7
$\begingroup$

While by no means a smoking gun, there is still a reasonable amount of empirical evidence on the notion that socialization and testosterone are negatively correlated.

Archaeological Evidence

From the archaeological side, Robert Cieri submits that certain skeletal features (heavy brows, upper face) are directly related to testosterone levels. Below is a comparison of an ancient human skull and a near-modern skull.

enter image description here

Zoological Evidence

Animal cognition researchers and Brian Hare (Duke) has published a well-received paper that studied Siberian foxes and chimpanzees and noted the degree of socialization and testosterone level respectively. It is thought humans might be able to be analyzed this way as well:

If we're seeing a process that leads to these changes in other animals, it might help explain who we are and how we got to be this way. -- Brian Hare

Other Findings

Moreover, in modern times, due to the welfare state and the enfranchisement of women, the ancient narrative of men as brutal, territorial providers of resources is becoming outdated. I saw a study somewhere showing t-levels falling by 3% with each generation. To me, it begs the question, could it be that modern society and high testosterone levels are diametrically opposed...

Question

Given there is a natural tendency for testosterone levels in humans to decrease as cooperation increases as shown by the scientific findings, what societal mechanisms does my world need to counteract this tendency? This question is particularly intriguing given that the society in my world is a peaceful one. An alternative way of conceptualizing the question is can a peaceful society still retain males with high levels of testosterone (through societal means only)?

Quality Metric

What do we mean by "societal mechanisms"?: By this I just mean, limit your answer to known sociology only. This is primarily a question, and so technology-based, evolution-based or genetic-engineering-based answers are not preferred. Answers that use only sociology would score higher in this quality metric.

Note: Of course I take the point that technology and evolution are important for sociology, but such things should not be the defining characteristic of the answer

Further Clarifications and Assumptions (aka why its not PoB or too broad)

  • Clearly this analysis is not intended to be robust to every male. Male testosterone levels are not uniform in a population. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the spectrum ranges from Shakespeare to Floyd Mayweather. Instead, we simply are concerned with the mean/median male of the society.
  • Answers have to be given using the framework of societal mechanisms only. In other words, This is important, because otherwise I would concede the question would be too broad.
  • The society in my world is advanced and peaceful. There might be an occasional skirmish or conflict, but large scale armed conflict is a non-issue. By "advanced" think, rich, little to no problems with income inequality, or unemployment, ect
  • How high is high? I just mean high levels of testosterone in the relative sense such that there is no longer a trend of decline. The testosterone levels don't have to increase exponentially or anything. But they need to stay high and stable in the long-run.
  • Don't cheat the metric. You know the joke, if Bill Gates moves into your neighborhood, then everyone becomes a millionaire because that's how averages work? I don't want this in my t-levels. So please don't propose a separate sub-species of male having 10^8 ng/dL testosterone that performs gladiatorial combat for the viewing pleasure of the effete males. That is to say, we want to keep t-levels high for males as uniformly as possible
  • Don't worry about t-levels decreasing with age, that's fine, but don't kill everyone who has low t-levels either!!
  • Everything else, like technology, can assumed to be earth-like, and near-future.
$\endgroup$
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ While testosterone is linked to aggressive behaviour, it's also more heavily linked to muscle growth, male sexual libido and baldness, to name a few. A society with low-testosterone may be violent - violence is less prevalent in women's prisons, but there is some violence too - and a high testosterone society may be peaciful - not many fist fights in monasteries. Specially, war is not fueled by testosterone but by greed. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Jan 17 at 11:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'll look later for the research, but in rats testosterone fostered aggressiveness. In humans it made them more social, as testosterone encourages you to be higher in the hierarchy and by being more socially adept you can often achieve it more easily. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jan 17 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5068300 $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jan 17 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan Well that's a pleasant surprise, thanks for the info, looking into it now. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jan 17 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ Have you looked into Warrior Cultures both in real life and in fiction? You'll find from the Vikings to the Samurai to the U.S. Marines to the Klingons, that if you get a chance to get over the belligerent nature that most people will think of, they actually have a very strict society that favors some form of Honor and virtue... The brutal warrior is tolerated on the battlefield, specifically because they are not on the home front. Most follow some flavor of philosophy in line with Teddy Roosevelt's Big Stick Policies. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Jan 17 at 17:55

10 Answers 10

15
$\begingroup$

A peacock style of courtship.

So we have a society with a next to none hierarchical structure and where wealth distribution makes everyone almost equal. Also education and uprising is focused on making people cooperative, and see the celebrity status as empty and vain. A perfect progressive utopia.

