would you be willing to type some of it in (it's rather short as I recall)?