Monday, January 30, 2012

Me Caveman: The Male Brain

Louanne Brizendine's The Male Brain has a bright orange cover, which attracted my nimble monkey attention when I saw it late last year on the library's tempt-me display.  She previously wrote The Female Brain (which apparently was a much thicker book) but in this volume she approaches the chemistry of the male brain with particular attention to the way it differs from mine.

I had a lot of trouble with this book; it was trying to convince me of things that I don't want to believe, and even worse, that don't match with my personal experience.  She starts with the chemical washes in utero and infancy, tracing testosterone production in a fetus and an infant, and then charts behavior in childhood, adolescence, and various stages of adulthood.   But her examples don't match what I've seen of my two sons or my nephew; she seems fixated on a particular kind of Dennis-the-menace type of boy who adores motorcycles, rough-and-tumble play with dad, and abhors girlish emotions and pursuits such as reading or art.  This kind of boy loves to play Chutes and Ladders for the semblance of motion, but he cheats because of his boyish brain chemicals.  Um, as opposed to a girlish love of Candyland?

Then it's on to the sex-crazed teen age years, which also don't fit my kid, and then how brain chemicals affect men with babies and old men, with again nothing sounding familiar to my experience.  She never uses qualifiers like "most" or even "many," preferring to simple state that boys do this or want this, which leads me to doubt everything she writes.  Homosexual men get literally three pages of the appendix, where she describes some differences in brains between straights and gays (hypothalamus size, brain hemisphere connections, when sexual chemicals fire -- for example, studies show that gay brains tend to respond sexually to males!), but that's not enough to save my loss of confidence from the chapters describing how every male brain is hard-wired to react to female breasts and smiles and wide child-bearing hips.  Having lived in San Francisco, I knew that just wasn't true.

Perhaps I'm not the right audience; I wanted more details about the studies and what the tests really showed, while Brizendine wanted to summarize and generalize for a wider population.  But while I'll agree that men are taller than women, and I'd be interested in a chart that showed the height differences, I don't believe that every man is taller than every woman, because I've seen tall women and short men.  Simplifying the information too far renders it meaningless.

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