June 4, 2009

"Gay men had symmetrical brains like those of straight women, and homosexual women had slightly asymmetrical brains like those of heterosexual men."

A provocative study — but at least women can feel good about our brains. We're symmetrical. Nah nah.

IN THE COMMENTS: Beth said:
EnigmatiCore beat me to it: Althouse, what's up with that "women can feel good about our brains" thing? Care to qualify it?

Oh, I fell afoul of the code of political correctness! Of course, I can casually mock men and jokingly express female superiority, but I bumbled into making fun of lesbians! And I said "we women" in a way that excluded lesbians. Now, I'm in trouble.

49 comments:

EnigmatiCore said...

Are you saying lesbians aren't real women?

Beta Conservative said...

Asymmetry = Parallel Parking

Jason (the commenter) said...

The article gets it all wrong. Symmetrical brains are in this season, and straight women are just copying gay men.

Jen said...

I challenge any one of you hoople heads to a parallel parking contest.

Meade said...

Ha... as if we're interested in you for your brains.

Kev said...

From the article:

Marc Breedlove, a neuroscientist who studies sexual development at Michigan State University

It is funny how many people with certain names go into certain fields that match up with their names. Prof. Breedlove of the sexual development area can now be enshrined with the likes of Dr. Keyes (the piano professor) and Dr. Schoolmaster (the education professor).

That might be a cool thread topic: People whose names go with their professions. (Has that already been done here? If so, I've slept since then...)

Daddy said...

Hey, my brain is just as symmetrical as yours, Althouse!

Michael Hasenstab said...

We're symmetrical. Nah nah.

No you aren't. I've been around enuf nekkid women to know that they are not symmetrical. Not by a long shot, unless there's been tinkering.

Jen said...

No takers?

Chickens.

Synova said...

Hey, I'm symmetrical. The only time I wasn't was when I was nursing my first and following the "start on the opposite side every time" advice. I quickly learned to start nursing on the same side every time and the asymmetry corrected itself.

As for the brain study... I'm always skeptical of such things. Any other time, like the famous "men are smarter because they have larger brains" thingy, it's turned out to be irrelevant.

Lawgiver said...

In the article Gellene states;

Previous studies have found evidence that sexual orientation is hard-wired. More than a decade ago, neurobiologist Simon LeVay reported that a key area of the hypothalamus, a brain structure linked to sexual behavior, was smaller in homosexual men compared to heterosexual men.

Of his own study Levay states;

The observations were made on adults who had already been sexually active for a number of years. To make a really compelling case, one would have to show that these neuroanatomical differences existed early in life - preferably at birth. Without such data, there is always at least the theoretical possibility that the structural differences are actually the result of differences in sexual behavior - perhaps on the 'use it or lose it' principle.

It sounds like Levay is talking about possibilities more that concrete evidence. Why do people still quote his work as gospel?

Levay further states,

It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain.

Levay never found any evidence that sexual orientation is hard-wired. Gellene is shoveling a heaping truck load of bullshit.

Elliott A said...

It is interesting how some of us are artistic as others are not, how some excel at language while others math, and how some are engineers while others cannot put together anything that comes in a box. And some of us excel at nothing...

m00se said...

That would certainly account for the number of gay women that dress like male accountants who still live with their mothers.

Beth said...

EnigmatiCore beat me to it: Althouse, what's up with that "women can feel good about our brains" thing? Care to qualify it?

lewsar said...

@jen 10:20

I challenge any one of you hoople heads to a parallel parking contest.

i had to google hooplehead as i had no idea what the term was. i thought it was a typo at first, heh.

but i'll take you up on your offer, jen. just to make it interesting, let's use semis. parallel parking cars is for sissies, after all.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Lawgiver : Levay never found any evidence that sexual orientation is hard-wired. Gellene is shoveling a heaping truck load of bullshit.

To be fair, Levay discovered that measurements correlated with homosexuality could be detected in the brain but didn't have enough data to prove sexual orientation was pre-determined. Savic uses different characteristics and has data from animal models (via Breedlove) to close the case.

We still need to see duplication of the results by other researchers and more work on humans, but those should come with time.

Lawgiver said...

