Carole Hooven (@hoovlet) teaches and co-directs the undergraduate program in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, and is the author of T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us.
What We Discuss with Carole Hooven:
- What creates differences between the sexes?
- How testosterone is at the core of who we are, regardless of gender.
- The ways testosterone shapes our minds and bodies in the womb and beyond.
- What we’ve learned about testosterone from people who have transitioned between genders.
- How politics is affecting science and research in testosterone.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
For better or worse, testosterone can be attributed to behaviors that civilization has come to recognize as “masculine” — that is, a penchant for physical violence, a thirst for power, and a desire for sex with as many partners as possible. Elevated testosterone can give the edge to males — whether they’re chimpanzees or spiny lizards or humans — who seek to compete with (and out-reproduce) their rivals. And losing the source of most testosterone (the testicles) vastly reverses behavior to make the subject less competitive and more passive — just ask any eunuch or opera-singing castrato.
Most concur that there are differences between sexes in human behavior, although they disagree on the causes. The research, however, is unequivocal: testosterone is a strong factor in human civilization that separates the sexes physically and behaviorally. However, as our guest Dr. Carole Hooven demonstrates in her book T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us, this results in a wide range of male and female behavior when combined with genes and culture. Furthermore, the fact that many sex differences have biological roots does not justify rigid gender norms or patriarchal attitudes. Understanding testosterone helps us better understand ourselves, one another, and how to create a society that is more fair and secure. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
This Episode Is Sponsored By:
- MEL Science: Go to melscience.com and use code JORDAN for 60% off your first month’s subscription
- Freshly: Go to freshly.com/jordan for $125 off your first five orders
- BetterHelp: Get 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/jordan
- Progressive: Get a free online quote at progressive.com
Miss our interview with entrepreneur, actor, producer, reality TV personality, and former professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek? Catch up with episode 498: Rob Dyrdek | Manufacturing Amazing with the Dyrdek Machine here!
On Walk-Ins Welcome, Bridget Phetasy talks about the beautiful failures and frightening successes of her own life and the lives of her guests. By embracing it all, and celebrating it with the stories she’ll bring listeners, she believes that our lowest moments can be the building blocks for our eventual fulfillment. Listen on PodcastOne or wherever you catch fine podcasts!
Thanks, Carole Hooven!
If you enjoyed this session with Carole Hooven, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Carole Hooven at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us by Carole Hooven | Amazon
- Carole Hooven | Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University
- Carole Hooven | Website
- Carole Hooven | Twitter
- Curious George Mandela Effect (Yes, He Had A Tail) | Hazel Fiver
- A Photographer Goes inside a Frightening Chimp-Human Conflict in Uganda | National Geographic
- Geneticists Make New Discovery about How a Baby’s Sex Is Determined | ScienceDaily
- Prenatal Testosterone Linked to Long-Term Effects in Females Who Share Womb with Male Twin | ScienceDaily
- Testosterone Changes Brain Structures in Female-To-Male Transsexuals | ScienceDaily
- Eunuch | Wikipedia
- Castrato | Wikipedia
- High Testosterone Levels in Women: Causes, Symptoms, and More | Healthline
- What Is the Difference Between Gender and Sexuality? | Verywell Mind
- Transgender Athletes: What Do the Scientists Say? | BBC Sport
- Pape in Panorpa Scorpionflies and a General Rape Hypothesis | ScienceDirect
- A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer | Amazon
- What Is Toxic Masculinity? | The New York Times
- ‘Toxic Femininity’ Isn’t What You Think It Is | Vice
- ‘The Rescue’ Captures the Mission to Free 13 from an Underwater Cave in Thailand | NPR
- Harvard Scholar Called Transphobic Stands Strong, Refuses to Cave on ‘Biological Reality’ | The College Fix
694: Carole Hooven | How Testosterone Dominates and Divides Us
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Carole Hooven: If I were to take male typical levels of testosterone as part of a gender transition, while again, there's a lot of variation in the effect, the biggest effect is that I would start feeling like a teenage boy. I would become super horny, basically in a way that for females, it's like a whole new world when they take testosterone.
[00:00:30] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional journalist-turned-poker champion, organized crime figure, former Jihadi, or hostage negotiator. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:00:57] If you're new to the show, or you want to tell your friends about it — and I'm always happy when you do that — I suggest our episode starter packs. These are collections of our favorite episodes, organized by topic. They'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show — topics like persuasion and influence, disinformation and cyber warfare, abnormal psychology, China, North Korea, Crime and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:24] What creates the differences between the sexes loaded question these days? I know, is it culture, genes? What is, or is not between your legs? What was between your legs before but isn't anymore? Either way, you slice it. Sorry. I couldn't resist. Our guests today would argue that testosterone is at the core of who we are as men or women. Today, Dr. Carole Hooven, a Harvard biologist and author is here to school. This book, I loved it. It's like a biology textbook that you actually want to read. We'll discuss where testosterone or T is made, how it shapes our minds and bodies in the womb and beyond. Of course, we'll also talk about T and athletic performance, puberty, sex drive, and many, many other areas of our lives in development. A little warning, we talk graphically about genitalia and sex differences, nothing vulgar, really. And you can keep the kids in the car if they already sort of know about the birds and the bees. It's not going to be too dramatic or too drastic. In fact, the people most likely to be traumatized by this are full-grown adults. And you'll know what I mean when we get into the discussion.
[00:02:20] All right, here we go with Dr. Carole Hooven.
[00:02:27] Tell me how monkeys got you interested in testosterone.
[00:02:30] Carole Hooven: No, no, no, not monkeys, please. They're chimpanzees.
[00:02:32] Jordan Harbinger: I know. You know, it's funny. I figured you'd be like, "Wait a second. Chimps and monkeys aren't the same thing."
[00:02:38] Carole Hooven: Okay. So why did you say monkeys?
[00:02:40] Jordan Harbinger: Because I thought maybe you would get sort of like in a little twist about it. Yeah.
[00:02:44] Carole Hooven: You wanted to see me get worked up right at the get-go.
[00:02:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like right in the beginning. Yeah.
[00:02:49] Carole Hooven: Okay. Well, it was pretty common given the gravity of the error.
[00:02:52] Jordan Harbinger: Well, it is — it's the first minute of the show. You have to give me a little bit of quarter, right?
[00:02:58] Carole Hooven: There were monkeys around and there were people doing research on the monkeys at the field site that I went to. So you want to know — what was the question? How did I get interested in?
[00:03:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it was how monkeys got you interested in testosterone. And then we went off on this tangent about why monkeys aren't chimps, which actually—
[00:03:15] Carole Hooven: Okay.
[00:03:15] Jordan Harbinger: —I just thought monkey was a general category, but I guess it's not, is it?
[00:03:19] Carole Hooven: They have tails.
[00:03:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:20] Carole Hooven: They're not apes.
[00:03:21] Jordan Harbinger: I didn't know that.
[00:03:22] Carole Hooven: We're part of the great apes and apes do not have tails and there's other differences and we are more closely related — we are apes. We're more closely related to the apes than monkeys, but we do share a lot of commonalities with that.
[00:03:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Why do people confuse monkeys and apes? I mean, other than just doing it on purpose, like me.
[00:03:40] Carole Hooven: Because of Curious George.
[00:03:42] Jordan Harbinger: That's why — and you know what's funny?
[00:03:43] Carole Hooven: Curious George.
[00:03:44] Jordan Harbinger: He doesn't have a tail. I got a book with him and I was like, "Where's his tail?"
