Perihelion
August 8, 2006 5:56 PM   Subscribe

Text messaging for teenage girls is like an orgasm explains neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine. The doctor from Yale provides the science behind why male and female brains are different in architecture and chemical composition.
posted by The Jesse Helms (82 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hmm, I wish my Os came that easily.
posted by caddis at 6:06 PM on August 8, 2006


Hello! - ooooooooooohhhhhh
posted by caddis at 6:07 PM on August 8, 2006


While she was educated at Yale, probably more accurate to say that she's from UCSF, since that's where she is now.
posted by epugachev at 6:10 PM on August 8, 2006


(Just to pick nits)
posted by epugachev at 6:10 PM on August 8, 2006


"Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road"

If this was a guy making that statement, he would be considered a sexist.

It appears that this person speaks in some pretty sweeping generalities....

Besides, my "country road" is not "small"....

/sorry I even said that....
posted by HuronBob at 6:11 PM on August 8, 2006


BTW, she's getting lots of press lately because her book just came out.
posted by epugachev at 6:15 PM on August 8, 2006


I wonder if she adjusted for the ring style of the cellphone - silent, audiable, or vibrate.
posted by SirOmega at 6:21 PM on August 8, 2006


When I was reading that the anger I felt at my emotional pathway being described as a small country road oh look boobs. Mmmmm. I like boobs.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:24 PM on August 8, 2006


If this was a guy making that statement, he would be considered a sexist.

But to be fair, just because an idea is considered sexist, that does necessarily mean it's incorrect.
posted by Jezztek at 6:25 PM on August 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


This report brought to you by the Department for Headline-Grabbing but Ultimately Pointless Research. Lots of good work going on there lately.
posted by reklaw at 6:29 PM on August 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm losing count; exactly how many "groundbreaking" new studies have come out in the last year or so that "challenge the PC police" by saying women love babies and bein' home scrubbin' ovens, while menfolk are barely-tamed horndogs with stunted emotional reflexes? Cause I can't keep up.

She says some nice things about women needing to get more flexibility in the workplace. Though my husband's the one staying home with the baby right now due to lack of affordable childcare/me being the first to get a job. He seems to like it, oddly enough. Maybe flexibility would help both parents? Nah.

And women think about sex "every couple of days?" Umm, no. Especially if it's been a while. I think tracking romance novel sales would give her a better idea of how often we think about it. Those suckers are filthy, and avid readers are always in the middle of one; that's at least once/twice a day for them right there.
posted by emjaybee at 6:30 PM on August 8, 2006 [2 favorites]


I thought that the way to tell if a modern teen girl was having an orgasm is that she drops her cell phone?

"And women think about sex "every couple of days?" Umm, no. Especially if it's been a while."

I'm quite thankful that for my girlfriend, "a while" means "no more than 12 hours" and she thinks about it about every 10 minutes. Unless she's playing Sudoku on Brain Age. Although I think she just supresses it then.

...

Perhaps we ought to take away the cell phones and just let teen girls do some normal sexual experimentation (boys too)? Doesn't sound like it bodes well for them to be getting their orgasmic equivalents from entirely non-sexual activity...
posted by zoogleplex at 6:40 PM on August 8, 2006


"Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road"

If this was a guy making that statement, he would be considered a sexist.


Or just a cliché stand-up comedian.
posted by piratebowling at 6:41 PM on August 8, 2006


Yeah, and on the flip side of that emjaybee, I think it's been at least three minutes since I thought about sex.
posted by notswedish at 6:41 PM on August 8, 2006


Damn...I just lost The Game again.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:46 PM on August 8, 2006


jimmythefish, IMHO you are the winner here today.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:47 PM on August 8, 2006


heh... a country road - WITH FRIGGIN LASERS!!
posted by Jeremy at 6:49 PM on August 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hello, I am a message-orgasmic female (why else would i keep bothering everyone with my inane blondish comments?), with a beard and functioning testes. Except I'm kinda butch and have -- too much information, I know -- a totally world-class "airport". Thanks for flying.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:54 PM on August 8, 2006


