Science of Testosterone

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Be a Man!: "A Man is one who is not afraid of his testosterone."

This will seem incredibly basic. But to illustrate the effects, look at the effects of men who must be injected with artificial testosterone because (for whatever reason) their body isn't making enough (usually due to having HIV).

One HIV positive guy shares his differences with the before and after shots:

His weight increases from 165 pounds to 185 pounds. The collar size goes from 15 to 17 1/2, the chest from 40 to 44. His appetite expands beyond measure. Before he was constantly napping. Now he has enough energy for daily workouts and strict work schedules. Before, depression was a regular feature. Now, it is a 'distant memory'. With the testosterone shots, he feels better to recover from life's curveballs, more persistant, more alive.

There are more effects. With the testosterone, he feels more energy. The attention span shortens. He finds it harder to concentrate on writing and feels he must exercise. The wit becomes quicker, the mind faster, and the judgement more impulsive. It is literally a 'rush'.

Without the testosterone, he finds himself more reserved. The energy still is there but is geared towards interaction rather than action, toward pride rather than lust. He rarely looks for dates or thinks of approaching women without it. But with it, he is constantly scanning the women for potential dates and socializing.

With testosterone comes increased debating type attitudes, and increased anger. Driving makes him scream at the other cars and 'stupid drivers'. (This is oddly reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's personality when he was always said to be 'unemotional' except when riding a horse and became 'overly' emotional.) With testosterone comes increased impatience, increased edginess, but increased self-confidence.

Now do these traits of the under-testosteronized male and over-testosteronized male match the Nice Guy and Jerk? They do most accurately.

For the rest, we require a scientist.

A scientist appears.

There you are! Oh, Mr. Scientist, do tell us more about Testosterone. "I'd love to, Pook.

"Testosterone, oddly enough, is a chemical closely related to cholesterol. It was first isolated by a Dutch scientist in 1935 from mice testicles and successfully synthesized by the German biologist Adolf Butenandt. Although testosterone is often thought of as the definition of maleness, both men and women produce it. Men produce it in their testicles; women produce it in their ovaries and adrenal glands. The male body converts some testosterone to estradiol, a female hormone, and the female body has receptors for testosterone, just as the male body does. That's why women who want to change their sex are injected with testosterone and develop male characteristics, like deeper voices, facial hair and even baldness. The central biological difference between adult men and women, then, is not that men have testosterone and women don't. It's that men produce much, much more of it than women do. An average woman has 40 to 60 nanograms of testosterone in a deciliter of blood plasma. An average man has 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter."

Ok, ok, Mr. Scientist. You are putting this Pook to sleep. The EFFECTS of testosterone. Focus on the EFFECTS.

"Certainly, Pook.

"Testosterone's effects start early -- really early. At conception, every embryo is female and unless hormonally altered will remain so. You need testosterone to turn a fetus with a Y chromosome into a real boy, to masculinize his brain and body. Men experience a flood of testosterone twice in their lives: in the womb about six weeks after conception and at puberty. The first fetal burst primes the brain and the body, endowing male fetuses with the instinctual knowledge of how to respond to later testosterone surges. The second, more familiar adolescent rush -- squeaky voices, facial hair and all -- completes the process."

"The effect of testosterone is systemic. It engenders both the brain and the body. Apart from the obvious genital distinction, other differences between men's and women's bodies reflect this: body hair, the ratio of muscle to fat, upper-body strength and so on. But testosterone leads to behavioral differences as well. Since it is unethical to experiment with human embryos by altering hormonal balances, much of the evidence for this idea is based on research conducted on animals. A Stanford research group, for example, as reported in Deborah Blum's book "Sex on the Brain," injected newborn female rats with testosterone. Not only did the female rats develop penises from their clitorises, but they also appeared fully aware of how to use them."

What!

"Indeed. But let me continue." Yes, I am sorry.

