Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On "Sexting" And Philandering Husbands

A long time ago, a very long time ago, the tangible evidence a wife could find of her cheating husband were usually a receipt from a seedy motel long forgotten in his pant pocket or a bill of purchase of a sexy perfume or aftershave, something out of the ordinary for her otherwise staid husband. In some cases though, as in an old movie, the telltale evidence would be the imprint of red lipstick on the collar of his pristine white shirt. All these truly belong to a bygone era, while the latest evidence of relationship betrayal is something governed by the social media. The 'in thing' in these days of mobile phones and instant communication is the surreptitious "sexts" sent by philandering husbands to their home wrecking mistresses.

The latest media sensation has been of the philandering ways of motorcycle badboy Jesse James, husband of, and soon-to-be ex-husband of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock. The "sexts" he had sent to his tattoo model and stripper mistress Michelle "Bombshell" McGee have come back to bite him on the butt and are doing their rounds on the Internet, much to the outrage of America and the rest of the world at the betrayal of their darling Sandra. And since then there have been at least four other women who have claimed that Jesse had been messing around with them while Sandra was busy filming her movies. How could a man who worked magic with his monster machines have just stupidly wrecked his marriage to America's sweetheart, who was everything that he was not?!?

And then there's Tiger Woods who's taken the game of marital infidelity to a whole new level! Women with whom he'd cheated on his wife Elin Nordegren, have come crawling out of the woodwork and all these pornstars, waitresses, strippers, and so-called models have been having their 15 minutes of fame divulging the salacious details of their relationship with Tiger and releasing the raunchy, crude, cringe-worthy "sexts" he's exchanged with them. What was he thinking? How could this man, hitherto known for his extreme sense of privacy, have been so dumb as to have traded these explicit text messages with these women? Perhaps he thought he was invincible and that the billions he'd earned on the golf circuit and with his endorsement deals made him a sort of demi-god transcending the mundane morality of ordinary folks. God knows!

The sordid stories of celebrity cheating go on and on. An increasing number of men and women have been entranced by the social media and fall prey to these kinds of addictive urges, often forgetting the fact that anything they type or say or write leave digital footprints in cyberspace, never to be deleted and never to be lost. All that is saved and stored in the digital world will come back to haunt them and will be paraded in public by unscrupulous individuals when and where there's money to be made. When people give in to their lust and are foolish enough to flaunt their explicitly sexy thoughts and desires through their back and forth "sexting", enormous damage is done to their reputation, as evidence is piled against them in cyberspace. Whether Tiger Woods or Jesse James will be able to resurrect their reputation or careers remains to be seen, but what proves to be a fact is that "sexting" is the new tool for philandering husbands and lands them inevitably in ignominy and disgrace!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Love, Sex, And The Male Brain" by Louann Brizendine

Found some answers to my questions related to my previous blog on cheating and betrayal. Read this article on CNN Opinion and found it fascinating. I think the author's medical point of view provides a rational explanation of the bewildering behavior of men at times.

Love, sex and the male brain

By Louann Brizendine
March 24, 2010

Dr. Louann Brizendine is a member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the National Board of Medical Examiners, and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. She is founder and director of the Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic. She wrote "The Female Brain" and, just released, "The Male Brain."

(CNN) -- Although women the world over have been doing it for centuries, we can't really blame a guy for being a guy. And this is especially true now that we know that the male and female brains have some profound differences.

Our brains are mostly alike. We are the same species, after all. But the differences can sometimes make it seem like we are worlds apart.

The "defend your turf" area -- dorsal premammillary nucleus -- is larger in the male brain and contains special circuits to detect territorial challenges by other males. And his amygdala, the alarm system for threats, fear and danger is also larger in men. These brain differences make men more alert than women to potential turf threats.

Meanwhile, the "I feel what you feel" part of the brain -- mirror-neuron system -- is larger and more active in the female brain. So women can naturally get in sync with others' emotions by reading facial expressions, interpreting tone of voice and other nonverbal emotional cues.

There's the 'Man Trance,' that glazed-eye look a man gets when he sees breasts.
--Louann Brizendine

Perhaps the biggest difference between the male and female brain is that men have a sexual pursuit area that is 2.5 times larger than the one in the female brain. Not only that, but beginning in their teens, they produce 200 to 250 percent more testosterone than they did during pre-adolescence.