[00:03:47] Carole Hooven: No, he does have—
[00:03:48] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:03:48] Carole Hooven: Wait, he doesn't have a tail, but they call him a monkey.
[00:03:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:03:50] Carole Hooven: That's the problem.
[00:03:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So I Googled it. I was like, "Oh my god, I got a misprinted book. He has no tail." So I Googled it and turns out he never had a tail. And I'm like, my whole world is upside down.
[00:03:58] Carole Hooven: He looks like a chimp. Yes. So what got me interested? Okay. So I won't tell you how I got, why I ended up out there in Uganda for eight months with the chimps. That's a whole other thing.
[00:04:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's in the book maybe.
[00:04:12] Carole Hooven: People can just read my book.
[00:04:13] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:04:14] Carole Hooven: But once I was out there following the chimpanzees in Western Uganda around every day, what I saw was, you know, what I had learned about before and I sort of knew, but it's completely different when you are right there with them every day and watching them.
[00:04:31] Jordan Harbinger: I bet.
[00:04:32] Carole Hooven: The first time I saw them, it just will freak anybody out how much they are like us. It is something you cannot really understand by watching videos and reading. It's when you're there with them. Somehow you feel like you are sort of the same. You're both apes, we're both in the jungle. You know, we are obviously completely different. We think we're completely different. But what I saw was, and I'm generalizing, but this is basically what—
[00:05:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:05:05] Carole Hooven: —I saw in terms of sex differences. I didn't know I was interested in sex differences at that point, but I, some days, would follow the female chimps. And when I followed the female chimps — you were just talking about basically being a very involved investing father, right?
[00:05:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:05:22] Carole Hooven: You just said you went and changed a big poopy diaper.
[00:05:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's right. That's what I was doing right before this, the glamorous life of a—
[00:05:28] Carole Hooven: Right.
[00:05:28] Jordan Harbinger: —podcast.
[00:05:28] Carole Hooven: No, and that's so interesting. Because, just as an aside, only in only five percent of mammals, do males invest in their offspring.
[00:05:40] Jordan Harbinger: Like at all?
[00:05:41] Carole Hooven: I think, no, I think it's five percent, yes. So let's just say in the overwhelming majority of mammals, males only contribute a sperm to their offspring and then they bolt and then they try to gain other matings possibly through male-male competition, right? So it's unusual. We are very, very unusual in that you give a crap at all about your offspring and that you stay with the mother of your offspring for an extended period of time.
[00:06:10] So in chimps, it's like a lot of other mammals, the males compete for sexual access to the females. That's the product of sexual selection. That's what they're shaped to do. Females invest, females do all of the parenting in chimps. So what I would see when I went out, following them was basically moms and their kids hanging out, being peaceful overall. I actually never saw any female aggression, although it does happen. And sometimes, it's quite brutal. But for the most part, especially compared to the males, the females are super peaceful. They hang out with their kids, they nurse them, they carry them, they play with them. They sleep, they eat.
[00:06:54] And when you hang out with the males, it's a completely different picture. There's a lot of violence, basically. There's a lot of aggression. There's a lot of vocalizations. There's a lot of trying to make yourself look as big as possible. There's just a lot of male-male competition. And if there are females present—
[00:07:12] Jordan Harbinger: It's like the gym.
[00:07:13] Carole Hooven: Yeah. No, from what I've heard, that's true. So you're competing for status maybe at the gym who can get to be the biggest so that you can get maybe as many mates as you want, or some high-quality mates.
[00:07:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. But really at the gym, there's a lot of vocalizations so that other dudes go, "Wow, man, that guy is huge. Look, how much weight that is."
[00:07:31] Carole Hooven: Oomph.
[00:07:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:32] Carole Hooven: Right.
[00:07:32] Jordan Harbinger: That's totally different.
[00:07:33] Carole Hooven: So men are drawing attention to themselves—
[00:07:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:07:35] Carole Hooven: —like as they're lifting.
[00:07:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You know how, like they say, women dressed for women. You ever seen that or like, heard that women dress for women?
[00:07:42] Carole Hooven: Yeah. Men lift for men.
[00:07:43] Jordan Harbinger: Dudes work out for other dudes. Let's not front. They pretend they're lifting for women. Women are like, "Oh yeah, he's got like big muscles." Guys are like, "Whoa, man. Wow. How big are your biceps?" It's the equivalent for men, for sure, in almost every, at least, especially when I was in college. It was that.
[00:07:59] Carole Hooven: Yeah, no, this is actually an interesting and profound point because yes, women find — we don't find like huge muscles generally attractive, but yeah, a big strong guy is attractive and a big strong guy is someone who can intimidate other men socially. You can elevate your status to some degree just by having really big muscles, right? So that's one way for men to elevate their status. So they're competing with other men for status, but I think ultimately it's for mating competition. And I think that's true to some degree in both heterosexual and homosexual, sexual orientations.
[00:08:41] But just back to the forest, so when I was with the males, there was much more aggression and lots of sex. So if there was a female present and the female was fertile, so she'd have a big sexual swelling on her behind which to males, I think, the equivalent would be breasts. Like nice size shape breasts that are kind of on display, that's very hard for a guy in his, especially in his reproductive prime but, of course, that extends into old age to look away.
[00:09:11] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:11] Carole Hooven: So for heterosexual men, that is a signal that this woman is potentially fecund. Like this is a signal that she possibly is able to get pregnant. That's not really how you think about it. You're just thinking about sex, right?
[00:09:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:09:27] Carole Hooven: So that's what the males see when the females are in their fertile phase, but they have like this loud signal saying I am able to get pregnant and all the males want to have sex with her. And they all compete to have sex with her. And to compete, they are fighting physically with each other.
[00:09:43] So that's what got me interested in testosterone because those sex differences obviously have a lot of parallels to human sex differences, but they don't have any human culture. And everybody, a lot of people want everyone to think that the sex differences that we see in humans are caused by the patriarchy or caused by some social influence. And that there's really nothing in our genes that shapes our brain and then shapes our behavior in ways that are kind of mirror to some degree to what we see in non-human animals like chimps.
[00:10:17] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:10:17] Carole Hooven: So that's why I got interested in testosterone because that's what we share with all mammals and also vertebrates in general, but that's a different form of the hormone, but that is something that unites us. And that is something that helps to explain sex differences in chimp behavior. And you know, I talk about red deer and in humans. So that's why I got interested in it because we don't share culture.
[00:10:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The chimps are so similar to humans and you get this sort of unvarnished look at how they behave. Yeah, like you said, absent human culture, just out in the jungle, literally. And ironically though, lately it seems like the more we understand about biology, the more many people in society at large decide that biology is the explanation for the way that they are, right? So as opposed to societal structures having a big influence as well. So some people are arguing, like, "It's only biology," and other people are arguing, "Hey, it's only society." But it seems like there has to be plenty of influence on that, right? Like when we say women are less likely to be business leaders, is that possible? That is because we've organized that way as a society versus the idea that like biology just wants them at home, popping out kids. Shout out to stay-at-home moms.
[00:11:26] Carole Hooven: I just want to step back because I don't think serious people are saying it's only biology. So nobody who is in the field that I'm in would ever say, I mean, no sane person—
[00:11:36] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:11:37] Carole Hooven: —who's in the field that I'm in—
[00:11:38] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, good.
