GUYS AND DOLLS
IN HER LATEST BOOK, Sex on the Brain (Viking, $24.95), Pulitzer
Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum dives into one of the
controversial and fascinating questions in human biology:
obvious, what makes men and women different? An investigative
science writer best known for her book on animal testing (The
Monkey Wars, Oxford University Press, $25.00), Blum bases her
assertions in Sex on the Brain -- which range from why we even
have two sexes to what men and women find attractive in each
other -- on interviews with experts and research into fields as
diverse as evolutionary science, anthropology, animal behavior,
neuroscience, psychology and endocrinology. The author recently
spoke with Swoon about killer testosterone, French kisses and
elusive thing called attraction.
<bold> Swoon: To begin with, why must there be two sexes?
</bold> Blum: Of course, there are animals who are
they're rare, and many of them disappear. What nature
decided is that one limited, self-reproducing gene pool would
be enough. The ideal is that you and your partner have very
genes and that you minimize the risk of duplicating bad genes.
<bold> What's the news on sexual attraction between men and
</bold> We are just starting to realize that there are all these
that affect choices -- like mate selection -- that we thought
conscious. As it turns out, men send signals. One of these
smell. The immune system sends out smells, carried in sweat,
women seem very attracted to. In one study on sweat, men wore
same T-shirt for a number of days and women rated the smells in
terms of sexiness. Very consistently, the women picked men with
immune systems most different from their own. Some people think
the same immune-system information is found in saliva. So,
kissing may be another way of discerning this biology.
<bold> Is it true that men are innately more aggressive than
</bold> There is a lot of politics with that; many want to say
that men and
women are born equal and that differences are created by
However, the difference in aggression is there right from the
beginning. Even prenatally, male fetuses are more active. Why
this? Early on, we were a polygamous species. In polygamous
species, males tend to operate in a "live fast and die" pattern.
males] must be on that aggressive edge at all times.
<bold> Certain studies show that male animals, including humans,
evince a noticeable drop in testosterone after being paired
off in committed sexual relationships. Can you explain
</bold> It's really interesting that the body does this. It's
like your body is
naturally preparing to soften you. Perhaps women have used
monogamy and partnership to control male behavior.
<bold> In your book, you describe people as being "ambiguously
monogamous." What do you mean by this?
</bold> Only monogamous species have long-lasting partnerships,
equally in the tasks of life and exhibit long-lasting affection.
monogamous traits but retain many polygamous habits, such as
aggression. We're in a really interesting, complex and confused
in terms of what we are looking for [in a mate].
Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.
-Toa Te Ching