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3 Crucial Facts You Really Need To Know About A Man’s Brain

by Shaunti Feldhahn on July 21st, 2015 in Couples, Favorites, Spouses, Women

3-facts-mans-brainThe funniest movie moment I’ve seen this summer comes at the very end of Inside Out, as the main preteen girl character talks to a preteen boy at a hockey rink. We’ve been seeing inside her head the whole movie, but instantly the camera zooms out of her brain and into his…. where his mental control room is suddenly in chaos. The warning lights flash “GIRL! GIRL! GIRL!” and everything in his mind seizes up or turns somersaults.

My 12-year-old son saw that and said, “Actually… that’s pretty much what it feels like.”

If you are a girl or woman who didn’t know that you have the ability to create an electrical storm in the male brain, join the club. A few years ago, I was shocked as I first started learning some of this stuff! But since it’s actually really important, I investigated, for my newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes, to find out what goes on in the male brain when a man or boy sees certain things.

So here are three key facts we females usually don’t know about the male brain wiring – but really need to!

Fact #1: The male brain is physically different

I would say “Their brains are wired weird,” but that would get me in trouble. What I mean is this: men don’t just think differently than women, the structure of their brains is physically different. Not only that, the male brain has a completely different chemical-hormonal mix in many ways. And that structure and that chemical makeup are focused around processing life visually.

By contrast, the female brain is focused around processing life verbally and emotionally.

In other words, at the most simplistic level, a guy sees life while a woman feels and talks about life. (Tweet This!) Whether he is a 12-year-old boy or an 82-year-old man, it is impossible for a male to not be visually oriented – just as it is impossible for a woman not to experience emotions about certain things.

Ipad and Book copyFact #2: The sight of the female body triggers an involuntary sexual reaction.

Yes, I know it’s a huge shocker that men think about sex a lot. Check.

But that’s not exactly what I mean.

Certain sights are automatically, biologically, sexual in nature to the male brain – which means those sights deliver a dose of pleasure regardless of whether the guy wants them to.

For example, even a five-year-old boy, who has no idea what sex is, will have an instantaneous and gut-level feeling of pleasure when he sees the college-age babysitter whose clothes (or lack thereof) draw overt attention to a great figure. Even a fifty-year-old husband who loves and honors his wife, can have an involuntary, instantaneous spike of pleasure in his brain when the image of the provocative lingerie model flashes across the television screen before he can look away.

I’m sure that some of you – like me – are a bit surprised or disturbed at the notion of an involuntary pleasurable reaction. That is because our brain is wired completely differently. Thus, most women have never experienced any kind of involuntary, gut-level, sexually-pleasurable reaction to visual images. So we have no idea that men do. Every day.

There is, however, a brain parallel we can understand. Let’s say you haven’t eaten all day and you walk into a dinner party to find a mouthwatering buffet across the room. In that split-second, a center in the back of your brain called the nucleus accumbens lights up and triggers an instinctive reaction: I want to consume that. Zero thought involved. It’s an automatic response.

Well, the same thing happens to a guy when he sees a woman dressed in a way that calls overt attention to her knockout figure. His nucleus accumbens lights up, triggering an automatic sense of pleasure and desire. He doesn’t desire the person, exactly, but that image. (Tweet This!) And it’s critical to remember that his brain did that involuntarily.

He is then very tempted to actually look at that sexy image – to “consume” it, so to speak — because doing so would continue that dose of pleasure in his brain.

Fact #3: After the biological reaction comes the mental choice

So then the $10 million question is: what happens next in that visual brain of his?

In the next split-second after the nucleus accumbens lights up involuntarily, the cortical (thinking) centers kick in at the front of the brain. This is where the thought process, will, and decision-making occur. Suddenly, the man has a decision to make: to actually savor the sight of that attractive woman in the clingy outfit… or to look away and honor God and (if he’s married) his wife in his thought life? Remember, the first reaction (temptation/desire) was automatic, biological, and involuntary; the next step will be a choice.

How your husband, boyfriend, or son might actually handle that choice, and what you can do about it, is a topic for another day (and one we cover thoroughly in Through a Man’s Eyes).

For now, let’s venture to agree on the fact that although this visual wiring might seem foreign – and even, for some of us, alarming! – it appears that God created men’s and women’s brains to work in these ways. And if so, that means He created men to be visual and intends that to be a good thing, not a bad one!

