Book Review: Brain Sex (it is not what you might think)

Book Review: Brain Sex (it is not what you might think)

No, it is not sex via telepathy (an amusing thought), it is not sex in the astral, and it is not so pedestrian as phone sex.

The differences between the sexes are rooted in the differences in the physiological structuring and wiring of their respective brains coupled with the differences in the hormones circulating through those different brains.  (And, make no mistake, for being “mind altering”, there are no other bio-chemicals that come close to the power of the hormones.)

That is the basic thesis of the book: Brain Sex The Real Difference Between Men & Women, by Anne Moir, Ph.D. and David Jessel (1989, 1991).

Yes, this is a bit late for a book review.  And, certainly reviews can be found for it online, though I have not checked for any online.  From one of my bookcases, I pulled out this paperback and decided to write about it tonight because of its timeless and useful insights for people in their interpersonal relationships.

These differences in structuring (of the brain) start in utero (during gestation) in the unborn child.  So, from the very earliest stages of development, the sexes are being differentiated from each other in very profound ways.  And, in ways that upbringing and cultural conditioning cannot effectively overcome or negate.  During puberty, the final development of the brain takes place and the various hormones reach very high levels in the bloodstream.  In the authors’ words, at this time two very different type engines are switched on and they run on very different fuels.

Men’s natural strengths fall in the areas of math and science and women’s natural strengths are in the areas of language, communication and relationships (relating easier and more quickly to others).  Men’s brains are more compartmentalized than women’s are, and this allows for greater focusing on certain types of concepts and mental tasks like those in math and science.  Women’s brains are wired with much more interconnectivity between the different regions of the brain.  (If a woman suffers brain damage due to trauma injury or stroke, she has more resources to draw on than a man because of this greater interconnectivity among more parts of her brain.)

Map reading as an example.  Women tend to have difficulty reading maps and this difficulty has nothing to do with how intelligent they are or how much education they have.  This is due to the way the female brain is structured and this is touched on in the book.  (My wife is not a stupid woman.  But, even with my attempts to help her read maps more easily, she still has a frustrating time of it.)

The book’s thesis is not to be interpreted as being overly deterministic.  There are leading women mathematicians and scientists, as well as men who have strengths in language and writing.  The point is that certain things naturally come easier to women than to men because of the structure and wiring of the female brain.  Conversely, there are certain tasks or abilities that naturally are easier for men because of the structure and wiring of the male brain.  It is certainly not the case that one sex is smarter than the other, or that one sex is “dumber” than the other.  (The woman who wants to be a mathematician may have to study harder than many of her male classmates, but she can excel in this area, albeit with the investment of more time and effort to do so.)

One lesson to be drawn from all of this may seem obvious to some readers, but needs to be stated.  The sexes, men and women, naturally complement, or complete, each other.  That may sound basic, even simplistic, but it is an important truth that is often lost sight of in the stress of modern living and in our relationships.  Also, modern western industrial societies – being geared to tangible, quantifiable and quick-to-achieve results – tend not to value very highly some traits or characteristics that are natural to women as these do not produce such immediate, tangible results.  We ought take care, as individuals and collectively, to value and respect the natural talents and capacities of men and the natural talents and capacities of women.

The book also talks a little about “women’s intuition” among other issues.  My own view is that both sexes have intuition.  It is just that women tend to “listen” to theirs more than men pay attention to their own intuition.  This may be due to societal conditioning in that men are expected to act quickly and decisively; and if they took the time to consider what their intuition was trying to tell them, they might be seen as weak and indecisive.

The paperback copy is about 200 pages plus references, notes and index.  A worthwhile read if you are interested in the subject.

The featured photo above is courtesy of


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