Pornography & Sexuality—Exploring the Male & Female Brains

Feb 23, 2010

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In Candeo's full recovery training program, our Students learn about the brain science behind human sexual process. To describe what happens in the brain during sexual activity, we use the illustration of a “funnel which looks like an hour glass. Whenever we become sexual, the brain travels as it were into the funnel where it immediately begins narrowing its focus with the aid of powerful neuro-chemicals. The brain continues down into the funnel, until it reaches the very narrowest part which is sexual climax. Following that crescendo, the brain emerges from the narrow part of the funnel and returns to its normal, wide perspective. 

In the Candeo training, Students learn about The Funnel and The Narrowing Process, both from the perspective of a healthy sexual relationship and the experience of pornographic process. Thus there is a “healthy sexuality funnel and a “pornography funnel. While the neuro-chemical and brain processes are very similar in both of these funnels, the results when one emerges from each funnel is very different. 

In addition to the mentally/emotionally healthy vs. unhealthy aspects of each funnel, there is another important aspect to the Tale of the Two Funnels—the male and female brains are structured differently, causing men and women to approach and respond differently in the funnel.

As you read through this article, take time to think of experiences in your own relationship when you have seen these differences manifested. Also pay attention to how you believe pornographers exploit men and women according to their unique brain characteristics.
Men and Women Are Different    

Although what follows has been meticulously gathered from the research and writings of leading scientists and psychologists, it is by no means a hard and fast rule or description of every man and every woman. Each person is different and unique. 

However, the facts clearly bear out that for nearly all men and women there are significant differences between the male and female brain. This means that, in most cases, men and women do not behave, feel, think or respond in the same ways, either on the inside or in their outside behavior. Recently, while teaching a marital relations workshop, I asked the audience, “By a show of hands, how many would agree that men and women don't always think alike? Every hand immediately shot up, at which, one woman blurted out, “Do they ever

Women are “Web-Thinkers and
Men are “Step-Thinkers
 

Helen Fisher in her book The First Sex, refers to women as using “web thinking, as opposed to the “step thinking men are usually engaged in. Women place an emphasis on the “whole, while males focus primarily on the “parts of the whole. It's female multi-tasking vs. male's do-one-thing-at-a-time mentality. 
 

One example of this single tasking vs. multi-tasking difference is in communication. Nothing amazes me more than watching a group of women talk to each other—all at once! From the male brain perspective this is incomprehensible. When men talk, they take turns: “Go ahead, and when you're done let me know so I can talk. Once, after observing my wife and her friends engage in this female phenomenon, I tested her: “I know you couldn't hear everything that was being said—you were all faking it. To my dismay, she was able to recount details of the entire conversation for me! Searching for a simple comparison that everyone can relate to, some scientists refer to the narrowing/single-tasking male brain as a “meat cleaver, as opposed to the holistic/multi-tasking female brain as more like a “Swiss Army Knife, with its many attachments. I like to think of women as having a giant satellite dish on their heads, spinning around, taking everything in.

These differences center around how men and women use the right and left hemispheres of their brains. The male brain is narrow and highly specialized; the right side of the brain is used for visual activities, the left for verbal. Women, in contrast, employ both sides of their brains for verbal and visual activities.

Some scientists have suggested that because both visual capability and emotions are bundled together exclusively in the right hemisphere of the male brain, the key perceptual sense in the male is vision. Dr. Judith Reisman has noted that this male dependence on the right hemisphere causes men to respond to visual stimuli with more vigor and speed than females.2 This partly explains why the primary market for pornographic images has been male.

