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Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women Paperback – July 1, 1998

3.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For centuries, links between biology and behavior have been mined for ammunition in the gender wars. Western science has often tainted the discussion by skewing the norm toward men so that the biological underpinnings of their weaknesses and strengths are applauded while those of women are denigrated. Sex on the Brain is a chatty, fairly evenhanded report on a broad range of animal and human studies intended to provide insight into hot-button issues such as aggression, nurturing behavior, infidelity, homosexuality, hormonal drives, and sexual signals. According to one researcher, "We inherit the behavior essentially of our past." Morning sickness, for example, which steers some women away from strong tastes and smells, may once have protected babes in utero from toxic items. Infidelity is a way for men to ensure genetic immortality. Interestingly, when we deliberately change sex-role behavior--say men become more nurturing or women more aggressive--our hormones and even our brains respond by changing, too. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Blum (The Monkey Wars, LJ 10/1/94) covers a lot of ground here: the origins of sex, differences in male and female brains, hormones and emotions, monogamy, sexual orientation, love, rape, and power. Her understanding of the scientific literature relating to gender biology appears to be thorough, but her pattern of citing information is uneven. Often, she merely refers to newspaper articles she has written and not to the primary literature, although she quotes liberally from conversations with many scientists. In addition, Blum's writing style is too cozy and loose for this reviewer's taste; distracting parenthetical thoughts?e.g., "variation in these estimates of the relationship between nature and nurture (as if that weren't nature, too)"?combine with a lack of focus to divert attention from the subject matter and make reading slow-going. Still, science collecions that have her other books may want to consider.?Constance A. Rinaldo, Dartmouth Coll. Lib., Hanover, N.H.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (July 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140263489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140263480
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If the material in this book had been approached with a dogmatic view of gender politics this could have been a miserable read. The author's sense of humor about gender issues was refreshing and seemed to allow her to approach the sometimes controversial issues with an unbiased attitude. The chapters on hormones were very interesting, and the stories of children chasing the family cat with a toothbrush turned into a toy gun were quite funny. A lot of thought provoking material is compiled from scientific studies done around the world.
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By A Customer on July 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
How refreshing to read a thoughtful, well-researched and documented book on gender differences -- and not fall asleep in the process!Deborah Blum's many gifts include her ability to report on complex and controversial subjects and make them understandable to the rest of us. This book explores many fascinating theories with a rare perspective. It is intelligently written with an added dose of humor and humanity. This is a sensible book on behavior and biology that forces the reader to think. I recommend it highly.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Deborah Blum was "raised in one of those university-based, liberal-elite families" and as such, was raised to believe that there were no differences between men and women. It wasn't until she had her own career, a husband, and two boys that she actually realized there were basic biological differences between male and female behaviour. Her son was playing dinosaur and "I looked down at him one day as he was snarling around my feet and doing his toddler best to gnaw off my right leg, and I thought, This is not a girl thing-- this goes deeper than culture."

So begins her book. Much of the evidence that is presented is done as studies of sex in other animals (the birds and the monkeys- yes, literally) and her lines of reasoning as to "how this happened" are based along lines of possible biological evolutional forces- things that she admits are really little more than educated guesses dressed up as theories.

The chapter on the differences between male and female brains was interesting in that she spent about 90% of the time either denying the validity of the studies or minimizing the verified physical results. (Sure, that spot is bigger, but we don't know that it does anything.)

Occasionally, you come across a gem of the absurd. This one is a good example:

"One leading French scientist of the nineteenth century sought to prove the existence and potency of this magical male stuff [testosterone] by injecting himself with pureed dog testes. He insisted that the extract boosted his energy and sex drive and enabled him to pee in a higher arc, a major issue for men, obviously, in contrast to women." (pg.
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Format: Paperback
At last! A book which evaluates some of the bases for the pronounced differences in behavioral physiology, and biochemistry of females and males. Blum touches on a minefield of emotional subjects and what emerges is a sensitive treatment of the sexes in terms of the underlying biochemical forces that ultimately shape men and women as the human beings that we recognize.
Males are targeted by the hormone testosterone which, from early uterine development, drives them relentlessly towards a variety of behaviors some of which are categorized "as boys will be boys".
As Blum emphasizes, testosterone levels (of testicular origin) fluctuate daily, and generalizations about its role vs concentration are difficult to support. Furthermore, females also make testosterone (adrenals and ovaries) and of great significance, the female brain converts testosterone to estradiol, the female hormone. Thus, the author reminds us that sex hormones, which we casually identify with one sex or another, are capable of rapid transformations with considerable implications.
The book is a remarkable journey along a road that has a plethora of gender intersects. As human beings, curious about who we are and what forces put us there, this book is a fascinating guide.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was required for my nursing school - BSN program. I feel the selection of books my program chose were all very informative, to the point and we used the books for the classes that required them. During nursing school most people do not know where their career will take them, there are so many options the RN has available, so building a strong foundation is essential to success in the field. Nursing books are not written to be entertaining they are for educational purpose only. This book definitely offered education. After you graduate school and chose a path then find the best reference book you can find and carry it with you until the day you retire. I always recommend the additional study guide to a book if one is available.
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Format: Paperback
I would agree with some of the points made in previous reviews, the chatty style can be irritating when you just want the information. That, however, is probably a lot to do with my gender bias, I am a male scientist and I like cold facts so bear that in mind. Having said that the book does deride male qualities which, as a male (Maxim reader) I found annoying.
But don't let any of those comments put you off of reading the book, it has some very well researched points and from a research point of view it will be a valuable asset for me. I actually got the book from a library and read it and I am now going to buy it so I can refer to it when I need it. That must be a good recommendation I suppose!
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