Monday, April 27, 2009

Testosterone: Hormone of the Gods?

Testosterone has a bad reputation. Its public image is always linked to the idea of dumb aggression, to the caveman. But this is misleading.

Satoshi Kanazawa at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, studied the biographies of 280 scientists and plotted their intellectual achievements against their ages. He discovered something extremely revealing: the curves of age-achievement in scientists was not only repeated in jazz musicians, painters and authors, but mirrored the curves of age-criminal activity in criminals. Furthermore, both criminal activity and intellectual achievement seemed to drop off when the scientist or crock got married and started a family.

Interesting, don’t you think?

Criminal and high-level intellectual activity have the same underlying motor according to Kanazawa: testosterone.

This would also explain why most criminal and high level intellectual activities are carried out by the male of the species. Furthermore, it is mainly the unmarried male, and males between certain ages who comprise the greatest number of criminals and intellectual pioneers.

Testosterone is a hormone that males produce in far greater quantity than females. It begins production while the individual is still in the womb, and effects brain development. Testosterone levels tend to peak in the early twenties, and by middle age drop off dramatically.

Although women also have testosterone, men have far more. The increased amounts of testosterone in men accounts for the onset of their different physical and mental developments. These differences are not caused by socialisation as feminists have argued. A neat way of demonstrating this is to look at 'trans-gender' women: i.e. people who were born girls but always strongly identified more as a boy to such an extent that as a young adult they decide to use drugs and surgery to become a man (or as near to a man as they can get).

For example, Ethan Daniel decided to undergo a physical transition into becoming a man. Here are just a few photos from Ethan's website that show the physical effects of taking testosterone:

(despite the longer haircut in the second photo-sets, the effects of testosterone can be clearly seen. The complete sets of photos can be viewed here)

These are some of the mental changes that Ethan documents throughout her/his course of taking testosterone:

After 1 month: "I've found it much, much harder to be as patient as I've always been. Patience is something that is very important to me so I've found this difficult to deal with. I find I need to sometimes just stop and take a 10 second breather so I can continue being patient, which is a foreign feeling to me."

After 2 months: "I don't feel that I've gotten more aggressive, but I have noticed that it's much more difficult for me to just let something go. Perhaps it's an aggressive or impatient impulse, but it's not like I have to catch it or else it would escalate. The impulse is there (for example, to talk before I think in an argument), but it's not like I would start yelling or cursing if I wasn't aware the impulse. It's just been harder to let things go that in the past I would have just sucked up and gone on with my life. "

After 3 months: "It's been much harder to notice the little subtleties that I once noticed. I've found myself much more methodical and more withdrawn from socializing with perfect strangers. For example, I'd much rather be in a quite library putting books in order than helping customers at a video game store. I've always had this personality, but it's definitely more intense now. Yet, at the same time, when I do interact with perfect strangers, I do so in a different, more confident way. "

After 6 months: "I think the biggest mentality change I have noticed overall is my style of arguing. I hesitate to say that I'm more aggressive, because I don't find myself more quick to anger or more willing to get in an argument. Rather, I feel like I'm more of an active arguer, instead of a passive one. For example, I used to just keep my mouth shut and take whatever someone was saying to me. But now, I'm much more active in that it's easier to say whatever I'm thinking. It's much harder to remember to take that split second before I open my mouth to think is it a good idea to say this or not? or what is going to be the reaction I get from this statement? Instead, I'll just spit it out (and many times regret it). In a way, it's really relieving, because I feel like I'm letting out the emotions I've always suppressed, but in another way, it has major consequences on my relations with the people I'm arguing with. I'm working on it, and I have a feeling I will be for the rest of my life. "

Now, feminists would argue that any reported mental differences in men and women are the result of how they were raised (and, bizarrely, some feminists have even argued that physical differences between men and women are 'socially constructed'). Yet the changes described above clearly happened due to the testosterone, and NOT Ethan's upbringing, even despite the fact that Ethan already identified more as a male than a female. The effects of testosterone go beyond social influence.

High levels of testosterone have been reported to be correlated with dominant behaviour. This dominance does not necessarily express itself aggressively, it is more of a general competitive response. Also, interestingly, the relationship between testosterone levels and behaviour works both ways: taking part in competitive activity can raise levels of testosterone; furthermore, winning can increase it, losing can make it decrease.

Kanazawa’s paper is not absolute proof that testosterone is the key driver of exceptional male behaviour, but it is an elegant and persuasive argument. Should it really be such a surprise that males have historically had a monopoly on both criminal activity and genius-level accomplishments? Are we really to believe that this is all a co-incidence, and the true reason for male behaviour is the ‘Patriarchy’, as feminists and political correctoids would have us believe? As Camille Paglia writes:

"Women have been discouraged from genres such as sculpture that require studio training or expensive materials. But in philosophy, mathematics, and poetry, the only materials are pen and paper. Male conspiracy cannot explain ALL female failures. I am convinced that, even without restrictions, there still would have been no female Pascal, Milton, or Kant. . . . Even now, with all vocations open, I marvel at the rarity of the woman driven by artistic or intellectual obsession, that self-mutilating derangement of social relationship which, in its alternate forms of crime and ideation, is the disgrace and glory of the human species."