[00:11:38] Carole Hooven: —would ever say that almost any complex behavior is only biologically mediated. That's not true in humans and it's not true in most non-human animals. The social environment, the ecological environment, you know, the temperature, your genes, there's so many — well, sorry, genes are what we would say are biological, but there's really no clear line between biological and social. They're all intermixed. They're influencing each other constantly. So I would argue that biology does help to explain sex differences in predispositions. So it seems so I think it's fairly obvious that as the research shows men are more aggressive, but they're more physically aggressive throughout time, as far as we know it, and across every culture. Men also want more sexual partners. They definitely want sex more. Like news flash, that is true. And you don't get that commonality across time and place if there isn't some biological contribution to that. But the role of culture is incredibly important because, in some cultures, men are sexually assaulting women at a rate that's much higher than in other cultures.
[00:12:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:57] Carole Hooven: Because the culture allows it basically in one culture. I don't want to name cultures that would allow that, but I will say, take a place like Singapore, you have incredibly low rates of sexual assault and male-male physical aggression in general. That's due to culture.
[00:13:13] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:13] Carole Hooven: Right. So there might be a difference in predispositions. But the way that those are expressed and the extent to which they're expressed totally depends on culture. So the people who say that certain behaviors or sex differences are all due to social influences and that claim is made by serious scholars. And I think that doesn't make any sense. It isn't consistent with the research, isn't truly scientific and I would even say that I think that's motivated reasoning for some people.
[00:13:48] Jordan Harbinger: To argue that it's only biology or only culture?
[00:13:51] Carole Hooven: No, that it's only social influences.
[00:13:53] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, right.
[00:13:54] Carole Hooven: Because the idea, I think, seems to be that if we persuade people that our problems are due to the patriarchy or social influences, then we can have hope that we can solve these problems just by changing the social influences. But that's just not the right way to think about it. We already know we can address a lot of the issues that we have by changing social norms and laws and institutions. That's already clear. That doesn't rule out biological predispositions and influences for complex behaviors. They work together.
[00:14:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That makes sense. And it's almost always the case, right? Like you said, any complex behavior, any complex problem in society almost always has more than one cause I mean, it's true even in literally everything other than maybe some certain like mechanical issues, literally mechanics, you might end up with more than one cause for any complex problem, I want to back up and talk about fetuses in utero because male and female fetuses are according to your book, really similar in utero and genitalia forms from the same stuff, which is so interesting because when I — look, I've got two kids, very small — my audience already kind of knows this, a boy and a girl and I'm always changing their diapers. And so you know, I get a decent look at the equipment and I have some of my own and I'm like, there's a line right down the middle of my little guy — Jayden's going to be listening to this in 20 years and he'll be like, "Dad, why are you talking about my scrotum?" Sorry, Jayden. There's a line down the middle. And of course, my daughter, you know, she's got female equipment and so I'm like those look when they're a few weeks old, they look really similar. So when you said, "Hey, they're formed from the exact same stuff. And penis is a large clitoris and a scrotum is a fused labia." I was like, "I knew it. I knew it." It makes perfect sense. And yet it's somehow that's so amazing to me. I don't know why. Just this sort of like biology stuff is always just, this is so enthralling.
[00:15:51] Carole Hooven: Remember you said, you'd feel ripped off if I didn't cry during this.
[00:15:54] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. I mean, I want at least one or two good cries. Yeah.
[00:15:57] Carole Hooven: I cry so much, but I was starting to tear up when you were talking about that. because I'm so moved by it and I am actually. I know it's ridiculous. That I do think it's a beautiful concept from an evolutionary point of view and from a social point of view that—
[00:16:14] Jordan Harbinger: It's all good. Like who doesn't cry over a good, a good scrotum but like—
[00:16:20] Carole Hooven: I'm crying over fused scrotum, oh my god.
[00:16:23] Jordan Harbinger: But it's true, right? because like my wife 3D printed both kids and at some point—
[00:16:28] Carole Hooven: Wait. What?
[00:16:29] Jordan Harbinger: She did it with her uterus, right? That's what that is. She didn't actually use a 3D printer. I mean, she has the—
[00:16:35] Carole Hooven: Okay. Like there's technology I don't know about yet.
[00:16:37] Jordan Harbinger: No, no, she's got the best one around, which is her body. But like she's making this in somewhere along the line, a mechanism was like, well, we're going to flip this switch. And so all of these things that exist in exactly the same way are going to make a hard left turn.
[00:16:51] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:16:51] Jordan Harbinger: Whereas the boy made a hard right with that body and it's just, it's amazing.
[00:16:55] Carole Hooven: Yeah. So she didn't do that. She didn't do that. The boy invaded her uterus, which is amazing because I had a boy and I was fully aware of what was going on hormonally.
[00:17:08] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:17:09] Carole Hooven: That his testes inside me are producing high levels of testosterone.
[00:17:14] Jordan Harbinger: Oh gosh.
[00:17:14] Carole Hooven: Then are going to turn the genital tubercle, which is the little bud, which if you don't do anything to it, it's going to be a clitoris. Nothing special has to happen. And you get the little genital fold. They're just going to end up as labia if nothing special happens. Yes, genes have to be expressed, but that will basically happen in a male, in an XY person, if there's no testosterone. So you have basically — people don't like to say this, but it's true — female genitalia really is the default plan. If testosterone isn't present, that's what you get. If you have high levels of testosterone early in development, that genital tubercle develops into a penis rather than a clitoris. And then the genital fold—
[00:18:02] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:02] Carole Hooven: —which developed into the labia and up fusing. And that's why you get that line down the middle of the scrotum, and that is testosterone. That is what testosterone does. And it's doing that in utero and at the same time, actually a little bit later, in uterine development, testosterone shapes the brain in ways — this is true in non-human animals. It's very clear in non-human animals and there's indirect evidence in humans. You don't just get a penis if you don't know what to do with it. So the way evolution works is, like you don't just get muscles in a penis if you're just going to not have sex and never feel aggressive. And that stuff is paired with a heightened propensity for certain types of behaviors, male sexual strategy.
[00:18:53] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:53] Carole Hooven: Which is different from an evolutionary point of view than female sexual strategy, because we're the ones who have to do all the parenting. And we can only have a certain number of kids during our lifetimes and males, if they're very successful and very good at competing for females can do much better. But in humans, we have this cool thing, which is you're involved in your kids and your testosterone right now is like the lowest it's been in a long time. And if it were higher, it would interfere with your parenting.
[00:19:21] Jordan Harbinger: I don't know. But when they say kid changes you, you know, you don't really know what people mean. You just think like, "Oh yeah, you're not going to have as much time," and all that stuff is true but also way more compassionate about other people's kids. I think about problems in society, much more than I ever have. And I originally thought, oh well, that's because my kid exists in this world, so I don't want there to be these dangerous situations. But okay, I can think logically about that, but I actually care more. Like I feel it more than I would. I'm not just paying more attention to it. I'm actually like, "Oh gosh, Jen, look at this article about this animal that got trapped in a sewer grate." And I'm like, "Who am I right now?" Because if my wife would've sent me that like a couple of months before kids, I'd be like, "I'm not reading this. It sucks. But they got it out, whatever, so quit crying."
[00:20:05] Carole Hooven: No, that's fascinating. And it's consistent with what depressing testosterone does, but we don't know that it's due to that because all these other things are changing, right?
[00:20:17] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:17] Carole Hooven: But it is consistent with what we know, which is that increasing testosterone seems to decrease empathy and that might be adaptive for males who have had to beat the sh*t out of each other.
[00:20:30] Jordan Harbinger: You got to put Bambi up on a table and cut it open to feed your family. Like empathy doesn't mesh super well with that kind of thing. Not that women don't hunt.
