Women have always received a more forgiving, compassionate hearing whenever they commit a crime, however heinous. People will go to extraordinary lengths to excuse their behavior. Often, their male partner will be held responsible for his lack of support, coercion, abuse or for leading the woman down the wrong path.
Another ever ready standby is a woman’s hormones. We all know that only a woman can walk free from a court after brutally murdering her baby. They call it post-natal depression. Not only can she walk free but often does so with the best wishes from the judge who often express his/her sympathy and hopes that they overcome their mental struggles and go on to live a happy, productive life.
The issue of hormones and the effect they have on a woman’s behavior was brought to my attention when I read two articles in the Melbourne Herald Sun.
A former Olympian, Lisa Curry, had decided to speak out about the terrible toll her hormonal imbalance took on her marriage. The article begins with these words.
‘Lisa Curry admits her hormonal hell contributed to the demise of her marriage to ironman Grant Kenny. But now she knows she wasn’t just “a miserable cow” like she once thought and doesn’t understand why women won’t talk about their struggles with menopause.
Now that she is happy and relatively calm, the turmoil that characterized much of her adult life seems all the more pronounced, especially when realizing it was caused by hormonal imbalance.’
I had horrific hormonal imbalance when I had my kids but I didn’t know what it was. I just thought I was a miserable cow. I didn’t see the patterns but now I know, and I also know that it contributed quite a bit to our marriage breakdown (with the father of her children, Grant Kenny).’
Now I don’t doubt for one minute that what Lisa Curry has to say is true. Although I am equally in no doubt that at the time of her struggles and the suffering she inflicted on her husband, she would have been vehemently asserting that it was his fault that she was always enraged.
It is so easy to sit back after the terrible damage has been done and calmly address the abuse and mistreatment of the man who stayed by your side for 26 years.
She refers to “uncontrollable mood swings.”
I am not a doctor; she may be right, but are mood swings “uncontrollable” or simply difficult to control?
She generously acknowledges the toll this behavior can take on husbands and wants to educate them as well as women so they can cope with the turbulence of women’s hormonal issues.
That’s kind of her, but how would women react if a man with a powerful libido decided he wanted to educate women on how to deal with a husband who possesses a powerful sex drive?
Lisa explains why her hormones were creating havoc in her life and her relationships.
“I was at my first Olympics when I was 18 and my last was when I was 30 so my body was never in that homeostasis that is so important for your hormones to function properly.
“Anything that is extreme gets your body out of balance and mine was right out of balance.”
Curry, now 57, admits she was clueless about proper nutrition until she was in her 30s because her rigorous Olympic swimming training meant she quickly burnt off whatever she ate.
Once she developed a heart problem, known as myocarditis, and had a defibrillator implanted surgically in 2008, her approach to nutrition changed.
When combined with the Happy Hormone supplements, plant-based herbs and fermented superfoods addressing a range of women’s health issues, developed by her business partner and naturopath Jeff Butterworth, her hormone levels started to level out.
She has now made it her mission to educate other women, men and particularly teenage girls about the power of their own hormones.
Let’s stop right there.
If ever a particular group of people needed some open discussion and education about the power of hormones, it is our young men. I can only speak for myself but I don’t think I would ever wish to experience what I lived through as a boy from around the age of thirteen to manhood (and beyond). I felt like I was ready to explode at any given moment. Sexual desire was an endless, aching, pulsing presence that often-made clarity of thought a hopeless pipedream.
Most men remember that driving need to “deal with” the powerfully urgent demands your body was screaming at you every waking moment.
We were surrounded by sexual images wherever we looked and yet we were condemned and made to feel dirty and depraved for being attracted to the very thing our body was demanding.
We all heard the endless, patronizing putdowns.
All boys and young men think with their dicks. Snigger! Snigger!
Can’t they leave it alone for five minutes?
