Don't Underestimate The Power Of Testosterone Poisoning

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THE PLANK JUNE 26, 2009

Don't Underestimate The Power Of Testosterone Poisoning

There's a piece up over at Politico about why so few female politicians belong to the cheaters' club.

The lists of factors is pretty intuitive: There are vastly fewer female politicians in the pool, powerful men are a turn on while powerful women are still off-putting, the rare female politician gets even greater media scrutiny and so has less wiggle room than her male counterparts, women still do the majority of life maintenance in their households and so don't have the time for sextracurricular activities, and, in "evolutionary psychology" terms, men are more inclined to "transgress sexual boundaries" than women.  As one UCLA psychologist notes, “women are socialized to be much more cautious about sexuality due to the fact
that they can get pregnant. Having an affair is a sexual risk, and women are
much less inclined to do that.”

Well, sure. Psychology and socialization are issues. But it seems to me that one big honking factor is missing from this list: hormones. Testosterone makes men do crazy things. It makes them beat each other up, start wars, and, yes, suffer from the occasionally overwhelming desire to chase skirt even when--or perhaps even especially when--it is an incredibly stupid, risky thing to do.

I appreciate the new breed of feminists' push to prove how sexually liberated women are--how we like to screw around as much as the boys. And ridding gals of unhealthy notions about what "good girls" do and don't do will certainly alter the old equation. But the science and the anecdotes (my favorite has always been that gal-turned-guy who wrote about the spike in her sex drive upon starting t shots for sex-change surgery) should not be dismissed: how horny you are has a lot to do with your testosterone level. (As comedian Larry Miller used to joke of women who claimed to be as up-for-it as men: "You have nooo idea... the difference in sex drive between a man and woman
is like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.")

There is ongoing debate about when and whether it is advisable to have women undergo testosterone therapy to help boost their libidos. But after another week or two like the GOP has just endured, Republicans might want to consider sponsoring research into some sort of T-reducing drug for its male members. It obviously won't address all the other contributing factors. But at this point, every little bit has to help.

--Michelle Cottle 

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