A twenty second first hug? That borders on creepy.
posted by sharksandwich at 6:54 PM on August 8, 2006


Hate to say it, but I checked Pubmed for her publications and she's had a total of seven and none in the last four years. She's one of 148 faculty members listed at UCSF Psychiatry meaning she (probably) jumps in for an unpaid lecture for the students and gets on their list.
Yale is a good medical school, but she is not a top notch expert in her field. I'm not a top notch expert in my field and I have several times the publications at better journals. She's someone with a degree who had something outrageous to say who got a book deal based on that.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:07 PM on August 8, 2006 [2 favorites]


Hey honey, push my buttons!
posted by Wet Spot at 7:07 PM on August 8, 2006


Finally a google search result for "teenage girls orgasm" that will give users some science. About time.
posted by yeti at 7:18 PM on August 8, 2006


Grrrr...I hate this stuff.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:24 PM on August 8, 2006


Unstated subtext: don't even try to understand and empathize with [that other category of human being], since their motives are different in a neurochemical way. Their brains are different, so you can't even hope to understand them.

Thus, you are justified in not trying.
posted by JHarris at 7:25 PM on August 8, 2006


Headline grabbing, book selling nonsense.
posted by delmoi at 7:31 PM on August 8, 2006


What Hildegarde said. All of it. I mean, viscerally.

Though send one of those single cute under-educated guys my way -- I'd like one of them just fine!*

*I must have missed out on that um mommy brain architecture (cough! bullshit!) that makes me hormono-chemico-genetically compelled to focus on financial portfolios or is it breast feeding.

PS Any neuro-socio-biological-psychological study that references "Stone Age" should be shredded into little pieces and burned up and then stomped on.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:43 PM on August 8, 2006


yeti : "Finally a google search result for 'teenage girls orgasm' that will give users some science. About time."

Not on the first few pages, at least. Nothing but linkfarms as far as the eye can see.
posted by graventy at 7:49 PM on August 8, 2006


Text messaging for teenage girls is like an orgasm

Nope. Not at all like an orgasm.
posted by fshgrl at 7:55 PM on August 8, 2006


I always try to use these studies as an excuse to my wife, "But honey, my brain just isn't wired to notice the mess or care about your feelings... honest."

It never seems to work very well.
posted by MythMaker at 7:58 PM on August 8, 2006 [2 favorites]


Nope. Not at all like an orgasm.

Are you a teenager? I think not!
posted by delmoi at 7:58 PM on August 8, 2006


The highway and country road anology is pretty limp, but I have to say I MUCH prefer country roads to superhighways. To even suggest there is THAT much differance between emotional outpouring makes me scared of the ladies around me. not really
posted by edgeways at 8:01 PM on August 8, 2006


"This book is a call-to-arms for women and society to rework the social contract that women have with employers throughout their childbearing years"

This book seems like it would have been a lot more interesting without the agenda.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:18 PM on August 8, 2006


does anyone ever write at the end of reports on these studies, that no matter how hardwired for desires and intents, it's still in the end quite possible to make moral choices in how we behave? Unless of course we're hardwired against that too...
posted by kigpig at 8:21 PM on August 8, 2006


Our intelligent women are getting completely out of the loop for five to 10 years, and they cannot get back in.

I love how it's a CHOICE when it comes to deciding to end a pregnancy, but once you choose to have a baby, it's considered an unalienable RIGHT to have employers bend to your will. Ladies, you can't have it both ways. /rant
posted by dhammond at 8:28 PM on August 8, 2006


Aren't most superhighways clogged up by traffic congestion and people with road rage anyway?

Grinding up mud and making others eat dust is much more fun.
posted by porpoise at 8:30 PM on August 8, 2006


WTH - emotional superhighway?!

Isn't that what they called teh intartubes - the 'information superhighway?'

So, she's saying that women's minds are all about sending out spam to make a buck?

