4.10.2007

Birds Do it. Bees Do It.

Today, the NY Times is quite flooded with articles about sexual orientation, selection, desire and dating. Here are three articles and three selections from said articles.

From the Health section, "Pas de Deux of Sexuality Is Written in the Genes." An intriguing selection from an article otherwise focused on the genetic origin of homosexuality:
Presumably the masculinization of the brain shapes some neural circuit that makes women desirable. If so, this circuitry is wired differently in gay men. In experiments in which subjects are shown photographs of desirable men or women, straight men are aroused by women, gay men by men.
Such experiments do not show the same clear divide with women. Whether women describe themselves as straight or lesbian, “Their sexual arousal seems to be relatively indiscriminate — they get aroused by both male and female images,” Dr. Bailey said. “I’m not even sure females have a sexual orientation. But they have sexual preferences. Women are very picky, and most choose to have sex with men.”
Dr. Bailey believes that the systems for sexual orientation and arousal make men go out and find people to have sex with, whereas women are more focused on accepting or rejecting those who seek sex with them.

From the Science section: "Birds Do It. Bees Do It. People Seek the Keys to It." A selection:
Sexual desire. The phrase alone holds such loaded, voluptuous power that the mere expression of it sounds like a come-on — a little pungent, a little smutty, a little comical and possibly indictable.
Everybody with a pair of currently or formerly active gonads knows about sexual desire. It is a near-universal experience, the invisible clause on one’s birth certificate stipulating that one will, upon reaching maturity, feel the urge to engage in activities often associated with the issuance of more birth certificates.
Yet universal does not mean uniform, and the definitions of sexual desire can be as quirky and personalized as the very chromosomal combinations that sexual reproduction will yield. Ask an assortment of men and women, “What is sexual desire, and how do you know you’re feeling it?” and after some initial embarrassed mutterings and demands for anonymity, they answer as follows:
“There’s a little bit of adrenaline, a puffing of the chest, a bit of anticipatory tongue motion,” said a divorced lawyer in his late 40s.
“I feel relaxed, warm and comfortable,” said a designer in her 30s.
“A yearning to kiss or grab someone who might respond,” said a male filmmaker, 50. “Or if I’m alone, to call up exes.”
“Listening to Noam Chomsky,” said a psychologist in her 50s, “always turns me on.”

And, again from the Science section, an article on online and speed dating: "Romantic Revulsion in the New Century: Flaw-O-Matic 2.0." A selection:
My early work was done using personal ads, a crude tool (although state of the art in 1995). I found that people looking for love in New York magazine listed far more prerequisites (like polo skills) for a partner than did people advertising in other cities. Based on these numbers, and many dinners with friends who could never find anyone good enough, I concluded that the high percentage of single-person households in New York was due to New Yorkers’ hyperactive Flaw-O-Matics.
This new theory of a neural mechanism did not immediately gain wide acceptance in the social-science literature. By my count, it has been cited a total of one time (in a psychotherapist’s treatise on the “avoidant lover”). But the study of romantic revulsion has expanded because of the rise of online dating services and speed-dating events — gold mines of data.
Instead of asking people about their mate preferences, scientists can now watch mating rituals in real time. They’ve tracked who asks out whom — and who says yes — at online dating services by watching the customers’ clicks and scanning their messages to look for telephone numbers and phrases like “let’s meet.”

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