Quiet Down, Vaginas. The Boners Are Talking.

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For both men and women, it's a fact of nature that our hormone levels fluctuate and drop as we age. These fluctuations can have plenty of deleterious side effects, including loss of bone density, mood swings, and low libido. In ladies, this transition is called menopause, and we quietly medicate it with hormone treatments. In men, this is called OH MY GOD WHERE IS MY BONER???, and we medicate it by freaking the fuck out.


Now, that's not to say that a loss of libido in men is something to be taken lightly—in my personal life, I am a vocal fan of the male libido (under appropriate circumstances, of course—such as bed, rather than my pelvic exam). Testosterone is a fascinating, tricky, and vitally important chemical for both men and women (if you've never heard this knotty and often upsetting This American Life episode, you're welcome). But testosterone therapy, a fairly new pharmaceutical phenomenon being touted as a "fountain of youth" and the successor to Viagra, is worth pausing over:

Like the millions of women who have opted for hormone replacement therapy, men are choosing to get their hormone levels in line. As many as 13.8 million men older than 45 in the U.S. have low levels of testosterone, according to a 2006 study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice. The male sex hormone begins to decline after age 30, and tends to drop about 1 percent each year, though the level of decline varies. Lower-than-normal levels can lead to a loss of libido, a decrease in bone and muscle mass, and depression, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

But it's not exactly "like the millions of women who have opted for hormone replacement therapy." Obviously women seek hormone replacement too, but as far as I know (although the kids are nuts these days), pre-menopausal women don't seek hormone replacement for fun in the way that some men are doing with testosterone. See, it's not just men with low testosterone levels who are seeking testosterone treatment—it's also young men who just want a little extra zing in their boners. It's recreational:

"Am I making a deal with the devil? A little bit, but I have to think about my quality of life," Murray said. "It is like I'm in my 20s again."

Murray said he doesn't have any obvious symptoms of low testosterone levels. He simply wants to raise his energy level and give his bodybuilding regime a boost. That sort of endorsement may offer promise to the pharmaceutical industry.


Other experts worry that some doctors are misprescribing testosterone as a cure-all for a variety of problems. The Cleveland Clinic's Sabanegh said he sees men taking testosterone to help with erectile dysfunction or low libido when they are trying to conceive a child. Yet testosterone treatments can make men infertile, a side effect doctors sometimes fail to consider, he said.

This has doctors worried. There can be dramatic and dangerous side effects for men who seek testosterone treatment when they don't actually need it—including infertility, prostate cancer, blood clots, liver damage, and serious addiction—and yet the quest to market and sell testosterone treatments is still "a race!" It's in "hot demand!" It's changing lives! Side effects? Bah. Full speed ahead! Let's do this! SAVE THE BONERS!!!

And in the meantime...um...where's my lady boner pill again? Oh, yeah. It's dead. Because of possible side effects. Cool.


So, just to be clear: When men's libido is in danger, we're going to barrel headlong toward bigger, harder dicks no matter the consequences (and that includes TUMORS), because this is an emergency! But when it comes to women's libido, well, be careful, ladies. Don't hurt yourselves. And anyway, your problem is probably just about intimacy anyway. Sssh. Have some pomegranate juice.


In case it's not clear, I'm not saying that I want to take dubious lady boner-pills with horrible side effects. I don't. But the contrast in urgency between "curing" male sexual dysfunction (go go go! Rush rush rush!) and helping women have more satisfying sexual experiences (who even knows what's going on with those crazy lady parts?) is striking. And more than a little condescending. But hey, men might have Viagra and testosterone deodorant, but at least I have KY Warming Gel. Because my main problem with my vagina is that it isn't burny enough. You really get me, science.


Darren D'Lisle

I suffer from something fun called, "hypogonadotropic hypogonadism with hypothyroidism" and have had my testicles removed. The little buggers never functioned, and there was a cancer risk. So I have to use this damn testosterone gel that is a total pain in the ass. Depression has murdered my libido, and without testosterone therapy it is total DEAD. Even with it, my wife and I rarely have sex, and when we do we don't know what my penis is going to do. Sometimes, no erection. Erection but no ability to achieve orgasm is another fun, and frequent, event. I'm only 39, and I've always been like this. Thankfully, my wife loves me, is understanding, and is wonderful. She doesn't even judge me when I ball my eyes out every so often over never having had a chance to have children.

I felt compelled to say this to note that not everyone on testosterone therapy is a douchebag at age 60 who wants to have more erections. Sometimes, it's a guy like me, with a real illness.