Females, on average, use more of their brain space for specific activities, while men use far less. And women employ a greater spectrum of the brain, while men rely more on a specific area of either hemisphere. This results in men naturally focusing narrowly on an issue, while women more naturally see the big picture. Men are able to focus on an issue and be less distracted by anything superfluous going on around them. Ever see a man glued to the TV or the sports page, seemingly oblivious to the chaos around him?3 

Men tend to be more analytical, extracting the essential from the circumstantial detail: “Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts. Women, in contrast, take in the larger picture. They're concerned with context, just as men are forever trying to ignore it for the sake of something they can abstract from it. It's a standoff between brain hemisphere-specific focus vs. wide, hemisphere-diffused focus.4
    
The Corpus Callosum

One body of evidence explains male/female brain differences by examining the corpus callosum, the bundle of some two hundred million fibers that link the left and right sides of the brain. These nerve fibers allow for the interchange of information between the brain's two halves. In the female brain, the corpus callosum is different than in that of the male. In blind tests on fourteen brains obtained after autopsy, scientists found that in women an important area of the corpus callosum was thicker and more bulbous than in men. Overall, this key message-exchange center was bigger (in relation to overall brain weight) in women.5 (Some studies indicate that the corpus callosum may be up to three times larger by weight and density in the female brain than in the male.6)
The hemispheres of a woman's brain share a larger number of connections, suggesting a greater exchange of information between the two sides. Also, more total brain space has been reserved for everyday activities, so that the information she is receiving from the outside world is processed by a much larger portion of her brain.7

In general, women are better at recognizing the emotional nuances in voice, gesture and facial expression, and at interpreting the whole range of sensory information. They can deduce more from such information because they have a greater capacity than men to integrate and cross-relate verbal and visual information, giving credence to woman's intuition or the sixth sense some claim women own.8

Men keep their emotions in check by relying on their right-brain thinking, while their power to express feelings in speech resides in the left hemisphere. Because the two halves of their brains are connected by a smaller number of fibers than those of women, the flow of information between one side of the brain and the other is more restricted.9 Since information is flowing less easily to the verbal, left side of his brain, it is often more difficult for a man to express his emotions. 

Men Concentrate More Narrowly,
While Women See the Big Picture

Studies show that men concentrate more intently on a narrower range of items; they are capable of ignoring distractions because, with a specific part of their brain strictly focused on the task at hand, they are deaf and blind to distractions around them.10

Contrarily, psychologists report that women more regularly think contextually; they take a more “holistic view of the issue at hand. That is, they integrate more details of the world around them, details ranging from the nuances of body posture to the positioning of objects in the room.11

Men are good at compartmentalizing their attention. Just ask a man reading the newspaper a simple question; often he doesn't even consciously hear you. When he does, he appears to rouse himself as if returning from a different planet. Men tend to tune out extraneous stimuli. Their thinking process is, on average, more channeled.12

Women, though, are prone to the opposite. “Whatever they do, even just wiggling their thumbs, women activate more neurons in the brain, reports neuropsychiatrist Mark George of the Medical University of South Carolina. “When a male puts his mind to work, brain scans show neurons turning on in highly specific areas. When females set their minds on similar tasks, so many brain cells light up that their bright-colored brain scans glow like Las Vegas at night.13

Testosterone vs. Estrogen—
Another Key Male/Female Difference

Testosterone, the aggression and dominance hormone, is also the sex hormone, both in men and women. It is the key sexual activator for both sexes.14 Women who lose their ovaries (which produce female hormones) still retain their full capacity for sexual arousal. At menopause, when the ovaries shut down the production of female hormones, women do not lose their appetite for sex, rather it is fueled by testosterone instead. But if they lose the adrenal gland, which produces and controls the flow of testosterone, their libido collapses. It can, however, be restored by testosterone injections.

There are two important differences, however, in how testosterone affects men vs. women. First, a man's brain is better attuned to the effects of testosterone upon it, quite simply because it has been so made through the impact of testosterone in the womb. Secondly, after puberty, a man has 20 times more of the substance in his body than does a woman.15    

