Love, Sex, and the Male Brain: A Controversy

A recent opinion piece on CNN came out about a book by Dr. Louann Brizendine, clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF, that caught my attention and so I had to read further (a sign of good marketing). The book is The Male Brain a follow up to her past book The Female Brain and it basically states that the classic stereotypical male attributes (e.g., automatically looking at women’s breasts, lacking empathy, oversexed) can now be explained from a neuroscientific perspective. In other words, neuroscience can now explain John Gray’s famous book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.

I thought, “Wow, this is astounding,” but something didn’t feel 100% kosher here. I dug deeper. In a New York Times book review, Emily Bazelon more or less says that Brizendine’s book is a highly lopsided account of the facts for the purpose of high power marketing. She says:

“Brizendine nods to the fact that the brains of men and women are mostly alike. But her emphasis is entirely on the “profound differences” between them. This is clearly the best-seller strategy, neatly bisected into two books.”

It’s important to keep in mind that the world of literature is still a business wanting to appeal to what is going to affect their bottom line for the good. Right now, the brain and neuroscience are very popular. I’ve certainly been writing more about them as I come to learn more. For example:

Neuroplasticity, Gratitude, and Your Mental Health: Food for Thought

Neuroplasticity: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Neuroscience of Happiness: An Interview with Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

The Power of Mindsight: An Interview with Dr. Daniel Siegel

It’s exciting to know more about this awe-inspiring mysterious organ that may hold the seat to our consciousness as human beings.

It’s also exciting to come to understand that we are active participants in our health and well-being and actually have the ability to change the neural connections in our brains through intentionally paying attention to what is healthy in life.

However, we have to be careful as more and more information comes out to really vet the intentions of the source.  

Bazelon says:

“Many scientists are cautious to a fault when it comes to telling us what they’re unsure of, playing down any novel finding that hasn’t been verified by another scientist. Not so Louann Brizendine.”

I did a bit more research with some neuroscientists in the field and found that when I read her book, I’ll need to truly take her claims with a grain of salt as, while it’s very interesting, there is little research behind this and when there is any it is highly overstated and overemphasized. What we might begin to become aware of is that hearing or reading someone who has a “Dr.” prefix before their name can make their claims seem very convincing.

The bottom line is that it’s good to question books, television and Blogs out there, not believing everything. We might want to ask, what is the intention behind putting out this information? Is it to improve our understanding and help people, is it to satisfy certain corporate entities or is it to make money? The answer may not be so black and white, but it’s important to keep these questiosn in mind.

What are your thoughts on this? Please share what pops up in your mind, any questions or stories. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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