chapter  11
12 Pages

Hormonal bodies, civilized bodies

Incorporating the biological into the sociology of health
ByLee F. Monaghan

Hormonal narratives, similar to the genetic narratives commented upon by Birke (this volume), occupy a powerful position within our medicalised and stratified society. In the early 1990s, for example, lay, media and scientific discourses focused upon the supposed mood and behavioural effects of synthetic ‘male’ hormones or anabolic-androgenic steroids. While testosterone and other steroids are taken illicitly by many gym members in order to improve their physiques, it has also been claimed these drugs cause uncontrollable aggressive violence or ’Roid-Rage. This ‘naturalistic’ (Shilling 1993) construction of the impulsive hormonal body – as applied to a masculinist and traditionally working-class pursuit – simultaneously buttresses patriarchal notions of male dominance and female passivity while countering bourgeois notions of the consciously restrained ‘civilized body’ (Elias 2000/1939).