[00:20:38] Carole Hooven: Yeah, no. I mean, so you'd expect some sex difference in empathy. And when you have a sex difference, that is in some way related to reproduction, in my view, in many of the cases, the mechanism can be related to sex differences and sex hormone levels, you know, high testosterone and high estrogen in females. But that dose of testosterone that males are getting, that's a huge sex difference right from the get-go. That male fetuses are exposed to very high levels of testosterone. And it seems to be shaping the brain along with the reproductive system. And then you get another dose, obviously in puberty, when everything is elaborated on, but that's where the sex differences in behavior start.
[00:21:25] Jordan Harbinger: This is interesting because you know, I used to think, I guess I just wasn't thinking much about this, but I used to think of T and by the way, when I say T, I'm referring to testosterone just in case people are like, what are you talking about? I used to think T was just something that would affect us in puberty, right? But of course, it affects us in utero because we have different bodies and that makes all the sense in the world now that I think about it, now that you tell me that.
[00:21:45] Carole Hooven: But also — sorry to interrupt, but what about you as a little kid? So the other evidence isn't just that T is in utero. It's how do little boys and little girls differ.
[00:21:56] Jordan Harbinger: Well, there's a lot. I was actually going to ask you about that. Like, I mean, there's differences in child behavior that I assume can attribute to testosterone in utero. Like, my friends have older kids that are like 10 and the boys always want to wrestle and the girls, they don't not want to ever wrestle, but it's rare. They're more interested in other things, but I don't know. I guess I thought some of that might be just because men are more likely to wrestle with a boy, you know, it's hard to tell, is it because they want to wrestle with their son more? Or is it because little kids who are boys want to wrestle with their dad more? I don't know what the cause is. Again, what's biology, what's society?
[00:22:31] Carole Hooven: So yeah, and again, I don't think there's any separating, the two influences because male, juvenile animals, their play, like play is a way to practice what you need to do as an adult to survive and reproduce, right? And male animals have to do something different than female animals. So if male-male competition and status competition, physical status competition is important to male reproduction, but not super important to female reproduction, it's convenient that you have this hormone that males have more of in utero that is clear in non-human animals is responsible for the sex difference in rough and tumble play.
[00:23:15] So male, juvenile animal, animals like to play rough and wrestle and they have fun and they're motivated to do it. They do that much more than females is not across the board, but where you do see this difference, we know it's due to testosterone because if you block testosterone, you block that behavior in the juvenile animal. And if you add testosterone to a female, you get that behavior. And then we also have some evidence from humans, from girls who have unusually high levels of testosterone in utero because of something called congenital adrenal hyperplasia. They are much more likely to, again, and this is not, you know, this is on average. All of this—
[00:23:56] Jordan Harbinger: We're not—
[00:23:56] Carole Hooven: —this is on average.
[00:23:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, sure.
[00:23:57] Carole Hooven: They're much more likely to want to play. Like more like the boys and want to play or more likely to want to play with the boys. And I just want to say something about the wrestling. So I used to wrestle my brothers. I had three older brothers, but I had never wrestled another girl. So boys wrestle with each other. My son, who's not really into sports and not want to, like—
[00:24:21] Jordan Harbinger: I played the flute as a kid. Yeah. I feel for him, I get it.
[00:24:23] Carole Hooven: Okay, okay. So he has always wrestled his friends.
[00:24:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:24:29] Carole Hooven: But that's their favorite—
[00:24:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I loved it too.
[00:24:31] Carole Hooven: —thing to do or has been their favorite thing to do. And I think that girls just don't tend to wrestle other girls. Like that's exceedingly rare. And that's one of the things testosterone does. So, that's some evidence that, that early exposure is shaping us, because this is also cross-culturally consistent. You see that sex difference in every culture.
[00:24:52] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Carole Hooven. We'll be right back.
[00:24:58] This episode is sponsored in part by MEL Science. I grew up learning science through boring textbooks, but science is all around us and most people learn better when it's interactive. MEL Science kits inspire a love of science at a key age and take education to the next level through monthly hands-on projects, where they include everything. You don't need to go out and buy any extra parts, choose different course options like stem projects, or learn the basics of computer programming and coding, conduct safe chemistry experiments, learn physics. There's even medicine, where you can practice suturing, dental cleaning. You can learn how to use a micro pipette in a centrifuge. That's particularly cool. I haven't seen that anywhere else before. These projects are good for ages four to 99. And Jayden who's not even three is all about this type of sensory education playing with stuff and putting stuff together — well, mostly taking stuff apart, but we love to explain what's actually happening. And that's what I love about MEL Science. You're not just like, "Oh, cool." You're actually learning what is going on and how it works. Pause the subscription at any time.
[00:25:54] Jen Harbinger: Get 60 percent off your first month's subscription by using promo code JORDAN. Go to melscience.com. That's M-E-L-science.com promo code JORDAN and this offer is only good for a month. Go to melscience.com promo code JORDAN.
[00:26:08] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is sponsored in part by Freshly. The past few months have in basically a blur doing the live show in LA conferences. Got little COVID. It's just been hectic. I'm definitely not spending any time in the kitchen. Freshly has been saving our butts. Lunch and dinner is handled. I can focus on the more important things. Freshly delivers fresh and healthy ready-to-eat meals designed by nutritionists. They have never been frozen, just heated up in three minutes. The food's delicious. So far, I haven't tried one that I didn't like. My favorites off the top of my head, definitely steak peppercorn. Who doesn't love that? Chicken tikka masala, turkey meatballs, zucchini noodles. I try something new every day. Freshly adds new meals every week, and there are over 50 to choose from. They've even got plant-based meals, for you, health nuts, and I'm shifted in that direction myself. Check out the Freshly app. It's got a gazillion five-star reviews.
[00:26:54] Carole Hooven: Stop stressing about dinner. Now through July 17th, Freshly is offering our listeners a special 4th of July deal, $150 off your first six orders when you go to freshly.com/jordan. That's $150 off at freshly.com/jordan through July 17th. Don't miss out on this 4th of July offer. Get $150 off at freshly.com/jordan.
[00:27:16] Jordan Harbinger: Hey, if you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, and creators every week, that's because of my network and I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. This free course is about improving your networking and connection skills naturally and inspiring others to develop a personal and professional relationship with you. It'll make you a better networker, a better connector, but most importantly, a better thinker. That's all at jordanharbinger.com/course, and most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:27:49] Now back to Dr. Carole Hooven.
[00:27:53] So here's a question. So if you're pregnant with — this might be just something no one's ever looked at, but if you are pregnant with a male, he has little testes that are producing testosterone in your body as a woman. And does that testosterone affect you as the carrier of that baby that has testes or is it just too small of an amount?
[00:28:13] Carole Hooven: No, it doesn't as far as I know. I don't know of any evidence that it does. It's not that the amount is too small. It has to do with the connection between the sort of fetal compartment—
[00:28:25] Jordan Harbinger: Uh-huh.
[00:28:25] Carole Hooven: —and the maternal body and the placenta. And I don't totally understand why that doesn't happen. There may be a small effect, but there's definitely nothing pronounced as far as I know. I think there are cases where there's a small effect.
[00:28:46] Jordan Harbinger: So how about this then, you're pregnant with twins, one's a boy, one's a girl, they're both in the fetal compartment, one has testes, one doesn't, does that testosterone affect the female twin?
[00:28:55] Carole Hooven: Yes.
