I intended this to be part IV, but it demanded to be written before “A Good Man.” So here you go. And my continuing apologies to the two men who are still patiently waiting for me to get around to using the interviews they gave me.
It begins with testosterone.
That’s an oversimplication, of course. It begins there but doesn’t even remotely end there. You have testosterone. I have testosterone. Everybody has testosterone. We all also have some share of other male and female hormones.
That doesn’t erase the dominantly binary expression of sex and sexuality. Can’t discount all those DNA differences, for one thing. And men — or as they might be known these days, persons with testicles — have a lot more testosterone and are physically and mentally affected by it in countless ways, good, bad, and well … just different.
I have a friend who calls himself a testosterone addict. He should know. He was gifted (or cursed) with levels of testosterone that are nearly off the charts.
He has also been forced at times to undergo chemical treatments that temporarily reduce his “Big T” to nearly nothing. So he knows what it’s like practically to OD on testosterone and on the other hand what it’s like to go cold turkey.
On testosterone, he is competitive, decisive, highly sexual, unflappable, intellectually rigorous, and a successful scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur. Because his body originally grew under the influence of high testosterone, he’s also big, strong, hairy,
built like a porn star (I’m not saying that on a PG-rated blog), and has many of the other traits we associate with macho men.
But when doctors zap his Big T nearly to zero — different story. His motivation dissolves along with the most powerful part of his sex drive. His thinking gets fuzzy. His spelling and grammar go from excellent to dubious. He hates his life. He apologizes for everything. He gets weepy over all manner of things. At the same time, he also becomes more empathetic. He develops both “women’s intuition” and gaydar. (Side note: The worst of the two testosterone-zapping drugs he’s been subjected to is now frequently given to adolescent or pre-adolescent boys who believe they want to be girls. Think on that, if you can bear to.)
My friend is just one small example of the power of testosterone.
Here are more examples from the transcript of one of the most popular episodes ever produced by the NPR show This American Life.
Scroll down to the segments “Life at Zero” and “Infinite Gent,” respectively about a man who lost his testosterone due to a medical condition and a woman who transitioned to male and immediately became not only more libidinous but — in mind, if not action — predatory toward women. (And that was actually one of the less dramatic impacts of a sudden testosterone rush.)
In a final segment of that episode, the entire staff of This American Life, male and female, had their testosterone measured. If you’ve ever endured the twee little voice of host Ira Glass or slogged your way through one of TAL’s often drivel-driven broadcasts, you won’t be at all surprised to learn that every male crew member had below-normal testosterone, some shockingly so. Also, fellow crew members were able to predict which female staffer had the most testosterone simply by observing her behavior.
Of course testosterone isn’t the be-all and end-all of manhood. But here are just a few of the (mostly) positives it grants its best-endowed bearers:
- Bigger size relative to women
- Enhanced muscle mass and less fat
- Heart health
- Body and facial hair
- Stronger bones
- Enhanced brain power
- Uplifted mood
- Physical strength
- Courage and willingness to take risks
- Higher sperm counts
- Impressive sex organs
- Greater self-esteem
- Competitiveness and a desire to dominate
- An urge to protect and defend
- Libido libido libido
I call those (mostly) positives, but it’s also easy to see a flip side to them all. Never underestimate testosterone’s power or its influence on male physicality and behaviors, but ultimately it’s what men and boys DO with their Big-T-driven selves that make the real difference.
But what is this mysteriously powerful substance?
Right off the bat, first line of its entry on the subject, Wikipedia proclaims, “Testosterone is the primary sex hormone and anabolic steroid in males.”
Yep, it’s one of those eeeeeevil anabolic (muscle-building) steroids, the very chemicals that lead pro wrestlers to bulk up, overtax their bodies, get all ragey, and die young of heart attacks or acts of violence. You’ve heard of “roid rage”? Well, its precursor is built right into the masculine body. (Modern feminists, if any are lurking about, will stop reading right here, having heard exactly what they want to hear about the inborn evils of men.)
According to Dr. Harry Fisch, a noted expert in the subject, “Testosterone is a sex hormone produced by the testes that stimulates the development of male sexual characteristics, such as the penis and testes, muscle size, vocal cords and bones, pubic hair, facial hair and the Adam’s apple. Production of testosterone in the testes is controlled by the brain and pituitary gland.”*
Also according to Fisch, low testosterone (less than 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl), a condition called hypogonadism) has the symptoms of:
- low interest in sex
- muscle weakness
- small or soft testicles
- erectile dysfunction
- weight gain, particularly around the waist
- reduced bone density
Low testosterone can lead to cardio-vascular problems. And men with low T are commonly (though not always, of course) non-confrontational, inhibited, physically weak, underdeveloped, tend to run to fat, and have little interest in sex.
