Wednesday, August 25, 2010

She's So Hormonal

Lisa and I were talking on the phone this afternoon about men and testosterone.

We have talked about this many times before. It seems that men are not responsible for the way that hormones affect their behavior toward women.

Watching “Venus Boyz” one trans man said that he had to make a conscious effort not to stare at women’s breasts: not the tits, not the tits. As a woman, and as a trans man, he was/is a feminist, and yet this behavior continued to pop up. It would seem that hormones place men in a constant heightened sexual awareness that cannot be circumvented. Or maybe it is a combination of the power of the male hormone and the power of being male.

Women, at least the women I know, are often trying to figure out why men, often the most “conscious” men, continue to sexually objectify women. Even when they are aware that it is offensive and wrong, I am not sure that most men truly understand what it is meant by a sexual object.

If a woman refuses sexual intercourse with a man he personalizes it, in my experience at least. Often it enrages him, and this may be another theme entirely, but it is connected, perhaps only tangentially, (but I am not convinced) to testosterone and power. When a male friend in crisis will seek out the help or attention of a woman he finds sexually appealing over a close friend (unless the sexy one is not available) I find that to be objectification for both women. Possible sex partner or not seems to decide many of the decisions men make.

Do positions of perceived power (or lack thereof) in the social strata contribute to this? Is there a kind of reverse objectification that men encounter and so transfer that to women?

Ya think?

Smarter minds, and more patient ones, have engaged this discussion. I am only asking questions.

Why do men, who ought to know better, continue to see women as less than fully human and more as objects of sexual gratification?

Even the most enlightened men can avoid the controversial discussion with themselves about sexual objectification because it has to do with power.

I said to Lisa today that women are always called “hormonal” if they display emotional or very emotional (crying: something men don’t usually or ever do in public; not that women do it much anymore either; it seems women are trying to have power by being more like men, hence the lack of things like tears) responses to stresses, etc. Men are never called hormonal. Maybe they shouldn’t be, considering the way the law works it might be a case of being hormonal rather than physically abusive.

So it would seem that power not merely testosterone, brings much to bear on this idea of objectification. I know this is obvious to everyone, I am just still stunned by men that I know and like who persist in this behavior and refuse to see it or acknowledge it: the desire for power is that seductive baby, not the tits.

If I have had to learn how to curb my emotions (or my responses to estrogen) in the world in order to be taken seriously and to not be a target of derision (she’s hormonal) why then can’t men?

I am not saying I have researched this, or thought it out to present as an academically sound essay. I am a woman trying to understand why this behavior continues, why even my well intentioned men friends, see the word objectification as something radical, ranting, and political, instead of the damn daily grind for women trying to live under patriarchy.