If testosterone were beer, a 9-year-old boy would be getting the equivalent of a cup a day. But a 15-year-old would be getting the equivalent of nearly two gallons a day. This fuels their sexual engines and makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about female body parts and sex.

And so begins the 'Man Trance'

All that testosterone drives the "Man Trance"-- that glazed-eye look a man gets when he sees breasts. As a woman who was among the ranks of the early feminists, I wish I could say that men can stop themselves from entering this trance. But the truth is, they can't. Their visual brain circuits are always on the lookout for fertile mates. Whether or not they intend to pursue a visual enticement, they have to check out the goods.

To a man, this is the most natural response in the world, so he's dismayed by how betrayed his wife or girlfriend feels when she sees him eyeing another woman. Men look at attractive women the way we look at pretty butterflies. They catch the male brain's attention for a second, but then they flit out of his mind. Five minutes later, while we're still fuming, he's deciding whether he wants ribs or chicken for dinner. He asks us, "What's wrong?" We say, "Nothing." He shrugs and turns on the TV. We smolder and fear that he'll leave us for another woman.

Men look at attractive women the way women look at pretty butterflies.
--Louann Brizendine

Not surprisingly, the different objectives that men and women have in mating games put us on opposing teams -- at least at first. The female brain is driven to seek security and reliability in a potential mate before she has sex. But a male brain is fueled to mate and mate again. Until, that is, he mates for life.

Despite stereotypes to the contrary, the male brain can fall in love just as hard and fast as the female brain, and maybe more so. When he meets and sets his sights on capturing "the one," mating with her becomes his prime directive. And when he succeeds, his brain makes an indelible imprint of her. Lust and love collide and he's hooked.

The 'Doting Daddy Brain'

A man in hot pursuit of a mate doesn't even remotely resemble a devoted, doting daddy. But that's what his future holds. When his mate becomes pregnant, she'll emit pheromones that will waft into his nostrils, stimulating his brain to make more of a hormone called prolactin. Her pheromones will also cause his testosterone production to drop by 30 percent.

These hormonal changes make him more likely to help with the baby. They also change his perceptual circuitry, increasing his ability to hear a baby cry, something many men can't do very well before their wives are pregnant.

And a word to the wise for all the young mothers who are reluctant to let your husbands hold and care for your newborn. The more hands-on care a father gives his infant, the more his brain aligns with the role of fatherhood. So, hand over the baby.

His emotions run deep

Although men have earned the reputation for being more stoic than women, they actually have stronger emotional reactions than we do. They just don't show it very often.

The male brain can fall in love just as hard and fast as the female brain, and maybe more so.
--Louann Brizendine

Studies of men's faces show that the male brain's initial emotional reaction can be stronger than the female brain's. But within 2.5 seconds, he changes his face to hide the emotion, or even reverse it. The repeated practice of hiding his emotions gives men the classic poker face.

It's his poker face and his analytical response to personal problems that can put him in the doghouse. She's crying as she talks about what's wrong with the relationship, and instead of hugging her, his mind is racing to find a way to resolve the problem as soon as possible. With practice and because of the way their brains are wired, men use their analytical brain structures, not their emotional ones, to find a solution.

They enjoy this advantage, but women often take affront to it. When you're telling your husband your problem and he tries to solve it instead of hearing you out, you may think he's being insensitive. But that's not what's going on in his brain. He's working to solve the problem so he can relieve your pain as quickly as possible. Not because he doesn't care or doesn't want to listen, but because he loves you.

'Lovable Grandpas' and 'Grumpy Old Men'

As men age, the male brain hormones change and the male brain and body goes into the stage of life called andropause. The king of male hormones -- testosterone -- goes down and the queen of female hormones -- estrogen -- goes up. Whether Grandpa is your kids' hero or the grouch they hate to visit depends a lot on how he handles these hormonal changes. For example, if his testosterone levels drop to an abnormally low level, he can feel tired, irritable and even depressed. Some men in this condition seek hormone replacement therapy and others find relief in exercise, more frequent sex, and spending more time with other people.

