PMS as a Culture-Bound Syndrome and The rise of the Adonis Complex

Jihmmy N. Sanchez


This weeks readings focused on the cultural stigma of PMS and the rise of the Adonis complex in men and how it turns out that men are more worried about their physical appearance than was previously thought.

PMS as a Culture-Bound Syndrome talks about PMS in western culture, the author tries to convince the reader that PMS is in fact a cultural syndrome and how PMS is seen differently and does not carry with it a negative connotation as it does in western society. Chrisler also deciphers whether PMS can be classified as an illness, a disease, or a syndrome. As it turn out PMS cannot be either a disease or an illness because “ A disease is defined as pathological condition od the body that has clinical signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings that are specific to it and that allows us to discriminate it from normal or other pathological states of the body” (Chrisler 158). PMS does not meet these criteria because there are not laboratory findings that separate it from other pathological states of the body; the symptoms are also very different depending on who is going through PMS. The only clinical sign of PMS is that it generally occurs after menstruation. PMS is also not an illness because an illness can be defined as being in a state of pain, suffering, or agony; it is also a psychological condition of the body. Chrisler states that even though PMS can be considered an illness to some women who are distressed or in severe pain because of the symptoms of PMS, most women only experience a few of the symptoms, so can they be defined as ill if they are not distressed or in serious pain? PMS does fit the definition of a syndrome because it has a group of symptoms that are related to each other even though their origin may not have a common cause.

Because PMS can be classified as a syndrome, Chrisler takes it a step forward and stats that PMS is a culture-bound syndrome and “cannot be understood apart from its specific cultural or subcultural context” (Chrisler 160). Chrisler also states that in order to understand PMS one must have a basic knowledge about menstruation as cyclic and the cultural context of PMS, which is that it has a negative connotation amongst women and men and is seen as something that is painful and causes women to act unlike they normally would. PMS has gained so much popularity in the last 30 years because as Chrisler states it can be seen as beneficial to not only women, but doctors, and even pharmaceutical companies. It can be seen as beneficial to women because it is often times used as an excuse, it has become common place for women going through PMS to blame angry and aggressive behavior on PMS. It can be seen as an outlet for behaviors that you don’t want to be known as yours but as an effect of PMS. PMS also encourages women to believe that they are ill or suffering for at least half of the month during their menstrual cycle the same goes for men, viewing women as ill decreases opportunities. For doctors and pharmaceuticals it as seen as another market to venture, as long as these companies and doctors team up together to bring out some medicine that can alleviate or decrease the symptoms that women experience during PMS, as long as PMS is seen as a negative thing there will always be a market for trying to get rid of the pain tht comes with it.

The Rise of the Adonis Complex the male image and how in the past couple of years male image has become increasingly amongst men. The chapter talks about the rise in body image dissatisfaction among men. Men of all ages from young teenagers to men in their sixties are complaining about their body image, from wanting to have more defined abdominal muscles to simply having less body fat body image has become very important amongst males. The market for the mail body, and mail body enhancement has steadily gone up, which has increased the dissatisfaction that males of al ages have with their bodies. Not only are men spending large amounts of money to get cosmetic surgeries, they are also spending over $2 billion dollars on gym memberships, $2 billion dollars on elliptical other weight lifting machines for their homes. The subscription for the magazine Men’s Health has also increased dramatically with an initial market of just 250,000 subscribers Men’s Health now has over 1.5 million subscribers (Pope 31). This increase in subscribers has happened in a short amount of time, from 1990-1997.

The use of steroids has also increased amongst young men looking to pack on extra pounds of muscles. Pope mentions that steroids have allowed men to go beyond the limits of nature when it comes to adding on muscle mass. Since the discovery of anabolic steroids a century ago men have slowly begun using it to defy natures limits. Steve Reeves who is considered to be the greatest power-lifter of all time does not even compare to the images that Pope shows in this chapter, the muscle mass and definition of some of the men pictured blow Reeves out of the park. Since the 1970’s and 80’s the use of steroids has gradually increased, from rumors of Nazi soldiers being dosed with steroids to actors in Hollywood with washboard abdominals steroids use is everywhere and has increased, the fat free mass index, which roughly calculates how much muscle mass can be achieved by a person naturally shows how steroids have been used to go beyond what can be achieved naturally. With most athletes and weight lifters (of average build 5”10’) scoring around 25 on the FFMI some steroids users can scored way beyond 25 sometimes even going into the 30’s.

Pope then goes on to answer why there is such an obsession with having a large muscular body that defies nature. The answer is that boys and men have been constantly exposed to images of the perfect male body from the time boys are playing with action figures till the time grown men gawk and movie stars and athletes the image of the perfect male body is everywhere. Pope compares the body configurations of action figures like G.I Joe’s and Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo from Star Wars. As was anticipated by Pope as the time goes by the physiques of these action figures continue to grow in muscularity. If the G.I Joe extreme action figure were a 5”10’ male he would have a 32 inch waist and a 30 inch bicep. As boys grow older and stop playing with action figures and start watching TV they stop playing with these freakishly muscular action figures and start to see the perfect male body used in advertisements for almost every product related and not related to the human body. This much exposure to a roided’ body leaves men dissatisfied with their bodies.


2 thoughts on “PMS as a Culture-Bound Syndrome and The rise of the Adonis Complex

  1. Carly Ozarowski

    You spoke about the medical/ pharmaceutical benefits of treating PMS. It is hard for me to believe that other than over the counter pain relievers targeted to treat PMS symptoms that there are few other treatments prescribed by doctors other than birth control. In terms of “The Rise of the Adonis Complex” one of the first things I thought of was the increase use in the Blender Protein water bottles. I see boys on this campus using these bottles even just for water in class, but these bottles have the added stigma and cultural recognition as to be used by guys that lift a lot in the gym.

  2. With the huge increase in steroid use by athletes in the past few decades the effects of these athletes actions are enormous. The influence that athletes have on children and young males in our society is undeniable. As more and more athletes have decided to take anabolic steroids this decision has become more accepted because it is so common. We have now created a culture in many sports where it is not that big of a deal if you cheat because so many others do that it is only expected in order to keep up with the other athletes within the sport. While their are clear health effects and children who look up to you these athletes face the tough decision of whether to attempt to cheat and take the risk of getting caught and putting their health on the line, or to obey the rules and fall behind the rest, potentially losing a lot of money.

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