Why Your Biochemistry is no Excuse for Sexual Harassment

One of the characters in my book Aeron, Erin, is full bottle on the biochemistry of power. He describes how brain biochemistry makes exerting power over others, sexual harassment and domestic violence for example, rewarding to the individual. However that in no way even begins to be an excuse.

Humans at War, Rape and Pillage

I first need to expand the last sentence of the preceding paragraph. There is no excuse for sexual harassment or for its cousin domestic violence.

That said, they are hardly new patterns of human behaviour.

The ancient Greeks considered rape during war as perfectly reasonable and women of the conquered nation were legitimate booty. Things improved somewhat in the Middle Ages, at least in theory. In modern times rape is hardly rare on and off the battlefield, as is evident with the fate of the Rohingya Muslims.

What of Erin’s Views?

Erin Maguire is a minor CIA administrator whose major hobby is the study of conspiracy theory.

Erin is up to date with all the latest biochemistry as it applies to the way the brain functions. He is aware that there are centres in the brain that are affected whenever a person exercises power over another person. The exercise of power results in two events:

• an increase in the rate of release of the hormone testosterone from the testes or ovaries of the person exercising power

• and a feeling of well being created by that part of the brain that makes you “feel good”.

The chemical that does all of this, that is released when a person exercises power over another, is dopamine.

The Reward System

Dopamine and Sexual Harresment
Dopamine and Sexual Harresment

Unknown to Eric at the time, dopamine generally functions within the brain as an integral part of the reward system. Whereby certain types of behaviour are rewarded by “good feelings” of one sort or another. It can be traced back to some sponges which means that the chemical emerged as a neurotransmitter some 500 million years ago in the Cambrian era. The fact that it has persisted through species for so long makes it likely that the process is useful for survival of the species.

In the context of this article, a man exercising power over a woman will feel good while doing it and will have an increased rate of testosterone secretion. The likely outcome in the absence of any attempt of self control is obvious.

So It’s All biochemistry’s Fault?

Absolutely not. The fact that a person with authority and power might feel good in the exercise of that power does not in itself provide a reason for asking your PA to buy two sex aids. As the PA herself noted, to think that behaviour is OK you also have to be a shit. Mark Granier, the UK International Trade Minister, thought it all was a bit of a prank and no different to asking her to buy scented candles. His defence?

It absolutely does not constitute harassment. Mark Granier

About the only comment of his that was factually correct was that it could look like dinosaur behaviour. (Well earlier than that it turns out, dinosaurs turned up only 230 million years ago.)

And therein lies the problem. For hundreds of years in western society, as opposed to many other so called more primitive societies, men of power have preyed on women as available objects. The problem is not only one of abandonment of morals. It is the total abandonment of any aspect of self control.

Its well past time for a change. Perhaps the Me Too movement will gain even more momentum and drive change.

Let’s hope so.

3 thoughts on “Why Your Biochemistry is no Excuse for Sexual Harassment”

  1. An interesting and thoughtful take on the current news pieces. And maybe now is the time for communication between the powerful and the less powerful to heal and prevent further abuse of women by men and men by women in whatever ways it occurs.
    Thanks Peter.

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