It was an absolute purgatory and I do not recall hearing one word of support or advice or even simple empathy from anyone. We were all alone in a strange new world, with this throbbing, animal desire foisted upon us without any choice and we simply had to find a way to cope.
Here are some interesting facts from a chapter in Bettina Arndt’s book, #MenToo.
“Men live with up to twenty times the testosterone of women and that makes it very tough to cope with decades of monogamous marriage, particularly when sex is offered very reluctantly, “like meaty treats to a dog” as one man put it.
Yet most men do a remarkable job remaining true to their women.
The first Sex in Australia survey sampled almost 20,000 people and found just five percent of partnered men had strayed in the previous year.”
I return to Lisa’s comment when she referred to “uncontrollable mood swings.”
Would any man receive anything other than scorn and derision were he to say, years after constantly sleeping with other women throughout his marriage:
I did so due to my uncontrollable urges.
I think not.
Yet this is surely a contributing factor.
Bettina’s book features another interesting observation.
There’s an interesting book-The Testosterone Files-written by a feminist writer who had a sex change and became a male. The author, Max Wolf Valerio, describes being blown away by the urgency of his newly acquired sexual urges, his constant sexual fantasies -sex is now food, he says.
He cringes when he sees female audiences on talk shows pursing their lips, shaking their heads at sheepish male guests who are supposed, “porn addicts” or “womanizers”. He’s shocked by women’s ready assumption of moral superiority.”
Just imagine an all- male audience with a male host grilling Lisa Curry about her episodes of rage and abuse fueled by hormonal imbalance being subjected to the disdain and moral judgement of a room filled with men. You can only imagine it, because it would never happen in the real world.
‘How to explain this to women? Valerio ponders. There is this thing about men that they cannot completely know. Few people want to believe that there could be a real chasm, a chemically induced difference of sexual drive between the sexes.
Now that I am Max, I see that this rift, this fundamental chasm between men and women’s perceptions and experiences of sexuality, is one that may never be bridged.”
Such commentary would rarely be seen in the pages of our mainstream newspapers and certainly would never evoke the sympathy or compassion Lisa Curry’s article received.
A second woman, Karina Grift, spoke about the rage she felt due to hormonal imbalance and the terrible treatment she meted out to her long-suffering children.
“My rage is disproportionate to the offence. My teenage son forgot to empty the dishwasher before he left for school.
I am seething. I feel like hurling every dish across the room.
This is what I’m like now. My rage goes from zero to 100 in seconds over the slightest trigger.
Some days I feel like it’s controlling me. On these days I hate the words I hear myself screaming at the kids, about how lazy they are, how selfish, how no one helps.”
I have never been like this before. Not during the toddler tantrums, not in the midst of grief, not when overworked or sleep-deprived.
I have been angry, of course, but this rage, it scares me.
I won’t go into the details of Karina’s condition, but it sounds as though it would have been very debilitating and life changing.
This is not the point of my article. I am not doubting these women were affected by the changes taking place in their bodies.
I am, (once again) simply pointing out the glaring double standards at play in our society. The bodily functions and chemistry of women is something men must be educated about and willing to accommodate.
The biological make up of men is something to be critiqued, demonized and mocked.
Karina seems to be describing domestic abuse when talking about her rage. We are usually told any attempt to explain abuse or find a reason for it is simply victim blaming or supporting the actual abuse. Intelligent people know this is utter nonsense and the only way to get to the heart of a problem is to uncover what is causing it.
But this rarely happens.
Most people who do cruel and violent things are in some way damaged or suffering. However, any father who may have directed his rage at his wife or children would simply be labeled a perpetrator of family violence and he would receive no empathy, regardless of what conditions, physical or mental drove him to behave in this manner.
I look forward to the day a man writes an article in which he calmly explains away his years of abhorrent behavior and mistreatment of his wife as a result of a hormonal condition beyond his control and see how many words of praise, support and compassion his public pronouncement would garner.
I would suggest, zero.