The Testosterone Project, created by Susie Arnett, explores the evolution of masculinity in modern society through a series of interviews with leading thinkers on the topic.
“It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men.”
When I look around me, it seems like men are going through a big sea change. There are so many stats signaling the demise of men, like in this excerpt from Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men:
Women worldwide dominate colleges and professional schools on every continent except Africa. In the United States, for every two men who will receive a BA this year, for example, three women will do the same. Of the fifteen job categories projected to grow the most in the United States over the next decade, twelve are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the US economy is becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: Professional women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill. Our vast and struggling middle class, where the disparities between men and women are the greatest, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the workforce and from home, and women making all the decisions.
Both the men and woman I know are trying to figure out what is going on. The media points its finger in lot of directions like the economy, the destruction of the nuclear family, too much online porn. But recently, I came across a study that showed that testosterone levels were down almost 20% in American males.
This means that a 35 year old man today has almost 20% less testosterone than a 35 year old man did in 1992. Testosterone is a hormone that stimulates the development of a man’s secondary sex characteristics and also, is behind qualities like get up and go. Is it possible that the changes we are seeing in men is partly biochemical?
I started researching testosterone—what it is, how it functions in the body, and what it needs to flourish. Testosterone levels are extremely sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of a man as well as to his environment – much like his penis. I started this journey looking at testosterone but ended up in the deepest recesses of a man’s mind, heart and body and inside the larger cave that is modern masculinity.
The Testosterone Project became the way for me to share what I was learning. It is a series of posts accompanied by video clips from interviews I filmed with a variety of experts. Because men’s health doesn’t receive even a fraction of the attention that women’s health does, this story is still small and I had to dig. The story is also fragmented online, a mix of bloggers trying to raise their T levels through various fitness practices and clinics promising the fountain of youth but really selling testosterone products. My hope is that the T Project will offer a holistic understanding of the issues and some concrete answers too.
As I dug, I found articles attributing T level fluctuations to everything from social status, how many hours per day of childcare a man performs, whether he keeps his cellphone in his pocket, how much and how good his sleep is, how much money he makes, and how much sugar he eats.
The experts I interviewed were urologists, nutritionists, teachers and other experts and I did this primarily because I have a 12-year-old boy and I wanted to know what he needed to grow up into a good, strong, healthy man. But secretly, I was curious for myself. Although I have spent two decades in and out of relationships with men, they still don’t make sense to me. Single again, I’m faced with the glaring fact that I truly know very little. My hope is that this journey will help me fill in the enormous gaps in my understanding so that I can be a better mother, daughter, partner, friend and colleague to the men around me.
DR. HARRY FISCH: What Makes Testosterone Levels Drop?
Live! View it here.
Depression is rising in men and many studies correlate depression to low T levels. According to Dr. Harry Fisch, urologist and author of Size Matters, a healthy man is a happy man. As one of the leading experts in men’s health, Dr. Fisch gives us the lowdown on what testosterone is, what the body needs to have healthy levels, and what interferes with good testosterone production.
CAROL KWIATKOWSKI: Are Men Swimming in a Sea of Estrogen?
Live! View it here.
In addition to what we put in our mouths, there are all the chemicals that come into our bodies through the air we breathe and the chemicals we ingest through our skin. Carol Kwiatkowski, Executive Director of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, gives us the inside scoop on what an endocrine disrupter is, how they sneak into our bodies, and why they are especially harmful to men in utero, as boys and even as men.
DAVID H. WAGNER: Do You Have a Backbone?
Live! View it here.
Although women obviously have their share of struggles, men do too. TV shows and movies are filled with the anti-hero, the soft-bodied, full-bellied loser who can’t get his shit together. Ralph Kramden, Homer Simpson, Mike in Mike & Molly all express the body type of low testosterone and it’s correlated with depression, lack of get up and go, and problems in the bedroom and boardroom.
When I interviewed David H. Wagner, spiritual teacher and author of Backbone, he spoke about what is good spiritual medicine for men who have lost their masculinity and have collapsed into passivity, negativity, and depression.
DR. HARRY FISCH: Is More Testosterone Better?
Live! View it here.
Because of medical marketing of testosterone products, Dr. Fisch has seen a large increase in men coming to his Park Avenue practice asking for testosterone, looking for a quick fix for exhaustion, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain. But the most important thing to remember, he says, is that testosterone doesn’t fall for no reason. What he looks for is the reason behind it. He calls the penis the “dipstick of the body” and how well or badly it functions gives us insights into how the rest of the body is doing. Just adding more T to the problem isn’t necessarily the answer. He gives us the pros and cons of testosterone supplementation.
