The T On Testosterone


Art For EL CHAMP by Sarah Barnfart @sarahbarnfart
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To say toxic masculinity has been a topic of popular discussion would be an understatement. It has become a recurring theme in discussions around society in everything from catcalling women on streets to the motives behind mass shootings committed by fragile men radicalized by a fear of losing a “power” they believe they have.

And it’s not just the privileged white male who can possess some weird bravado around being a top dog. In almost any environment — the workplace, bars, around my Aunt Helene’s dining room table — there are always *those* type of men feel who feel entitled to occupy and intimidate others because of their feeling of power and dominance. And so often we hear these men talk in terms of power dynamics — as if they’re a top “Alpha” and other guys are “Betas,” or somehow naturally beneath them — supported by false notions of the amount of testosterone, or T, one has in their body. But despite the rise of guys who scream about an alleged connection online, it is hardly a new phenomenon.  (Read: Reddit and 4chan. Actually, don’t.)

(Note: I am not talking about trans men who take T as part of transitioning, nor those who legitimately have low T and require hormones. Those are very different and understandable situations.)

“… dudes on Reddit discussing which herbal supplements can make their boners harder and increase the volume of their jizz.”

The history of taking testosterone as a “manliness” supplement goes all the way back to at least the 1880s when a physician named Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, who was in his 70s, started injecting himself with solutions including extracts from mammals’ testes and claiming it revamped his sexual prowess. (I am not making this up.) Skip ahead to the 1930s, and synthetic testosterone became more widely available in the market. And fast forward to 2019, where we have commercials for T you can apply via rolling on your skin and dudes on Reddit discussing which herbal supplements can make their boners harder and increase the volume of their jizz. (I am, again, not making this up.) It has become a cultural phenomenon, almost a fear in the world of Western masculinity, to be aware of having low T.

Plenty of myths exist around testosterone, as we learned in the Testosterone Trials: studies that meant to measure the exact effects of hormone therapy. But the researchers struggled to find older men with low enough levels to be considered apt for the study, telling in and of itself. While the sex drive did elevate, it wasn’t the miracle cure promised by Brown-Séquard so long ago. And there wasn’t much affect with vitality or energy. And in an article in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, researchers concluded that “Though testosterone has been traditionally thought to have effects predominantly in men, several studies have documented that its effects are varied and somewhat unpredictable.” With the data proving to be inconclusive in regard to T’s role in these supposed power dynamics, perhaps toxic masculinity is the result of generations of institutionalized societal structures rather than an innate tie to a singular hormone.

“… perhaps toxic masculinity is the result of generations of institutionalized societal structures rather than an innate tie to a singular hormone.”

We know that research seems to be pointing towards a generational decline in men’s T levels. Could it be the end of humanity slowly approaching us? Perhaps. Could it be due to everyone now carrying around little radiation devices in our pockets next to our genitalia at all times? Maybe! I’m a writer, dammit, not a scientist. But overall, it appears rather radical to jump to a notion of “natural” hierarchy of men according to the amount of a hormone in one’s body. As the data shows: Does it affect sex drive? Sure. Does a correlation exist that shows it makes you more powerful and entitled? That’s yet to be proven, and seems unlikely in this writer’s humble opinion.

In the spirit of you choosing to read this article and hopefully *not* becoming one of these “Alphas” (read: assholes), here are a few tips for being a better, more self-aware man.

1. One’s hormones, much like the rest of their medical history, really isn’t your fucking business.

Unless, of course, they choose to divulge, but even then, why attach it to some kind of dynamic of manliness? Studies have established that it can make you hornier, and that’s about it.

2. Ask yourself: Am I maybe being the asshole here?

If you find yourself thinking you’re above someone in some way, maybe do a little self-interrogating about why that thought is manifesting. What dynamics are at play that are fueling this belief? Which brings us to our last tip…

3. No one is intrinsically better than anyone else.

Remember that “all Men are created equal” line in the Declaration of Independence? Or the Golden Rule in Christianity? It’s worth keeping in mind. The absence of this truth gives way to the worst kinds of bigotry — racism, homophobia, ageism, to name a few — and bears repeating.

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