It’s all about the testosterone. Testosterone is magic.
…in the years of being HIV-positive, my testosterone levels had sunk, and I decided, given my lassitude, depression, and lack of sexual desire, to go on hormone replacement therapy to get me back in a healthy range for a 30-something male. It was a fascinating experience to witness maleness literally being injected into me, giving me in a sudden jump what had been there all along, and what I now saw and felt more vividly. You get a real sense of what being a man is from an experience like that, as the rush of energy, strength, clarity, ambition, drive, impatience and, above all, horniness overcame me every two weeks in the wake of my shot. It was intoxicating. I wrote about this a couple of decades ago, in an essay I called “The He Hormone.”
Gosh, I’m glad he’s feeling well. But wait — all those things he describes are normal healthy human traits. Why is saying they are what being a man is all about? That’s weird. He’s not going to…he’s not saying…oh, crap, he is saying it.
The visceral experience opened my eyes to the sheer and immense natural difference between being a man and being a woman, and helped me understand better how nature is far more in control of us than we ever want to believe.
So Andrew Sullivan now knows what it’s like to be a woman: it’s when your testosterone is low, and you feel lassitude, depression, and lack of sexual desire. That experience qualifies him to identify the difference between men and women. Men have “energy, strength, clarity, ambition, drive, impatience and, above all, horniness”. Women lack those things. I guess you ladies just swan about limply, not knowing what to do with your lives, passively accepting whatever penis comes your way. I did not know this. I had to read the musings of a gay Catholic man to learn about the true nature of women.
I do at least agree that nature, i.e. your endocrine system, has a great deal of control over your state. This is no surprise. The problem in his ignorance is that he’s assigning positive, healthy feelings that men and women can and do experience to masculinity.
Maybe I need to explain that hormone replacement therapy is not just for macho men. Women also get HRT — only they get estrogen, not testosterone. And it can have the same kind of energizing effects on libido and activity. Both estrogen and testosterone decline with age, so getting a boost in those hormones sends a physiological signal that you’re a younger you. The mistake is to assign the advantages of youth to just one gender. Well, one mistake — Sullivan doesn’t seem to be at all concerned about side-effects of testosterone, like increased heart disease and potential effects on prostate disease. I might also worry that, given the example of his writing, testosterone shots might make you stupider.
And, oh, man, his article does get stupider. It evolves into the usual ill-informed whine about #metoo.
I mention this because in our increasingly heated debate about gender relations and the #MeToo movement, this natural reality — reflected in chromosomes and hormones no scientist disputes — is rarely discussed. It’s almost become taboo. You can spend a lifetime in gender studies and the subject will never come up. All differences between the sexes, we are now informed, are a function of the age-old oppression of women by men, of the “patriarchy” that enforces this subjugation, and of the power structures that mandate misogyny. All differences between the genders, we are told, are a function not of nature but of sexism. In fact, we are now informed by the latest generation of feminists, following the theories of Michel Foucault, that nature itself is a “social construction” designed by men to oppress women. It doesn’t actually exist. It’s merely another tool of male power and must be resisted.
In addition to now understanding the natural differences between men and women because he experience lassitude and depression, like a woman, he has now also spent a lifetime in gender studies classes to know that they never ever consider taboo subjects like chromosomes and hormones and all those biological thingies like genitals and breasts and Man’s Natural Energy and Strength. All the differences between men and women are non-existent, you see, imposed on women by the Patriarchy.
This is amazing bullshit. We seem to be oscillating between two ridiculous interpretations of feminism from people who despise the whole concept.
On the one hand, feminists are all man-haters who are all about the power of the Sisterhood, working to overthrow male dominion and turn all men into sex-slaves or eunuchs. They go on and on about the feminine power of their vulvas and put on non-stop propaganda like the Vagina Monologues. They all voted for Hillary because they know in their hearts that women are the superior sex.
On the other hand, feminists don’t believe in chromosomes or hormones, think all people are exactly alike, and consider their human ideal to be an androgynous hermaphrodite — which is what we’d all be, if it weren’t for that damned Patriarchy forcing people with a certain arrangement of chromosomes (which don’t exist) to wear pink frilly clothes and hate math.
As someone who supports feminism, and who has feminist friends who have never expressed anything even close to those caricatures, I’d appreciate a little consistency, clarity, and intelligence from critics of the movement. They seem to alternate between those two views while never recognizing that they’re mutually contradictory.
Here’s what I understand. Feminists think men and women have a range of biological differences, and they aren’t just matters of chromosomes or gonads; there are differences in behavior, sexual interests, and social interactions. All of these differences are real and should be respected, just as differences between individual men or individual women are real. There are also imaginary differences forced on people by culture; those are not “real” in the sense that they are not intrinsic to male or female bodies.
Feminists are not in the business of denying reality, like conservatives. Most women have breasts, some don’t; most men do not have breasts, others do. These are totally undisturbing facts. The problem is that some people like to insist that all women must have breasts, and no real man is allowed to, ignoring the reality and trying to force compliance against nature. That strict binary division is an example of a social construct.
Similarly, the imposition of certain expectations that must correlate with biological roles is also a social construct. Women should have long hair, but men with long hair are weak hippies. Math is masculine, sociology is feminine. Women are depressed and uninterested in sex, men are energetic and horny. Sullivan’s essay is a textbook example of this kind of reification of social constructs, equating them falsely with intrinsic biological forces. When women like sex or are good at math, they are violating Sullivan’s imaginary boundaries, and they must therefore be destroying all differences between the sexes. It’s a bizarre absolutist insistence on strict dichotomies and fixed social roles.
It’s also really stupid. Maybe Sullivan should lay off the magic hormone shots, it’s turning him into an even worse meathead.