"Women’s Brains Blown by Orgasms"

// 3 August 2005

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It has recently been reported that much of the female brain is deactivated by orgasm. Dr Gert Holstege from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands studied 13 women and 11 men and found that the only element of a woman’s brain activated during the orgasm itself was the part chiefly associated with movement. The parts of the brain connected to emotion (the factor those pop-bio-determinists are so quick to say is more important for women than it is for men) were switched off. The results for male orgasms were inconclusive but thought to be similar.

Holstege has chosen to draw particular attention to the deactivation of the “fear centre” in the brain, saying that this is perhaps the most important factor in having an orgasm:

When you are fearful or have a very high level of anxiety, then it’s hard to have sex because during sex you really have to give yourself and let go.

It has been suggested this need to “let go” could be connected to the aphrodisiac effect of alcohol and Holstege continues:

Alcohol brings down the fear level… Everyone knows if you give alcohol to a woman it makes things easier.

Excuse me? Easier for who? The emphasis on women’s “fear” and the giving of alcohol to make things “easier” as things “everyone” automatically knows sounds pretty creepy to me. It’s as if Holstege thinks sex is not really for women at all and that we’ll only do it if we can be made to forget our fear. And what, exactly, does he think we have to be afraid of during what should surely be mutually agreed anyway? (Not only do Holstege’s words seem incredibly old-fashioned and one-sided but they also seem to stray uncomfortably close to the borders of non-consensual sex.) It also sounds like he views women’s orgasms as mere facilitators for some higher plan and, though he doesn’t say it explicitly, he does rather imply that having sex with a woman is an automatically predatory act.

As is so often the case, it seems to be the interpretation of results and the discussions surrounding them that are the real problem here.

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