"And these female rats were trying to have sex with other females with merry abandon. Male rats who had their testosterone locked after birth, on the other hand, saw their penises wither or disappear entirely and presented themselves to the female rats in a passive, receptive way. Other scientists, theorizing that it was testosterone that enabled male zebra finches to sing, injected mute female finches with testosterone. Sure enough, the females sang. Species in which the female is typically more aggressive, like hyenas in female-run clans, show higher levels of testosterone among the females than among the males. Female sea snipes, which impregnate the males, and leave them to stay home and rear the young, have higher testosterone levels than their mates. Typical "male" behavior, in other words, corresponds to testosterone levels, whether exhibited by chromosomal males or females."

But does this apply to Humans?

"The evidence certainly suggests that it does, though much of the "proof" is inferred from accidents. Pregnant women who were injected with progesterone (chemically similar to testosterone) in the 1950's to avoid miscarriage had daughters who later reported markedly tomboyish childhoods."

Incredible!

"Ditto girls born with a disorder that causes their adrenal glands to produce a hormone like testosterone rather than the more common cortisol. The moving story, chronicled in John Colapinto's book "As Nature Made Him," of David Reimer, who as an infant was surgically altered after a botched circumcision to become a girl, suggests how long-lasting the effect of fetal testosterone can be. Despite a ruthless attempt to socialize David as a girl, and to give him the correct hormonal treatment to develop as one, his behavioral and psychological makeup was still ineradicably male. Eventually, with the help of more testosterone, he became a full man again. Female-to-male transsexuals report a similar transformation when injected with testosterone. One, Susan/Drew Seidman, described her experience in The Village Voice last November. 'My sex-drive went through the roof,' Seidman recalled. 'I felt like I had to have sex once a day or I would die. . . . I was into porn as a girl, but now I'm really into porn.' For Seidman, becoming a man was not merely physical. Thanks to testosterone, it was also psychological."

So what makes a Man?

"I don't know what exactly makes a man. But one thing I can tell you for sure: it is not his penis."

Oh wise sage! Wonderful scientist!

But do not confuse testosterone with Popeye's spinach. Nature says, "Testosterone levels will rise when the situation warrants it. Survival is the priority." So in cases of danger, of war, the testosterone levels increase. When in a strip club or viewing a porno website, testosterone levels also rise. Men with higher testosterone achieve psychological dominance, have high self esteem, and move through the world with natural confidence.

"But Pook. I have more to add."

Tarry! Then I will step aside and let you speak.

"Testosterone is clearly correlated in both men and women with psychological dominance, confident physicality and high self-esteem. In most combative, competitive environments, especially physical ones, the person with the most testosterone wins. Put any two men in a room together and the one with more testosterone will tend to dominate the interaction."

Gentlemen, this is your secret 'ingredient' to that 'alpha-maleness' you keep longing for.

"Working women have higher levels of testosterone than women who stay at home, and the daughters of working women have higher levels of testosterone than the daughters of housewives. A 1996 study found that in lesbian couples in which one partner assumes the male, or "butch," role and another assumes the female, or "femme," role, the "butch" woman has higher levels of testosterone than the "femme" woman."

Ahh! So in lesbian couples, one acts male and the other acts female.

"In naval medical tests, midshipmen have been shown to have higher average levels of testosterone than plebes. Actors tend to have more testosterone than ministers, according to a 1990 study. Among 700 male prison inmates in a 1995 study, those with the highest testosterone levels tended to be those most likely to be in trouble with the prison authorities and to engage in unprovoked violence. This is true among women as well as among men, according to a 1997 study of 87 female inmates in a maximum security prison."

Whohoo! The key to dominance!

"Careful Pook.

"Although high testosterone levels often correlate with dominance in interpersonal relationships, it does not guarantee more social power. Testosterone levels are higher among blue-collar workers, for example, than among white-collar workers, according to a study of more than 4,000 former military personnel conducted in 1992."

But is testosterone like adrenaline? Or does it respond to long-term surrounding environment stimuli?