But the same society has a peculiar way of people finding mates. Since exhibition of strength, wealth, and even popularity, is seen as primitive, males compete with each other in who is the most beautiful. And their standards of beauty are a bit different from ours. A male is considered beautiful if he's not only muscular, but also hairy all over the body, has characteristic exaggerated facial features, a musky smell, etc. In order to find a mate, males dress in ways which emphasize those traits, and use makeup to draw attention to their brows and noses. Special penis overlays, which would make them look bigger, are probably also in use. Think glam rock crossed with vikings. On the other hand, baldness is connected to large quantities of testosterone, so a male who can't boast a mane of hair may try to go in the other direction, shave the hair, and cover the skin in tattoos to draw attention to that.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ You know what, this works a lot better than my idea. You've got my vote! $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Jan 17 at 13:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Haha, thanks :D I think a sort of a competitive sport could also make part in mating rituals. It would just have to be something that's not about hitting each other, or being stronger, or faster, but more like dance competitions, or figure skating. It could even resemble an actual peacock fight with two males trying to outshine the other in a complex spectacle of acrobatic figures and haut couture robes. $\endgroup$ – makingthematrix Jan 17 at 14:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, the trouble I found in my answer was that there isn't actually a great deal of evidence I could find that competitive sport increases testosterone levels. I could find higher testosterone levels measured in some select sports, but there's no study that determines a causal link either from higher testosterone increasing sporting performance or sporting performance increasing testosterone (not to say it doesn't, but at the moment it's just an assumption). Yours imparts a direct sexual selection pressure on traits known to stem from increased testosterone. An occam's razor solution ;) $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Jan 17 at 14:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @makingthematrix Cool answer! I think a case can be made for sexual selection as a component of the society. So, I'll accept your answer, thanks $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jan 22 at 17:27
14
$\begingroup$

If the premise is true(1), your answer probably lies in widespread competitive sport (and increasing the reproductive success of successful players), driving competition and positively selecting for higher testosterone levels.

Interestingly, according to this study you'd probably need to be pretty selective over which sports you promote (power-lifters, for instance, appear to have surprisingly low testosterone compared to other Olympic sports). It also stops short of mentioning whether the testosterone levels are higher or lower than average in each sport which isn't particularly helpful for us.

There's also an issue of whether the testosterone levels of athletes are causes of their success, or caused by their training regimens. I haven't yet been able to find a study for male athletes, but the key may lie in promoting female sport. This study suggests that naturally produced testosterone provides female athletes with a significant competitive edge, so you can use this to drive selection processes. The issue then becomes trying to get your testosterone-laden athletic women to outbreed the non-testosterone-laden general population which will be hard considering that they will likely be competing through their prime fertility years.

If you can solve that through social engineering, and female testosterone levels correlate with male testosterone levels (I can't find a study investigating this), then you might have your solution. What it actually achieves I'm not sure, but you've got it...

(1) The studies presented are probably enough to formulate a hypothesis for a study rather than suggest evidence, unless Cieri's study presents an average of human skeletal features both modern and ancestral or there are human follow-up studies to Brian Hare's suggestion.

.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Haha, thanks for pointing that out ;) last thing we need is another more radical sect... $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Jan 17 at 15:44
3
$\begingroup$

I think you need to clarify what you mean by "peaceful". Do you simply mean that there is no war, or are you going to the extreme of eliminating all violent crime? Christian civilization figured out the answer to this problem somewhere between the fall of Rome and the High Middle Ages: chivalry. To adapt the perhaps overused metaphor, instead of turning wolves into sheep, we learned to turn wolves into sheepdogs. Channel all that male violence into fighting evil and protecting the weak rather than doing evil and victimizing the weak. And if you ever had a surplus of manly adventuresomeness, you might send them on a crusade to risk their lives for glory in a far-off land.

In your world, you need to think of opportunities to channel masculine strength, daring, and independence into productive avenues. Maybe you do away with police and fire departments so that every male citizen plays a regular role in fighting crime and rescuing people from natural disasters. Maybe you come up with a form of "crusade" that makes sense for your context. Maybe you bring back dueling or jousting. Or make it illegal for men to hold "jobs" so every man must start his own business. Or open up a new frontier (a warmer Antarctica maybe?) so that men who want to test themselves can pioneer there.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

There's not one single answer to the question, but it obviously relies on a multitude of factors. Among them are the following:

Dietary guidelines

The modern diet is radically different from that of the past, and several groups of food is known to contribute to hormone levels in the body. So dietary guidelines that enable production of testosterone is a good start.

In particular, fasting is shown to increase testosterone and growth hormones, and without reducing muscle mass. Comparably the modern day trend of constant snacking on empty carbs would counter this.

Working out

As others have pointed out, competitive sports increase testosterone. Working out by itself is known to increase testosterone temporarily. Regular workout should then contribute to more testosterone overall.

Access to pornography

While watching porn by itself can increase testosterone levels, it could potentially drive down competition when the men have easy access to sexual relief. There is less reason to compete over the women, which again can result in lower testosterone.

Medication

In northern countries, Vitamin D is added to milk in order to counter the lack of sunlight and the natural production. There is also no lack of other supplements in use, ranging from protein powder to Omega 3 fatty acids.

