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Friday, November 13, 2009

Why So Many Conservative Sex Scandals?

With interest in Carrie Prejean soaring to new highs after her "sex tape" controversy and odd behavior on Larry King Live, some people may find themselves asking the question: "Why do conservatives always get caught up in sex scandals?"

It seems every time you turn around, another conservative preacher is tearfully apologizing for committing adultery, or another Republican politician is under investigation for committing some crime related to a scandalous affair.

There's Larry Craig, the Republican Senator from Idaho; there's Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada; then there's the very strange affair of Mark Sanford, the Republican Governor of South Carolina; and among (many) others, now there's conservative crusader Carrie Prejean, who's under fire for a nude video she filmed of herself years ago.

Indeed, it seems that there are as many conservative sex scandals as there are Democrat tax scandals! But why? There may be a clue in the biology and neuroscience of human sexuality.

The renowned psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and brain-imaging specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen may have the answer. In his book, Making a Good Brain Great, Dr. Amen explains that your "sexiest" organ is your brain, that in fact while it may feel genital, sex actually "happens" in your brain. Your right hemisphere, Amen says, is the most associated with sexual feelings and orgasm according to several studies.

Interestingly the same part of your right hemisphere that is most closely associated with sexuality, is the part that lights up the most during brain imaging when you have spiritual or religious feelings. In fact, by stimulating it, scientists have been able to produce feelings of spirituality and "closeness with God" in subjects.

It is also the right hemisphere that is the most visceral, instinctive, and deeply emotional. An overactive right hemisphere may induce you to inappropriately yell "You lie!" during a Presidential speech for instance, or show up to town hall meetings fired up and angry about government excess. It's the part of the brain that is deeply moved by patriotic music and imagery.

Is a picture starting to emerge? Perhaps it's no mistake that conservatives are considered "right-leaning" as they may have more dominant right hemispheres as a group. This is why "conservatives" tend to be more religious than the rest of the population. This graph by the Pew Research Center tells the whole story:

And this might be the very same reason that religious conservatives always seem to be getting themselves caught up in controversial sex scandals. As a group, conservative brains may just tend to be more active in the key center of the brain that controls religious feelings, deep emotions, and yes- sexuality.

Strangely enough, people like Carrie Prejean who are devoutly religious and define themselves as more conservative, may also have a much higher libido and deeper fixation on sexuality than their "less pious" peers, and for the very same reason as they are likely to go to church or pull the level for Republican candidate.

This may also account for other empirical phenomena. Right-hemisphere dominance may interestingly lead "conservatives" to be more warm and empathetic, which is why it is documented that they tend to be more charitable in their alms-giving than "liberals."

It may also be the reason why conservatives are fixated on sex in general. If they're not having it with their mistresses in Argentina on the dime of South Carolina taxpayers, they're still talking about it, worrying about it, and regulating it.

This theory also accounts for the University of Chicago's comprehensive study on American sexuality, The Social Organization of Sexuality, which found that religious women were having better sex than their non-religious peers, and that the more religious and more conservative the women- the better the sex (as measured in orgasms)!

Interesting huh? Of course this is all conjecture, and I am no expert in neuroscience myself. It does however, seem striking and even elegant in its explanatory power doesn't it? The pieces just seem to fit together when you remember that the "God center" in the right hemisphere of the brain is also the "sex center."

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