One of the keystones of modern Feminism is the “blank slate” argument. This concept states that the brains of males and females have almost no natural differences, and any that typically appear are solely due to societal pressures and “sexist” nurturing by parents or other caregivers.
But what does the scientific evidence show regarding this assertion? Are male brains truly the same as female ones, and vice versa? The answer, much to Feminist dismay, appears to be no. With the aid of current medical technology, our understanding of the human brain is steadily becoming clearer. But what are some of these differences you may ask? Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
It should be obvious by simply looking at the general size differences between the bodies of men and women, but men tend to have larger brains. What might surprise the average reader, though, is that this is true even when accounting for said differences. When we compare a man and woman with the same height, weight, and build, the male will still have a slightly larger brain. Though the jury remains out on the exact reason for this, the next section may provide a possible answer.
Gray vs White Matter
Our central nervous system (Brain + Spinal Cord) is composed of these two distinct types of matter. In a very basic nutshell, gray matter is made up of active neuronal cell bodies and white matter is the myleinated axons that allow communication between them. Think of the gray matter as computers, and the white as network connections.
On average, women have 10x more white matter than men, and men have 6.5x more gray matter than women. Women’s neurons have also been found to be more densely packed than men’s, which tend to spread out further (thus making a larger brain). Thus, in a study involving sounding out words, men used only a small part of the left side of their brains, but women used both halves…and yet both sexes scored equally well. This fact has long had great medical implications for male stroke victims, who may take longer to recover their ability to speak due to the biological lack of as many connections between the two sides of their brain.
The most notable difference here in male and female brains resides in the medial preoptic area, which helps control mating behaviors and copulation. In males, this section is not only 2.2x larger, but it has twice the amount of cells. This may help explain why women, in general, have a less insistent libido than their male peers.
Ever wonder why men seem to have better spatial skills? It probably comes down to their brain’s automatic use of the hippocampus. While women use parts of their cerebral cortex (located above it) to navigate, men use the left side of their hippocampus. Interestingly, this doesn’t appear to be activated in women’s brains during navigation or spatial tests at all, despite the female hippocampus being slightly larger.
This is likely because said segment is also responsible for memory retaining (turning short-term memories into long-term) as well as connecting emotional details to them. So next time your girlfriend or wife remembers a fight you had 2 years ago that you can’t recall at all, you’ll know why.
Recent studies have shown that the male brain is far more intra-connected, whereas the female brain is significantly more inter-connected. This means, for example, that the anterior and posterior of a man’s left or right hemisphere can “speak” more fluently than a woman’s, which facilitates superior spatial perception and coordinated motor actions. On the other hand, women’s increased connectivity between their right and left hemispheres leads to superior use of analytical and intuitive processing.
Anterior Cingulate Cortex
This section of the brain is where subjective (not genital) responses to sexual stimuli are processed, and is more active in women. It has been identified as a potential reason for the results of Dr Meredith Chivers’ 4 year study into human arousal. By showing her participants both explicitly sexual and non-sexual nude videos of men and women while connected to devices that measured genital blood flow, it was found that straight men became genitally aroused by nearly all female depictions, and gay men became genitally aroused by nearly all male ones. Lesbians reacted opposite to gay men, of course. Strangely, straight women became genitally aroused by both men and women, but responded to videos of even non-sexual nude women faster than sexually explicit videos of men.
But what does this study have to do with the ACC? Well, although both groups of men reported knowing they were genitally aroused almost 70% of the time, both groups of women only reported it approximately 26%. In other words, women had significantly greater difficulty acknowledging their body’s arousal response than men, and experienced far more mental separation from it. Hence, the oft-repeated fact that men have a greater libido…or at least can realize they’re horny more often.
What about trans-brains?
So with all these drastic differences, how would a trans person come to be? It very likely has to do with the timing of androgen release in the fetal body. In the first 6-12 weeks of pregnancy, a defemininization process will occur if there is an influx of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, which creates male body parts like the penis, prostate, and testes. If these are absent, the fetus will continue to grow as a female. However, significant brain development doesn’t occur until weeks 19-23…far after the genitals are already fully developed.
Thus, if there is a continued influx of either testosterone or estrogen into an opposite sexed baby during this time, such hormones will only be able to alter the brain. This is how one can be a person like myself who has the outer look of a female but with a masculine-typed brain structure, and vice versa. It’s important to note that this doesn’t appear in a significant portion of the population though, and studies suggest it only affects .03% of us.
Of course, there are far more structural differences between the sexes that I haven’t mentioned. It truly is amazing to know that both a man and woman can perform the same tasks (like reading this paragraph, for instance) yet be using completely separate parts of their brains to do so. Similarly, it is fantastic to learn just how complementary the two are in other areas of life…and how much society suffers for its neglect towards the masculine.