Gender and Sexual Orientation


What about gender and sexual orientation?  The quick answer - gender and sexual orientation don't matter, at least not very much.  We're all the same in primitive, drive areas of our brains when it comes to romance and attachment.

Two great researchers, Romaya and Zeki, have done a study to compare brain responses to a romantic partner depending on gender and sexual orientation. Their conclusion is that the basic activations are the same whether you are male or female, prefer same-sex or opposite-sex partners. Romantic love is so basic, it doesn't matter what your own gender is, or what gender you prefer.  The primitive midbrain ventral tegmental area will still drive you toward the one you love.

In our studies, we found that some brain regions whose job is to take care of higher thinking processes were differently activated in men and women when they looked at their sweetheart.  Men activated more visual areas.  Other studies suggest that men depend more than women on visual images.  Women activated more cognitive and memory areas.  Women might be evaluating questions like-- "Is he going to remember our anniversary?"  But, we want to emphasize that it was not ALL men, or ALL women who showed this effect.  Some women activated visual areas and some men activated the more cognitive areas.


Corina Cisneros

Interesting…. I am transgender… how would this apply..? Do I love others more like a woman or a man?

Lucy Brown

Interesting question! I don’t know! But first, remember, there are very few differences between men and women, and the basic effect on the reward and drive system is exactly the same. My guess is that where there are differences, your responses would depend on your current gender status more than your past.

Carolyn Nord

I hear the term “Soulmate” bandied about quite often in reference to another person who was destined (how I’m not sure) to be a “Completer” of our own self while we function similarly for them. I read here, “Romantic love is so basic, it doesn’t matter what your own gender is, or what gender you prefer. The primitive midbrain ventral tegmental area will still drive you toward the one you love.” In some way I question whether or not we are really seeking an “other” as a separate entity to unite with, or are we seeking another to become a sort of conduit to completing ourselves. Are we actually somehow in love with ourselves, but need that objective view that our own subjectivity will not allow? Bottom line? WHO are we actually in love with here?

Lucy Brown

Ah, good question. Psychologists have studied this and don’t have a complete answer, but the data now mainly suggest that we look for someone with a lot of similarities to ourselves, but there must also be some novelty or expansion of ourselves. We then incorporate the other person into our own sense of ourselves. I should make a whole page about this….

Comments are closed.