Who's on the Testosterone? Women Trying to Survive in the Macho World of Politics Are Resorting to Hormonal Help. (Features)
Mallee, Bernard, New Statesman (1996)
In Westminster, some female politicians have been doing drugs for years. To stand their ground in the male-dominated House of Commons, some of our female representatives apparently first need a fix. The drugs of their choice are not illegal Class As but testosterone pellets.
The hormone, usually considered the reason men want sex, is produced in small amounts by women to charge their own sexual energies. As they age, their testosterone levels dip. They may lose interest in sex and -- even more worryingly in the competitive world of politics -- their confidence is likely to plummet.
Malcolm Whitehead, a Harley Street gynaecologist, has treated women MPs with testosterone. "I have prescribed testosterone implants for female politicians in Westminster who want to compete better with their male colleagues in committee meetings and parliamentary debates," he says. "They claim the hormone boosts their assertiveness and makes them feel more powerful."
A small pellet is embedded under the skin and releases its dosage into the bloodstream over six months. The results can be dramatic.
Three years ago, 33-year-old Leslie Harrison's world fell to pieces after the software sales consultancy firm she had worked hard to build collapsed. She laid off 25 staff and dealt with angry bankrupt clients. Her energy levels dropped and her sex drive crashed.
"I lost every shred of self-confidence and felt very depressed. I went from being a driven and outgoing business executive to a paranoid wife. I was a puddle of emotion," Harrison says.
When she began using a testosterone cream prescribed by her doctor, her world suddenly Began to take shape again. She regained her sex drive. She felt powerful. With the increased male hormone levels in her blood, her confidence soared and she "aggressively" rebuilt her company.
Leslie's experience with testosterone mirrors the hormone's natural function in men. It is the basis of their drive to beat competition in love and work. But women taking testosterone to make them feel powerful in the same way is a new and, to some, alarming phenomenon.
Susie Orbach, the psychoanalyst and author, thinks it worrying that women should use testosterone to redress power relations in society: "Testosterone may or may not be elevated in women who have 'power' in the world, but does that mean testosterone should be the response to in equality? …