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The Psychology of Sex

Glenn Wilson on Male Sex Targeting

Apart from competition/dominance difficulties, there is another reason why it is men and not women who become attached to unusual sex objects such as high-heeled shoes, small boys and disciplinarian women. Whereas female sexuality is relatively passive and responsive, males need to develop ‘targets’ for arousal, particularly in the form of visual configurations and verbal scenarios. This involves a certain amount of learning, some of which occurs very early in life (probably before the age of three) and is so inflexible that it may usefully be called ‘imprinting’ (Wilson, 1987b).

In many animals, such as guppies, crabs and ducks, the females seem to recognize the males by an inborn mechanism, but males have to learn how to find females (Daly and Wilson, 1979). Mistakes are often made, male butterflies being observed to court falling leaves and frogs mounting galoshes. Japanese quails raised by albino mothers are likely to want to mate with albino females in adulthood, and baboons raised in a zoo without access to females are likely to be sexually aroused by the keeper’s gumboots (Epstein, 1987). The active, predatory, target-seeking nature of male sexuality thus constitutes another major reason why men are particularly prone to the distortions of sexual inclination that we call paraphilias.

It is probably no accident that the brain area responsible for assertive male sexuality is a part of the hypothalamus that is close to the visual input system (the preoptic nucleus). This could be connected with the well-known arousability of males, witnessed in the human case by sales of pornographic films and magazines and the fetishistic content of man’s fantasies (see Chapter 1). Males are built to scan the environment for sexual objects; females, by contrast, are programmed to resist and escape from sexual encounters for a good part of the time.

Glenn Wilson, The Great Sex Divide, pp. 85-86. Peter Owen (London) 1989; Scott-Townsend (Washington D.C.) 1992.

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