I just finished reading Dr. Louann Brizendine’s book, The Female Brain, and in this post, I’ll focus mainly on her section about female sexual response and orgasm. The preceding chapters were interesting. They detailed girlhood and teen behaviors as heavily influenced, according to Dr. Brizendine, by the hormone fluctuations of the brain. The other chapters on interesting menopausal behavioral info. She goes into the male side as well. First, some points I agreed with.
I fully support the purpose for writing this book which was to show us that if we aren’t aware of it, hormonal effects combined with brain structural differences in a given gender could be causing someone to behave in certain ways and through knowing this, quote, “we can prevent it from creating a fixed reality by which we are ruled.” This is possible through what separates us, in my view, from animals: even primates and dolphins cannot utilize their “intelligence and determination” to not be slaves to their brain structure and hormones. The sex urge doesn’t have to begin and end as a mere itch to be scratched and a carrot on a string for the continuation of the species. It can do much more for us.
This is a uniquely human capability. This holds true whether someone is a strict description of what this book defines as male or female, or a person who possesses traits from both sides. I place more stock in people lying along a spectrum than fully one side or the other. Per this, the extent to which Dr. Brizendine’s claims are accurate for every given individual, that’s something else entirely. However, more possibilities for behavior can be better than fewer.
I agree with Dr. Brizendine’s highlighting of the fact that viagra alone does not solve the issues of FSD. Bringing more blood to the genitals can make the itch more palatable to scratch, but if the right hormones aren’t in place, lubrication and orgasm can still be difficult. Not to mention (and they hardly ever do) the level of sexual sophistication/skill available in a given person’s sex life be it solo or partnered. She also makes it clear that the medical establishment has no listing in their texts for clitoral anatomy but three pages or more for the penis.
I absolutely applauded Dr. Brizendine when she made this statement:
“My patients complain that it has been hard for them to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about the female sexual response…. To this day, most medical schools don’t teach a required course in female sexual response. Even gynecologists… have few answers for women with sexual problems…. Psychiatrists and couples’ therapists can be equally ill-equipped to offer help. They tend to see the problem as all in the head….”
Dr. Brizendine’s context here is postmenopausal women, but the aforementioned issue also applies to women in their sexual prime too, in my view. While I do acknowledge that there can be problems stemming from the mind and past abuse, etc, what female sexual response means here is the successful and replicable methodology a woman can rely on for getting the most out of her potential for sexual pleasure. That very often has also to do with her accessing her body’s abilities for pleasurable sensation, which as we are all well aware of is attacked and demonized by certain special interest groups.
I also liked Dr. Brizendine’s support of breastfeeding and her point outs of how it can be a calming and positive thing for both mother and baby. She got into the specifics of this, which is needed in our current culture that has lost its comfort with breastfeeding.
Now, what I disagreed with and found lacking:
To start with, there was a fair amount of the use of the word, “may.” Scientists and other researchers will put forth a theory on a subject and use the word, “may,” and synonyms of that word, in the sentence with their explanation of why something is the way it is. The problem is, when most people read assertions, they don’t pay attention to the word “may”, which means that the theory could be less than totally accurate. People are speedy and read “may” more often as “is”, as in, without a doubt. I’ve seen this before in how people relay information they’ve learned and I’ve caught myself hearing statements based in possibility and remembering them later as hard facts. Be aware of this as you read her book and any other book for that matter.
I finished the sex sections and while the assertions were based around the clitoris as the primary erogenous zone, I have points of disagreement with Dr. Brizendine’s understanding of female orgasm and female sexual neurology. Put another way, some of the science data from other scientific research sources I subscribe to is different from hers. For instance, she sides with the science people who believe that the uterus sucks sperm (but not semen?) up into the uterus through the cervical mucosal plug.
Last I heard, there are two camps of scientists: one that believe in the ability of the uterus to vacuum up sperm (assuming the plug is not present due to ovulation) and another camp that states the uterus is incapable of suction because there is no way to provide suction housed in this organ. Dr. Brizendine’s data used to support this is an anecdote of a doctor claiming a female patient of his reported that a condom was stuck inside her cervical oz upon examination after her orgasm. Did she go to the doctor with it stuck inside? Was this what she reported to her doc?
Brizendine goes on to site research on another subject: male physique and facial attractiveness as the primary determination of a woman’s success with orgasm during intercourse. This, according to a particular group of scientists, is a woman’s body’s way of improving the odds of fertilization with a symmetrical i.e. attractive and therefore genetically superior male (mentally unstable attractive men not withstanding, I suppose). However, this information conflicted with a third scientist’s findings that she also included in her book: women throughout the world’s cultures women are concerned less with a man’s looks and more so on his emotional stability and access to financial resources when selecting the most suitable male for child rearing. You can’t have it both ways, doctor. Which theory is correct?
I’d also like a show of hands from the ladies on how many times they slept with a very attractive man and didn’t have an orgasm from it. This reminds me of an anecdote that my mentor Betty Dodson has in her memoir about the first time she received oral sex. He was notan attractive man by her standards at the time, but what he did have was awesome oral sex sexual skills. Betty’s orgasm was loud and proud, so she said, and she gave a big kiss to the less than attractive stud. Dr. Brizendine claims that when a woman isn’t attracted to a man, the clitoris and orgasm possibility shuts off. Add to that her support of theories that claim male attractiveness is the single most important factor in a woman’s orgasmic success due to evolutionary advantage.
I’ll also mention that Dr. Brizendine says that, "the clitoris is not a tiny penis." Well, according to another group of scientists it is, in a way. Their findings indicate that in-utero, all babies start out “female” then if it is an XY fetus, development shifts in that direction, which Brizendine references in her book. According to these scientists, the same neurological structure and enervation in the fetus’s clitoris transforms into a penis glans in a boy or remains a clitoris in a girl. If they are correct, then the clitoral orgasm’ssensations, and those from clitoral stimulation as well, are possibly very like the sensations experienced in the male penile orgasm and glans stimulation. The Female Brain was printed in 2006. Maybe this research had not been released yet.
End of part 1.