Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Breaking News on Women's Sexuality: Men Don't Understand It, or Care

Your bloggerbot comes out of semi-retirement to express his dismay at this latest finding, cited in a New York Times article that pretends to break the latest scientific discoveries on sexuality and gender:

Straight men, it seems, have neural circuits that prompt them to seek out women; gay men have those prompting them to seek other men. Women's brains may be organized to select men who seem likely to provide for them and their children.

It's not completely the Times' fault, but you'd think they'd at least observe that science is seriously skewed toward studying men's sexuality. But the article accomplishes the reverse, claiming to shed light on sexuality for both sexes when it mentions only men. After quoting a thinly researched observations about how sexual orientation seems more fixed in men than in women, the article concludes, "Sexual orientation, at least for men, seems to be settled before birth." The "at least for men" drips with condescension and dismissal of female sexuality—making the articles supposedly reported conclusions that women don't have a sexual orientation that much more suspicious.

Yes, I'm serious about the claim that women don't have sexual orientation. The article quotes J. Michael Bailey, an expert on sexual orientation at Northwestern University: "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." That's right, they pick men because men are objectively the best candidates! Bailey goes on to claim 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.

Here we are in an article by a man, that quotes only male scientists and deals only with studies focused on men, and—shocker!—it concludes that women's sexuality is a mystery that nobody really gives a fuck about anyway. The one thing we do know about them is that they're passive.

That's right: all male scientists, male writer, all studies about men. Yet the article has the balls to introduce its rundown of research on homosexuality as follows:

Researchers have devoted considerable effort to understanding homosexuality in men and women, both for its intrinsic interest and for the light it could shed on the more usual channels of desire," the article gives examples only of studies on male homosexuality.

The article concludes with no evidence whatsoever that male and female sexuality are utterly different. It also seems hell-bent on arguing that male and female brains are completely different. Yet this is the best they can do:

Widespread regions of the cortex, the brain's outer layer that performs much of its higher-level processing, are thicker in women. The hippocampus, where initial memories are formed, occupies a larger fraction of the female brain.

Or this:

Techniques for imaging the brain have begun to show that men and women use their brains in different ways even when doing the same thing. In the case of the amygdala, a pair of organs that helps prioritize memories according to their emotional strength, women use the left amygdala for this purpose but men tend to use the right.

This one is my favorite. Listen to how many weasel words it uses to conclude that straight men are turned on by women and gay men are turned on by men:

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.

Do I need a smart conclusion after that? Because I just feel done.