A related area to testosterone’s drive for dominance is the sex-drive.

Sex-drive is an elusive concept. It is hard to measure because it can only really be objectively measured by activity (i.e. amount of sexual activity one indulges in). However, this measurement is a vector. A vector is a combination of two factors (in this case: opportunity to have sex + drive to have sex; or lack of willpower to refrain from sex x drive to have sex) therefore we cannot resolve out these two factors and determine whether the person has a high sex drive or merely has lots of opportunities to have sex OR a low willpower to resist their drive.

Nevertheless, even if we can’t always measure the sex-drive of a person objectively, that does not mean it doesn’t exist. And sometimes things that one cannot measure objectively can simply be observed or perceived through common sense. Men certainly, at least historically, have had a greater expression of sex drive than women. Particularly young men, who are often in a frenzy to sleep with as many females as possible.

Sexual desire – like water – can be managed and channelled, but it is much harder to eliminate. Rather, you should seek to give it other channels of expression.

Maybe sex-drive is another way to measure achievement, or rather the sublimation of sex drive into purposeful goal-driven behaviour.

Leaders are readers, and one book stands out more than any other in history as a bible of the wealthy: ‘Think and grow rich’ by Napoleon Hill.

Mr Hill spent years studying the rich and working out what made them that way. He then wrote many books on the subject, of which the most famous is ‘Think and grow rich’. Chapter 10 of the book is entitled ‘The mystery of sex transmutation’.

Here are a few interesting quotations from this chapter:

“Destroy the sex glands, whether in man or beast, and you have removed the major source of action. For proof of this, observe what happens to any animal after it has been castrated. A bull becomes as docile as a cow.”

“There has never been , and never will be a great leader, builder, or artist lacking in this driving force of sex.”

“A teacher who has trained and directed the efforts of more than 30,000 salespeople, made the astounding discovery that highly sexed men are the most efficient salesmen. The explanation is, that the factor of personality known as “personal magnetism” is nothing more nor less than sex energy.”

And here is the most important quote:

“I have discovered, from the analysis of over 25,000 people, that men who succeed in an outstanding way, seldom do so before the age of forty, and more often they do not strike their real pace until they are well beyond the age of fifty.

The major reason why the majority of men who succeed do not begin to do so before the age of forty to fifty is their tendency to dissipate their energies through over-indulgence in physical expression of the emotion of sex.

The majority of men never learn that the urge of sex has other possibilities, which far transcend in importance that of mere physical expression. The majority of those who those who make this discovery, do so after having wasted many years at a period when the sex energy is at its height, prior to the age of forty-five to fifty. This is usually followed by noteworthy achievement.

Biographies of American industrialists and financiers are filled with evidence that the period from forty to sixty is the most productive age of man.”

Well, there you have it. When young men chase women for sex, they are throwing their wild oats into the wind. They are dissipating their energies, short-circuiting their currents to get a quick spark of pleasure which then leaves them in darkness. In order to get a continuous light-source there needs to be an element of resistance (called the filament in a light-bulb). Resistance builds strength.

We undoubtedly live in a sexually charged time. Sex is used constantly by advertisers and marketers to entice men to buy things. Also, women and girls today routinely dress in extremely provocative clothes, even in the workplace. All this adds up to more invitations to think about sex today than men suffered in the past. If it were not for my hatred of the language of victimology I would call this is a form of sexual harassment of men.

This plays brilliantly into the hands of women, who obviously would like nothing more than to ‘bump up’ the market value of their sexual favours. Indeed, this relationship between the need to increase their sexual market value and the increasing ‘sexiness’ of women’s appearance can be observed in society. As women have become more harsh and less feminine in some of their behaviours (thus depleting the attractiveness of their personalities to men) they have had to compensate by turning up the volume of their physical appeal: shorter skirts, lower-cut tops, exposing their stomachs etc. This ends up harming them though, as they are only wanted for sex, and not their personality.

A more temperate attitude towards sex would be healthier for both men and women. It would allow men to concentrate on more important things, and it might allow women to develop their personalities and not just their looks.

References and further reading:

‘Why productivity fades with age: The crime–genius connection’, Kanazawa, S., Journal of Research in Personality 37 (2003) 257–272

‘Testosterone and dominance in men’, Mazur,A. and Booth, A., Behavioral and Brain Sciences (1998) 21, 353–397

Testosterone on Wikipedia

No comments: