Book Title: Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Relationships
Author: Kayt Sukel
Original Publication Date: 2012
Edition Read: Advance Reader’s Copy, Free Press
Total Pages: 256
Reason Read: In support of the author, with whom I have a working relationship
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
“If you ever want to make even the most cosmopolitan of your friends speechless, telling them you have voluteered to travel to Newark, New Jersey, so you can masturbate to orgasm in an fMRI is a great way to start. Once they overcome the shock, chances are they will start to ask questions. A lot of questions. Most I was able to answer. To start, no, I’m not kidding. I’m really going to do it. Really, it is not a joke, I promise. Yes, I will be in the scanner, the same sort of claustrophobic tube you got your knee scanned in that one time. Yes, I know it is a very tight fit. Loud too. Yes, I’ll be self-stimulating. How? Clitorally, to be exact, until I reach orgasm. Will I use a vibrator? No, most vibrators have metal, which is a no-no in the magnet. I’ll have to rely on my own hands to get the job done. Yes, technically people will be watching – just the scientists who are running the study, I think. But I will be draped for modesty and the only thing they will really be observing, besides my brain on the computer screen, is my hand signal when ecstasy is upon me. Both Komisaruk and his colleague, Nan Wise, have explained the whole process in detail to me. No, I am not sure I’ll actually be able to do it. But, as instructed, I have been practicing at home and will give it my best shot. It seemed like I was going through the same spiel over and over again. Between Wise’s careful instructions and my repeated parroting, I felt I knew the procedure backward and forward. Or so I thought.
“It occurred to me only the night before I was due to be scanned that I had forgotten to ask the most important question of all: What do I wear to this session?” – Chapter 12
I met Kayt Sukel while acting as her Editor for the UpTake Restaurants Blog online over the past year. When she asked for some time off to complete a book for publication, I said “of course” and then asked what her book was about. When she told me it was a non-fiction look at the neuroscience field my reaction was disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to read and review it for her. Not exactly something the common Bumble can easily grasp and find all that interesting. But Kayt told me not to make that kind of assumption so fast and encouraged me to take a deeper look. When I watched her book trailer a few months later, I couldn’t request an advance copy fast enough. Finding out how our brains operate when it comes to love and sex didn’t sound like a boring science textbook to me.
“Dirty Minds” is far from boring. This is because Kayt has a wicked sense of humor and the ability to translate Ivy League research into rock lyric parallels, making her book highly readable and entertaining. And in those spots where I did find my eyes glazing over due to a jumble of scientific jargon, she would inevitably insert an aside to the reader acknowledging and forgiving the probable tuning out of the prior paragraph. This made me laugh and kept me reading on, knowing this was not material to be quizzed on but rather, stories to be learned from.
Kayt recounts all kinds of neurological studies and research about varying ways to love; parental love, same-sex love, spiritual love and even lust. None of them have a magic solution for lonely hearts or wandering eyes. As evidenced by the passage quoted above, Kayt bravely took part in several of these studies along the way with the hope of giving scientists information to better solve the mysteries of love, sex and attraction. The only thing the studies seem to prove is that love elicits a definite pattern of activity in our brains. But love isn’t just synapses and hormones working like a factory and dictating emotional expression. It is also affected by our culture, environment and often overruled by the reasoning portions of our brains.
I was fascinated by the way researchers discover which pieces of our brains light up during all kinds of tasks – physical or mental in nature. Seeing the way entirely different activities have brain mapping overlaps was an eye-opener. Most encouraging was the knowledge that our brains never stop changing. Every interaction, experience and education causes our brains to evolve. Meaning that love is not finite. It can’t be contained or categorized. It is there – whether we want it or not. And it certainly seems, our brains really really want it. That’s why there are all of those handy rock lyrics for Kayt to parallel.