Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Science Times on Sexual Orientation

Interesting article about the biology of sexual orientation in the Science Times yesterday.

It is no surprise that the male and female versions of the human brain operate in distinct patterns, despite the heavy influence of culture. The male brain is sexually oriented toward women as an object of desire.

The most direct evidence comes from a handful of cases, some of them circumcision accidents, in which boy babies have lost their penises and been reared as female. Despite every social inducement to the opposite, they grow up desiring women as partners, not men.

“If you can’t make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis, how strong could any psychosocial effect be?” said J. Michael Bailey, an expert on sexual orientation at Northwestern University.

Presumably the masculinization of the brain shapes some neural circuit that makes women desirable. If so, this circuitry is wired differently in gay men. In experiments in which subjects are shown photographs of desirable men or women, straight men are aroused by women, gay men by men.

Such experiments do not show the same clear divide with women. Whether women describe themselves as straight or lesbian, “Their sexual arousal seems to be relatively indiscriminate — they get aroused by both male and female images,” Dr. Bailey said. “I’m not even sure females have a sexual orientation. But they have sexual preferences. Women are very picky, and most choose to have sex with men.”

Dr. Bailey believes that the systems for sexual orientation and arousal make men go out and find people to have sex with, whereas women are more focused on accepting or rejecting those who seek sex with them.

I know some women for whom the latter is just not true... and for that matter, some men for whom the former isn't true. But by and large, I think this makes a lot of sense.

I particularly take her point about those awful sex reassignment surgeries. If the loss of their cocks in infancy, a ton of estrogen, and being raised as girls couldn't change their sexual orientations -- what could?

Similar differences between the sexes are seen by Marc Breedlove, a neuroscientist at Michigan State University. “Most males are quite stubborn in their ideas about which sex they want to pursue, while women seem more flexible,” he said.

Sexual orientation, at least for men, seems to be settled before birth. “I think most of the scientists working on these questions are convinced that the antecedents of sexual orientation in males are happening early in life, probably before birth,” Dr. Breedlove said, “whereas for females, some are probably born to become gay, but clearly some get there quite late in life.”

What I appreciated about this is, it's exactly what I already thought.


Blogger Scott said...

Lee said (in the wrong place)...
These odious studies have many problems with them because they assume there is an easy division between straight and gay (which of course the women's results make clear doesn't work). This assumption negates the existence of bisexual men and women, situational homosexuality, and other forms of same sex desire (notably the homoerotic) that evades this comfortable assumption.

Moreover, this work still *doesn't* tell us a thing about sexual desire: why do individuals like leather, snowsuits or sex toys or for that matter dicks or breasts? We don't know. But these studies continue to pretend that showing "gay" men (many of whom will have had straight sex) pictures of "desirable men" and watching them get hard "proves" something. Even if we can be sure that the "gay" guys are "really gay" and the straight women really straight, the question of desire still is open. And by the way, how come no one ever asks about heterosexuality? It ain't the only way of doing things in nature and not even the most efficient. (I'm thinking about that Komodo Dragon that just decided to reproduce herself without a male.)

What really pisses me off is that no one even notices the male researcher blithely confirming the big hetero male fantasy of two chicks getting it on because they're flexible (but of course straight men AREN'T, gals! So don't you go thinking yer man will reciprocate your lesbian romp with some hot man-on-man action later!) Nor do these studies deal with the question of men who have sex with men who don't identify as gay OR bisexual (horrors!). No. Just the "gay" guys are getting hard at looking at desirable men.

As for the trans discussion, NO one wants to deal with the complications that arise when trans folk find their orientation is gay or lesbian post-op. No. That's too icky for scientists. Those outcomes don't fit the question-they are unusual or abnormal. Of course, these same male scientistfor decades did medical research on male subjects and extrapolated the results to include women. Women's bodies didn't count because (oh, this sounds familiar!) their bodies were too unpredictable. Just like their libidos, apparently.

And, just when you think the Lamarckian heresy is dead, these bozos resurrect it. No gene has ever been found responsible for a behaviour (To guote the title of a great book "Love of Shopping is NOT a Gene!")nor have hormones been proven to cause a behaviour. Correlations perhaps but cause, no.

Finally, the vole studies mentioned in one of the articles make me wonder. Putting aside the question of generalizing from voles to humans, we might note that one of the interesting findings of the Humane Genome Project was to find that there are considerable overlaps with our DNA and that of several worms. Now, why aren't we asking why we abandoned the split--in-two (cloning) approach for reproductive sex. Oh wait, i know. because heterosexuality is the ONLY way. Well, that's what the oppressors always say, isn't it? Of course, we all know that's not true.

4/15/07, 8:05 PM  

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