Yes, testosterone does make a difference. Raising or lowering anybody’s testosterone level, male or female, has affects on mood and on what gets attention and doesn't. We still have a lot to learn about its effects, but indications at this point seem to show that testosterone increases concern with one’s status. Studies, however, “refute the preconception that testosterone causes aggressive, egocentric, and risky behavior.” Testosterone “can encourage fair behaviors if this serves to ensure one's own status.” (Science Daily, 2009 Dec 9)
The toxic masculinity that has for too long been actively promoted by some and tacitly permitted by others, is not the fault of testosterone. It's the fault of an ideology of masculinity that encourages boys to be dominate. I am convinced that, indeed, dominance is the one evil at the root of all social ills. The rise of agriculture 12,000 years ago gave rise to a dominant class and put us all in service to whatever was hierarchically above us. (I write of this in more detail in two posts HERE and HERE.)
The task of replacing domination with compassion and empathy will not be easy. Domination, vicious as it is, has persisted because in some sense it has "worked": it has allowed individuals, particularly males, to get ahead. We are up against entrenched toxic masculinity: deep patterns that train boys to be dominant. Misogyny, homophobia, sexual assault, domestic violence, and sexual harassment are all about establishing and expressing dominance.
Toxic, dominant masculinity stifles emotional expression as incompatible with domination. Thus, boys taught to dominate become emotionally stunted men: damaged people inflicting damage on others.
Male concern with status has historically manifested as an interest in "honor." Honor may be too old-fashioned to be revived as a significant influence on culture today, but its opposite, shame, is as powerful as ever. Rape culture will end when men -- much closer to universally than at present -- understand sexual aggression as shameful.
Whether the influence of boys' testosterone is channeled into aggression and dominance or into, say, fighting for social justice, is up to us. I believe that a society that expects and rewards its boys to be strong in pro-social ways – a society that won’t tolerate sexual aggression -- can get what it expects.
Western culture has been lousy at teaching boys what to do with the energies and interests that testosterone nudges upward. The #MeToo movement is helping dismantle the structures that for so long have rewarded aggressive dominance. That’s a very positive development for the prospects of happier, healthier, more complete men.
In Case You Missed It . . .
Click the pic for the May 6 Prayer and Homily from our Flower Celebration service.
For video of a number of past sermons on our Youtube channel, CLICK HERE.
The Liberal Pulpit: New this week:
- Stages on the Hero's Journey (Wandering, part 2)
- Every Departure from Routine... (Wandering, part 3)
- Elephant Truth (Truth? part 1)
Index of other reflections: HERE.
Practice of the Week. Industrial Civilization and Everyone Else. While we cannot be blamed for the circumstances that led us to where we are today, we do have a responsibility to live with as much integrity and mindfulness as possible. We need to say “enough” to our leaders and to the unrealistic notion that our standard of living should constantly rise. We need to say “enough” in our individual lifestyle choices. READ MORE
Your Moment of Zen. One evening Owl said, "I've heard that the mind is the mountains, the rivers, and the great Blue Planet." Raven said, "Right." Owl continued, "And that the mind is neither tall nor short." Raven said, "That, too." Owl asked, "Then what is the mind?" Raven said, "Beans." READ MORE
Zen at CUUC: Sat May 12.
Minister's Tuesday Coffee Chat. I'm at a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm. I invite you to drop by and chat.
May: Sunshine Coffee Roasters, 1932 Palmer Ave, Larchmont. (Adjacent to the Red Mango.)
Of particular note, regarding Centering: See recommended reading HERE
On the Journey, May: Truth. HERE.