Why Gender Matters p.128

The anthropologist Peter Wood… in answer to [a] Yale woman who said that plenty of women enjoy having casual sex, observed:

If the cost of that view is not immediately apparent, it is still real. The woman who treats her sexuality as something detachable from strong mutual attachment to a single partner sooner or later discovers that men regard her as expendable… The pretense that sex is just sex is never true…. There is no such thing as sex without consequences…

The sexes are complementary. The distortion of women’s sexuality plainly distorts men’s sexuality as well, though in a more deferred way. Men, instead of learning how to be responsible committed partners and eventually husbands and fathers, learn that the pleasure-seeking dimension of their sexuality can be sustained with relative ease. As a result, the men shun social maturity. The women who are veterans of the hook-up culture find that , once they are in it, their options for getting out are reduced…. All of this distorts and diminishes the lives of those who are caught up in the pursuit of sex without attachment. They eventually become those for whom genuine attachment is far more difficult…. The [true] meaning of sex is that it leads somewhere – somewhere beyond orgasms and the excitement of strangers. An older generation called that “somewhere” marriage.

The end result of multiple sexual encounters outside the context of a romantic relationship may be a lessening of the ability to form and sustain a healthy and lasting romantic relationship. And that may be true for both girls and boys, for both women and for men.

 

Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.128

Advertisements

Why Gender Matters p.122

What’s the relation between love and sex? The neurochemical basis for both love and sex in females involves the hormone oxytocin, the same hormone released when a mother breast-feeds her newborn baby. “Oxytocin’s effects on both [romantic] attachment and sexual behavior are estrogen dependent and gender specific,” observes neuropsychologist Lisa Diamond, adding that there appears to be “more extensive oxytocin circuits in female than male brains.” In males, on the other hand, the hormone underlying sexual drive is not oxytocin but testosterone, the same hormone that mediates aggression in males.

Many researchers have used functional MRI to look at brain activity in women and men during sexual arousal. One consistent finding is that men show comparatively more activity in the older, more primitive areas of the brain such as the amygdala, thalamus, and hypothalamus, while women show proportionately more activity up in the cerebral cortex; that’s true even when the women report feeling more sexually aroused than the men. And these differences are apparently not affected by sexual orientation: reviewers found no significant differences in the patterns of brain activity of straight men compared with gay men but large differences between men and women, regardless of sexual orientation.

These sex differences suggest that women’s sexual experience is “happening” more in the cerebral cortex and is therefore more connected with the rest of what’s going on in their mind. The sexual experience in men is less connected with the cortex, less connected with the outside world. One recent study actually showed that in young men sexual arousal decreases functional synchronization between cortical areas of the brain. That’s a fancy way of saying that when a young man is sexually aroused, his brain literally comes unglued, and the different parts aren’t talking with one another.

The weight of the evidence strongly suggests that males and females experience sexual desire differently. As UCLA psychologist Anne Peplau observes, “women’s sexuality tends to be strongly linked to a close relationship. For women, an important goal of sex is intimacy; the best context for pleasurable sex is a committed relationship. This is less true for men.”

You can say that again. For boys and for some men, especially younger men, the sexual urge is closely tied to aggression. That’s not surprising when you remember that in males both the sexual urge and the aggressive urge are mediated by testosterone. In one carefully designed study, a surprisingly high percentage – 35 percent – of “normal” college men said that they not only fantasized about rape but would actually rape a woman if they had the chance and they were sure they wouldn’t be caught. In another study of “normal” college men, more than half said they would actually rape a woman if they were assured of not being punished. Researchers have found that more than 80 percent of popular porn videos include some form of degrading violence against women: most often the woman is slapped or gagged or spanked or has her hair yanked. But the men who watch these videos are not necessarily Neanderthals. In fact, researchers have found no association between a man’s gender-role beliefs and the likelihood that he finds rape sexually appealing. Some men who are strongly in favor of equal rights for women, who approve of women in leadership roles, and so on also say that they would rape a woman if they had the opportunity. In one recent study, men who watched pornography were actually somewhat more likely to endorse equal rights for women, compared with men who don’t look at porn. Nor is there any association positive or negative, between a man’s intelligence and the likelihood that he will be sexually aroused by depictions of rape. Highly intelligent men are no less likely to fantasize about raping a woman than are men of below-average intelligence.

Men and women experience sexuality differently. A significant number of men may feel tempted to engage in sexual assault, even if they are otherwise intelligent and believe in equal rights for women. Women are much less likely to feel a strong temptation to engage in sexual assault. These differences between women and men can be traced at least in part to biological causes, including the differences between testosterone and oxytocin. A sensible, commonsense approach to preventing sexual assault would begin by recognizing these hardwired differences.

Young men are much more likely to find pornography satisfying and fulfilling. Few young women would use the word “fulfilling” to describe the experience of masturbating over pornography. But pornography has gone mainstream. The pop star John Mayer proudly told Rolling Stone magazine that he is “the new generation of masturbator”: he would rather masturbate over pornography than have sex with actual women. I haven’t heard of any leading female celebrities who have boasted that hey would rather masturbate over pornography than have sex with real people.

