Why do Men’s and Women’s Brains Treat Sex Differently?

I’ve previously shared research showing that most women have a far lower sex drive than do most men. It helps to understand why men’s and women’s brains have a different makeup so that men don’t take sexual rejection as a personal affront or believe their wives don’t find them attractive. Wouldn’t you also like to know how men’s brains change as they age? Read on.

CNN published an article last month called “Love, Sex and the Male Brain” by Dr. Louann Brizendine, a psychiatrist and neurologist and author of The Female Brain and The Male Brain. I’ll just provide some of the highlights, but read the full article if you want to learn more. Her main point is that men’s and women’s brain functioning and makeup are indeed different. While we can adapt to change, we also need to accept and respect these very real differences.

  • Dr. Brizendine says the biggest differences between the male and female brain is that men have a sexual pursuit area that is 2 1/2 times larger than the same area of the female brain. (Add to this the fact that many women are on hormones that reduce their sexual drive, and the divide becomes greater.)
  • Male teens produce more than 20 times the amount of testosterone than they did before puberty. Dr. Brizendine gives a useful analogy: If testosterone were beer, a 9-year-old boy would be getting the equivalent of 1 cup per day. A 15-year old boy receives two gallons a day, making it nearly impossible for him to stop thinking about sex. She says this increase in testosterone also causes men to have visual brain circuits that are on the lookout for fertile mates.
  • The female brain, meanwhile, is “driven to seek security and reliability in a potential mate before she has sex.”
  • The male brain can fall in love just as hard and fast as the female brain. When he meets “the one,” mating with her becomes his prime directive.
  • A pregnant woman causes her mate’s pheromones to drop by 30 percent, making him more likely to help with baby care. As he handles and cares for that baby, his brain continues to align with his new role.
  • Surprisingly, men have stronger emotional reactions than women. They are just better at hiding the emotion and seeking ways to bury it.
  • As men age, they enter andropause, when testosterone levels drop and estrogen levels increase. For some men with abnormally large drops in testosterone, they can become tired, irritable or depressed—a.k.a. grumpy old men. Some use hormone replacement therapy or find relief in exercise, more frequent sex or socialization.
  • The cuddly, patient grandpa type of man is benefiting from an increase in oxytocin—making him fall more in love with this grandchildren than perhaps he was with his own children.
  • The mature man’s brain is particularly susceptible to loneliness. With 60 percent of divorces over age 50 initiated by women, older men can be devastated by divorce. Dr. Brizendine says it’s important for a newly single older man to have social activity, or the social-approval circuits do not get activated.

Do you believe men and women think and feel differently? Have emotional differences or differences in sexual interest caused conflict in your relationship?

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2 responses to “Why do Men’s and Women’s Brains Treat Sex Differently?

  1. Absolutely. While I think both genders are capable of whatever they wish, I believe that we evolved (or were created) to fulfill different roles – complementary roles. I believe strongly that our hardwiring is specifically designed for those roles.

    One of the best examples I have is what I call The Parable of the Weeders. I personally witnessed two strangers, a man and a woman, weed a flower bed. They divided it in half and started at opposite ends, working toward the middle.

    The man quickly pulled up his weeds and carelessly flung them onto the lawn, then went inside. (I assume he meant for a lawnmower to get to them someday.)

    The woman made several neat piles as she went and carried an armful of weeds to the dumpster when she was done.

    This happened at a key time in my life when I finally accepted that men and women had different perspectives and expecting a short term man to plan like a long term woman was a good recipe for headaches.

    True story.

    • These differences are also evident in most young children. Yes, we should recognize and celebrate that men and women have unique propensities that often balance one another.

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