On the other hand, low-T men are (stereotypically, but accurately) quite often artists, intellectuals, gentle souls, expressive, and easy to like.
High-T men are … generally what you picture them as being. Sometimes in a great way. Sometimes in a not-so-great way.
There are links, or at least reasonable suspicion of links, between testosterone levels and criminality, alcoholism, infidelity, recklessness, and other problem behaviors. Autism is five times more prevalent in males than females, and although no one has pinned down a cause, high testosterone in the womb is one suspect.
But there are quite a few myths about testosterone, too (for instance, dosing yourself with more of it doesn’t enhance fertility and according to Fisch athletes who take too much of it may actually become sterile). Here’s more from Fisch.
Testosterone levels in any given individual rise and fall with time and circumstances. Here’s a useful chart of averages for men.
“Normal” testosterone for men can range from 300 ng/dl to around 1,200 ng/dl, depending on which expert is weighing in.
Contrast that with us women. If our Little-T soars all the way to 75 ng/dl, we’re probably in our horniest years of adolescence. Before and after that, we’re looking at female levels like 8 or 20.
In the weird facts department, marriage drops a man’s testosterone, and fatherhood drops it even farther (particularly in cultures where fathers are highly involved with child-rearing). Yet the pheromones given off by ovulating women seem actually to increase testosterone levels in men.
Sexual activity, in person or virtual, can raise testosterone. Guys who watched a porn flick as part of a research project saw their testosterone levels rise 35% shortly thereafter — and they reported greater motivation, competitiveness, and energy. Falling in love decreases men’s testosterone levels, but increases women’s. And women with higher-than-average levels of testosterone tend to have higher sex drives than less T-driven women, too.
But what’s all this trivia in aid of? Why is a freedomista writer going on about sex hormones?
Well, go back up and take a look at those contrasting testosterone levels between men and women. Men and women are different — and not simply (as the woke like to claim) as a result of social conditioning.
We were created different by evolution to perform different tasks. And we were created that way for the survival of our species, even if our personal differences are sometimes a giant pain in the backside to us as individuals trying to navigate through a complex and civilized world.
Are we always stuck with the particular tasks Mother Nature stereotyped for ue? Nope — and thank human progress for that. We are, however, stuck with the biological consequences of being evolved primates.
Those biological consequences, widely and unquestioningly acknowledged even before anybody knew what testosterone was, are in sharp conflict with modern ideology and inclinations.
Before I ever began this series, when I had merely mentioned the title “In Praise of Men,” a commentor who I’m guessing is a young woman landed a comment filled with fear, prejudice, distortions, and considerable ignorance about men. Some of her examples of male bad behavior are probably accurate (for high school and college jocks), but she doesn’t balance those observations against the better behavior of a wide variety of men. Some of her examples, if they’re accurate (which blog regulars questioned), say she’s been hanging out with vicious sociopaths, the kind of creeps that real men would call out on the spot. Some of her examples simply show she’s ignorant of biology.
But from her lack of experience and probably her modern “education” she concludes with complete confidence that all men — every one of them in the world! — “are all sex offenders, if not full-on pedophiles.” Not merely potential rapists, sadists, and pervs, but actual, active rapists, sadists, and pervs.
Anybody expressing the equivalent bigotry toward any other group would be hounded off the Internet. But it’s okay to view men through the distorting lens of universal hatred.
In the course of writing his book Drop Dead Healthy (which showcases his two years of trying to live by multitudes of different kinds of health advice) the humorist-journalist A.J. Jacobs got tested by the above Dr. Fisch and discovered his testosterone was low (though not as low as Ira Glass’s). He debated whether that was a good or bad thing, contemplated testosterone-enhancing treatments, asked his wife (who gave him a resounding NO), then tried a very conservative form of therapy, which immediately increased his libido, made his gym workouts easier, gave him more energy, and caused him to be distracted by pictures of a pretty model on the site of Esquire, the magazine he writes for. After two months, he ended up with testosterone in the mid-normal range or, as he said to his wife, “somewhere between lumberjacks and Italian prime ministers.”
But ultimately he concluded
[I]t occurs to me, maybe this is the worst time in history to be upping my testosterone. As Hanna Rosin points out in The Atlantic, “For the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs … The attributes that are most valuable today — social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus — are, at a minimum, not predominantly male. In fact, the opposite may be true.”
True, perhaps. But all that assumes that today’s prosperous, relatively safe, historically unprecedented conditions are a permanent part of human progress.
Not a safe assumption, that.
* In females, testosterone is produced by the ovaries. In both sexes, the adrenal glands also contribute.