- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Men rarely describe their sexual struggles. It's embarrassing: Men are expected to maintain rock like sexual potency -- or, at the least, a stony silence. But in Man Made: A Memoir of My Body, Ken Baker smashes through that code of silence to describe his experience of hormonal androgyny. "Manhood means strength, manhood means stoicism, manhood means overcoming hardship and destroying the enemy," Baker explains. "But what should a man do when that enemy is his own body, inside of which hormones are making such manly behavior increasingly difficult to act out?" In this story of denial and revelation, Baker describes the illness that led him to explore his own nature, and the nature of men's lives.
Baker grew up with a prolactinoma, a small, hormone-secreting tumor attached to his pituitary gland. This tumor produced prolactin, a hormone that helps nursing women produce milk. But in Baker, it produced disastrous results. "With too much prolactin," Baker explains, "a man's testosterone level will plummet. As such, my sex drive diminished; my nipples grew sore and swollen, and they eventually started leaking a milky fluid…. On those rare, anxiety-filled occasions when I worked up the courage to get into bed with a woman, I could not achieve an erection." As Baker's prolactin levels shot above 2,000 ng/ml -- 10 times the level appropriate to a nursing mother -- his symptoms worsened, but his shame kept him silent. Because men are supposed to keep quiet about their worries and their weaknesses, Baker lived through his illness without ever seeking help.
Man Made is a difficult story, but it's worth the effort because it illuminates our expectations of manliness as few books can: By following Baker through his illness, we understand why men behave as they do. "I feel a sort of kinship with women," Baker confesses. "I, too, spent a lot of time trying to understand why so many men acted so different than me.... Yet, I also respect and appreciate the innate gifts of being a heterosexual male: my affection for women, my testosterone-fueled physical strength, my renewed athleticism, and my sex drive." In this book, Baker describes manhood in terms both honest and affecting. Man Made details the pressures that women put on men, and the pressures that men put on each other. Baker's intense story is not to be missed: It redefines our sense of manhood and our understanding of what makes a man. (Jesse Gale)