Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Friday, July 12, 2002

I just read an interesting article The ups and downs of manhood, which discusses the changing testosterone levels of men throughout their lives.

Here’s a summary of some of the key findings from the article:

Experiments done with sparrows, which are remarkable nurturing parents, showed that the testosterone of male birds dropped upon the birth of baby chicks, but once injected with higher levels of testosterone, they abandoned the baby chicks in sexual pursuit of female birds.

Fathers of newborns have 33% lower testosterone than fathers-to-be.

Trial lawyers’ testosterone levels were 30% higher than other lawyers, actors & unemployed homeless men had higher levels than blue-collar workers, who had 8% higher testosterone than white-collar workers, who had higher testosterone than farmers.

Divorced men had higher testosterone than married men.

Men in the top 2 percentile of testosterone distribution were twice as likely to have extramarital affairs and to be physically abusive.

Women in competitive male environments (and those jailed for violent crimes) seemed to have higher testosterone and seemed to have been born with that quality.

Testosterone-rich men have difficulty in relationships.

These findings were met with criticism by sociologists who caution against reliance on theories of biological disposition. It’s dangerous because these findings convey simple messages that confirm stereotypes about gender and could be misused as the basis for public policy.

I’d like to think that human behavior and psychology doesn’t just boil down to a matter of biology or science. It’s an oversimplification of the human condition to attribute behavior solely to biological, scientific explanation e.g. genes, hormones. There are so many possible factors that influence and shape human behavior.

“Other research has indicated that inherited testosterone did not predispose men to good or bad relationships, but that testosterone fell temporarily during the years immediately before and after people got married and rose temporarily during the years surrounding divorce.”

In other words, it’s difficult to know what’s the cause and effect of fluctuation in testosterone levels. Is there an evolutionary reason for a decrease in testosterone levels? Is male nurturing physiological, or are there sociological factors that cause decreases or increases in testosterone levels?

The article also sites other research findings:

Growing up fatherless decreased testosterone, living in a violent neighborhood seems to increase testosterone.

Is there an adaptive reason for men the suppress aggression? So that children are not put at risk?

My thought/reactions?

Fascinating findings, however, what do we want to do with these findings? What purpose will they serve? Imagine all the women in the world who’d like to know how to manipulate the testosterone level of their partners in their favor…. or how this offers more excuses for the behavior of men. Can good parenting really be chalked up to hormones?

So I guess now I know what I’ve been doing wrong- going for those manly, masculine men who have too much testosterone to settle down or get in touch with their nurturing nature. I must admit, I like the independent, aggression of men- that’s what makes them MEN; perhaps I haven’t “imposed” enough on the men I’ve been in relationships with. It seems that the very thing that makes them so attractive and irresistible is what is bound to doom the relationship. Talk about a catch-22! Since when did relationships become a power struggle and get so complicated?

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