why it's not disparaging to call the genitals 'peripheral'

I was delighted to listen to this Fresh Air interview with David Linden, about his book Touch. The book is about some aspects of the peripheral nervous system and how they interact with the central system to give rise to the experience of sensation.

That sounds nerdier than it is. It’s actually the kind of science I used in writing the 51 Sex Nerd Sex Tips.

My favorite moment was when they were talking about genitals (obvs), and Terry Gross asked Dr. Linden if the differences in genital nerve endings explained the difference between men’s and women’s sexual arousal.


Okay, so pause here.

When you hear this question and you’ve just written a book about women’s sexual pleasure, your brain is FILLED with a giant answer: “No. Genital differences have nothing in particular to do with differences in adult human sexual arousal and desire.”

So, as you can imagine, I had some tension through the silence that followed this question.


And then Dr. Linden said:






Dr. Linden goes on to describe the well-known phenomenon that when you read narratives of people’s experience of sexual arousal, with all reference to genital organs removed, you can’t tell the difference between men’s and women’s arousal.


He also talks about the importance of context in the perception of sensation, which I love.

He also genuinely answered a question with, “We don’t really know.” Which I love hearing from scientists being interviewed in the mainstream media.


Anyway, I highly recommend the interview, and I will totally be buying his book.