Brain Sex…?

Article: Gay Dads’ Brain Activity Pattern Resembles Both New Mothers and New Fathers, Study Finds

I found an interesting article online that relates to the notion of brain sex. In this article, Sharon Begley cites research that suggests “men’s pattern of brain activity resembles that of both new mothers and new fathers” when it comes to raising children they adopted through surrogacy. Feldman, the researcher, suggests that the brain activity results from parenting. If an individual can adopt both characteristics of “brain sex”, wouldn’t this suggest some sort of flaw in the essentialist argument? Would this relate more to constructivism than essentialism?

This line of research had been going into a debate over whether gay men can be allowed to adopt in the U.S., due to the notion that women are needed to raise children.

A few things I found intriguing:

“[T]he brains of new mothers become hyper-reactive to their child’s cries and other emotional cues. It was not clear if that pattern is a result of the hormonal and other changes that accompany pregnancy or a response to the experience of motherhood.” If gender is a performance/social construction, then how is it not experience? This is not to draw away from any biological construction of sex. I speculate that there are some biological contributions, but I think it is simply human desire to protect what is theirs, regardless of sex.

Of heterosexual relationships, Begley notes that mothers were primary caregivers and that they had had heightened brain activity when watching their babies. The secondary caregivers, the fathers, experienced increased activation of cognition. Of male homosexual relationships, “gay fathers raising children with their husbands seemed to be both mom and dad, brain-wise.” They were as emotionally active as mothers and as interpretive as heterosexual fathers.

What I took away from this:

– I don’t think this article really says anything about brain sex at all. Underlining it all is this notion of socially constructed gender and its effects on the brain (not brain sex and its effect on gender). Who is often taking care of children? Mothers. When you spend all your waking hours around a child you become more emotionally attached (emotionally glued together?) than someone who only spends their evenings with the child (referring to the gender divide in which women tend to infants and men go to work).

– Maternal instinct can be considered a social construction. Men have just as much ability to parent children in the same way that mothers are socially constructed to do so.

– Gay men are being put into this pool of heteronormativity so as to reinforce this idea of the “right” kind of gay. While this may be the leftist notion in order to promote more tolerance and acceptance, it is actually harmful to those who fall out of this gendered spectrum.

– Queer masculinities are being ignored. Gay men are simply being ascribed masculine and feminine characteristics.

Why was this even newsworthy?


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