Yes, this wiring can certainly pose challenges for modern men as they are confronted with sights in public that they were only supposed to see in private. As many wives have sadly seen firsthand, some men have become trapped in bad choices that become unhealthy for them and very hurtful for the relationship. (Although thankfully, many wives have also seen that understanding this temptation can be a vital step in moving their man toward healing.)

But this wiring can also be a wonderful thing. After all, remember: when a man looks at his bride, he can fully enjoy that nucleus accumbens lighting up! And then both of them can then enjoy everything that comes with it!


For more information on Shaunti’s latest book and workshop watch this video.

Shaunti Feldhahn is a groundbreaking social researcher, popular speaker and the best-selling author of many books, including For Women Only and For Men Only. In her latest book, Through A Man’s Eyes, Shaunti has teamed up with Craig Gross, the founder of XXXchurch.com, to open women’s eyes to the visual nature of men and what it means for a husband, boyfriend or son. See menarevisual.com or shaunti.com for more.

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  • sarah

    I love xxxchurch for its passion to reach people with love affected by the porno epidemic. However, this lady with her sexist and divisive theories really disturbs me. Her logic seems more than a little faulty and while it’s insulting women it’s even more so to men.

    • Austin

      As a man, I can confirm that her theory is correct. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read this. Plus the science is solid, that can’t be denied. There’s nothing sexist or divisive about this. She’s just telling it like it is.

      • Gabrielle

        It’s wrong because it puts men in a different boat than women when it comes to thinking about sex/sexually. Women do go through that 2 second I want that when seeing a visually attractive man. First impressions are visual, man or woman. Though everything said about men in this article is true (one way or another), it’s ignorantly one-sided. It could be said the woman writing this denies her feminine hormones and attractions, or she’s underminding women’s sexuality.

        • Austin

          Uh, men are in a different boat… We’re wired very differently.

          • Gabrielle

            Yes, though not in the way the article perceives.

          • Austin

            Why not? I’m assuming you have no experience as a man to draw from, so what makes you so sure about that?

          • Gabrielle

            I’m speaking about the way women feeling about men is portrayed. It’s wrong, or at least the minority. And guess what? I have experience as a woman.

    • W. Nichols

      Sorry Sarah, I have to agree with Austin here. However, the tone of the article IS a bit condescending.

    • JeffTN62

      I agree with you ..as a former sex addict anything could and would make my mind and body react from 30 years of self medication. after I found freedom in Christ, renewed my mind, quit indulging the flesh and fantasy, over time I hardened my flesh towards sin and not my heart. we live in such a Lust driven world that we don’t know what normal is. Seems like 3xchurch is more psychology than Bible Faith that transforms ….sad

  • Kurall Smith

    Hi Sarah. I wanted to tell you of my journey to porn freedom. I’ve been clean from porn for 7 weeks today, and that is longer than I have ever been all my life! I loved XXXchurch, and I followed it for years. Still, I couldn’t get out of porn.

    What brought me out of porn?

    Jesus said, and they shall know the truth, and the truth shall set them free.

    What Shanti is doing here is re-confirming studies of the brain of porn users done by Oxford University. These were started because a man named Gary Wilson was very curious why 22 year old guys were coming to his and his wife’s website, which was devoted to marriage and finding the spice in their bedroom, saying they couldn’t sustain an erection anymore.

    Over time and research, he concluded it must be porn use – and guys started to ‘Reboot’.

    The brain studies concluded, every time a man sees an attractive woman, his reward system does fire. Every guy is suppose to get a rush. However, porn hijacks this. In an average, highly edited tube website video of “their favourite position”, guys are getting that 15-20 hits of dopamine firing up their reward system. Multiple that by watching dozens of videos at once!

    Guys are easily getting 5-10 times more dopamine from porn than they were in the past, and that is if you are a ‘light user’. Heavy users will be so much more!

    Our reward centres of our brain can’t take that much dopamine, and so it shrinks down drastically. It is causing all kinds of mental health issues for men, from depression to social anxiety! For 28 years, porn ruled my life. For the past 10 years, and I had no idea it was porn doing this to me, but I was increasingly feeling more and more depressed, and starting last year I was having suicidal thoughts.

    Within weeks of removing porn from my life, my depression disappeared, and I no longer have suicidal thoughts! That was all caused by the dopamine I was getting from seeing girl after girl after girl on those tube videos.

