Sex on the Brain

Deborah Blum, Author Viking Books $24.95 (329p) ISBN 978-0-670-86888-9
On the most basic hard-wired biological level, are men and women alike or different? Researchers usually find evidence to support either position depending on how the initial question is asked. Blum, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the articles that lead to her book The Monkey Wars, assesses the differences. She has a skilled journalist's ability to take abstract and confusing genetic, hormonal, endocrinological and neuroscientific findings and make them intelligible. She applies this material to differences in emotions, sexual orientation, love, lust and power. Blum also has a nonscientist's willingness to draw inferences from research done on chimpanzees, hyenas, insects and apply them to the human condition. And, perhaps inescapably, she has a tendency to present these findings without the context of qualifying conditions imposed by the original researchers. The resulting product is not a single big picture but a series of little ones. Does Blum believe that the sexes different? Well, sort of. Most of the book reads as if she believes that the Freudian assertion that ""Biology is destiny"" may be true after all. However, the conclusion reached by Blum is more ambiguous and somewhat contradictory: on one page she argues that ""we have to get away from the outdated notion that biology assigns us a fixed place,"" and, on the next page she resigns herself to the fact that ""[m]aybe we are pushing uphill against biology to some extent."" Blum may waffle on her conclusion, but getting to them is fun, informative reading with plenty of facts and figures that are guaranteed to provoke discussion, or at least thought. 7-city tour. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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