It’s the one hormone that the media fixates on. It’s held responsible for all sorts of behaviours, actions, drives and deviances. Results are misinterpreted and misunderstood and used as excuses for stupid actions. Can one hormone truly be accountable for such a vast amount of bad behaviour?
There are quality control issues with a lot of the research out there. Testosterone is higher in men in the morning by about 20 to 30 per cent and that’s when the samples should be taken but often they’re not. Morning testing is the only way samples can be representative or comparable to other studies. Some studies show that testosterone is lowest in summer but a lot of the studies don’t take these seasonal variations into account. This leads to flawed studies and a flawed understanding of this hormone.
Testosterone is a tiny molecule and in such small concentrations in our body so it makes sense that there are such problems with measuring it consistently in the population. All these inaccuracies and biases in the research mean we must be on our toes when critically analyzing the impact it has on people’s actions.
Does weight lifting increase Testosterone?
Strength training can have a temporary effect on our endocrine system but no changes have been found in people involved in long-term training. Overtraining can stress the body and actually reduce testosterone levels.
Is Testosterone linked to more sex?
Androgens as a whole are very important when it comes to male sexuality, however testosterone is only one link in a chain of biological mechanisms.
Research shows that testosterone levels in men don’t have any link to the amount of sexual activity except for increased amounts of masturbation. In heterosexual couples where the men were given high doses of testosterone there was no change in sexual activity in the relationship, just an increased sexual awareness. The only thing that consistently influenced the amount of sex was the relationship itself, not administering hormones.
Is sexual aggression linked to testosterone?
Analysing the current research, we cannot conclude that higher testosterone levels mean there will be more chances of sexual aggression. There are studies following men with very low testosterone levels who also have aggressive sexual criminal behaviour towards women. When given testosterone supplements their aggression towards women disappeared. We can’t overlook social, cultural and environmental factors when looking at criminal sexual behaviour and we can’t use hormones as a scapegoat for aggression.
Nature v.s Nurture
It can be very dangerous and inaccurate to merge results from research about how hormones interact with our physical and psychological selves to then leaping into making new definitions that justify things that happen in society. Our sexuality is a complex tapestry intertwined with our culture, upbringing, personal beliefs and so much more.
Using male testosterone as a explanative factor of typically “masculine” or even violent behavior among boys and men is a fraught line of argument. Just measuring testosterone levels in people accurately is difficult task, aligning certain characteristics with the hormone is even more so.
Words: Cat O Dowd – Sex Therapist, Relationship Counsellor, Arts Therapist