CARLOS ANDRES GOMEZ: Can a Man Be Sensitive and Strong?
Part of this journey for me has been to find out how we as women can support our men in being fully empowered. In my research, I found things like the Mankind Project and Wildman University, where men are picking up the torch that Robert Bly and Sam Keen lit in the 80’s. Although they don’t always show it or talk about it especially with us women, lots of guys are just as confused as we are and are sincerely looking for answers and a more empowered way of showing up. This was heartening because the next generation is looking to us for models of how to be.
Carlos Andres Gomez, spoken word poet and author of Man Up, really fought for his masculinity in a world that couldn’t recognize his unique version of it. As a kid, he was constantly shamed for being too sensitive and he shared what he wished he’d heard and what we should be saying to the young boys—and girls—in our lives.
CASS PHELPS: Do You Move Like a Man? Publication Date July 21, 2015
There are also many psychological and social factors at play. The digital revolution is a big culprit. How men move is completely different now than it used to be. Instead of chopping down trees, we’re deleting lines in an email. Instead of brandishing a sword, we’re holding a smart phone to our ear. We’ve got more horsepower but men are losing their muscular power. According to Cass Phelps, movement expert and author of One, this makes a difference. How a man moves will have a direct correlation to how he expresses – or doesn’t express – his masculinity and the secret formula to using your body to rediscover your manliness.
After talking to all these experts as well as to the people in my life, it seems that a lot of men (and women) have gotten really far away from our most basic natures. And when I say basic, I don’t mean like a caveman or cavewoman but in a deep, ancient, primordial way.
The more we learn about how this problem started, men (and women too) can figure out how to reclaim not only health and vitality in our own bodies, but in our relationships and families, careers and communities and hopefully the world because when our biochemistry is off, so is our entire world and so will be all the future generations who will come from us.
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Photo Credits: All Flicker Creative Commons / bull, jerky, duckface, protection, strong man
Hi Sarah, Thanks for your comments. According to this study (https://www.endocrine.org/news-room/press-release-archives/2006/testosterone_lvls_in_men_decline), researchers found a drop. And your question – how is it correlated with any problems – is my question. I’ve been interviewing a lot of different experts about this and it is clearly a multi-layered and very complex question. But, I think it’s safe to assume that how your body is functioning or not functioning will affect everything from how you feel, think, relate to others, etc. Also, this week, Dr. Fisch talks about the question of T supplementation. It’s true that there is not a lot known about… Read more »
How reliable are these studies you are relying on? Is there solid research to support the claim that male testosterone is dropping or that this is responsible for any type of problem (individually or socially)? Men who are physically active have higher T Men have higher T when under stress Men have higher T at different times of the day Men have lower T in long term stable relationships Men have lower T after having children Men naturally have lower T as they age No one knows what are “normal” testosterone levels Men are taking testosterone supplements not knowing what… Read more »
In the research I conducted and reported on in my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome, the more common cause of irritability and anger in males (actually all male mammals) is low testosterone, not high. As our hormone levels drop, we become more irritable. Of course, there are other causes of male irritability and anger, including poor diet and exercise, depression, increased stress, and conflict in roles between men and women, but low T is definitely one of the causes.
If you abuse testosterone possibly, but highly unlikely it will cause you to be more aggressive and less empathic. This continues to be a harmful myth! Your panel should include someone along the lines of Dr. Kathy Maupin.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You’re right about both the environmental issues and the physical ones. In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting on topics like the question of T supplementation. Dr. Fisch has some really useful insights. As someone who has clearly been thinking about this for years, I look forward to your feedback and thoughts. All conversation about this is valuable to help us understand each other and ourselves as well as how to optimize health on all levels, which to me is the foundation of a sustainable world.
Susie, Happy to share what I’ve learned in my research and clinical findings that led to the publication of Male Menopause in 1997 and my subsequent research and articles. Come visit me at http://www.MenAlive.com
Susie, Thanks for the article and your idea of starting The Testosterone Project. Clearly the times they are a changin’ and its a good idea to understand what is going on. I think we’re all interested here in what it means to be a good man (and a good woman) during these times of change. I began writing about testosterone (Male Menopause, Surviving Male Menopause, The Irritable Male Syndrome) when I began to see the changes going on with men (and women) when we approach mid-life. Andropause (Male Menopause) is real, just as real as Menopause is in women and… Read more »