cover image The Sexual Brain

The Sexual Brain

Simon LeVay. MIT Press (MA), $26 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-262-12178-1

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. (June)