[00:28:56] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:28:56] Carole Hooven: And this is clear in non-human animals where there's a litter. And if there's a female in between two males—
[00:29:06] Jordan Harbinger: Uh-huh.
[00:29:06] Carole Hooven: —she can be masculinized. And this is a great question and something, I probably haven't looked into enough because for anybody interested in a little bit of chemistry, the sex hormones are steroids, which means they're lipophilic. They can cross freely through cell membranes. So they basically go anywhere the blood goes and they can get into every cell in your body, including the neurons in your brain, which they do. So they diffuse all over the place. And I don't totally understand why they don't diffuse right into the maternal circulation. There is an answer and I should have it. So maybe you can—
[00:29:45] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I mean, look, I don't expect — I'm throwing weird trivia at you at this point. So yeah. I don't expect you to know the answer in this stuff.
[00:29:50] Carole Hooven: No, it's not weird. This is something — it's really interesting, but yes, even human twins, there is some effect of the testosterone on the female, but I'm not sure how. I don't think it's particularly pronounced, but it is in these litters where females are between two males.
[00:30:10] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. So gendered behavior shows up early in play, so I guess what my question is then, what this question leads to is, so boys and girls' brains are not like hormonal blank slates. Are there gendered brains then? Does T in utero make a boy's brain? Because it seems like if it affects the body or it would affect the brain unless the brain is like immune from hormones, which it probably isn't.
[00:30:33] Carole Hooven: It does affect the brain. And we do not have hard evidence in humans, the way we do in non-human animals of the structures that are masculinized. We know that there's one structure in non-human animals that it's the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area. That's central to sexual behavior. And we know testosterone enlarges that in male animals. In some male animals, we have clear evidence. And we don't know exactly how testosterone masculinize the brain in humans, but we do know that there's some evidence for like little but widespread effects on neuronal growth, neuronal death, dendritic branching, which means the connections between neurons.
[00:31:18] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:31:19] Carole Hooven: So testosterone affects all of those things, but not necessarily in ways that would be obvious if you're just looking at the brain, but you can run programs, computer programs looking at, I don't know exactly how this works, looking at male and female brains, and these programs can correctly sex a brain. I think it's like 87 percent of the time.
[00:31:42] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:31:43] Carole Hooven: In a way that a human could not just looking in at it. So yeah, there are widespread differences, but it's tough to get for obvious reasons, I think, that kind of data in humans.
[00:31:53] Jordan Harbinger: So we can see the difference in male and female. Are they looking at it like an fMRI kind of thing? Is that what it is?
[00:31:59] Carole Hooven: Or, I mean, there's lots of different ways to do it. And this is a hugely controversial area. There's, you know, full whole books written, arguing against the idea that there are male and female brains. I would say there aren't, you know, categorically different male and female brains. It's just like you wouldn't say I have a female face and that's obvious and you have a male face, but you couldn't necessarily point to any specific part of your face and say, this part is male. This is the male face and that there's like categorical differences. I might have a masculine nose or something and you might have feminine eyes. So the point is, I think, it works the same way with brains, that there are small differences that add up to something like a female brain that leads females on average to behave differently than males. And these behaviors are predispositions that are not universal. These are tendencies, and this is why we see patterns that differ by sex. But yeah, it's, they're not like categorical differences that are totally separate. And I think the brain differences are the same way.
[00:33:05] Jordan Harbinger: If again, weird trivia. So let's say that I am a male and you can sex my brain 87 percent of the time. But then I transition to a female with hormones and surgery and then five years later — does my brain change? Can you look at my brain and it's like, "Oh, now he is got a female brain"?
[00:33:23] Carole Hooven: Yeah. You can't look at your brain and say that you have a female brain, but we know that testosterone changes. We know this from non-human animals, mostly testosterone changes your motivations for one thing. So one thing in non-human animals, we know that it acts on the dopamine system. So dopamine is a neurotransmitter that can motivate animals to engage in certain behaviors. And we know that testosterone can upregulate dopamine in certain social situations like ones that might have to do with status competition or might have to do with sex. So that males have a greater motivation maybe to fight physically or to pursue a mate than females do. And so that's a change in the brain, but it's not something that you could necessarily see if that makes any sense.
[00:34:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it kind of does. I mean, look, there's probably a longer explanation that makes it more clear. I guess my question was just like, does the brain change genders when people change genders and maybe the answer to that is sort of, right? I don't know.
[00:34:30] Carole Hooven: No. Well, we have behavioral evidence. That's very clear that if I were to take male, typical levels of testosterone is part of a gender transition. While again, there's a lot of variation in the effect, the biggest effect is that I would start feeling like a teenage boy. That's very clear. So I would go from someone who, I don't feel like a teenage boy.
[00:34:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You're going to put some TMI in there, but I was here for it. I was here for it.
[00:34:58] Carole Hooven: Yeah. I was going to put some TMI. But I would become super horny basically.
[00:35:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:35:03] Carole Hooven: In a way that, for females, it's like a whole new world when they take testosterone at male levels. Again, a lot of variation here, I'm not speaking for everyone's experience. However, this is the number one behavioral change that people report even before their bodies change at all. So this is a very fast effect of taking testosterone and almost everyone who does it can tell you that their sex drive is really going up. And the experience of sex changes and becomes, again, this is a generalization, but I've talked to trans people about this, and it's consistent with the literature that the experience of sex on testosterone seems to be less about the relationship and more about the body. And I'm not making this up. And patterns of attraction tend to be more physical and less about how you feel about the person and orgasms change. The sense of orgasms, they become more sort of intense and local if you take testosterone and if you block testosterone, a lot of people say they like orgasms off of testosterone better.
[00:36:11] Jordan Harbinger: Well, they're probably longer.
[00:36:12] Carole Hooven: They are longer.
[00:36:13] Jordan Harbinger: They're probably longer and more interesting. Yeah.
[00:36:15] Carole Hooven: They're longer. And they say they enjoy the intimacy that is created and they have more of a full body experience and it's longer.
[00:36:23] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[00:36:23] Carole Hooven: So it's interesting. But if you transition, if you want to live as a man, a lot of trans people, trans men will say they like that new intense kind of sex drive and orgasm because that's what part of what being a man seems to be, are those qualities.
[00:36:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:36:42] Carole Hooven: Yeah. So it's changing the brain because it's changing behavior, it's changing psychology. So we know it's changing the brain.
[00:36:47] Jordan Harbinger: I would imagine it's just got to be such a big wake-up call/awakening in general when someone goes from one gender to the other, especially once — like I can imagine a trans man, so a woman who's who became a man, if I can phrase it that way. I'm always so careful about this, because I, I don't want to say the wrong thing and to piss people off because I'm just trying to, I don't even know, be technical about it, but so if a woman transitions to a man, so that's a trans man, right? The need for sex becomes so urgent. They must just be like, "Oh, now it all makes sense. Why guys are like obsessed with it and can't freaking—
[00:37:20] Carole Hooven: Yes.
[00:37:20] Jordan Harbinger: —keep their eyes on the road when there's a woman jogging by in tight clothing. Like now it all makes sense.
[00:37:25] Carole Hooven: That's what they say. That is what people I have interviewed and just spoken with have told me. Some people say it's not like that for them but overall — the people who de-transition, so they go female to male, live as a male, and then go back to female, those are the ones who can tell me most clearly—
[00:37:46] Jordan Harbinger: I bet.
