Book Review: Hormonal

The Hidden Intelligence of Hormones—How they drive desire, shape relationships, influence our choices, and make us wiser

by Martie Haselton PhDLittle, Brown and Company
reviewed by Kathryn Drury Wagner
Hormonal cover art

“Some believe that any biological explanation for a woman’s behavior will keep her from achieving,” writes Martie Haselton PhD in her new book, Hormonal. After all, women have been accused for centuries of being irrational and volatile due to our hormones, and therefore unfit for leadership roles. Remember the (female) CEO who declared that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be president because “with the hormones we have, there is no way [a woman] should be able to start a war.” And let’s not forget that our current president famously accused a newscaster of “bleeding out of her whatever.” So “the implication for researchers is that we should keep information about women’s hormones and their behavior on the down low,” Haselton writes. Luckily, she rejects this notion. 

Haselton is in fact perfectly willing to sail into subjects that aren’t comfortable for many of us. She’s the director of the Evolutionary Psychology Lab at UCLA and the world’s foremost authority on how ovulatory cycles influence women’s sexuality. I love her attitude, which is that women absolutely have the power to choose their actions, but being clueless about our own bodies does us a disservice. This is a juicy, funny read—who knew evolution could be so racy?—and easy for a layperson like myself to understand. She quashes long- held myths, such as that women all cycle at the same time if they live together, and completely blows up the idea that women are naturally submissive to males or uninterested in sex. Women’s bodies and minds are fascinating, and as Haselton writes, it’s high time we “embrace the intelligence that comes with being hormonal.”

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