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In the Grip of Hormones

How women have to manage men’s Toxic Testosterone

Kevin Godlington

Former soldier Kevin Godlington on how, unbeknownst to him, his wife had to deal with unwanted attention on a busy train while he sat nearby, and the realisations that came when she revealed why she didn't tell him about it at the time.

One of the defining and primal differences that separate us men from our women folk is the struggle with testosterone. The delicious hormone rampant in our bodies, rushing though our veins and adrenal system to our perilous detriment and also to our salvation and saviour. It’s the stuff that pre-dates ‘fight of flight’ theories, it is the very basis of our survival and evolution and something that presents as both curse and curiosity.

Testosterone is the key male sex hormone that regulates fertility, muscle mass, fat distribution, and red blood cell production, it is also the stuff that makes us more than a little predisposed to beating the shit out of each other after a few beers. Women also produce the hormone in much smaller amounts. Testosterone, part of a hormone class known as androgens, is produced by the testicles after stimulation by the pituitary gland, which is located near the base of the brain, and it sends signals to a male’s testicles (or to a woman’s ovaries) that spark feelings of sexual desire and aggression. Awesome. Sex and violence, right?

Testosterone plays a significant role in the arousal of these behavioural manifestations in the brain centres involved in aggression and on the development of the muscular system that enables their realization. There is much evidence that testosterone levels are higher in individuals with aggressive behaviour, such as prisoners who have committed violent crimes and soldiers who are trained and motived to be violent.

As a former soldier my testosterone has saved my ass on more than one occasion, and in my younger life I was very happy to embroil myself in mortal pub combat after ten pints. It’s not big, it’s just what it is and that’s that. Most of it was harmless fisticuffs and doesn’t define me, nor does it make me feel particularly proud of my historical misdemeanours.

However, what brought some sobering focus to this issue of testosterone was an event that occurred a few months ago when I was out with my wife and a good male friend – also a soldier, more freshly de-mobbed than I, and only recently reunited with our sceptred isle from Afghanistan – with shall we say, a penchant for short fused interdictions! On the train coming home, I was sat with my mate, chatting about highly intelligent things such as Brexit and Trump whilst to my immediate left my fourteen year old daughter and my wife sat on the two seats to my side, across the aisle, also in deep discussion. Despite my substantial beer intake, I was aware of my environment and surroundings, as every good soldier should be. I’d seen the two young fellas, age circa mid-twenties sat immediately behind my wife and daughter drunkenly minding their own businesses and oblivious to my observational surveillance. The train journey ended and homebound we left. All without incident.

Once home my wife and daughter had a disturbing story to tell: one of these entitled little posh, floppy haired drunken lads had been stroking my wife’s hair, from behind the seat. My daughter and wife had both turned and offered stern and fully focused looks of “stop now or this won’t end well” which evidently, they duly did. Clearly my amazing observational awareness failed owing to copious amounts of ethanol. But what startled me most was my wife’s articulate and detailed explanation as to why she didn’t seek my help and intervention.

“Because you and Doug would have beaten these two idiots up.”

Shit. She’s right. We would.

She went on: “men think this is acceptable behaviour when drunk, touching women – but my husband would have ended up in jail for reacting. I feel worried for myself getting touched on a train, but also that I can’t say anything loudly like I wanted to do to this guy, for fear you and Doug would overact: this means the guy got away with being loudly and openly told, NO. He left thinking he had on some way got away with it, that his behaviour was OK.”

I was silent. This shit hit home. She was right, because of my likely predictable aggressive response, this dude actually got away unchecked, clearly the act opposite to what I would have hoped for. It identifies a number of issues here, firstly that some men thinks it ok to stroke my fucking wife’s hair, and secondly, she couldn’t act robustly with this guy for fear of my testosterone infused violent rebuttal.

Freshly equipped with this new information and knowledge, would I react any differently now? Probably, going forward I would let my wife deal with it. Then send Doug in when she’s not looking. (Joking, of course.)

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