Whether Grandpa is your kids' hero or the grouch they hate to visit depends a lot on how he handles these hormonal changes.
--Louann Brizendine

The grandpa that kids can't wait to see is the one who's feeling the effects of the hormone oxytocin, often called the "cuddle hormone." He's fun and playful and likes to hear what his grandchildren have to say. He's much more patient with your children than he was with you, when you were growing up. The love circuits of the ain can be hijacked by his grandkids, even more than they were by his own children.

The 'Lonely Hearts Club'

Not only is the mature male brain more receptive to closer bonds, but it's also more sensitive to loneliness. Nobody thrives when they're lonely, but it seems to take a major toll on older men. Sixty percent of divorces in couples over the age of 50 are initiated by women, leaving their husbands shell-shocked and devastated.

Once his wife leaves, unless he makes a point of socializing more with other people, his brain stops getting the social workout it needs to make him feel good about himself. If he becomes a loner, his social-approval circuits don't get activated. In brain scan studies of older males researchers have found that the brain's pleasure and reward areas, the VTA and the NAc, remain more active in men who are social. So don't begrudge the divorcee or the new widower some socializing and seeking female companionship.

The bottom line

The human brain is the best learning machine on the planet and human beings are capable of making major changes in our lives. But there are some things that the male brain and female brain are not likely to change anytime soon. And it makes more sense to deal with these brain realities, than to argue with them or ignoring them.

The best advice I have for women is make peace with the male brain. Let men be men.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Louann Brizendine.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On Cheating and Betrayal

I have always wondered why men cheat on their wives, particularly when their spouses are charismatic, famous, and beautiful to boot! These men seem to have such tawdry, despicable, sleazy affairs with empty-headed bimbos and floosies who can't hold a candle to their much accomplished, capable wives. What were these men thinking, if they were thinking at all, or perhaps were they "thinking with their penises" and not their brains, as Alan in Two and a Half Men would put it?!!? Betrayal by the spouses has been an age-old pursuit, and I include women here as well who are equally guilty of the crime. However, it is a well-known fact that more men are being caught with their pants down these days! In the modern days, this seems to have gained so much momentum that if one were not to cheat on their spouses or partners, they would be considered an anomaly!

Interestingly, marital infidelity seems to be universal and ubiquitous. A colleague of mine from an Asian country once told me that men cheating on their wives was "a national pastime" in his country! Another student of mine from a European country said it was a given that men regularly and consistently cheated on their wives in her country, but she was happy as long as her husband returned home to her. She also said she didn't care if her husband cheated on her with another woman because SHE was the one who got her husband's pay check. Interesting, eh? Some women turn a blind eye to their spouses' betrayal, partly because of the children and partly due to lack of financial independence, and they silently tolerate the sordid affairs because they do not want to rock the marital boat!

When it comes to celebrities, it is almost like a disease that causes famous marriages to come apart at the seams. People certainly expect the marriage to fail, and are not surprised when it eventually does. When Jeff Bridges won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in Crazy Heart and thanked his wife Sue, for her support and 33 years of wedded bliss and harmony, he won the admiration of millions of viewers for his long-lasting marital relationship almost as much for his performance in the movie. 33 years is an eternity in Hollywood, where relationships last less than 33 months, and serial daters change their partners every 33 days!

Not to mention the politicians who seem to be famously biting the dust these days with their secret dalliances! Bill Clinton came dangerously close to impeachment, Gov. Sanford of South Carolina was supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail while secretly visiting his mistress in Argentina, John Edwards who was quite close to a presidential nomination has admitted to fathering a child with his videographer on the campaign trail, and the list goes on and on.

What sordid lives we seem to lead, my friends! I have deliberately left out Tiger Woods and Jesse James in this post, because their salacious sexting is worthy of yet another blogpost, I think! Why is sex so addictive that it leads to people throwing away their marriages so mindlessly? I leave the thinking to all of you!

Monday, March 8, 2010

So Be Gone, Godmen!

