Monday, July 7, 2008

In Defense of Testosterone


As I'm sure any man knows, testosterone is widely considered the "evil" hormone. Feminists have blamed T for making men violent and aggressive. As though it were only a chemical, and by ridding men of the chemical there would be no more violence.

In fact, Alan Alda, of all people, coined the phrase, suggesting that T levels in men -- based on their behavior -- should be considered a form of poisoning. Carl Sagan gave that notion, and the phrase testosterone poisoning -- credibility, false though it was.
Testosterone poisoning is a pejorative neologism that refers not to actual poisoning, but to a negative perception of stereotypical aspects of male behavior. This speculative and controversial expression is based on a belief that men and boys with more masculine traits have more negative traits than they would otherwise. Masculinity, as represented by the androgen testosterone, is associated with "poisoning" or a negative outcome.
However, the science does not support such a belief. As noted in recent research, testosterone might be associated with dominance and/or aggression, but aggressive behavior actually creates an increase in testosterone levels.
T not only affects behavior but also responds to it. The act of competing for dominant status affects male T levels in two ways. First, T rises in the face of a challenge, as if it were an anticipatory response to impending competition. Second, after the competition, T rises in winners and declines in losers. Thus, there is a reciprocity between T and dominance behavior, each affecting the other.
So, while T does influence our behavior (increasing risky behavior like hunting, fighting, and defending the tribe or culture, or conversely, stock trading, mountain climbing, and driving fast) and biology (increasing sex drive, muscle mass, and self-confidence, not to mention bone density and heart health), it isn't the only factor.

Biology is not destiny, as the say.

Over at Testosterone Nation, they worship T as the defining male hormone. While men are much more than this, and shouldn't limit themselves to such a narrow definition, there is much to love about men with healthy T levels.

Here is an article in praise of T.

ATOMIC DOG
I am Not a Man; I am Dynamite

Those who float through the ether to find T-Nation are no doubt perplexed. They probably wonder where exactly they turned up, whether they mistakenly took Morpheus' blue pill instead of the red pill.

Or maybe they ask themselves if this is the home base for some mad monk squadron of iron-worshipping iconoclasts, or whether T-Nation is populated by mad chemists who strive to alter their God-given physiology with alchemy. Or, yes, yes! This must be where Tyler Durden lives! The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club!

But that doesn't seem exactly right, either. Damn it, is T-Nation animal, vegetable or freakin' mineral!?!

Others simply make an instant mind-gut connection and think, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in...and I must be there."

So how, really, does one define T-Nation? Why even bother might be a better question because sometimes analysis or over analysis detracts from the magic of something; it's somehow diminished when looked at under a high-powered microscope.

However, for those that are new to the site, and maybe for those that feel that every once in awhile a little analysis brings clarity, I'm going to try to capture in words that which is intertwined: the essence of T-Nation and the essence of man

Why are the two intertwined? Because the "T" in T-Nation stands for Testosterone. T-Nation bestows holy status on this hormone of hormones. We seek to elevate and maintain Testosterone levels in the high-normal range, because if Testosterone equates to manhood and manhood is good, why not be as good as we can be?

But there are those that don't think much of Testosterone. They use terms like "Testosterone poisoning" when a man acts in an immoral way. We don't pay much attention to those people because Testosterone in fact represents the heroic in man. Testosterone is James Bond, Dirty Harry, Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker and even that long-limbed beauty from Alias.

However, the whole concept of being an ├╝ber-man in today's society has elements of both irony and tragedy. High Testosterone individuals created society; they fought the wars, conquered the land, and built the skyscrapers. But the civilization they built has no use for them! High Testosterone gets men in trouble! High Testosterone scares the soccer moms and their rosy-cheeked children! These men are an anachronism, a wild beast roaming the countryside and as we all know, wild beasts don't mix with society because they sometimes say things that will make your ears wilt. Hell, they might even mark their territory on the sofa leg!

With no real place in society and no battles to fight except for the occasional high-tech war that rarely involves much mano a mano combat, we try to focus our energies and raw animal passions into other pursuits, other battles. For many of us, that pursuit is training the body through weights. We get bigger and stronger in preparation for a battle that will probably never come.

Yes, we call it bodybuilding, but our type of bodybuilding has as much to do with prancing on a stage in bikini underwear as playing Flight Simulator on a PC has to do with flying a real F-16. Sure we appreciate the esthetics of a great body but when we build muscle, we want it to be functional, too. We want to be every bit as powerful as we look. We are not only show, but go.

While T-Nation writes unique articles that are pure bodybuilding, we also write unique articles about strength training, or power lifting, or Olympic lifting because not only do those activities contribute to muscle growth, they make muscle functional. T-Nation also writes often-amazing articles about how to maximize that muscle through nutrition or chemistry. If there's ground to be broken, chances are T-Nation will break it months or years before anyone else.

Beyond the muscle-building aspects of Testosterone, we admire the psychological aspects of Testosterone. It is the ultimate recreational drug. It lets us enjoy life to the fullest. Nietzsche once wrote, "I am not a man; I am dynamite." Well, that's what Testosterone makes us feel like. Testosterone is confidence, vitality, health and raw animal drive.

T-Nation is irreverent toward things that deserve irreverence and occasionally reverent to those things that deserve reverence. We are lusty, even bawdy. We are Tom Sawyer, Tom Sawyer with cut-off sleeves and plenty of muscle looking up Becky's skirt as she climbs a tree. We love women. Maybe some of us are too in love with women. Maybe we feel that were it not for women, we could have been great men, but were it not for women we wouldn't have wanted to be great men. It's a conundrum, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

We abide by the law, but when the law is silly, we practice our own form of civil disobedience. We want to tell society to go ahead and live your safe little lives, but let those of us who have the courage to take our bodies to a new plane do what we...see...fit.

How best to describe us? Virtuous bad boys. We'll help the old ladies cross the street and fight injustice when we see it, but we sure as hell don't mind indulging in a little debauchery and a little decadence.

But beyond the physicality, the philosophy, and the intense sprit is the mind. T-Nation works as hard to build the mind as it does the body, for what is the body but a vehicle for the mind? And if you have a vehicle, it might as well be something ballsy with lots of horsepower.

Maybe these words by the Bard said it best:

You tell 'em, Hamlet. Never mind that he disparaged man in the next sentence, we like the original sentiment.

T-Nation represents all these things. It's the library at Alexandria, the mystic on the mountain, the market place for magical hardcore "spices" that enhance the body and the mind, and when you see our symbol, our "tribal logo," we want it to serve as a reminder of everything we've said in this message, to send a synaptic bullet into your consciousness that reminds you of what you are — a man — and what you stand for.

So rage, rage against the universe, existence itself, your limitations, and the injustices of the world, but take solace that there are others like you here at T-Nation.


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