Beth,

Just got back from the Big Easy this evening. Had a great time; casino, ate at Nolas, loved Cafe Du Monde, casino, WWII museum, casino, more fine dining, bought the usual tourist crap, casino, French Quarter, more shopping, casino. For some reason Harrah's comp'd us a really nice suite. Awesome city, I gained 10 pounds in 5 days but it was worth it. Man, you guys got some good food!

jdeeripper said...

Beth said...EnigmatiCore beat me to it: Althouse, what's up with that "women can feel good about our brains" thing? Care to qualify it?.

You aren't a real woman until you have given birth to at least one male child.

You are a barren, lopsided brained dyke.

Deal with it.

Jim said...

Lawgiver nails it in his comment: this study doesn't prove anything about anything.

We know that the brain adapts over time to deal with injuries, compensating for disabilities, etc., and he readily states that his study was done on subjects that had been sexually active for a significant period of time: meaning that the brain would have had more than enough to adapt to a changed stimulus.

As he also states, only brain scans which tracked subjects from birth through sexual "maturity" would have any relevance to the question of whether sexuality was "hardwired" or not.

The one thing it does show is that homosexual men have more in common with heterosexual women than many of them want to admit. So maybe, just maybe, they could leave off calling heterosexual women epithets like "bleeders" and "breeders" for a change, huh?

Scrutineer said...

Kev - It is funny how many people with certain names go into certain fields that match up with their names. Prof. Breedlove of the sexual development area can now be enshrined with the likes of Dr. Keyes (the piano professor) and Dr. Schoolmaster (the education professor).


My favorites: link & link

Chip Ahoy said...

Did you know our two brain hemispheres amount to two separate brains? <--- 100% of scientific fact. When the corpus callosum that unites these two brains and allows them to communicate is severed, as has occurred by accident, and sometimes even on purpose in order to control sever cases of epilepsy, then all sorts of strange things happen to the unfortunate individual, like knowing perfectly well what an object is and what to do with it but not being able to say it. I learned of this mad science in Psy 201. I can see one brain, or one hemisphere if you like, being bully over the other. It could account for why I tend to tip over. That will be my excuse anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

"Hardwire" Ha ha. Halp! Mah dadgum brainz gots wirez.

Daryl said...

Of course one should expect that an illogical person would celebrate having less area of her brain devoted to logic.

"Symmetry" between the useless side of the brain (language skills + depression) vs. the useful side of the brain (logic + reason) is nothing to be desired.

Let's just establish this once and for all: straight men, gay men, and gay women are all biologically better equipped to do mathematical and logical tasks (like those associated with programming computers) than straight women. If straight women aren't well-represented in the industry, it's because most of you aren't smart enough to be programmers.

And if you won't accept this science, then you're a homophobe.

Juba Doobai! said...

This is all very confusing. Gay men have brains like straight women. Straight women go for straight men, not homosexual ones. So two gay men together are like two straight women meeting at Borders or some place like that. It should be a friendly and asexual relationship. But they have sex with each other instead of with a straight man, so they are not like straight women, but more like lesbian women because those are attracted to each other. But lesbian women have brains like heterosexual men; since heterosexual men like to have sex with women, then two lesbian women (who are like heterosexual men) are really like two straight men on a nightmare trip cuz the women have sex with each other instead of having it with a straight woman. So two gay men together are like straight women but since they have sex they are like lesbian women who have brains like straight men but have sex with other women. So, where does that really leave gay men? That's why I think the study is a crock; the illogic of it is frightening. I want to put my finger in the side and see the holes (in other words, I want to replicate this study) before I believe a word of its conclusions.

Daryl said...

If they could study fetus brains in utero, and then see who grows up to be gay, we could:

1 - establish that homosexuality exists from the time of birth so it would stop discrimination against gays; and

2 - have a way to exterminate all homosexuals, like on Star Trek. If you someone a gay kid, everyone would know it really is the mother's fault, because she could have aborted.

So it would be kind of a bittersweet victory for the gays.

DADvocate said...

The hell with symmetry. Male brains are larger on average. Looking at the symmetry numbers, I thought it looked this way and, sure enough, male brains are about 10% larger on average.

OTOH, maybe this explains why I've generally gotten along well with lesbians.

traditionalguy said...

In the words of Forrest Gump's mother, "Brains are like a box of chocolats,you never know what you are gonna get." The human spirit has no wires. All of the fun comes from "vive la difference" in the great no-two-alike interractions among God's favorite creatures.

