Sunday, January 11, 2015


Clint Walker as Cheyenne was always getting stuck with babies.
And losing his shirt.

This post is an attempt to follow up the idea that the part of the human brain concerned with sexual mating is physiologically between the neural part concerned with the nurturing of children and the neural part concerned with competition, jealousy and domination of rivals.  When the three parts are cross-wired, maybe due to genetics or trauma or experiences, sex becomes compelling, sex becomes tenderly parental, or sex becomes “rough” or SM.  The three versions are mix-and-match in our culture and sometimes even in individuals.

The brain operates by creating connectome patterns among different parts in two ways:  by neuron filaments that reach out through the body between neurons to organs and muscles.  The second is that organs, which include structures in the brain like the pituitary, send out molecular signals that circulate via body fluids to all cells.  

A happy vole family.

Prairie voles have been a molecular revelation when compared to their cousins, the montane voles.    Prairie voles will pair-bond, as is the human ideal in some circles.  This turns out to be due to vasopressin, a molecule (actually a neuro-peptide) produced by genes, which in the male causes him to aggressively defend his female and then stay with her faithfully to help raise the pups (made tender by oxytocin).  Montane voles are cruisers, but if prairie voles have the genes that control vasopressin knocked out, they become just as promiscuous as their cousins.

Though it is interesting to know that genes/hormones can be so controlling, as far as I know there is no parallel gene/hormone link that explains a desire preference that’s not for the opposite sex, or for that matter a certain age group or personality type.  But it is clear that there are brain differences between men who prefer for sex either men or children and men who prefer women.  This has nothing straightforward to do with the three-mode styles of voles.  A gay man may also be either tender or aggressively violent or in the middle -- just turned on.

Tough, athletic guys can be nurturers.

There is correspondence between characteristics but no proof of causation.  Some thinkers see correspondence with left-handedness which develops in-utero (the proof is that the fetus has a hand-preference when it sucks its thumb), short size and a few other characteristics that suggest a glitch in gestation.  It does appear that desire preference develops in the womb.  No one knows that what cause there might be and, in fact, it could be any of a number of things including molecules, blood oxygen, temperature, the mother’s emotions, and other environmental factors.  

Anyway, it seems clear that one can not sort homo-from-hetero or adult-from-child preferences in a clearly dyadic way: people are on sliding scales of qualities which combined are what add up to their identities.  These distinctions on the basis of gender or age are “electric” because they are culturally-based legal categories meant to help protect families and children -- as well as the usually smaller and more vulnerable women -- from being attacked by aggressive bigger persons.   Keeping social order means providing stability in living arrangements so as to support economics and to prevent violence of any kind, which pulls drugs and alcohol into the laws, mixing them with sexual violence and with neglect of parental nurturing.

Things can go too far.

But stability or “home” have diminished meanings for people who have experienced in early life both dramatic disruptions (not necessarily war -- family violence will do) and terrifying abuse.  Though I’ve never experienced either of these, I still somehow developed the idea that children are a burden that would prevent achievement (I think my parents came to this conclusion, partly because of expectations of success that were not fulfilled, easy to blame on having children.  Mine was not a fighting family.  In fact, it was a suppressed family that I tried (am still trying) to provoke into coming out in the open to resolve some issues.  But this is countered by my total rejection of any violence or substance abuse.  I am a teetotaler, as was my grandmother. 

Another personal development was that my strong drive to nest, to stay put, is countered almost exactly by a dread of being trapped into relationships where I am used instead of helped in my own achievement.   It suits me to be celibate and with cats.  All this other stuff is not necessarily determining -- just a part.

These kinds of patterns are often expressed in “games” or just “repetition compulsion” which means that a person sets up the same situation over and over in hopes of figuring it out, making it work.  When it doesn’t, this is one definition of madness or at least neurosis.  Something has to change in the identity convictions to make the next version of the pattern end differently.  

When you're really in sync, it's so great.

If attempts to solve the problem end up with bait-and-switch, like men who seem to be madly in love but then fear entrapment so become punishing, or men who seem to be strongly attracted to another man but then are equally strongly attracted to a third man but then inconvenient aggressive competitive hormones kick in  -- there can be trouble.  Gay men who are on the nurturing side may want to settle down and raise children.  Gay men who are on the aggressively seeking side would endorse being the bee rather than the flower.  If the two gay men are mismatched, that has little to do with being gay.  The same mismatch could have happened in the heterosexual context -- and does.  Might even happen between prairie voles and wandering montane voles.  In theory, some of them should be "gay." A small percentage of every species appears to desire the same sex.

Know thy desire and manage it well.  I’m a high androgen woman.  I love high oxytocin men who also have strong male characteristics.  It’s the sort of thing that drives the plots of novels.  Not least because it doesn’t fit into social expectations.  Novels are about survival strategies.

Some guys don't know a cat when they see one.

This article notes some facts and theories about the mechanics of a crucial brain part, the hypothalamus which links the floating molecule cues to nerve cells.  It’s at the top of the brain stem, which means it is an “old” part that relates to early brain functions.  Sex has got to be one of the oldest, most primal.  So far our problem is TMI (too much information) as is often the problem with sex.

Hypothalamus Males and Females
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

The hypothalamus controls some of the basic functions of life including hormonal activity via the pituitary gland. There are several gender differences in the gland present between males and females.
Some prefer maturity anyway.

Some of the differences between male and female hypothalamus can be listed as:
  • The volume of a specific nucleus in the hypothalamus (third cell group of the interstitial nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus) is twice as large in heterosexual men as in women and homosexual men.
  • In addition, the preoptic area that regulates mating behavior, is about 2.2 times larger in men than in women and contains 2 times more cells. This large size depends on the amount of male sex hormones or androgens. The difference in this area is only apparent after a child is 4 years old. In girls at 4 years of age there is a decrease in the number of cells in this nucleus.
  • The shape of the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, involved with circadian rhythms and reproduction cycles is different in men and women. In males, this nucleus is shaped like a sphere whereas in females it is more elongated. The volume is similar. The difference in shape may be due to different connections.
  • In men, the hypothalamus has a higher number of androgen receptors (AR) and young adult women. There are differences in ARs in horizontal diagonal band of Broca, the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area, the medial preoptic area, the dorsal and ventral zone of the periventricular nucleus, the paraventricular nucleus, the supraoptic nucleus, the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus and the infundibular nucleus
  • Males and females respond differently to ovarian steroids due to differences in estrogen receptor status.
  • The mamillary body complex is known to receive input from the hippocampus by the fornix. It is involved in cognitive skills. This is different in the two sexes.
  • The differences bring about several functional differences between males and females. For instance, males in most of the species of animals prefer the odor and appearance of females over males. If the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the hypothalamus is damaged, this preference for females by males diminishes.
Love is always a leap of faith.

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