This isn't academic sexism, this is annoyance towards facile 'academics' - tinged heavily with jealousy regarding her financial gain.
posted by porpoise at 8:42 PM on August 8, 2006


I think tracking romance novel sales would give her a better idea of how often we think about it. Those suckers are filthy, and avid readers are always in the middle of one; that's at least once/twice a day for them right there.

Really? Damn.

I thought that romance novels were all about tall handsome men, horseback riding, candlelight dinners, long walks along the beach and shit like that.

The things I learn on metafilter. . .
posted by jason's_planet at 8:45 PM on August 8, 2006


for men, thoughts about sex occur every minute.

What absolute twaddle from the itty bitty airport committee. Every single fucking (d'oh!) minute?!?!? How the hell does she think anybody gets any work done?

(oh, hang on, gotta pause to think about sex for a bit; can't multitask, you know...)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:52 PM on August 8, 2006


You don't have kids do you dhammond. Allowing women to take a good chunk of time off to raise kids isn't 'the ladies' having it both ways at all. How is it a win for the mom or the dad to have to pay someone else to look after their kids while they both go back to work because the cost of living is such that it requires two working parents to make ends meet/pay for college/healthcare etc etc.
posted by zeoslap at 8:58 PM on August 8, 2006


Text messaging for teenage girls is like an orgasm

Nice headline, only, she doesn't say that, does she?

She says "It's a major dopamine and oxytocin rush, which is the biggest, fattest neurological reward you can get outside of an orgasm." which is quite different.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:04 PM on August 8, 2006


UbuRolivas - what are you, neutered?
posted by porpoise at 9:04 PM on August 8, 2006


porpoise: So, she's saying that women's minds are all about sending out spam to make a buck?

You know, deep down, that's actually quite an accurate summary of these kinds of theories. Unfortunately, I am now going to have to spend the next week consciously trying to remove the woman = spambot equation from my mind.

on preview: *ahem, swaggers*, ahhh, mate, y'know, i've just learned to keep myself under control, y'know...don't wanna send Kleenex out of business, you get what I'm saying, mate? *swigs beer, adjusts package*
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:11 PM on August 8, 2006


zeoslap - While I am all for employers providing maternity (or even paternity) leave, I don't think it should put into the public code as law.

You are correct to infer that these philosophical distinctions between rights and responsibilities should not be made in a vacuum. (And you are correct when you ask if I do not have children). But I think there's an inherent contradiction between the rights we grant women (and men, for that matter) and the lack of responsibility we expect them to take when exercising those rights.
posted by dhammond at 9:23 PM on August 8, 2006


Women think about sex every couple of days? Dear god, I don't know what that makes me then. Or any of my friends.

And the romance novel example is very relevant. They're highly stylized forms of various kinds of erotica. And women devour them by the bucketload (I mean in terms of general sales).
posted by jokeefe at 10:18 PM on August 8, 2006


"Thoughts about sex enter women's brains once every couple of days; for men, thoughts about sex occur every minute."

Um, I think about sex at least every three breaths. I am not a man.

"Women use 20,000 words per day; men use 7,000 per day."

Haha, she hasn't met any of my male friends.

"Women remember fights that a man insists never happened."

That's not 'being a man', that's 'being an asshole' or possibly 'being forgetful'.
posted by Auguris at 10:36 PM on August 8, 2006


It is a sentiment that wasn't around when she was born in Hazard, Ky., a poor Appalachian mining town, where her parents, Protestant missionaries, were stationed.

Yeeeee-eehawww!
posted by owhydididoit at 10:48 PM on August 8, 2006


"Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road," she writes. Men, however, "have O'Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex, where women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes."

Who is this? The Thomas Friedman of psychotherapy?
posted by brundlefly at 11:30 PM on August 8, 2006 [2 favorites]


Yeeeee-eehawww!

FYI, Daisy Duke only thought about sex every few days.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:48 PM on August 8, 2006


So, if you enter academia, then poorly-written bullshit becomes suddenly compelling?

At least it gives me an excuse to go to grad school. I could make up tons of stuff from vague assumptions about my immediate friends that would make your hair curl. Maybe I should try for PolySci, because then everybody would be conciencious liberals.