Beta Conservative said...

I had my asymmetry fixed via implant. Now I can't parallel park for crap.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Juba Doobai! : Straight women go for straight men, not homosexual ones.

LOL, not from my experience!

But lesbian women have brains like heterosexual men; since heterosexual men like to have sex with women

LOL again, straight men are always trying to sleep with lesbians!

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"That might be a cool thread topic: People whose names go with their professions."

In Memphis we saw a dermatologist named Dr. Skinner, and a doctor at the Vitreoretinal Foundation named Dr. Blinder.

traditionalguy said...

True story: Our family dentist was Dr Paine with an office in the Hurt building.

traditionalguy said...

I suspect that this whole "hardwired" fallacy so popular among scientific drones today is a re-run of the Science of head bumps and skull type measurements (phrenology)so loved by the social activists in the 1880 to 1933 era. You can "prove" anything or nothing, pay your money and take your pick.

TMink said...

Birth studies would be helpful, so would separating the gay folks into people who were traumatized and people who were not. Some people have their heterosexuality stolen from them by sexual abuse. I wonder if the brain studies would be more clear if that group were treated as a distinct group instead of put into the study with people who were always gay.

Trey

campy said...

like knowing perfectly well what an object is and what to do with it but not being able to say it.

Hell, I have days when I'll settle for any one out of those three.

TRO said...

I wonder, will the argument that homosexuality is genetic change to homosexuality is a choice once a genetic connection is actually proven and some people start talking about "fixing" it in utero?

Not taking one side or the other here, I just thought of it after reading this post.

dbp said...

Feeling good about having a symmetrical brains is a little odd. It is kind of like being proud of ambidexterity when it means that you throw like a girl with both hands instead of just your left.

If your brain was lopsided like a man's, you would be able to see the logic of this.

Paul Zrimsek said...

It would be interesting to be symmetrical. I might start caring whether my socks match.

Aaron said...

Studies of the human brain have shown that they are influenced heavily by behavior, so it does nothing to illuminate the issue of choice.

For instance, in one study they found that in a blind person the area related to sight was reduced, and all of the areas related to the other senses were enlarged. the fact that this reflected the amount of use was when the sections corresponding to each fingertip were examined. not only was each larger than a normal person's, but the largest of all was the section corresponding to the right index finger, the finger the blind person had used to read braille.

So telling us that a gay man's brain is more like a woman's doesn't tell us anything about whether it is volitional or not.

paul a'barge said...

I've said this before and now I'm right: I'm a Lesbian trapped in a Man's body.

Pastafarian said...

I think we might be confusing cause with effect here: Perhaps the brains of heterosexual men and homosexual women are asymmetrical because they both have to live with women.

Living with a woman can be very hard on the brain; I wouldn't be at all surprised if mine was lopsided and misshapen. It probably looks like a large milkdud by now.

lewsar said...

@chip ahoy 04:27

chip, i also have problems with tipping over. the only thing that works for me is to put down the tequila bottle, if only for a little while.

ravenshrike said...

2 things.

First, what does this mean for bisexual women(inquiring minds want to know).


Second, size of the hypothalamus may correlate to pheromone attraction.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Aaron : So telling us that a gay man's brain is more like a woman's doesn't tell us anything about whether it is volitional or not.

It does in this case, because the quality they are measuring is shown by animal studies to pre-date birth.

Beth said...

Trey, life being as complicated as it is, those groups (traumatized out of heterosexuality/gay and untraumatized) are inadequate. There are surely gay by programming and also traumatized, and hetero by programming and also traumatized. I just don't see that categorizing people by that factor (trauma) makes a difference.

Beth said...

Lawgiver!

I'm so glad you had a wonderful time here. It sounds like you hit some real high points and enjoyed both the touristy and the real New Orleans. Cafe du Monde is both, all wrapped in one place - I had a great time back in my teens working there weekends and summers.

Beth said...

Thanks for the update, Althouse. PC? Please, have we thrown out plain politeness for such a vapid term, PC? Is that like "I'm sorry if your feelings were hurt"? But no, you're not in trouble. We'll just chalk it up to a standard-issue, symmetrical brain fart.

Beth said...

I don't do smiley face emoticons but that was the spirit of my response - it might not come through in text.

Ann Althouse said...

It was humor.

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