Testosterone has been shown to have a significant effect on the male brain, a clinical fact that has been well documented. It is a hormone which seems to make the male brain less liable to fatigue, more single-minded.
By nature, as we have seen, the male brain can more narrowly focus on a specific issue, subject or goal, as well as latch on to that focus more swiftly than the female brain. Testosterone takes the already narrowing male brain and magnifies the narrowing tendency and capacity even further!16
Testosterone also gives the male brain the ability to focus intensely and narrowly on specific issues and interests for long periods of time without tiring. 17
By contrast, we have discussed how the female brain is more diffused and operates on a wide rather than a narrow scale. Just as testosterone further narrows an already narrow male brain, estrogen, the primary female hormone, actually increases the female brain's diffusing or broadening capability.
In her book The First Sex, Helen Fisher writes: “Estrogen builds more dendrite projections or spines on each nerve cell, thereby increasing the number of connecting links between nerve cells. Hence, estrogen facilitates the flow of information among neurons.18

The female brain already owns more communication channels between the two hemispheres than does the male brain. With the addition of estrogen in the female brain, these connections are even more substantial.
In a word, testosterone takes an already narrowing male brain and narrows it even further. Estrogen further diffuses an already expanded female brain. 
 

Two Magnificent Brains Become One 

It is clear that man and woman were meant to be together—not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Ponder for a moment, the incredible strengths of these two wonderful brains. One has the natural, built-in structural and chemical makeup that enables it to narrow tirelessly on a single goal with determination and total focus until it is accomplished, only to then fixate on the next objective and the next. The other possesses the wondrous ability to constantly see the big picture; to take in, consider and assess all that is going on around it; to perform various tasks at once based on this wide perspective. 
Now imagine what happens when these two brains, which seem to be at polar opposites, are suddenly combined together in a wondrous partnership—WOW! What an awesome and unbeatable combination—different, but completely compatible, if we are willing to work at it. 

My wife and I have fun with our “brain differences. Sometimes when I am so narrowed and fixated on a problem and one perceived solution that I can't see any other options, I'll call out to her, “Honey, can I plug into that amazing female brain of yours so I can get a bigger perspective on this? I envision stretching a computer cable from the back of my head and plugging it into hers, and suddenly I can see the world through her brain! Actually, I describe my dilemma to her and she gives me feedback. Without a doubt I can tell you that when it comes to our partnership, two brains are infinitely better than one.     

I hope you can use this understanding of male and female brain differences for two purposes:

1.  How do pornographers exploit male and female brain tendencies in the ways they design and market their wares to each? Why are men generally more susceptible to porn addiction? How can you harness and direct the unique abilities and strengths of your male or female brain to break out of destructive habits and achieve your greatest desires in life?  2.  Knowing the differences, how can you bring the best of both brains together for a happy, harmonious, successful relationship? 

 

For More Information:

If you want to learn more about the Brain Science of Porn Addiction, and how to protect your marriage and family from this addiction, get Mark Kastleman's acclaimed book, “The Drug of the New Millennium. You can purchase it online at Amazon.com.
If you or someone you love is trapped in pornography use, please visit www.candeocan.com to learn how to break free. 

 

Chapter Notes
1. Helen Fisher, The First Sex, Random House, 1999, p. 8 
2. Dr. Judith Reisman, Soft Porn Plays Hardball, Huntington House Publishers, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1991, p. 21
3. Anne Moir & David Jessel, Brain Sex, Ibid.
4. Ibid., p. 170
5. Anne Moir & David Jessel, Brain Sex, Ibid., p. 47
6. From the teachings of Dr. Page Bailey, The Page Bailey Institute International, Behaviorally related programs and tutorial services, Portland,OR offices: 503-775-7668
7. Anne Moir & David Jessel, Brain Sex, Ibid., p. 47, and HelenFisher, The First Sex, Ibid., p. 15
8. Ibid., (Brain Sex) p. 48 
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid., p. 170
11. Helen Fisher, The First Sex, Ibid., p. 5
12. Ibid.
13. Diane Hales, Just Like a Woman, Bantam Books, 1999, p. 244
14. Anne Moir & David Jessel, Brain Sex:, Ibid., p. 103
15. Ibid.
16. Anne Moir & David Jessel, Brain Sex, Ibid., p. 96
17. Ibid., p. 95
18. Helen Fisher, The First Sex, Ibid., p. 62