On the plus side, at least she took the classic Freudian method of assuming that what is true of yourself is true of the populace.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:59 PM on August 8, 2006


I just allocate an hour a week for thinking about sex.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:04 AM on August 9, 2006


Does this mean the clitoris accepts T9 input?
posted by Tenuki at 1:39 AM on August 9, 2006


↗→↗↙ ↓←←↙ ←↗↓ ↘→↓ ←→↓
posted by Tenuki at 1:55 AM on August 9, 2006


Research shows that the female brain naturally releases oxytocin after a 20-second hug. The embrace bonds the huggers and triggers the brain's trust circuits. So Brizendine advises, don't let a guy hug you unless you plan to trust him.

Beware the slow dance.
posted by pracowity at 2:28 AM on August 9, 2006


At first, I thought her name was Benzedrine, not Brizendine. Ha ha. HA HA HA HA. HAAAAAA. ha. what?

She's a doofus, in any case. (or at the very least, her road analogies are lame.)
posted by exlotuseater at 4:02 AM on August 9, 2006


"Thoughts about sex enter women's brains once every couple of days; for men, thoughts about sex occur every minute."

Hahahahahahahaha

Ha.

They must be asking the wrong women. Either that, or us MeFi ladeez are hornier than the average.

"It's a major dopamine and oxytocin rush, which is the biggest, fattest neurological reward you can get outside of an orgasm."

Okay, so she doesn't say it's an orgasm, but I can think of a few other things that give me a bigger rush then sending a text message. I just sent one now. Felt nothing. Receiving a text message, however...
posted by liquorice at 4:40 AM on August 9, 2006


So like, i wonder if gay(fe)males' brains are different as well?

If I'm a lesbian do I get to have the airport-sized superhighway processing gadget?

Does it mean I'm borderline male or have testosterone-related issues if i think loads about sex as a straight woman?

What a load of bullshit. How many times can you explain gender is 's.o.c.i.a.l.l.y c.o.n.s.t.u.c.t.e.d?'
posted by Sijeka at 4:52 AM on August 9, 2006


constructed, even (I'm so mad i can't type correctly... must be because my emotions are too overwhelming, being female and all).
posted by Sijeka at 4:53 AM on August 9, 2006


If this was a guy making that statement, he would be considered a sexist.

No, no. You got it wrong. All wrong. It's sexist if it portrays women as inferior and men as superior.
It's not sexist if it portrays men as inferior and women as superior.


Examples:
"Men are better at math and science" = sexist, the speaker is clearly a pig and about to suggest women should be banned from attending university.
"Women have higher emontional intelligence and are better at reaching a consensus" = pearls of wisom, the speaker is well informed and quite possibly a genius.

Since sexism is discrimination based on sex, and only women seem to be the target of it, I am forced to conclude that only women have sex.
posted by spazzm at 5:38 AM on August 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Women use 20,000 words per day; men use 7,000 per day."

I only use seven and they're all dirty.

"...for men, thoughts about sex occur every minute."

Yup. Here comes one now. sigh.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 AM on August 9, 2006


My girlfriend doesn't have a mobile.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 6:03 AM on August 9, 2006


As sweeping as many of these allegations are -- thank you previous commenters for pointing them out -- i do think there is something that differentiates the sexes chemically inside the brain. Why would it be the only part of our makeup that is immune from hormonal delegation?

Also, based on what's posted here I feel like i'm the only one that read the Sci-Am Article first.

As for M[r?]s. Benzedrine, all the press, all the outrageous sensationalistic claims in the world won't keep her b.s. raft afloat for long.
posted by phylum sinter at 6:05 AM on August 9, 2006


Her idea that women think about sex once every couple of days is bullshit. Worse than that it's a fucking lie. I see it as an attempt to downplay female sexuality which, whilst it is different, is just as strong as male sexuality. That actually might be the most sexist part of her entire thesis. Of course people have been dismissive of the idea of a strong female sexuality since time immemorial, but I can only guess that her motives here are to strengthen her argument that men and women are so very different. In doing so she does women a great disservice.

