Sex on the Brain

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A recently released M.I.T. study confirms something that men have known for a long time: the sight of a beautiful woman is sufficient to cause a man to think of procreation.

As the Associated Press reports,”Beauty is working similar to a drug,” said Dan Ariely of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, a co-author of the study.

Researchers showed a group of heterosexual men in their mid-20s pictures of men and women of varying attractiveness, while measuring the brain’s responses through computer imaging.

The beautiful women were found to activate the same “reward circuits” as food and cocaine do. The men had a negative reaction to pictures of good-looking males, suggesting they were threatened by them, study author Hans Breiter said.

Breiter said evidence that beauty stimulates these primal brain circuits has never been shown. He said the findings counter arguments that beauty is nothing more than the product of society’s values.

“This is hard-core circuitry,” Breiter said. “This is not a conditioned response.”

In a word, duh. Well, duh, unless you are a radical feminist.

There are lessons to be learned from this study, but they are not the lessons the media seek to draw from it.

First, the fact that males are attracted to females should not be surprising. The desire for procreation is known as an instinct. Thus, the fact that the male brain reacts to the sight of a woman in the same way that it reacts to food is to be expected. Men are literally wired to respond in a particular way. If we did not like food so much, we would likely not live very long. If men did not like women so much, the human race would die out. And so we see how instincts work.

Also of note is the fact that cocaine stimulates the male brain like the sight of a beautiful woman. Not having snorted cocaine, I cannot say much about this. I can, however, again point out that sex and food being enjoyable are sure ways to make sure that men want a lot of both.

And they do.

Now that we have stated the truly obvious and biological facts about the male, let us consider something further, namely, the moral.

Although it is true that the sight of a woman sets a man’s minds toward mating, this is not to say that a man ought to indulge such thoughts whenever they occur. The effect of such an action would be to allow unfocused instincts to destroy society.

The survival instinct which urges us to consume food must similarly be controlled – or else we will become blimps prior to death from clogged arteries.

Both food and sexual intercourse serve multiple purposes. Food is not only nutritive, but pleasurable. Where sex is concerned, I have a daughter who may read this one day, and you, dear reader, are not a moron, so we will leave it at that.

Sex is in an uncertain state in the western world, which is itself in an uncertain state. For starters, not enough of us in Western Christendom are having procreative sex. Our births are not replacing our deaths, and our nations are shrinking in population. Meanwhile, the population of the Third World nations is rising. Over the long term, this does not bode well for Western civilization.

In addition, Western civilization has perhaps come to the end of the Sexual Revolution, the free love, gender-bending disaster of the last thirty or so years. Western civilization has tried to do whatever feels good, and it feels like herpes, AIDS, and a terrible mistake.

In that regard, there is a much-neglected book which should not be neglected (I may be wrong that it is neglected, but I have not heard nearly as many women mention the book as I thought, when it was published, that I would, if you follow).

Wendy Shalit, in her book A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue, makes some startling contentions. Well, they may be startling to you if you and the beautiful women you meet have been surrendering to instinct as if deciding how much to eat at Taco Bell. As the wise mothers and grandmothers of years past might have told their daughters, and presumably did (or why call it a Sexual Revolution), the woman has all the power in the relationship.

Forget who wears the pants, the woman can withhold sex, and thus make sure that the man behaves. This is the essence of civilization. Remember, the instinct is like food. The scientists said so. Heck, it is like cocaine, which the drug czars have been rattling about as being so terribly addictive as to justify its illegality.

It should be clear to all but the most desperate or foolish souls, however, that one simply cannot treat human sexuality in the same manner as cheeseburgers or candy bars.

Fantasize all you want, the practical reality of behaving as if sex were no more meaningful than food would be unmitigated disaster.

And so thanks to the researchers at M.I.T.

Men, there is no reason to feel ashamed if you are pleased by the sight of a beautiful woman. There is nothing moral or immoral (you might say it is amoral) about a hard-wired instinct. What matters in terms of morality is how you allow your instincts to influence your human actions, your free and voluntary choices, including your thoughts.

You may be attracted to the pretty women you see. Justifying adultery and promiscuity, however, is unwarranted. Just the opposite. Since we know how we’re wired, we have a duty to be vigilant and chaste. The alternative is to be another Bill Clinton.

Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2001 David Dieteman

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