Commentary Sexuality

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

Bianca I. Laureano

The popular phrase "the brain is the most sexual part of the body" leaves me with lots of unanswered questions. 

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?

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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. 

News Politics

Tim Kaine Clarifies Position on Federal Funding for Abortion, Is ‘for the Hyde Amendment’

Ally Boguhn

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s running mate, clarified during an interview with CNN on Friday that he still supports the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

During Kaine’s appearance on New Day, host Alisyn Camerota asked the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee whether he was “for or against” the ban on funding for abortion. Kaine replied that he had “been for the Hyde Amendment,” adding “I haven’t changed my position on that.”

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told CNN on Sunday that Kaine had “said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment.” Another Clinton spokesperson later clarified to the network that Kaine’s commitment had been “made privately.”

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

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“We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment,” reads the platform.

Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard that he was not aware that the party had put language outlining support for repealing Hyde into the platform, noting that he had “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Clinton has repeatedly said that she supports Hyde’s repeal, calling the abortion care restriction “hard to justify.”

Abortion rights advocates say that Hyde presents a major obstacle to abortion access in the United States.

“The Hyde amendment is a violent piece of legislation that keeps anyone on Medicaid from accessing healthcare and denies them full control over their lives,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said in a statement. “Whether or not folks believe in the broken U.S. political system, we are all impacted by the policies that it produces. … Abortion access issues go well beyond insurance and the ability to pay, but removing the Hyde Amendment will take us light years closer to where we need to be.”

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open the Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

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Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.