I wrote all of that and I didn't think about sex once! Shit, now I did (and only 6,880 words left for me today at this rate I'll be mute by lunchtime!)
posted by ob at 6:44 AM on August 9, 2006


Just once I'd like these articles to reach a little farther. The idea that it takes a woman a few days to think about sex again is absolutely preposterous.
posted by agregoli at 7:08 AM on August 9, 2006


My apologies, UbuRolivas - I forgot to add a ;) to that neutered comment. Sorry for coming across as an asshole.
posted by porpoise at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2006


"They must be asking the wrong women." ... "Her idea that women think about sex once every couple of days is bullshit." ... "The idea that it takes a woman a few days to think about sex again is absolutely preposterous."

You people aren't married.
posted by majick at 8:55 AM on August 9, 2006


I am married. I still think about sex a HELL of a lot more often than every few days. The same is true for every woman I've ever been friends with.

(I hate the stereotype/joke that sex ceases when you're married - not if you have a good relationship, it doesn't, in my opinion).
posted by agregoli at 9:20 AM on August 9, 2006


i do think there is something that differentiates the sexes chemically inside the brain. Why would it be the only part of our makeup that is immune from hormonal delegation?

Yes, I'm inclined to agree with you, but I think you've missed the main thrust of what the "scientist" is arguing. She's asserting that there is a one-way causal relationship between said hormones and gender. If you stop to think about it, this is incredibly shortsighted: yes, physical features such as hormones inspire certain gendered behaviour; but we can say with as much certainty that a person's developmental environment affects said physical features. The author's discussion makes it sound as though everything it is to be a man/woman is already present in one's brain as they come out of the womb, like Athena springing fully-clothed from the head of Zeus. She ignores completely the fact that one's brain can be drastically altered according to the environment; a look at the brains of lifelong Buddhist monks illustrates this point in a politically-neutral way -- their daily routine of meditation and presumably restricted diet results in physical alteration of the brain itself. (link1)(link2).

The author is missing the point, in other words, by ignoring half of a two-way causal relationship. The people in the thread who have stated that gender is socially constructed aren't arguing that we each"choose" a gender, but that the binary man/woman split is not based so much on biological categories as on societal categories. (Or, more precisely, the biological categories are themselves reflective of societal categories.)

Why does this matter? Because if the author's reduction of social to biological is correct, then homosexuality (to choose one popular example of gender-deviant behaviour) is "unnatural" -- women are born babyraisers, men are born babymakers, and love is an evolutionary development meant to assist in this process. If it is incorrect, then at least one major argument against the practice of homosexuality is shut down.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:54 AM on August 9, 2006 [2 favorites]


Metafilter - home of horny, intelligent, articulate women and men who don't think about sex.

Did I slip into Bizarro Earth somewhere?
(no offense to the women)
(or the men)
(or intelligent people)
(it was just a joke, really)

posted by PontifexPrimus at 10:19 AM on August 9, 2006


Research shows that the female brain naturally releases oxytocin after a 20-second hug.

That explains why they stop stuggling after 20-Mississippi...
posted by LordSludge at 11:27 AM on August 9, 2006


I don't understand why y'all think responses of the form "I or someone I know don't fit the generalization" somehow show that the generalization is bullshit and totally lacking in empirical validity.

Brizendine's methodology, after all, wasn't reporting her own experience and generalizing to everyone; it was synthesizing a lot of current research. It's bizarre that conclusions that are so modest and stated so carefully -- even in a popularizing book -- are still so controversial.
posted by grobstein at 12:05 PM on August 9, 2006


"I only use seven and they're all dirty."

Oh, jonmc, you're forgetting that you use the words "beer," "gimme," and "a." Perhaps even "cheeseburger" and/or "steak." Also possibly the word "now."

