A reader quotes me:
And that’s why I have a core objection to the attempt to abolish what makes men different. In many ways, it’s an attack on our nature, a position of extreme prejudice against the essence of maleness.
But here’s the problem. Earlier you graciously acknowledged that both men and women can have high levels of testosterone. I will take it as read that you also acknowledge that not all men have equally high levels. Some of us don’t find it a particularly noticeable or bothersome thing at all. And yet, just a few paragraphs later, it’s now the essence of maleness. Leaving the women with high testosterone and the men with low levels … where, exactly?
Still miles apart. Testosterone in women varies from 15 – 70 ng/dL; for men, 270 – 1,070 ng/dL. So the most testosteroned woman still has a fifth of the lowest-testosterone male. It matters. Another reader:
As a transman who has been on hormones for years now, I’m unconvinced by your claims that male aggression is natural.
Testosterone does not make you aggressive. As a person who is on a very stable, natural-male-level of testosterone, and as someone who has read extensively about people in similar circumstances, I can say testosterone itself does not make a person aggressive. Testosterone can give someone a great deal of energy, which they are conditioned to express as aggression. To me, this is the heart of the issue. Men are taught that the way to express their energy and need for (often physical) release is through aggression, but there are other ways to express this drive without engaging other people in a violent or harmful way.
To me, there is a difference between drive, competition and aggression. The first two come from an internal sense of seeking validation for self-expectations, such as “I want to be able to climb that mountain or build that pipe system” or “I want to feel proud of my hard work by winning”. Aggression itself is lashing out in a violent way, either verbally or physically, toward another person. Transitioning has led me to believe there are a few fundamental ways of processing emotions, as well as other biological responses, but testosterone doesn’t make people aggressive. We just don’t give testosterone-based-lifeforms many other ways to deal with a unique core self that says, “Go do something!”
Well, yes, men do have the capacity to channel testosterone away from violence and aggression. It can be much more benign. But there’s a reason that men vastly outnumber women in rates of assault, murder and general violence and the answer is testosterone, not sexist discrimination by law enforcement. And a new study on our evolutionary origins also adds a fascinating nugget:
A new theory suggests that our male ancestors evolved beefy facial features as a defence against fist fights. The bones most commonly broken in human punch-ups also gained the most strength in early “hominin” evolution. They are also the bones that show most divergence between males and females. The paper, in the journal Biological Reviews, argues that the reinforcements evolved amid fighting over females and resources, suggesting that violence drove key evolutionary changes … “In humans and in great apes in general… it’s males that are most likely to get into fights, and it’s also males that are most likely to get injured,” he told BBC News.
Interestingly, the evolutionary descendents of the australopiths – including humans – have displayed less and less facial buttressing. This is consistent, according to Prof Carrier, with a decreasing need for protection: “Our arms and upper body are not nearly as strong as they were in the australopiths,” he explained. “There’s a temporal correlation.” The facial buttressing idea builds on a previous observation by Prof Carrier and Dr Morgan that the early hominins were the first primates to evolve a hand shape compatible with making a fist – and thus, throwing a punch.
To see what is in front of one’s nose …
(Video of the marsupial mouse called antechinus further explained here.)