“Testosterone” trended on Twitter on Sunday. And that’s not because the hormone had somehow paid $8 to Twitter and Elon Musk to get a blue check mark-verified account. No, that didn’t happen. Instead, the trending of this word was probably due to what director James Cameron had told Rebecca Keegan in an interview for The Hollywood Reporter. There he had described himself as previously “a wild, testosterone-poisoned young man,” and labeled testosterone as “a toxin that you have to slowly work out of your system.” Those statements seemed to rile up the testosterone of those who are apparently hard-core fans of the hormone, leading to some “I’m an alpha manly-man” and this is “a war on men” responses that may have been a bit over the top. Regardless, Cameron’s statements did seem to display a fundamental misunderstanding of the biology of the hormone and what it does.
Why was Cameron, who is neither a medical doctor nor any other type of scientist, even talking about testosterone in the first place? Well, Cameron was describing what had happened when he had clashed with Fox executives way-back-when over the budgets for Titanic and Avatar, two of the mega-hits that he had directed, and engaged in F-bomb-laden shouting matches. In this case, F-bomb presumably didn’t mean “fettucine bomb” or “furry bomb.” Keegan quoted Cameron as saying, “A lot of things I did earlier, I wouldn’t do — career-wise and just risks that you take as a wild, testosterone-poisoned young man,” and, “I always think of [testosterone] as a toxin that you have to slowly work out of your system.”
Such comments seemed to, ahem, raise something in a number of people on Twitter. There was, of course, Musk, who responded, “Testosterone rocks ngl,” to a tweet about what Cameron had said:
By saying “testosterone rocks” in his response Musk presumably wasn’t referring to testicles, which produce testosterone, and are often called stones or rocks. Rather he probably meant that testosterone, otherwise known by some as the “T”, is a good thing. Oh, and Musk mentioned “ngl,” which typically stands for “not gonna lie.” Guess, this means that Musk has had lots of experience with testosterone, which is good to know.
Musk’s response clearly T-eed off a number of other responses. Plus, there were separate tweets claiming that Cameron’s statements were further evidence of a “war against men” and “They want you low testosterone, unhealthy, & depressed,” whoever “they” may be. Yeah, some of these tweeters may want to take down their rockets. Claiming that calling testosterone a toxin shows that there is a war against men is kind of a hard argument to erect. In fact, might it show that you are being rather oversensitive in a snowflake kind of way?
That being said, Cameron may need a new casting director for this testosterone story. Testosterone is not like a dog. You can’t say that your testosterone ate your homework or was responsible for anything else that you eventually realized wasn’t good. You can’t necessarily blame the hormone for yelling at others, getting into fights, and sleeping around. It can seem easy to say “My testosterone made me do it” as a blanket excuse. However, other things such as you, your personality, your biases, and your judgment can be more responsible when you behave in an overly aggressive or in any way untoward manner.
Plus, testosterone is not toxin. It’s not something you simply drink out of a bottle and can eventually quit cold turkey or even warn turkey. You need testosterone, whether you are a man or a woman. It is not something you can just “slowly work out of your system.” Testosterone can help you develop your penis and testes. So if you happen to have these things and like such body parts, you can thank testosterone for all the good times with them. This sex hormone can also help deepen your voice during puberty, so that you don’t sound like you are singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” all the time. There are other effects such as increase the size and strength of your muscles and the strength of your bones. You can thank the T for your growth of your hair too in different parts of your body. That’s why things can get hairy when you play T-ball, so to speak. Testosterone can be on the ball too with the all the little Michael Phelps that your testicles regularly produce, meaning that the hormone is important for sperm production. And, yes, testosterone can drive your libido.
Normally, your pituitary gland will tell your testes when to produce testosterone. Of course, testosterone production is kind of like the Goldilocks situation. Rather than having too little or too much, you want just the right amount. There are feedback loops where your brain can monitor your testosterone levels and then signal the pituitary to either say, “Whoa, hold on there hos,” or “come on. Let’s get things going.”
If you have ovaries rather than balls, remember ovaries and adrenal glands can also produce testosterone. Men can’t tell women, “You don’t know what it is like to have testosterone,” because women need testosterone too. In fact, the balance of testosterone, estrogen, and other hormones in females is what helps regulate ovarian function. Testosterone can also affect bone strength, sexual behavior, and brain function such as mood and cognition in females as well. Again, regardless of your sex, the key is the appropriate balance among various hormone levels.
Yeah, testosterone is not like avocados. More of it is not necessarily better. Neither is less of it. In fact, it can be difficult to determine what are the right levels may be for you. What works for one person may not work for another. Plus, testosterone levels are supposed to fluctuate throughout the day.
There are levels that are universally too high, though. This typically comes from use of anabolic steroids or testosterone products. However, if you think that having too much testosterone will mean that you will be an extra manly man and have big balls, think again. Your testicles may actually, gasp, shrink. And your sperm counts may drop, leading to struggles with impotence. Think about that the next time you are in a gym and someone next to you lifting weights tells that he’s been taking the “T.”
Not only that. Too high testosterone levels can also stunt your growth if you are adolescent. Then, there are the host of other problems that may emerge too such as damage to your heart and liver, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, fluid retention, weight gain, blood clots, acne, sleep issues, headaches, and enlargement of your prostate, which can mean urine trouble. Many of these can be problems if you are a woman too, except for the prostate thing.
And, yes, too high testosterone levels can lead to mood swings, aggressive behaviors, impaired judgement, and delusions. But, again, just because you have such behavioral issues doesn’t mean that you can simply blame them on high T.
Cameron mentioned working testosterone out of your system. Umm, how are you going to do that? Your penis and balls don’t work like a faucet where a few turns can open the spigot so that your testosterone runs out of your body on to the floor. The same applies for your ovaries and adrenals.
Sure, over time your testosterone levels may decrease. If you are a man, such levels may fall about 1% to 2% each year as you age from the high levels of your teen and early adult years. But again lower testosterone levels with age is rarely the sole reason why your behavior may change with age. For example, with experience, you may learn how rash and stupid you may have behaved in your younger days. At the same time, there are plenty of older men who still act like adolescents, and it’s often not due to having T levels.
Ultimately, casting testosterone as some kind of toxin is just the wrong story line, it’s wrong to a T. You need testosterone, whether you are a man or a women. Having too little testosterone should not be your cup of T. Also, most of the time, you can’t simply blame your behaviors and actions on testosterone. The whole “my balls told me to do it” or “I did that because, you know, my balls,” shouldn’t fly. In other words, chalking things up to being “testosterone-poisoned” in most cases would be an over-simplication and frankly a Titanic mistake.