None of those words are dirty! :)
posted by zoogleplex at 12:24 PM on August 9, 2006


They are the way I use them...
posted by jonmc at 12:51 PM on August 9, 2006


You people aren't married.
posted by majick at 11:55 AM EST on August 9


I'm married too and well, everything that agregoli said...
posted by ob at 2:31 PM on August 9, 2006


“Metafilter - home of horny, intelligent, articulate women and men who don't think about sex.”

Yeah, sorta. The males here are already given to some degree of mental exchange and expression (good, bad or indifferent - but expressed). And, with the females sated for the social interaction, they can focus on the physical.

Snappy metaphors aside, there does seem to be at least some truth in the piece here. Anecdotal - but if you’ve seen women/girls chatting online with cam with men/boys there does seem to be a high “what’z up?” to dick shot ratio. Consider - why do women put up “don’t ask me to show my breasts idiots” kind of tags, and yet continue to inhabit an environment in which someone will display their phallus on cam at the drop of...well, trousers? Seems to be a lot of social vs. physical desire for intercourse going on.
...anyone want to see my cam?
posted by Smedleyman at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2006


Grobstein: It's not just I and someone I know, it's everyone I know. Which still, okay, doesn't hold as much weight as dozens of scientific studies, but when I can't see evidence of this anywhere in the "real world", that's when I smell bullshit.
posted by liquorice at 4:35 PM on August 9, 2006


Also...the simple fact that we are constantly bombarded by sex everywhere we turn, makes it feel like it's almost impossible to not think about sex less than every few days.
posted by liquorice at 4:37 PM on August 9, 2006


"Because if the author's reduction of social to biological is correct, then homosexuality (to choose one popular example of gender-deviant behaviour) is 'unnatural' -- women are born babyraisers, men are born babymakers, and love is an evolutionary development meant to assist in this process. If it is incorrect, then at least one major argument against the practice of homosexuality is shut down."

Well, the majority of the gay rights movement these days endorses the idea of biological determinism with regard to sexual orientation. I don't like this emphasis because I think the real issue is to assert that there's nothing wrong with gay sex, regardless of its origin.

But for the same reason, I have a hard time with the hardcore "gender is a social construction" camp because a) if there's any differentiation in human cognition/behavior that is likely to be biologically determined it's going to be sex related. Physiological sex differentiation is incredibly profound, occuring at all levels of anatomy. The developmental biology of male and female brains are different. Most other (certainly not all) animals and especially mammals have profound sexual differentiation in behavior. I realize that some people in the nurturist camp are human exceptionalists, either of religious/metaphysical variety or just some vague "humans aren't like other animals" sentiments, but I'm not one of them. Humans are animals. We evolved. Our external sex characteristics are unusually differentiated relative to other animals but supposedly our brains aren't? Seems absurdly unlikely to me and a belief that only can arise from an ideological bias; and (remember that I'm listing two things?) b) the people that are freaked out against any sort of research or assertions about these things are in their own roundabout way taking the "determinism" part more seriously than they ought.

There's a lot of things about each of us which are biologically determined. Some very weakly and thus for most purposes the determination is irrelevant; and other strongly, like, for example, height. But if something like height is very biologically determined, then even if that's the case we can certainly attempt to organize our society such that we discourage or eliminate ways in which this determination creates social injustice. It's a fact that shorter men, especially, are discriminated against—this has been proven many times by looking statistically at outcomes. So what do we do about this?

Deny that biology very strongly influences height? Of course not.

On the biological side, maybe part of the solution is to alter our own biology if we feel that certain determined things lead to outcomes we don't like. If women are thought to be "handicapped" for certain purposes and men thought to be handicapped for other purposes, than a partial possible solution would be to change that. I'd be all in favor of reducing the human male capacity for violence and anger, for example.

And of course we can do what we've always done, and that's to change the things on the social side that either make these things problems or create social injustice.

