The Testosterone Project
I learned about a research project in Massachusetts that measured testosterone levels in American males over a 20 year span. What they discovered is that T levels are declining by approximately 20%! What’s going on?
My friend runs workshops for men that help them connect to their true selves. He mentioned the other day that a general theme of late in his students is the desire to live without performance expectations. The men he was meeting were tired of feeling like they had to “get it up” everyday in their relationships, jobs, and of course, in the bedroom. It made me think how women have had, historically, an opposite kind of pressure – to not perform, to stay home, raise children, be a good wife when perhaps we were roiling with intellectual or career ambitions.
Now, for good or bad, we are all living in a more similar reality. Both men and women have to bring home the bacon, change diapers, perform at work and at home. I’m reading a book called The End of Men by Hannah Rosen. Something that she discovered in all her interviews and research was that in the middle class, there were a growing population of men that had given up on ever out-earning their wives or even making enough to cover childcare so they had become resigned to stay home and be Mr. Mom. Over the last few years, this number had doubled to 3.4%. Although still a small number, it’s explosive growth speaks to what my male workshop leader is finding. Lots of men are tired of the competition and are not even trying to make more money or achieve in the world that exists out there, outside the front door of the home. Although their biology – and bigger muscles – were designed for performance, their minds had given up on it.
What does this mean for the future of the workplace and the home? As women are taking more space in the traditionally male-dominated worlds, if a man doesn’t want to move into traditionally female-dominated ones, where can he go?
Is a new breed of man evolving and if so, who is he?
My son is almost 10 years old and something new is emerging. I wonder if it’s testosterone. My normally cooperative and well-behaved child is acting up, pushing limits, and testing me in completely new ways. He’s being a boy, I guess, in what our society considers normal boy ways. But is this normal or actually a new order? I wonder back 100 years and I don’t think boys acted up in the same ways. They were too busy tilling a field or at work in their family’s business. But now, we have plenty of time and lots of sugar and lots of passive entertainment and not surprisingly, we have a generation of boys with behavioral problems that are so marked that in China, lawmakers are proposing special boy-only classrooms to give them special support.
It seems like nowadays in childhood, it is common to see boys as pushing too much, moving too much, to be too rebellious but then they become men who don’t push enough, who sit too much, and give up too often. I am not saying this is true for everyone but I see it around me.
I look at my son, so good inside, and also wrestling with new impulses and I think it’s time for him to take on more responsibility at home. He needs more chores and to experience more concrete value to our family and his community. This feels like a way to channel this energy in a productive way and prepare him to handle the larger responsibilities of being a man, a husband, a father, a provider and a positive contributor to society. This is learned in small steps, the way we learn how to ride a bicycle or cook. We cannot expect a young man who has spent his time playing video games to all of a sudden shoulder a lot just because he’s turned a certain age. Although boys (and all children) need to run, kick balls, play and roughhouse, they also need practice contributing in active ways.
For the men in my friend’s workshops, struggling with performing, it comes down to what and how are you giving to your world, no matter what it’s size. This is true for women too and I don’t know if what you’re giving needs to be divided into gender categories but I do think that the way men and women struggle with stepping up is different. I think the answer lies in less self-consciousness, where what I do is not about me and how I’m doing it but about the other and how am I giving. This way performing becomes as simple as taking action and that becomes as joyful as dancing and where as Eckhart Tolle says, the transcendent is always running in the background.
The Testosterone Project is a web series launching Summer 2015 on GoodMenProject.com that explores the evolution (or devolution) of masculinity in modern society through a series of interviews with leading thinkers on the topic of men.
Click here for more information.
Click here to see my recent interview on Huffington Post Live on the evolution of modern masculinity.