  • Someone Concerned

    I have to agree with Sarah…this is a very sexist and linear way if thinking. The Christian church is doing a huge disservice to this issue by perpetuating these things. Both male and female are designed and wired for sex. After all, how far could a man possibly get if women did not respond visually and mentally to sexual advances? Women are actually more visual and pay attention to detail. Why else do women get caught up in color schemes, fashion, decorating, and aesthetics? Men just happen to be more one-track-minded and sex usually ends up being that one track. Women just happen to connect everything, running several tracks at once. Wake up, people. Men are not special snowflakes when it comes to sex, lust, and biology. It takes two people to dance that tango. We are just used to a society that caters to men and continues to see women as submissives. I think the enemy has this issue right where he needs it in order to continue gaining ground. Thankfully, Jesus came to set us all free with the truth.

  • Someone Concerned

    Also, to quote,
    “Thus, most women have never experienced any kind of involuntary, gut-level, sexually-pleasurable reaction to visual images. So we have no idea that men do. Every day.”

    …this is an incredibly false and dangerous statement. Millions of women are also struggling with porn addiction and lust. Wow. This entire article is just, so…I am at a loss for words.

    This article grieves my heart. I studied biology and psychology, and worked as a medical professional. As someone with an education and a passion for Christ, this article grieves me heart.

  • sarah

    I think we are all visual. I’ve yet to meet a person that says “I’m an auditory learner. Just tell me and I’ll get it.” Instead we constantly hear, “I’m a visual learner. I need to see it.” Need further proof just go check the sales that the Fifty Shades movie made this year. I understand that this is an article about men’s minds and not females, but I think this line of thinking perpetuates a sexual role division. Perhaps, women’s sexuality has been vastly underestimated. Plus, this “research” seems like its only studying one culture. What about cultures where less clothes are worn, where breast are constantly shown? Those poor men must always be having an involuntary reaction to their surroundings. 😉 I will say that when me or my spouse sees something that we’re attracted to we each have an involuntary moment of pleasure and then each of us has a choice to make. Kurall Smith-Its testimonies like yours that make me love XXXchurch. I wish you all the best and will keep you in my prayers.

  • Kendra Burrows

    This is great stuff! And much needed. May I (respectfully, I hope) give an additional insight? My college students have difficulty differentiating between physiological (purely automatic) versus cognitive (thinking) brain responses. You do a great job of differentiating them in this instance. But I get on my students for using words like “think” and “want” when describing purely physiological responses because it’s so hard for them to distinguish when their brain is thinking (or responding physiologically) and when they are thinking (engaging in thought processes). Although it is a man’s brain (and not his thought life) that automatically “wants to consume” the visual image (much like our famished brains “want to consume” the buffet), the automatic response is more like an “Mmmm. Yumm!” or “Mmm! That looks good!” than an “I want to consume that,” which implies active thinking. I know it sounds nit-picky (I am such a teacher-geek!) but it helps me and my students think about it easier when I remove “thinking” words when describing physiological responses. {And… my teacher self is going to crawl back into a hole now… ;-)}

  • JeffTN62

    This way of thinking can buy into evolution in that men will say …
    See its just involuntary ..I can’t help myself .. Bible is final authority ..we are Body, Soul and Spirit …you choose what dominates we live in such a Lust driven society, you have to quit feeding the flesh. Living Sacrifice is not easy …but the freedom you find is incredible Less Psychology …more Bible

  • Jayne

    Married women and women in relationships are wired to being their spouses one and only sex partner. Porn, soft porn, as in sexy lingerie models- is another sex partner. Men are wired the same way. That is why they are hiding their porn etc.or porn and lusting addiction or use. They can empathize that they would be really disturb if their wives/girlfriends. Men also know they would be very upset if the wife/spouse or partner were doing the same thing. ) I have a pretty high moral standard and I do not walk around lusting over picture of sexy movie stars or men who I think are sexy . As for my partner, If I think he cannot keep his attention on me and by extension my family by the use of pornography-which the studies say-escalate to hard and abusing porn over time- then he really is not married. So either I will do the same or I should divorce him for sure with no looking back. What women wants to be /pictures of beautiful women?
    So this whole deal about men being visual is ridiculous. Women are visual too. Look at the things they do such as decorating the house, crafts, artwork to name only a few of the visual arts. Men are emotional too. They are always getting angry and starting wars. So this stereotypic article is way off. Oh and the studies on porn are about how men become unable to perform sex with real women. They become wired to only get stimulation from the sex workers they began looking at on line. After some time of that men can only get sexual stim from those visuals. That is when Erectile dysfunction sets in. There are a number of Christian based articles that encourage men to be men and women to accept it. This is one of them. The church should be encouraging men to stop this and tell the wives to move on and find a moral man. Jesus was very clear on this issue. It is one of the allowable reasons for divorce. So I think women should meet their own needs for sexual security and stop accepting this low level of morality in our men.