As such artificial means such as medication or supplements should not be excluded. It is not unreasonable to enforce a testosterone supplement to common food groups to combat decreasing testosterone levels.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I feel like this answer, just like the others, completely avoid the core of the problem: testosterone encourages more confrontation and search for domination/power. This disrupts the educational, political and cultural systems into more anarchy thus less peace and equality. $\endgroup$ – fffred Jan 17 at 12:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @fffred The question doesn't ask for the effects of the proposed change, only the method for doing so. It's an intriguing question, but I'm not surprised it hasn't been touched upon. I suspect the answer is far more complicated than 'testosterone=anarchy' though, especially if the original premise is true and anatomically modern humans with advanced cultures did have higher testosterone. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Jan 17 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ I guess anarchy was not the best word to express my point. But still, I DO think this was the point of the question. Indeed, it stems from scientific evidence that society organisation was accompanied by lower testosterone, thus suggesting that testosterone goes against such organisation. IMO, this is what the issue is about. $\endgroup$ – fffred Jan 17 at 13:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @fffred Confrontation, domination and power is not limited to fist-2-face, so there is nothing to say that it cannot be done within the confines of society. Ex. financial power, company takeovers, etc.. Even then, professional boxing, mma and similar sports can work as an outlet for the fist-2-face, yet does not make society less peaceful... Not to mention, as Rekesoft comments, testosterone is linked more strongly to other characteristics, and conflict is not solely caused by high testosterone. $\endgroup$ – Spoki0 Jan 17 at 14:25
1
$\begingroup$

When competitive Sports are established in your civilization, it could stop or lower the decline of Testosterone in the population. Not only the participants will produce Testosterone, but also the spectators which enables competitive sports to have an impact on a whole civilization. For example a Chariot Race, which is peaceful but dangerous. It requires alot of courage, fitness and assertiveness to win. This could apply to many other competitive sports Side note: Sports that are not team based would rank higher, as they don't require cooperation between the participants.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Finnn. Welcome to Worldbuilding SE. I'm not sure I understand your question. Are you asking if competitive sports reduce the testosterone level of the general population? I you could reword it in order for the actual question to be a bit clearer, I think it would be easier for people to understand what you're asking for. Try checking out other more successful questions to have a clearer view of how to ask questions here. $\endgroup$ – Magus Jan 17 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ My answer is pretty clear. "What mechanisms have to be in place in a peaceful society to counteract Testosterone decline in the population?" Short answer: Competitive sports Long answer: See post $\endgroup$ – Finnn Jan 17 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ Red team vs. Blue team, +1. Testosterone ain't going anywhere. The first question should be how they lost it in the first place, which would answer this one in reverse. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jan 17 at 14:32
1
$\begingroup$

Make it fashionable for every man to be shaped like a sumo wrestler. They will have to eat like cattle AND go to the gym for lifting and gains. Sumo wrestler are fat but they are also muscular. Make synthetic testodterone legal and over the counter.

Also make sure that guns are banned and everybody has access to cheap or free fast internet. That way males will be just arguing on forums and insulting each other's moms instead of shooting each other in schools and cinemas.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

I saw your answer earlier in the day, and I've been thinking about it all day.

First off, I'll give my answer. I would encourage you to challenge the belief (by finding sources, I don't believe there are many out there) that prove a strict correlation between violence and testosterone (for instance, check out this 2009 University of Munich peer reviewed article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132241.htm) as well as this (seemingly less legitimate) article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/attraction-evolved/201707/does-testosterone-really-just-make-men-aggressive .

Aggression is a by-product of lack of compassion for others and greed, which is present in males with high testosterone levels, males with low testosterone levels, women with high estrogen levels, etc. Source: war.

So, to answer your question - males need to DO something. They need a goal and a reason to move and to pick things up and put them down. So their 'aggression' needs to be channeled. I would encourage you as part of your research to look up Jordan Peterson's research and discussion on the matter on YouTube.

As a second point, I would take some time to do research on these responses. Web sites like this (https://www.elitefitness.com/articles/pornography-impact-on-libido-testosterone-potency/) which are cited lack any professional references (or references at all) and THEY ARE SELLING SOMETHING.

As a final thought, I spent a while researching the claim that testosterone is higher in men with more facial hair and found that it did seem to be true - to a limited extent. To assume that a man with less hair, though, is somehow less dominant is surely a preposterous idea!

Simply put, the research is all over the place here. Just give the men something productive to DO.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

The answer is actually pretty simple. Provide government subsidized testosterone supplementation along with ad campaigns for moderate usage and the attractiveness of muscular physiques.

We already have synthetic testosterone. It's quite reasonable to assume a fictional civilization has them as well. The benefits are easier gain of muscle mass, improved sex drive and emotional mood.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Marijuana and lots of it.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28395129

Smoking marijuana depresses testosterone. That T is good for growing your big burly body but on a day to day basis. the gentle herb will keep people peaceable. It works best in the absence of alcohol. Something to consider for our society too.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The Voyage

An idea taken from Traveller's Adventure 10: a social ritual requires an arduous journey with other couples to the "Valley of Memories" and back. The sophont species in the adventure lay eggs which are subsequently fertilized; children that are a product of the voyage are stronger and more likely to survive to adulthood. The voyage was instituted by the inhabitants of the only city on the planet, to simulate conditions of their nomadic past, to aid the survival of said city.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.