Dissents Of The Day

A reader quotes me:

“For others, it need not require much medical cost, except smaller balls, and the danger of losing your own endocrine system through abuse.” Are you kidding?! Read this:

Anabolic steroid use causes decreased levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, increased levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and serious liver toxicity within 12 weeks, according to a study [published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes] that measured the effects of anabolic steroids on men with HIV wasting disease.

As a side note: I am a 49-year-old HIV positive male (16 years positive) and have known more friends to die of a heart attack in their 40s than I have known die of HIV. Your comments are potentially very harmful!

Longer HIV survival is associated with higher chance of side-effects, like heart attacks. But it’s not clear what the precise connection is, or whether it’s HIV, HIV meds or testosterone therapy. But the latter – what I’m on – is not extra testosterone; it’s replacement testosterone to bring you up to normal levels. My own bloodwork, like most others with HIV, monitors for the impact on cholesterol, and can correct for it. Another writes:

Not to hate on guys who are crushing it with their rippling abs, but I recoiled at the casualness (both moral and medical) with which you treated the increase in steroid use.

The implication of your piece is that any guy who wants to preen or whatever – and who doesn’t? – should “use the right, responsible mix of steroids.” That’s crazy. Do you think those 15 year olds in the Times story are using steroids responsibly? Hell no.

Sure, if there’s a medical need, then by all means, people should roid up. But wanting to get jacked is not a medical need, and most non-celebrities are never going to have the access to the kinds of doctors and nutritionists that would make steroid use safe and routine. Nor should they. We live in a society with too few doctors, soaring healthcare costs, and an overmedicated population.

I also think your shoulder shrug at all this steroid use – “because it’s hotter” – is somewhat troubling. The notion that guys who want to get laid should mess with their body chemistry is just as revolting as the notion a woman who wants to be thought attractive should starve herself and have silicon surgically implanted into her tits. They’re both gross, if you ask me, and worth fighting against.

Good luck with that. My reader is right, though, that teenagers using this stuff are doing great harm to their own testosterone production, and that this should be prevented for men under 25 at the youngest. It’s also true that the use of steroids is a science that is dangerous if unsupervised. But that would be an argument for relaxing prohibition on steroids, to put doctors who dispense steroids or other drugs like growth hormone on the same plane as cosmetic surgeons.

Look: I’m a libertarian when it comes to doing what one wants with one’s own body. Added to that, the desire to get laid is about as powerful a drive as anything men experience. If added hormones help get you laid, the government can try to get in the way, but I suspect it will be futile. And I shouldn’t be the one bearing the blame here. Hollywood and the NFL are the primary cultural drivers – and reflections – of this.

Is this the shallowest part of manhood? Yep. But men are shallow when it comes to sex. I wish I could say I find scrawny guys as hot as built ones. I just can’t. Like straight men with big boobs, gay men cannot resist the siren call of big chests or an ass you can rest a jager shot on. As long as that is true, and the science exists to make you hotter, you can growl with naivete like Richard Cohen or you can face reality and try to make the best of it. That’s all I’m really saying.