  • Vania

    Forgeting to mention that men are subliminaly being bombarded with the idea of sex all time. You can see this in musical videos, advertisements, tv, etc

  • Karen Thomas

    I am sorry but I have a real problem with this article. I understand what she is saying about men. Get it. But what she is saying about women is not true for me at all. I am a devout Christian woman first and foremost. But I am not brain dead. Far from it. How do you think I found my husband? Because I was attracted to his mind first? How does that work? We see the face and body first, too. We are physically attracted first, too. We do the – start at the feet, pause at all the lovely bits in between, and work our way up to the face kind of look – too.The problem is we live in a man’s world where advertised sex is the objectification of women. But women feel it too, it is just not advertised that way. If you need proof of that, look at the success of 50 shades of grey. (I never watched or read that, as a matter of fact, I don’t own a tv as one of the ways to keep the devil out of my house – and if you think he is not coming in through your tv, and using that to open doors you are trying to keep closed, think again. The commercials alone verge on soft porn). Can you imagine what would happen if the advertisements reversed and men were the ones objectified? Women would lose their minds, but men would never stand for it as WE have had to for so long. Seriously. Reverse the last dozen or so generations in your mind as if the objectification was not of and about women, but men. I wonder where men would be today? How they would be dressing? Caring about their looks? Feeling insecure?

    Back on topic.

    I am sexually attracted to men when I don’t want to be and, yes, it is all about that second look, AND the LENGTH of the FIRST look. I have learned over time to use my peripheral vision to my advantage. If I “see” what appears to be a man who has the attributes to possibly being a sexy, attractive man, I will NEVER look the first time, with or without my husband by my side. Yes, we can’t always avoid that first look if it is in our face, this I know too, but we sure can avoid how long we look. I have been embarassed in my church when my brain went stupid over a man I found very sexually attractive. I burned with shame inside and coudn’t figure out how to tell my husband what just happened if he saw it and asked me about it. I couldn’t have explained it, it was out of my control, but I can tell you that I did not look that way again for the rest of the service, because I would NEVER put myself ahead of my husband and hurt him that way. That would have been so incredibly selfish, and told him with no words spoken at all, that that stranger meant more to me than he did. NOT going to happen. So as a woman I do know what it feels like to react like this. My sex drive is what it should be (ever read Song of Solomon?)- equal to that of my husbands, and he is at least a 4 time a week kind of guy. So on an off day, if I pleasure myself, I COULD click on my computer and start a journey that I KNOW will END BADLY for me, or I can just take the extra time needed to fullfill myself, by myself. Just so I am not misunderstood, I find my husband highly sexually attractive, love to spend time observing him with or without his clothes on, preffering the latter, and find the “manly” projects he works on (building, fixing, mowing), to be sexually arousing, and take time out of my day just to watch him doing them – call it foreplay, if you will – it works for me. I love to spend time pleasing him – one of my favorite past times – so it is not about him personally. Like you men say it is not about us women personally. It is how we were meant to see the opposite sex. We were just NEVER meant to see it as it is today – at least for the men – EVERYWHERE. We were meant to see only one another in that way, in private. And let’s not forget girls were taught from a very young age centuries ago to curb their desires and never let them be seen or we would be viewed as harlots. Well now look at my gender! I am ashamed of it, but I understand it completely! Trying to compete in a world where porn rules and seems to be what the majority of men desire is extremely difficult to live with. So in order to keep up, they dress like “those in the business” just to get noticed! I am modest in my dress,(as a matter of fact I make my own clothes because the ones for sale are obsene), but I feel sorry for generations of insecure, misunderstood women who can’t compete on any other ground than the worst one of all, including permanently altering their bodies and foregoing their health for it. Then they get chastised for walking around in public like that. They are just trying to compete in a man’s world for far too long. And it gets harder everyday.

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