"Well Pook, studies have shown that inner-city youths, often exposed to danger in high-crime neighborhoods, may generate higher testosterone levels than unthreatened, secluded suburbanites. And so high testosterone levels may not merely be responses to a violent environment; they may subsequently add to it in what becomes an increasingly violent, sexualized cycle."

Increase in violence AND sexuality? Then it's no accident that testosterone-soaked ghettos foster both high levels of crime and high levels of illegitimacy!

"Indeed, Pook. In the same way, declines in violence and crime may allow testosterone levels to drop among young inner-city males, generating a virtuous trend of further reductions in crime and birth rates. This may help to explain why crime can decline precipitously, rather than drift down slowly, over time."

But what for the men who enter that dungeon, I mean marriage?

"Studies have also shown that men in long-term marriages see their testosterone levels progressively fall and their sex drives subsequently decline. It is as if their wives successfully tame them, reducing their sexual energy to a level where it is more unlikely to seek extramarital outlets. A 1993 study showed that single men tended to have higher levels of testosterone than married men and that men with high levels of testosterone turned out to be more likely to have had a failed marriage. Of course, if you start out with higher testosterone levels, you may be more likely to fail at marriage, stay in the sexual marketplace, see your testosterone increase in response to this and so on."

So what is the entire point, Mr. Brainy Guy?

"This, then, is what it comes down to: testosterone is a facilitator of risk -- physical, criminal, personal. Without the influence of testosterone, the cost of these risks might seem to far outweigh the benefits. But with testosterone charging through the brain, caution is thrown to the wind. The influence of testosterone may not always lead to raw physical confrontation. In men with many options it may influence the decision to invest money in a dubious enterprise, jump into an ill-advised sexual affair or tell an egregiously big whopper. At the time, all these decisions may make some sort of testosteroned sense."

It sounds like you are describing a US politician.

"Hush Pook."

Oh, I'm sorry. Continue.

"The effects of testosterone are not secret; neither is the fact that men have far more if it than women. But why? As we have seen, testosterone is not synonymous with gender; in some species, it is the female who has most of it. The relatively new science of evolutionary psychology offers perhaps the best explanation for why that's not the case in humans. For neo-Darwinians, the aggressive and sexual aspects of testosterone are related to the division of labor among hunter-gatherers in our ancient but formative evolutionary past. This division -- men in general hunted, women in general gathered -- favored differing levels of testosterone. Women need some testosterone -- for self-defense, occasional risk-taking, strength -- but not as much as men. Men use it to increase their potential to defeat rivals, respond to physical threats in strange environments, maximize their physical attractiveness, prompt them to spread their genes as widely as possible and defend their home if necessary."

But women are attracted, in the physical imagery sense, to the feminine looking guys. How can testosterone increase physical attractiveness? I do not understand.

"But the picture, as most good evolutionary psychologists point out, is more complex than this. Men who are excessively testosteroned are not that attractive to most women. Although they have the genes that turn women on -- strong jaws and pronounced cheekbones, for example, are correlated with high testosterone -- they can also be precisely the unstable, highly sexed creatures that childbearing, stability-seeking women want to avoid. There are two ways, evolutionary psychologists hazard, that women have successfully squared this particular circle. One is to marry the sweet class nerd and have an affair with the college quarterback: that way you get the good genes, the good sex and the stable home."

This has always been the problem. Nice Guy or Jerk?

"There is a third path."

A third way? And what is it?

"The third way is to find a man with variable testosterone levels, who can be both stable and nurturing when you want him to be and yet become a muscle-bound, bristly gladiator when the need arises. This is sadly more easily said than done."

Ahh! The secret is to CONTROL the sexuality or else it will control you! The jerk is entirely controlled by it. The Nice Guy recoils from the abuses he sees in the jerk and becomes merely static on the woman's radar.

To be a jerk in control of his sexuality is to cease being 'jerk-like'. For Nature has set up this game of life we all play.

Learn the system and work within it.

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