A Special Valentine’s Day Reprise on Sex and the Brain: We Just Never Seem to Get Enough of Talking and Doing!
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. That means every blogger and her bird dog are thinking about sex. But then, who needs Valentine’s Day as an excuse to think about sex?
The brain—as every psychobabble and (as you are seeing) thinking-skills aficionado is sure to remind you eventually—is arguably our major sex organ. So it should be no surprise that sex is never far removed from our thoughts. Which is amazing, since, as one scientist has noted, nobody is ever known to have died from a lack of it.
How far removed?
Well, that’s been a lively sex-on-the-brain issue lately. An online polling company (not to be confused with “a major scientific research institute”) has claimed that a typical male thinks about having sexual intercourse (not to be confused with a hug or a handshake) an average of 13 times a day, or about 5,000 times per year. A typical female? Only five times daily, or about 2,000 times per year. On average, how often do men actually have sex? About twice a week, this outfit reports.
One reason women don’t have more of it may be due to what often seems to be foremost on their mind when they do think about having sex. Condoms.
Men’s issue bloggers know to expect a deluge of comment any time they mention the “c” word. One frustrated respondent wrote, “Picture wrapping your vagina in a Walmart bag before sex, and you’ll have some idea of how condoms can feel at their worst.” One comment about condoms is sure to followed by another, not infrequently from a woman reader. The above male comment prompted this female comment, “I mean, couldn’t I at least wrap my you-know in a bag from, say… IKEA?” Another shared, “Oddly enough, the biggest condom whiners I’ve ever been with both had STDs that could’ve been prevented if they’d wrapped up their junk.”
How big an issue is it to get a condom on a male when the lovers aren’t in a long-term, committed relationship? This devilishly clever, potentially offensive (so be warned!) piece of French graffiti animation about AIDS prevention probably offers a solid clue.
All of which is to observe that the subject of sex and the brain is as controversial as ever. But that’s not to say that we aren’t beginning to clarify some important matters:
Good sex (and good jazz) requires the prefrontal cortex to take a powder.
Specifically, the left lateral orbitofrontal and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortexes. The former policies self-control over basic drives like sex. The latter can lead to a suspension of judgment and reflection. Diminish both their outputs, and you can apparently liberate the libido. Brain imaging studies show deactivation of the same areas of the brain in jazz musicians. Ergo, good sex is really a zonked-out brain improvisating! The “play” question then becomes do you screw or do you riff?
Don’t hug the lug unless you are serious, sister!
Why not? The Big O’s. Oxytocin and the ovaries. One expert has issued this caution to women: “The effects of oxytocin can be incredibly disarming to a woman. Female animals injected with the stuff seem to throw caution to the wind and cuddle up with the first available male. And that is why, when women ask me for advice about men, I warn them, ‘Don’t hug the guy unless you plan to trust him.’” The ovaries produce testosterone. One woman with “arousal dysfunction” joined a scientific trial where some participants wore a testosterone patch. She blamed the patch when she suddenly had a desire to throw herself into the arms of a cousin at a funeral. The problem? Her patch was a placebo. The testosterone was of her own making.*
The Mars versus Venus thing is a brain issue.
Bestselling author John Gray was on the right track: men and women are from different planets. Their brains, that is. And the list of male-female brain differences is growing ever longer. Researchers are astonished that this hasn’t been realized sooner. But then most test subjects—human or animal—have been male. For example, only now are we realizing that women get better pain relief from the opioid painkiller nalbuphine and men from morphine. “It’s scandalous,” one Canadian researcher says. “Women are the most common pain sufferers, and yet our model for basic pain research is the male rat.” Often, men don’t understand brain differences as they affect sex, either. Therapists still marvel at how quickly the male brain can begin to suspect that its female partner is having an affair if she’s just not in the mood. (After all, if she doesn’t want sex with him, it must be because she’s getting it somewhere else.)
Forget the G spot. Think B spot.
This just in!!! A new study of 1,800 women at King’s College, London, suggests that the legendary G spot (a supposedly bean-sized vaginal area said to be the female body’s prime erogenous zone) is a myth. But never mind. Dr. Daniel Amen is a clinical psychologist and brain-imaging junkie. He wants to show you some pitchers. (No, not dirty ones.) Pictures that suggest that the right temporal lobe—Amen’s B spot—is “the seat of orgasms.” (You can learn more in his book, Sex on the Brain: 12 Lessons To Enhance Your Love Life.) The B spot, the good doc says, is what can make love dangerous. He likes to talk about former astronaut Lisa Nowak. She donned adult diapers so she could drive hundreds of miles nonstop to confront a romantic rival. Amen thinks going into space may have affected her B spot!
The brain just can’t let the subject go.
And I’m not even going near the sex-on-the-brain problems of Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, David Vitter or Elliot Spitzer. Instead, I’m going to talk about the compulsions of the Christian housewife who blogs at “Beyond the Pale.” On Dec. 16, she asked, “Is there sex in heaven?” Jesus never said never, she noted. Good thing, too. “[If] he’d flat-out said, ‘Well, kids, tough break, but no one will be gettin’ wichoo in heaven,’ all kinds of sex-crazed flaky goobers like me would say, ‘Seriously?…. Lemme get back to you on that salvation thing, Jesus…….’” On Jan. 13, she was back with “More sex in heaven.” Reassuring her readers that going to heaven doesn’t mean you are going to end up being a “little Hindu floaty thing.” Good thing, too. She said, “[If] MB wants to be a floaty thing in heaven, I am going to be royally pissed. I need the feel of his arms available for me forever.” MB is her husband. (”My Beloved.”)
But I can’t be all serious all the time about the subject of Valentine’s Day and sex-on-the-brain. I have to tell you one joke.
U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife are visiting a poultry farm.
During the tour, Mrs. Coolidge inquires of the farmer how his farm has managed to produce so many fertile eggs with so few roosters. The farmer proudly explains that his roosters perform their duty dozens of times each day.
“Perhaps you could point that out to Mr. Coolidge,” pointedly replies the First Lady.
The President, overhearing the remark, asks the farmer, “Does each rooster service the same hen each time?”
“No,” replies the farmer, “there are many hens for each rooster.”
“Perhaps you could point that out to Mrs. Coolidge,” replies the President.
I don’t know whether President and Mrs. Coolidge ever actually visited a poultry farm or had such a conversation with its owner. But the Coolidge Effect—named after the joke—is real. Human males who ejaculate ususally can’t have sex with the same female without a rest. But if a different female enters the picture (and the room) right away … well, hello, Mr. President! More physical and emotional complications in the ever-winding road that has emerged to keep our species around.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
*Actually, as one neuropsychologist has explained, the sex-on-the-female-brain thing is a bit more complicated. Let’s say a woman spots someone interesting. The picture travels the lateral geniculate nucleus to her visual cortex, which evaluates the “mate potential.” If it’s a go, the news is sent to the signal-boosting amygdala, which passes the spark to the hormone-controlling hypothalamus. The word next goes to the ovaries, for a release of testosterone. That’s when the left lateral orbitofrontal and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex get involved, shutting down inhibitions, judgment and reflection. Or something like that. At least when it’s a male being eyed by the female.