I find it pretty odd, actually, that the progressive point of view tends, right now, to favor biological determinism with regard to sexual orientation but disfavor biological determinism with regard to gender. I think that's mildly incoherent and it seems obvious to me that both positions are in some sense reactionary (in the literal sense of the word, not the specific usage which connotes regressivism). They're reactionary because the positions are taken as a response to regressive cultural elements. In the case of sexual orientation, the regressive position is that it's a choice, an unnatural and/or sinful choice. Therefore the progressive position is contrary—and that position also, as a practical matter, encourages the homophobic to attempt to lessen their homophobia by understanding that people are "born that way".

Similarly, the regressive cultural position with regard to gender is that all traditional gender roles are the natural social realization of sex differentiation and thus all the social injustice related to sexism is validated by this embrace of biological determinism. Furthermore, there are a number of regressive forces that are fighting a rearguard action against feminism by asserting these ideas. Therefore, then, the progressive social position on gender is that it's socially constructed and that these traditional sexist roles are simply bigotry.

But in both cases I'm baffled and, as a progressive, more than a little annoyed that the majority of my fellow partisans are allowing our opposition to force the positions we take on this issues; and most especially when we let them force us to repeat their own rational errors of making assumptions about the nature of the universe a priori on the basis of what's most comfortable. In my case, I certainly don't find biological determinism with regard to either sexual orientation or gender roles comfortable. Given a choice, I'd prefer a universe where these things weren't biologically determined in the least. Yet there's many indications that both are pretty highly determined. If that's the way it is, then that's the way it is. And if the regressives are going to use this against us, then we'd best accomodate what's true, deal with it and deal with our enemies, than waste time pretending that these differences don't exist.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:37 PM on August 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


EB: What is also interesting about this is that the majority of psychological and social science research on this is quite a bit more nuanced. Technically when people talk about nature v. nurture, what they are really doing is trying to pin a number on the contribution of various factors.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:57 PM on August 9, 2006


EB, thank you. I just didn't have the energy, but it was exactly what I had been thinking.
posted by Jezztek at 9:04 PM on August 9, 2006


grobstein: Brizendine's methodology, after all, wasn't reporting her own experience and generalizing to everyone; it was synthesizing a lot of current research. It's bizarre that conclusions that are so modest and stated so carefully -- even in a popularizing book -- are still so controversial.

I guess what people fail to realize about this is that well, what if a generalization is more wrong than right? Maybe a LOT more people don't fit the patterns than we expect. What may be more controversial is telling people that a vast majority of them have brains that function in masculine and feminine ways-- at least with the way the vast majority of people are so rigid about defining their genders and sexes and mainly limiting these to two.

The reason people look at the generalizations is because perhaps those are the most easy statements to digest and complain about. As for me, well-- if we stick to the traits I'm empathic, language-rich, sex-thinking-about male. Strangely, from some of these comments, it looks like a lot of females may also be like this, but I'm very secure in my masculinity.

On the other hand, where are they getting these ideas of what most women are like, and if we put them all together is there a woman out there like that, or is that just a construct?
posted by taursir at 9:51 PM on August 9, 2006


The people over at languagelog had a lot to say about that bullshit claim that men use 7000 words/day to women's 20000. (More here and here.)
posted by ch1x0r at 7:07 AM on August 10, 2006


The speaking-rate thing and KirkJobSluder both remind me that I didn't really condemn crappy science and outrageous generalizations, which I should have. An unfortunate side-effect of how profound the sex differences in physiology are is that this makes it easy for us to be too credulous. Certainly it makes it easy for me to be too credulous. The degree of sexual divergence for any particular characteristic that I'm willing to consider is very high. This is also a result of the simple fact that we know so little about this stuff. While we have folks that confidently assert that men and women are utterly unlike and folks that assert that men and women are essentially indistinguishable, the truth of the matter is that there's very little (in relative terms) research on these questions and a whole lot of bad information.

A lot of the stuff that gets reported in the media are marginal studies and pop science books, like this one. These generate the most extreme assertions and get the most publicity, as KJS notes.

So what does one do who is determined to be non-ideological about this and is interested in knowing the truth and discussing it reasonably and as well-informed (for a lay person) as possible? Be very, very careful.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:50 AM on August 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


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