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The Sexual Brain (Bradford Books) Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; First Edition edition (March 22, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262121786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262121781
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,728,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Neuroanatomist LeVay's expert, drily written, often technical account of the biological basis of human sexual behavior and orientation is likely to be as controversial as his 1991 Science article describing a difference in the hypothalamic brain structure of homosexual and heterosexual men. Here LeVay argues that specialized regions within the hypothalamus generate male-typical and female-typical sexual behavior and feelings. While acknowledging the importance of environmental factors, he contends that identification of genes that influence sexual orientation, and of related biological mechanisms, will ultimately explain what makes a person gay, bisexual or straight. Hormone levels and brain circuitry, in LeVay's view, make males innately more aggressive than females. He also endorses Freud's theory that gay men often have distant fathers and unusually close mothers, yet he explains this by arguing that the young, pre-homosexual child's "gay" traits evoke negative reactions from fathers and positive ones from mothers.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A fascinating look at the biological bases for diversity of sexual feelings and behavior. Neurobiologist LeVay (Salk Institute for Biological Studies/UC at San Diego), whose only previous writing on sex was a 1991 paper in Science reporting differences in the hypothalamus of gay and straight men, says that his newness to the field of sex research has enabled him to bring a ``certain amateurish or journalistic attitude to the field.'' Unlike many scientists, LeVay has a skilled journalist's ability to make technical subject matter accessible, and he seems to have fun doing it. All the chapter titles are from Shakespeare: ``Time's Millioned Accidents'' covers the evolution of sex; ``For a Woman Thou First Created'' looks at the biology of sexual development; ``The Womby Vaultage'' examines the hypothalamus; and ``The Beast with Two Backs'' is about the mechanics of sexual intercourse. Other chapters look at the nature-versus-nurture question; how hormones influence courtship and maternal behavior; the organization of the brain; sexual identity; and sexual orientation. LeVay, who's gay, devotes his longest chapter to sexual orientation, examining the biological mechanisms that may help make a person gay, straight, or bisexual. Happily, he provides summaries at the beginning or end of most chapters, and he encourages readers to skip chapters that seem too technical and to read just the summary before going on. And there's a glossary designed not just for the scientifically challenged but for those who want help with Shakespeare's language as well: ``millioned'' is explained next to ``mitosis,'' and ``vasotocin'' next to ``vaultage.'' Erudite and entertaining. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Simon LeVay is a British-born neuroscientist turned writer. He is best known for a 1991 study, published in Science, which reported on a difference in brain structure between gay and straight men. He has served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the Salk Institute in San Diego, but he now lives in Los Angeles. Among his 12 published books are several on sex, including a college textbook titled Human Sexuality (now in its fourth edition), and Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation. His most recent book is a historical novel, The Donation of Constantine. Once a fanatical bicycle racer, LeVay continues to ride his bicycle, though at a more sober pace. He is intolerant of creationists, lactose, and staying indoors.

LeVay writes: "In the early 1960s, as a teenager, I was arrested and jailed briefly, along with the renowned 90-year-old philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell. (The occasion was an anti-war demonstration.) This lead to my reading Russell's History of Western Philosophy. Only one paragraph in that long book stuck in my memory: it dealt with the mysterious 8th-century forgery known as the Donation of Constantine. Intrigue, papal politics, winter journeys, bloody battles -- maybe even a hint of bodice-ripping! What a great topic for a novel, I thought. Fifty years later, I wrote it."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Erika Mitchell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book summarizes research on sexual behavior and the brain for general readers. Topics covered include: why most organisms use sex for reproduction, pre- and post-natal hormones and sexual development, brain structure, hormones and sexual behavior, instinct and courtship behaviors, hormones and behavior during pregnancy, sexual dimorphism in behavior and brain structures, sexual orientation and genetics, and gender identity and hormones. Research cited in the book involves a variety of organisms, from yeasts to birds, from rats to humans. End material includes sources and suggestions for further reading, a glossary and an index.

LeVay's style is informal to the point of being flippant. For example, in a discussion pointing out the importance of a mothering practice amongst rats for future sexual behavior (licking the anogenital region to promote urination), LeVay launches into a discussion of whether the practice is uncouth, contributing to our feelings of revulsion towards rats. He goes on to point out that even attractive animals can have unattractive behaviors, such as koala mothers who feed their offspring feces. In a book of this nature, considering a normal animal behavior in a subjective light such as this is inappropriate, and emphasizing it by going off the topic to an unrelated behavior in another animal, that isn't even related to the main topic at hand (sexual behaviors) is going way overboard. LeVay may consider such an approach humorous, but it takes away from the credibility of the remaining material.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Roush on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
Overall Opinion:
Although Simon LeVay brings up many interesting points in his novel, The Sexual Brain, he fails to delve deeper into these ideas. Therefore, the book is well suited for the general reader with a curiosity into the biological aspects associated with human sexuality, but may be simplistic for those who already have neuroscience knowledge. Although I enjoyed reading the book, I finished most of the chapters wanting more. LeVay brushed over most of his thoughts and ideas and I wished he'd gone more in depth. At some points, the language he wrote in came off as almost childish. All of the experiments he used to support his ideas only had brief summaries instead of a more complex discussion of the results and what they might mean. LeVay does include his sources listed by chapter so the more interested readers can pursue the scientific literature that discusses his ideas and the research in the area. Despite these shortcomings, it was still an interesting book and would certainly be a pleasurable read for the general reader with an interest in human sexuality.

Synopsis and Style:
The Sexual Brain looks at how individuals develop into males and females, both in the womb and during growth and puberty, and the effects of many hormones in this process. It also looks at the differences in male and female brains, especially the hypothalamus, as well as courting and maternal behavior. Lastly, LeVay looks at a few theories behind sexual orientation and gender identity. The book is written for the general reader, one with no background knowledge in biology or neuroscience. All discussion has been brought more into laymen's terms and anything readers need to know to understand it is given to them.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a small book composed of only about 120 pages of actual text, which should appeal to those customers who don't like to purchase books with high page numbers, however, that is no indicator to the quality of the text inside. LeVay covers a variety of topics concerning the origins and beliefs into our sexuality and inserts his novel and sometimes unorthodox ideas, which prove to be fairly interesting most of the time.

Synopsis :
LeVay covers every aspect of life and biological aspect that controls our sexuality. It delves into the differences between genders as well as the process of courtship. The book is written with the casual reader in mind. There are no terms that are too big to understand or no concepts too difficult to grasp. Everything is presented in such a way that someone with no knowledge of neuroscience would be able to pick up most, if not all, of the the ideas that LeVay is trying to share with us. The chapters are short, which provide that psychological advantage of completion that was present in the Harry Potter series to me. LeVay also helps us with short term memory problems by referring us back to previous ideas that he's presented previously.

Parts of the Book:
The beginning of the book is devoted to a lot of background on sex and our behaviors regarding sex. It goes into a pretty interesting discussion about why we evolved into sexual creatures as opposed to sexual creatures, which is something I never thought about. He presents the idea that we evolved into sexual creatures to rid our species of harmful mutations, but also presented a world where a mutation allowed someone to reproduce asexually. Additionally, he goes over the hypothalamus, whose purpose in our body is nowhere indicative of the small size it occupies in the brain.
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