[00:37:46] Carole Hooven: —what it's like to live as a man, because if you're living as a man, you don't have access to the same, apparently, degree, like of emotional depth and range as you do when you're living as a woman. That's another thing crying stops basically. Crying's like once a year, instead of once a week.
[00:38:03] Jordan Harbinger: It's a bummer because I got to tell you, the emotional range I can, I think that's exactly what I am experiencing like one percent of right now. Like you said, T is low, I've got my kid. I feel so many different new things that are not just like anger and frustration/happiness, which is like what I have as a man.
[00:38:20] Carole Hooven: Really?
[00:38:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:21] Carole Hooven: That's what people say. That is what people say.
[00:38:24] Jordan Harbinger: That's good.
[00:38:24] Carole Hooven: That everything is sort of through the framework of kind of more anger and frustration.
[00:38:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Especially in my family, the men are like that.
[00:38:33] Carole Hooven: But they might have the emotion, but they can let it out somehow.
[00:38:36] Jordan Harbinger: Well, it's like almost like a translation error. It's like, my grandpa was the worst. My dad is bad at it. I'm a lot better, but still it's like, my dad has like three emotions and the one that's most commonly there, aside from when he's just being normal is he's angry and he'll get angry or frustrated about something. And you're like, "Why are you angry?" And I realize now that I'm freaking 42.
[00:38:59] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:38:59] Jordan Harbinger: The reason is because he doesn't have any other vocabulary emotionally to describe what he's feeling. So it just immediately goes to frustration and anger, even if he's like, "I'm kind of hungry. I'm a little bit frustrated about this. I'm disappointed about that."
[00:39:11] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:39:11] Jordan Harbinger: "This line is too long. I'm bored, da, da, da." Nope. Just anger. Just like the switch goes on. And now that I have kids, I'm like, "Oh, okay. There's more emotions than I've had in previous years as well." And it's kind of a nice feeling you feel. Like, it's almost like being able to explain something in a foreign language because your vocabulary has increased, as opposed to just saying, "This is good."
[00:39:31] Carole Hooven: Wow.
[00:39:32] Jordan Harbinger: "This is bad. I like this. I do not like this." It's like now you have nuance. Nuance that wasn't there before.
[00:39:37] Carole Hooven: Yes. And I have to just pause and point out the way that you described your capacity for emotional expression and that of people in your family, you said, "I'm bad at this, or they're bad at this," because they're being masculine.
[00:39:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:58] Carole Hooven: "This is what we do." And I think it's unfortunate. And of course, it's reasonable to think that it's better not to feel angry, but men are sort of reviewing men who might not have the same emotional range as I do, which is like off the charts and way too much.
[00:40:17] My husband, his emotional range is like this and mine is, whoa. I don't like crying all the time, right? It's ridiculous. And, you might say, well, he's bad at his emotions or whatever, but it's a complement to me. I don't mean a compliment with an I, I mean, complement with an E.
[00:40:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:40:35] Carole Hooven: He balances me out. So I do think that we don't want to society — this is my personal view. It's controversial. We don't want a society where men start acting like women. Some men, great, you know, some men can act like women and I can act like some men. And I think that's great, but I also think it's great that somebody like me can find a partner who's more emotionally contained. I used to be frustrated with that for a long time, but I think writing this book and talking to trans people who really made me see that this is just who he is, and it really is about the hormones and yes, the upbringing, his British. But it made me more patient and compassionate and sort of understanding how he is in the world and why he's that way. Yeah. So I guess what I want to, I just, this whole judgment about men being kind of tougher or more controlled or not being as in touch with their feelings, I don't necessarily think that's bad.
[00:41:39] Jordan Harbinger: When I say bad, I mean, they just get angry a lot.
[00:41:42] Carole Hooven: Yes. And that is a problem. Yeah. But I just don't think men should beat up on themselves for not being like women because sometimes women want men to be more like them, but then they really don't because then they're not going to be attracted to them necessarily.
[00:41:56] Jordan Harbinger: That's quite the conundrum I suppose. And probably a different show. But I want to talk about eunuchs, right? No, well actually I do want to talk about eunuchs. So first things first—
[00:42:05] Carole Hooven: Well, that's the solution, right?
[00:42:07] Jordan Harbinger: There you go. Yeah, speaking of making men more like women, let's cut off some balls.
[00:42:11] Carole Hooven: Mm-hmm.
[00:42:12] Jordan Harbinger: Is testosterone only made in the testicles or is there like it's mostly made there, right? But is there some other source?
[00:42:19] Carole Hooven: Well, so for men and women that where it's made is really different. So for men, 95 percent of your testosterone is made in your testicles. So if you get rid of your testicles, you really essentially have none. I mean, you make some androgens in your adrenal gland, but they're very weak and they're not going to do much for you behaviorally or in terms of your muscle or anything. But for women, since our levels are so much lower, the adrenal androgens are important. So, it's not exactly 50/50, but something like ovaries and adrenal glands, and there's other sources of estrogen, like fat cells. And yeah, so if you get rid of your testicles, that's really basically no more testosterone.
[00:43:01] Jordan Harbinger: I know that choir boys and things like that back in the day — what are they called? Like castrati, which is obviously where that word castration comes from.
[00:43:08] Carole Hooven: That's right.
[00:43:09] Jordan Harbinger: This is such a horrible sort of barbaric thing. But I guess if you were from a poor family and you wanted to join a church choir, you could make some money doing that, but then if your voice changed, they didn't want you anymore. So the solution was, oh, this is so gross. They cut open their sack and like remove the testicles, which sounds like—
[00:43:26] Carole Hooven: You're not cutting open the sack. You're chopping the whole thing off.
[00:43:29] Jordan Harbinger: The whole thing? Why?
[00:43:30] Carole Hooven: Yes.
[00:43:31] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god, that's even worse.
[00:43:32] Carole Hooven: So the Chinese eunuchs—
[00:43:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. They cut off the whole thing. That's right.
[00:43:36] Carole Hooven: They cut off the penis and the testicles.
[00:43:39] Jordan Harbinger: They were doing that because they didn't want to impregnate any Royal family members, right? And you can't do that if you don't have a penis.
[00:43:44] Carole Hooven: That's right.
[00:43:45] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So that was the point of that.
[00:43:46] Carole Hooven: So you don't have the motivation and you don't—
[00:43:48] Jordan Harbinger: Equipment.
[00:43:49] Carole Hooven: You're making any sperm to go anywhere.
[00:43:51] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:43:52] Carole Hooven: Somebody just tweeted to me that they were listening on an audiobook to that chapter. And he said he was holding his testicles for 25 miles, just because they're precious.
[00:44:03] Jordan Harbinger: Want to make sure they were still there.
[00:44:04] Carole Hooven: You won't know how precious they are when you're reading all about men or boys who were forced to have them removed without anesthesia—
[00:44:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, god.
[00:44:13] Carole Hooven: —and then plug up the urethra for days and not be able to urinate—
[00:44:18] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god.
[00:44:18] Carole Hooven: —and not be able to drink anything.
[00:44:20] Jordan Harbinger: So many people must have died doing that.
[00:44:22] Carole Hooven: Yeah. A lot of people did die.
[00:44:23] Jordan Harbinger: Whew.
