Everything We Think We Know About Testosterone is (Mostly) Wrong
The surprising way testosterone actually relates to “masculinity”
You were probably taught that testosterone is responsible for characteristics commonly associated with masculinity. Supposedly, testosterone makes men assertive and competitive. It’s why they seek out social status and pursue multiple sexual partners. It’s the reason men prioritize acquiring material wealth. And it’s why they’re driven to defend their homesteads.
Yes, testosterone often gets the credit for a father’s inclination to protect his spouse and offspring. But the custodial instinct has nothing to do with nurturing or caring, since those qualities are usually imagined to be the exclusive domain of feminine estrogen. Instead, testosterone makes Dad the family’s guardian because, allegedly, the hormone chemically catalyzes aggressive, hostile, and selfish instincts. In this fairy tale, the women and children are presumed to be his property; and like a lion with his pride, Dad is motivated to fortify and secure his personal territory.
Almost all the most common beliefs about testosterone are either outright wrong or, at best, greatly exaggerated.
Of course, nowadays, it’s no longer acceptable to talk about wives as though they are owned. So, that old story has been refurbished into an evolutionary narrative for the computer age. It’s currently presumed that fathers are innately driven to protect their biological legacies, their genetic assets. DNA code is imagined like one of Silicon Valley’s patented algorithmic protocols. It is seen as intellectual property that belongs to Dad’s estate; it’s part of his physiological investment portfolio. And therefore, the upgraded story remains the same as the original. Testosterone makes it ‘natural’ for men to acquire, control, and defend their private property — which presumably includes the uterine vessel that processes the genetic code, and also the descendant product that is manufactured as a result: mothers and children. As you can probably guess, the scientific evidence doesn’t support this narrative.
In fact, almost all the most common beliefs about testosterone are either outright…