The title is catchy, intriguing and says absolutely nothing substantial: “Love, sex and the male brain.” So of course, we all must read it (at http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/03/23/brizendine.male.brain/index.html?hpt=C2) . What new news could this well-established psychiatrist have about the men and women and the separate planets we live on?
The Breakdown of the Male Brain
It turns out nothing really new except a slight spin on 21st century patriarchy. Let’s look at some of the highlights.
“If testosterone were beer, a 9-year-old boy would be getting the equivalent of a cup a day. But a 15-year-old would be getting the equivalent of nearly two gallons a day. This fuels their sexual engines and makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about female body parts and sex.”
Ms. Briz seems to imagine an obvious connection between alcohol, a substance that depraves the brain of oxygen making vision blur, relaxing muscles and making men much better dancers/singers/lovers than previous thought, with testosterone, a substances that makes boys voices drop, balls hang and genital hair sprout. I’m missing that “obvious” connection. Testosterone is a naturally occurring chemical in both men and women that creates human responses varying from increased aggressiveness to increased libido to increased acne. Testosterone does not equal a man-made substance often used to create excuses of man-made behaviors such as bad dancing, singing or love-making.
2) The “Man Trance”
“All that testosterone drives the “Man Trance”– that glazed-eye look a man gets when he sees breasts. As a woman who was among the ranks of the early feminists, I wish I could say that men can stop themselves from entering this trance. But the truth is, they can’t.”
I have not often been witness to this naturally occurring “Man Trance.” Maybe it is because I live in Boystown, and apparently this “man trance” along with the rest of this article only inflicts itself on extremely heterosexual males. The fact is not all men glaze over when a breast is in a 10 foot radius. The fact is not all men even like breasts. So saying this as some sort of inevitable truth is like saying all women need a pint of ice cream during their periods when some of us prefer deep-dish pizza or a good lay.
3) Men’s breasts= Women’s butterflies
“Men look at attractive women the way we look at pretty butterflies.”
I hate butterflies so this is obviously wrong. One astute commenter had this witty response: “So if i cover myself with butterflies women will look at me more?”
4) Women don’t have sex they only make love
“The female brain is driven to seek security and reliability in a potential mate before she has sex. But a male brain is fueled to mate and mate again.”
This myth just needs to die. Not even Ms. Briz has any “scientific” proof of this one other than her own authority as a psychiatrist and a woman. The fact is woman have sex, make love or just plain fuck for a lot of different reasons; just like men. Unfortunately we are not all simplistic enough to only have one motivation behind the potentially life-giving action of sex.
5) Men are hard wired for poker faces
“Studies of men’s faces show that the male brain’s initial emotional reaction can be stronger than the female brain’s. But within 2.5 seconds, he changes his face to hide the emotion, or even reverse it. The repeated practice of hiding his emotions gives men the classic poker face.”
This seems to be refuting all of Ms. Briz’s points. A man has an initial emotional reaction and then 2.5 seconds later his actions change not because of a natural difference in the way his brain responds but because of a learned response. At the heart of Ms. Briz’s article is this conundrum. How do we determine that these brain reactions are “natural” and not “learned”? As countless studies have shown, we can change the ways our brains react whether through therapy or meditation. Nature is not has natural as Ms. Briz would like to assume.
6) Men are problem solvers not feelers
“With practice and because of the way their brains are wired, men use their analytical brain structures, not their emotional ones, to find a solution.”
I’ve had too many boys crying on my very womanly yet rationale shoulder over easily solvable life problems to believe that men are somehow more solution-driven than women. This “fact” is also rather insulting to those of us “rationale” women out there who also love to problem solve; an activity that surprising enough is not mutually exclusive from emotion. If we are to believe this one, we must also believe men are naturally better at the sciences and all women are meant to be teachers, social workers or homemakers. I think we already had a revolution to disclaim this one.
7) Boys will be boys
“The best advice I have for women is make peace with the male brain. Let men be men.”
Yes boys will be boys; that is until we start being women. It has taken women centuries, if not a millennium, to learn to be subordinate to men. It might take another millennium to even the playing fields of gender back to their rightful non-condescending ways. But until women start being the women they were born and want to be, boys will continue to live the way they are taught, chasing after each and every butterfly that flits their way.
The largest flaw Ms. Briz’s logic is the idea that women must let “men be men”; that women have to ignore there own possible nature or nurture instincts in order to let the habits of men prevail. If he wants to check out other women but your “natural, womanly” instinct is to get upset, well you better suppress that god-given brain synapse because a man’s natural desire to impregnate everything he sees is more worthy than your desire to slap that stupid bug-eyed look out of his head.
I hate to say it but this type of logic is still evidence of patriarchy in our society. (Ugg I know patriarchy; that horrible awful feminist word. Aren’t we all equal yet?) We may be able to give our babies’ lengthy hyphenated last names but in the end we still must defer to the emotions and natural instincts of men. Why? Because men’s natures are more worthy? More just? More reasonable? Or are they somehow just more natural? Or could it be that men’s emotions have just ruled this unjust world for so long that we somehow now believe even patriarchy is natural?
Ms. Brizendine, feel free to let your men be men and let yourself go on being the self-denying woman you have been trained so well to be. As for me, I’m going to let myself, and the wonderful men in my life, be the fair, just, rational, emotional, beyond-sexual-definition human beings our brains and bodies mean us to be regardless of how society chooses to define our genders.