Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The last edition of This American Life, the NPR program turned TV show, was all about testosterone. But what a fascinating and rather different look. In the four chapters comprising the program, a rather ironic picture of the "master hormone" emerged. We all have some testosterone but the first question raised was what happens with none? A man who experienced this and then wrote a GQ article detailing his daily life without the production of "T" focused completely on desire. He had none. So it's not just sexual desire; it's all desire. He ended up liking the rather pleasant sensation of wanting nothing. It does simplify things doesn't it? Of course after this medical condition was corrected he returned to a more balanced reality. "It was nice to be free of some of the things I find offensive about my own personality, like judging people and things," he said.
So just how much does testosterone determine? For a former woman who trans-gendered into manhood, quite a bit. He found that with injections of testosterone the entire way he thought about sex changed. "Everything I looked at turned to sex," he said. "The way I thought about it, changed in just a few days. My mind was flooded with images; even a Xerox machine or a car became a pornographic image." He did have about twice the normal male level.
And finally, when the folks who put together this program, on a lark, had their own levels tested, both men and women were in for a few surprises. The greatest irony was that a gay man had the highest level of anyone. But they brought on a research scientist to make the point that there isn't any real correlation between virility and high testosterone levels. Sure higher levels mean a more fearless, assertive , confident personality sometimes. But also high levels are common in bald or very muscular men. "It doesn't take much testosterone to have sex," the scientist said.
In this Post Feminist age it's important to realize that the big "T" is sometimes responsible for men getting in trouble for how they say things." The impact and the intent get all screwed up. Pun intended.