[00:44:24] Carole Hooven: But this was a way to get out of poverty and to have a job and to be taken care of into old age. That's the Chinese eunuchs that, you know, served the Imperial court and in the forbidden city, but the castrati were doing that in the slim hopes to make a living in the opera or in a church choir. So women were not allowed, you know, that was a Vatican decree and it still is to sing in church, Vatican choir, and it used to be in any Roman church. And if you castrate boys before puberty, you prevent testosterone from masculinizing the vocal cords for one thing for, you know, thickening and lengthening the vocal cords. So you retain the high voice, but you get growth of the lungs, nasal cavities, et cetera. So you have an adult who, if they're castrated when they're kids and they don't go through puberty, they don't ha have a deep voice. They retain the high voice, but they can project it. And so you get the benefits of a high voice that has this power behind it. So they were very popular, but most of the people who were castrated in hopes of achieving something like that just had to live without any testosterone, without their testicles. And they had bodies that made them look very, very, you know, strange. And they couldn't marry or have kids.
[00:45:53] Jordan Harbinger: Man, just to avoid having your family starve. I mean, that's a cruel world when we're talking about, I guess back then as well. So safe to say the reason, one of the reasons I asked about this is, okay, so men have more testosterone than women, of course. But what kind of difference are we talking about here? Like, is it slightly more? Is it like twice as much? I don't really have a concept of this.
[00:46:15] Carole Hooven: Yeah. So this again, I believe it or not, all of this stuff is controversial.
[00:46:19] Jordan Harbinger: But can't we measure the amounts of like nanograms per liter of blood or whatever. I mean—
[00:46:24] Carole Hooven: Yeah. You would think that it would be simple, but it's not. It's very complex. I wrote about some of those complexities in the book, hopefully, in an interesting way, but the point is that it's not straightforward to measure hormone levels. There's different kinds of assays. There's different times of day. Like testosterone is high in the morning and low in the evening. And. Some assays are very accurate and some are less, or some methods of measuring hormones. But what we do know is that if you use the highest quality methods and you pick your sample of people carefully, so sometimes there's actually females included in the male sample or males included in the female sample because that's how they identify. And some people think that that's totally legitimate, a legitimate way to measure testosterone differences. But overall, it's something like five to 20 times—
[00:47:22] Jordan Harbinger: Ooh.
[00:47:22] Carole Hooven: —the amount of testosterone in males than females. Again, this isn't totally categorical. There are reasons why men can have very low testosterone. There are fewer reasons why women could have testosterone in the male range that almost never happens. If it is happening, then this person might actually be male. There might be a very serious disorder. But generally, even females who have polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS, they'll have elevated testosterone and they are in fact overrepresented in elite sports. So they'll have high testosterone, but high for a woman. It doesn't reach into the male range. It's still maybe slightly out of the female range, but generally just high in the female range. So there's a very large difference.
[00:48:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's a huge difference. Because, I guess, I assumed the difference was you assume you can tell by looking in by the masculine characteristics of a man, but that could be like, oh yeah, he has 0.5 percent more testosterone. And that's enough to get them to grow a beard and have a low voice. Like, I didn't know it was five, 10, 20 times higher. So that should be something—
[00:48:31] Carole Hooven: Well, sorry. That is the sex difference.
[00:48:34] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:48:35] Carole Hooven: But within men, the difference in testosterone does not predict that much in the normal range.
[00:48:42] Jordan Harbinger: Wait, say that again. I'm not sure I understand.
[00:48:44] Carole Hooven: So the sex difference in testosterone is large.
[00:48:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yes. Between men and women, right? That's to use layman's terms here. Yeah.
[00:48:51] Carole Hooven: Thank you. So once you're sort of over some male threshold, the amount of testosterone you have does make that much of a difference.
[00:49:00] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, got it, got it. So like somebody who has more testosterone than me isn't necessarily like some giant powerlifter—
[00:49:06] Carole Hooven: In terms of natural testosterone, it just doesn't predict much like people think it does. There are lots of other factors that will go into, like what your sex drive is or how much muscle you put on or what kind of beard you grow.
[00:49:19] Jordan Harbinger: Got it. Okay. That makes sense.
[00:49:20] Carole Hooven: Just look around. Women are small compared to men, we are much weaker than men. We don't have as much power as men. You know, your upper body strength blows mine away. Testosterone causes energy that you take in from food to be preferentially deposited as muscle. And estrogen causes the energy I take in its biased towards using it to produce fat. Like why would that be? Because your wife just had a baby, that baby needs to grow and it's going to draw energy from the fat that your wife has and you back in the day might have needed to use your body to compete for the right to make that baby for you.
[00:50:09] Jordan Harbinger: That's right.
[00:50:10] Carole Hooven: So it's cool to understand that's what the hormones are doing.
[00:50:12] Jordan Harbinger: I just got to use my mind.
[00:50:13] Carole Hooven: That's why you're converting energy into offspring. That's what we do. Your testosterone is helping you do that by how that energy or influencing how that energy is used. And same thing is happening with me. So I have more fat and that's going to be used to make a baby.
[00:50:30] Jordan Harbinger: It becomes quite obvious then that testosterone affects athletic performance in a very obvious and dramatic way. If I have 10 or five times or 20 times the amount of testosterone as a female athlete in the same sport, unless the sport really doesn't require a lot of that, like, I guess, endurance sports and stuff like that might be a little bit less—
[00:50:50] Carole Hooven: Like swimming, endurance.
[00:50:51] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Maybe. I mean, I'm a terrible athlete, so it's really hard for me to even find an example of something I'd be good at.
[00:50:57] Carole Hooven: Or even running, endurance, like the ultra-marathon, women would have a hope, a prayer of winning.
[00:51:03] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. But like, let's talk powerlifting where it's like, okay, you have to be—
[00:51:06] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:51:06] Jordan Harbinger: —gimongous and super strong—
[00:51:08] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:51:09] Jordan Harbinger: —physically for a very short period of time.
[00:51:11] Carole Hooven: Right.
[00:51:11] Jordan Harbinger: There's no way that we could have the same league and have people of both genders in the same league if we want to make it fair.
[00:51:18] Carole Hooven: Well, sexes, let's just say sexes.
[00:51:20] Jordan Harbinger: I don't even, what's the difference between genders and sexes? I don't even know the difference.
[00:51:23] Carole Hooven: Well, it's just that people — some people want to say, gender is more about how you identify and sex is more about your physical characteristics. Yeah.
[00:51:33] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. That's fair. I just don't even know.
[00:51:34] Carole Hooven: So one thing I will say, it's not even about how much testosterone you have right now. It's like the fact that you went through male puberty—
[00:51:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:51:42] Carole Hooven: —means that you are always going to be taller, have stronger bones, have larger lungs, larger heart and more muscle. Like that will never go away. The muscle that you put on in puberty has some sort of staying power. There's some sort of muscle memory. You will definitely lose muscle if you block testosterone and start taking estrogen, but you will not sort of ever reach the level of a typical female, right? You'll always have an advantage over women in muscle and power—
[00:52:14] Jordan Harbinger: Because I went through male puberty.
[00:52:16] Carole Hooven: Because you went through male puberty.
[00:52:18] Jordan Harbinger: So like the foundation of the building is just different after that point.
[00:52:22] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:52:22] Jordan Harbinger: If you build a house, that's two stories tall and it's on a certain foundation, I can't be like, "You know what? Let's make this a 10-story tall house."
[00:52:29] Carole Hooven: That's right.
[00:52:30] Jordan Harbinger: "No, I can't really do anything about the foundation. Let's just build on top of it." It wouldn't work out. It would be dangerous. And so what I'm trying to get at here is like, if my bones are stronger and I've got like this extra, I don't know, shoulder, chest, back leg meats—
[00:52:43] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:52:43] Jordan Harbinger: —as a man who went through male puberty, I can't erase that development if I start identifying as a woman.
