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.