The Testosterone Effect

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All the same, there are social implications connected to the one area in which we know for a fact that testosterone matters sex drive. Married men tend to have lower testosterone. It's evolution's way of encouraging the wandering mate to stay home. (In newly divorced men, T levels rise again, as the men prepare to re-enter the competition for a mate.) If aging men start to routinely boost their testosterone levels, and their sexual appetite, to earlier levels, will they further upset the foundations of that ever endangered social arrangement called the family? "What happens when men have higher levels than normal?" asks James M. Dabbs, a psychology professor at Georgia State University. "They are just unmanageable." Dabbs, the author of Heroes, Rogues and Lovers, a book about the importance of the male hormone, is another researcher who believes that T counts for a lot in any number of male moods and behaviors. "It contributes to a boldness and a sense of focus," he insists. It's possible for the scientific community to come to such disparate conclusions on the stuff, not just because the research is slim but because the complexities of human behavior are deep. If we're verging on a moment when testosterone will be treated as one more renewable resource, we may soon all get to focus more clearly on just what it does. But if men, in a culture where the meaning of manhood is up for grabs, look to testosterone for answers to the largest questions about themselves, they are likely to be disappointed. One thing we can be sure of is that the essence of manhood will always be something more complicated than any mere substance in the blood.

Reported by Lisa McLaughlin and Alice Park/New York

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