10 January, 2011

Brutish Male Sexuality

The tired trope of aggressive male sexuality is a pervasive one. The story goes like this: because men are full of testosterone and sperm as well as unhindered by the consequence of pregnancy, their sexuality is naturally brutish and promiscuous. Testosterone fuels aggression, billions of sperm want hundreds of outlets and nature failed to offset these desires with physical dangers associated with reproduction.

The compliment to this heterocentric sex story is that women, with their limited eggs, lack of testosterone and pregnancy burden are naturally chaste and self protective. Any sexual adventurousness or licentiousness is only done to please men and keep them around so they will help with the child rearing.

A simple and neatly packaged explanation of human sexuality. But it’s wrong. Let’s do some debunking.

Myth No. 1: Testosterone makes men aggressive.

Origins: The idea that testosterone is an aggression correlate comes from an experiment that found castrating male mice reduced combativeness. Naturally, culture extrapolated these findings to humans and claimed testosterone had the same effect on male humans.

Reality: In a 2009 study, European researchers administered either .5 mg of testosterone or a placebo to male participants before engaging them in a game of cooperation that involved negotiating money distribution with other players. They could make an offer as fair or unfair as they wished and those on the receiving end could choose to accept or decline. The findings? Testosterone recipients made fairer offers, a direct contradiction with common beliefs about testosterone and aggression. Researchers suggested that testosterone influences a sensitivity towards status which is expressed as cooperativeness in pro-social situations. Read more >>

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