The motivation for sex is different for most teenage boys than for most teenage girls. Many teenage boys want to have sex to satisfy sexual desire. It’s a gut-level, base-of-the-brain impulse not far removed from the need to have a bowel movement when you feel the urge. Many boys will tell you that the urge feels just that irresistible.

Not so for most girls. As psychologist Roy Baumeister has observed, “male desire aims at the sexual activity itself, whereas female desire aims beyond it toward other outcomes and consequences.”

 

Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.122

The Beginning of Wisdom p.295

Sex between siblings contaminates the sibling relation with the exclusive and dyadic attempt to fuse two lives in a merger that denies the meaning of siblinghood. To take a brother as a husband is as much an act of metaphorical fratricide as it is an act of metaphorical wife killing to pass a wife off as a sister. Moreover, motives for literal fratricide are also amply provided by brother-sister sex, owing to sexual jealousy.

Deeper than these adverse psychosocial consequences lies the matter of how one stands in the world, whether as a child or as an adult. First, in incestuous unions there is no need to learn the adult restraint of sexual impulse, for with an object of gratification near at hand, instinct spills over into satisfaction: “natural inclination suffices to unite them.” More important, in brother-sister marriage, both partners cling as children to the family of origin, in a relation that hearkens back to their common emergence out of the same womb (“flesh of my flesh”), under the protection of the same parents. There is no brave stepping forth unprotected into the full meaning of adulthood, to say permanent goodbye to father and mother and to cleave to your wife, to accept their death and, what is more difficult, to accept your own mortality, the answer to which is not narcissistic sexual gratification but a sober and deliberate saying “yes” to reproduction, transmission, and perpetuation. To consciously take a wife from outside the nest is deliberately to establish a family of perpetuation, in at least tacit recognition that human maturity entails both a willingness to die and a desire for renewal and continuity, through birth and cultural transmission – a matter of enormous importance when there is a special way of life to be perpetuated.

Finally, in an incestuous union between brother and sister there is no experience of the other as truly other. There is no distance, no sexual strangeness, no need to overcome fumbling, embarrassment, shame: the inward-looking love of one’s own flesh is naked but is not ashamed. For this reason, the other is taken for granted and approached in tacit expectation of full compliance with one’s desires; the other is not easily an object of respect. Because of familiarity there is likely to be contempt. There is little possibility of awe (what the Greeks called aidos) before the sexual other: awe before the uncanniness of sexual difference, of the radical independence and otherness of the other; awe before the uncanniness of sexual complementarity, of the remarkable possibility of mediating the sexual difference; awe before the mysterious generative power of sexuality, of the wondrous capacity to transcend sexual difference altogether in the creation of a child, who is the parents’ own commingled being externalized in a separate and persisting existence. And because there is no awe before the sexual other, there is less likelihood of awe before the divine Other in whose image created He them, male and female.

 

Leon R. Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.295

The Beginning of Wisdom p.205

Sexual neediness, its dependence on another person not under one’s control, its resistance to self-command, and its link with our perishability are all reasons why sexual self-consciousness is colored with shame, and why we move immediately and almost instinctively to cover up.

 

Leon R. Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.205

The Beginning of Wisdom p.158

Throughout the animal world, nature uses superficial looks (along with every other appeal that the senses can distinguish, from mating calls to aromas to pheromones) to bring the sexes together, in order to accomplish the great work of procreation. The love of the beautiful takes on still greater importance for human beings, especially as we become mindful of death and necessary decay. The beautiful lures us into regarding it as a bulwark against death, a haven from the ugliness of disintegration. The beautiful beckons, promising permanence and happiness: the beautiful seems to us to be the skin of the good. Yet appearances are often deceiving on the side of both viewer and viewed. Imagination, colored by human hopes, often distorts what we see…

Even apart from such distortions, the pursuit of the beautiful may be altogether a dead end. Appreciation of the beautiful may inspire the soul, but efforts to capture it leave one unfulfilled – even when seemingly successful. For what do we really have if and when we “possess” the beautiful? Can a beautiful wife really satisfy our soul’s longings for the eternal or the good? Does union with a beautiful woman make us any less ugly or any less perishable?

The visibly beautiful, through its harmonious and well-proportioned appearance, always seems to promise some underlying goodness. Were it able to deliver on its promise, the love of the beautiful might bring us to the good, and hence to our felicity. But as experience teaches, the promise is only infrequently fulfilled; what strikes us as beautiful is rarely yoked to the good. Nonetheless we persist, seduced by the next beauty into believing that this time we shall gain our heart’s desire. We willingly allow ourselves to be betrayed by the testimony of our eyes; we naturally and repeatedly mis-take the beautiful for the good.

 

Leon Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.158

The Beginning of Wisdom p.101

For one thing, the man’s origin was lower, from the dust; the woman begins from already living flesh and, moreover, from flesh taken close to the heart. Also, the man is, in the process, rendered less than hole; he suffers a permanent but invisible wound, signifying a deep and probably unfulfillable desire. Because he is incomplete and knows it, the man will always be looking for something he lacks; but as the image of a lost rib suggests, the man cannot really know what is missing or what the sought-for wholeness would really be. Male erotic desire is a conundrum: it wants and wants ardently, but it is unsure of what exactly would fully satisfy it.

 

Leon Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.101