Is the Brain Really the Most Sexual Part of Our Bodies?


Being trained to become a sex educator and sexologist in the early 1990s was an experience that I value each day. There are some things I remember very clearly, such as the color-free faculty and mentors available to me at the time, the topics that were not completely discussed or erased, the amazing connections I made, and the communities I’ve built over the past 15+ years. What I did gain was the understanding that I will continually be learning, evolving, and transforming to remain present in the field. 

Part of this learning and evolving is looking back to and re-examining the perspectives, ideas, research, and topics that I was trained to value. One of these ideas and phrases has come up for me again. I saw this image posted online from Ebony magazine.

My immediate reaction was “the most sexual part of the body is the brain” at least that’s what we all agreed on when we were being trained. I remember in my second year of my undergraduate career taking an upper level women’s health course and meeting with the teaching assistant to discuss my grade on the multiple choice midterm exam. There was a group of us to meet for the same thing and we did so communally. We went over each question we got wrong and my question was “what is the most sexual part of a female’s body?” The options were: brain, clitoris, vagina, anus. I had selected the clitoris. It was marked as wrong. I asked why this was incorrect and was told, in a very “matter-of-fact” fashion, “It’s the brain. If your head isn’t into it nothing else will be.” And that was that. I was the only person in the group to get that question “wrong.” 

This phrase was, and still is, a very common argument about sexuality, pleasure, and the body. I wonder though, may this idea and phrase be ableist? Who is excluded from this type of belief? If I were to see this question on an exam today, or ask this question would I agree with this answer and that the clitoris is the wrong answer?

As I learn to evolve within the field and become more committed to including a psychology of liberation and work in an anti-colonial framework within the field many of these questions come up for me. My maternal grandparents died of Alzheimer’s and I witnessed their memory loss evolve, and now I’m learning to cope with similar experiences in my immediate family. These questions about how the brain functions, how that’s connected to sexual pleasure, sexual memory, and why this phrase “the most sexual part of the body is the brain” is relevant to me at this moment.

I know we do not have a lot of information about the majority of the brain. This is one reason I find this phrase ironic. How can one of the most sexual parts of our body be one part that we know very little about? 

I know that if the brain is not functioning in the ways our society has deemed “correctly” this does not mean one cannot experience pleasure. What may it mean if one is losing a part of their brain functioning and how may this phrase isolate and ignore people living with certain disabilities? If we were to reexamine this phrase, what parts of our bodies would we deem most sexual? Would there ever be a right or wrong answer? 

I’m asking more questions than I have answers because I think sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. I am also clear that I don’t know what the right answer would be. I’m more interested in having a dialogue about this topic with folks who have heard the phrase, use it, and are interested in examining it further. 

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Follow Bianca I. Laureano on twitter: @latinosexuality

  • jruwaldt

    Sorry, I’m rather confused by this article. First of all, to name the clitoris as the most sexual organ is sexist, unless you also mean the penis, which is structurally parallel to the clitoris, or that the clitoris sends more sexual pleasure than any other part of the body, male or female, because it’s the only organ that exists solely for sex. However, it seems accurate to consider the brain the most sexual organ because all sensation exists as signals received by the brain and sexual pleasure is no different. Additionally, the role of fantasy in enhancing sexual pleasure is well-known. Finally, what is ableist about this? Even if someone’s brain is completely severed from their genitals, they can’t have sex, in whatever fashion, unless their brain is functioning well enough for them to be aware of their actions. Someone who is physically disabled but mentally aware can still have sex, although not necessarily in the way that “able-bodied” people do. To me it seems identifying the brain as the most sexual organ only denigrates people in PVS’s, not people whose bodies don’t function in a “normal” fashion.

  • biancalaureano

    jruwaldt go reread this article for clarity.

    I wrote:

     

    “what is the most sexual part of a female’s body?” The options were: brain, clitoris, vagina, anus. I had selected the clitoris.

    The question was already centering people whose sex assigned at birth was female. Your question about it being sexist is out of context.

    . To me it seems identifying the brain as the most sexual organ only denigrates people in PVS’s, not people whose bodies don’t function in a “normal” fashion.

    The problem here (and what I’m asking us to examine) is this use of “normal” and why are you/our socieity/the field ok with excluding and oppressing ANYBODY regardless of what their bodies can and cannot do? THIS is ableism that I’m discussing. And, perhaps you are not aware of the many different forms of disability where the brain still functioning doesnt always lead to pleasure/awareness of pleasure/etc.. They exist even if you are not aware of them and I’m purposefully not linking to them so that you can do your own research to bring to this conversation.


    My original query remains unanswered and you prove my point of how we must have these conversations as they continue to exclude, isolate, and oppresse us.

  • prochoiceferret

    I know that if the brain is not functioning in the ways our society has deemed “correctly” this does not mean one cannot experience pleasure. What may it mean if one is losing a part of their brain functioning and how may this phrase isolate and ignore people living with certain disabilities?

     

    I don’t think the “brain is the most sexual …” chestnut excludes those with mental/neurological disabilities; it says nothing about such folks being able or unable to experience sexual pleasure, or whether they do or don’t experience it in the same way as people without these disabilities. (Obviously, that would depend a lot on the disability in question. No doubt there are some disabilities that interfere with the perception of sexual pleasure, and many that don’t.)

     

    There may be connotations associated with that phrase, of course—such as the common presumption that people with mental disorders are asexual, or lack sexual agency. Might this be what was sticking in your craw?

     

    What I think the phrase conveys is that when one says, “experience sexual pleasure,” that’s a brain thing. (More generally, that the very notion of experiencing, or even just being, is a brain thing.)

     

    Granted, we don’t know very much about the brain, and we’ve found that the spinal cord and other nervy things in the body play a much more important role than an overglorified trunk line. But it seems pretty conclusive at this point that if there’s no brain, there’s no you. So the brain-sexual thing, while trite, appears reasonably true.