The land of mysticism and ancient wisdom, India has had its share of gurus, sadhus, yogis and a plethora of holy men. Periodically, a vulgar scandal involving some of these so-called godmen erupts, exposing them as charlatans and sleazebags who have been regularly hoodwinking the naive, gullible masses. What beats me is that people never learn, and just after one crook has been exposed and there has been a lot of hoopla about the scandal, the next one emerges, replete with millions of followers, international branches of their ashrams, promotional books, CDs, DVDs and other money-churning merchandise that fill their coffers to unimaginable levels. The sleaze, corruption and debauchery is continually perpetuated to mind-boggling levels, much to everyone's disbelief and dismay! I am no longer shocked by all this, just bewildered as to how people in their right-thinking minds could so easily be duped!

The latest sex scandal in India originates from my home state and involves a 32-year old man Nithyananda, a self-acclaimed guru considered to be a reincarnation of the great sage Vivekananda. With 20 million devotees following his every word, 1500 ashrams around the world and an international headquarters in Los Angeles, assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, and politicians, celebrities and multi-millionaire businessmen touting his philosophy, he has been secretly caught on tape in a sex romp with yet another sleazy actress. And this by one of his own slighted disciples! Rumor has it that this is just one of his sexcapades, that there are several other women involved, that the "brahmachari" (bachelor) who was supposed to uphold the vow of celibacy considered himself an avatar of Lord Krishna, thus justifying all his secret, erotic cavorting with a bevy of nubile young women. The videos are making the rounds on You Tube, I hear, and Internet magazines are putting out "pay-per-view" offers to readers who want the more salacious stuff!

Well, Nithyananda has gone into hiding, the actress is AWOL, the media is screaming betrayal and bloody murder, the people who were duped are beating his statues with sandals and slippers and demolishing them with hammers, his effigies, pictures and banners are being burned on the streets, the police department is out with a warrant to arrest him on sight, multiple cases of cheating have been filed against him in the law courts, celebrities who were associated with him are maintaining a stoic silence, politicians are clamoring for regulations regarding such "holy men" to be enforced, and the lay person is scratching his head in absolute horror and disbelief as history repeats itself!

Will people never learn? Are they just plain stupid, or is it all a willing suspension of disbelief? Whatever it is, my unequivocal stand is, "We've had enough! So be gone, godmen!"

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Golden Girls

Ever had the experience of surfing the channels on TV and accidentally stumbling upon a program that opens up a floodgate of emotions in you, emotions that have been simmering for long under the surface and that you've consciously pushed to the back burners in the process of living your everyday life? Well, that's what happened to me a couple of days ago. Little did I know that a click of a button on my remote control and watching a bunch of old girls and their merry escapades would leave me sobbing out of control and crying my heart out by the end of the show!

"The Golden Girls" is all about these senior citizens living together in a Florida home, their fun adventures and humor-ridden lives as they go about their business of keeping themselves engaged and finding meaningful relationships in life. A very old sitcom that was quite successful in its day and is still enjoying several re-runs in North America, I was quite jolted by this particular episode that I accidentally chanced upon. Sophia, Dorothy's mother on the show, strikes up a friendship with an old gentleman on a park bench. They initially fight for space on the bench, grow to accept each other's company by and by, and eventually become friends, until one day the old man doesn't show up. Sophia waits for him everyday and becomes increasingly agitated by his absence, until her daughter tries to find out his whereabouts. Dorothy meets the man's daughter who tells her that her father's Alzheimer's had become progressively worse that he could no longer be left on the streets alone and had to be sent to a nursing home, and that he could no longer recognize anyone from his life.

By the end of the episode, I had torrents of tears coursing down my cheeks, as I was reminded of my mother who suffered from Alzheimer's and passed away a year ago. Having suffered a stroke that had left her right side completely paralyzed, my mother quickly lost sense of her surroundings and the people around her. Towards the end, she could no longer recognize her own children. It's a terrible tragedy for a child to watch one's mother being reduced to this condition, the mother who taught the child so many things in life. Talk about reversal of roles ... the parent cares for and nurtures the child, and when he/she grows old, the child becomes the caregiver and the parent becomes entirely dependent on the child. The heartbreak is inevitable, the feelings so intense, and the emotions so profound, turbulent and life-altering! I keep pondering a lot about old age these days and my only prayer now is that God be merciful to all of us in our old age and take us when all our mental faculties are intact!