[00:52:49] Carole Hooven: Or if you just change your testosterone levels.
[00:52:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:52:51] Carole Hooven: And that is the reason why a lot more people are taking puberty blockers now because they don't want to develop those characteristics.
[00:53:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I can understand that.
[00:53:02] Carole Hooven: Because you can't ever undo it. That's the point. So if you feel that you have gender dysphoria, you feel that you might want to transition, if you're a female and you really dread going through puberty and growing breasts and hips and having the fat deposited in a female way and that's like a nightmare to you, well, now you can just prevent that.
[00:53:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:26] Carole Hooven: And you can take cross-sex hormones and go through something like a male puberty and develop almost all of the masculine, physical traits. The reason is, of course, because of just what you said, it's much harder to undo those masculine characteristics than it is to go in the other direction and transition from female—
[00:53:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:53:50] Carole Hooven: —to male because you're building up, you're not trying to kind of takedown that sort of brick framework that you can't—
[00:53:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:58] Carole Hooven: —just undo. So that's hard for some trans women especially. I interviewed one trans woman for my book. She's 6'4", she's a big woman and she has a deep voice and she has to deal with body hair.
[00:54:13] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:54:14] Carole Hooven: And these are all things that you have to get surgery or electrolysis, or, you know, there are certain ways to deal with some of those masculine traits, but the height and the big bones, you know, that's done.
[00:54:26] Jordan Harbinger: I feel so bad that people have to make this decision when they're young enough to prevent puberty or they don't have to, but in order to like avoid those effects, you have to make that decision when you're so young. It just seems so difficult. I don't even know how I would do with that as a 42-year-old adult let alone if I'm like 11, and—
[00:54:45] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:54:45] Jordan Harbinger: —I've got this. It just seems so unfair that kids that age are faced with a decision like that. It's terrible.
[00:54:51] Carole Hooven: Yeah. So, I mean, for the book, I also interviewed a 12-year-old who was on puberty blockers and that was super interesting, but what it also reveals is that when you're 12, you're 12. You know, you don't—
[00:55:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You're 12.
[00:55:03] Carole Hooven: —know. A lot of people who want to transition are gay and obviously, since they're attracted to their own sex, depending on where they are, sometimes they are bullied for being gender nonconforming.
[00:55:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I know. It's terrible.
[00:55:21] Carole Hooven: And they're miserable and their body isn't fitting, you know, with who they want to be because it's not working, trying to live say as a boy, you know, who's a little more feminine, who's attracted to other boys, or they will grow up to be gay men, but they're never going to go through their natal puberty. Kind of sometimes that helps you figure things out. But on the flip side, you can see the benefits, right?
[00:55:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:55:49] Carole Hooven: It's just, how do you know when you're so young. So this is also a really controversial area, you know? So some people really believe that this should be totally illegal. Other people think that no, we should make it easier for people to transition when they're young, that's the affirmative model. And this is an area that people are very, very worked up about right now.
[00:56:11] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, I get why they're worked up. I'm totally unqualified to opine on this, but it makes me feel bad for the people that are caught in the middle of this.
[00:56:17] Carole Hooven: Of course.
[00:56:17] Jordan Harbinger: Like, they don't have enough sh*t to worry about now. Now, they got these people who are telling them what they can and can't do.
[00:56:21] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:56:22] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh. If my kid were in that position, what would I do?
[00:56:24] Carole Hooven: Exactly.
[00:56:25] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, you'd want to support them in any way possible. And if they really are convinced, like if Jayden's really convinced that he's a female that was born into a boy's body, I would walk over hot lava to get him that treatment for him.
[00:56:36] Carole Hooven: Right.
[00:56:36] Jordan Harbinger: You know? Oh, now I'm going to be the one who cries, Carole. How did you manage that?
[00:56:40] Carole Hooven: No, but I'm so glad you said that because this is such — people are so emotional about this and have such strong feelings on both sides. But what you need to do is think what if this were my kid, especially around the sports.
[00:56:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:56:56] Carole Hooven: About trans women in sports. You've got to imagine that this is — sorry, sorry.
[00:57:04] Jordan Harbinger: No, you don't have to apologize. I'm on the same page with you.
[00:57:06] Carole Hooven: Like you have to imagine it's your kid. And part of why I'm so upset — I'm just going to spill it — is I am not transphobic enough as a public figure for people who believe that, like Lia Thomas should not be swimming on the female team. And I'm like too transphobic for saying that there are two sexes, male and female.
[00:57:28] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:29] Carole Hooven: Like you cannot win, but I don't care what anybody says, because the thing that matters is you have to care about people who are in these situations. They're human beings.
[00:57:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:39] Carole Hooven: And they're not horrible people. It could be your kid.
[00:57:43] Jordan Harbinger: It's absolutely true, right? Because I also think, I've got a little daughter, so what happens if she is playing soccer? Like, you don't want her to get injured, which is totally possible if there's a bunch of others, very much bigger, much stronger, much more aggressive people in the field too.
[00:57:59] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:58:00] Jordan Harbinger: And I know like Joe Rogan, when I was doing prep, I listened to an episode of his show about this. You can get killed fighting—
[00:58:05] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[00:58:06] Jordan Harbinger: —a man, if you're doing MMA. That's an extreme example. But it does come down to the person because I think he had said, why can't we just put them in their own league? But it's like, dude, who wants to be in the league that—
[00:58:16] Carole Hooven: Right.
[00:58:16] Jordan Harbinger: —isn't for men and isn't for women. And it's like, these people already feel in many ways, and I don't want to speak for somebody I don't know, but like. You got to already feel different enough. Now you're going to be in like the other league that's outside of it. Right. You identify as male or female, but they won't let you be in that. You got to be in the mixed league. Like it's such a—
[00:58:34] Carole Hooven: Right. It would be the open league. And right—
[00:58:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:58:37] Carole Hooven: —that is not an ideal solution. But I just want to go back to the parent thing.
[00:58:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:58:42] Carole Hooven: Because there are so many parents who are facing this issue now because there's more and more kids who want to transition who have lots of other problems, depression, anxiety, autism, and want to transition. But there are parents who think that their kids shouldn't transition, that they should get help for whatever other things they're dealing with. And they don't want to block puberty because you can never get that back.
[00:59:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:59:09] Carole Hooven: So it's not that parents only want to help their kid transition if their kid is suffering. There's lots of parents who think this isn't the right answer to my kid's suffering and they are stigmatized. So a lot of people think that they're just not supporting their kid if they don't automatically say, "Yes, my kid can transition or should transition," you know? So being a loving parent can mean not giving your kid what they say they want.
[00:59:35] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[00:59:36] Carole Hooven: Not letting your kid make decisions that they'll never have kids. You know, if you're reproductive organs don't develop, you're not having kids and you may never have an orgasm. It may be difficult to find sexual partners. It doesn't just solve your problems. It's very complex. And, but the point is to have compassion for people who are—
[00:59:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:59:54] Carole Hooven: —dealing with this.
[00:59:55] Jordan Harbinger: Compassion. Yeah. And also just like, uh, it's just such a hard decision. My goodness.
[01:00:00] Carole Hooven: Yes.
[01:00:03] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Carole Hooven. We'll be right.
[01:00:08] This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help online therapy. Going through a rough time? I have done that. And no matter how big or small of a situation, I've always sought the help of a therapist to help me navigate through them — maybe not always, before I was chicken. When I figured out the therapy was actually really good, that's when I started. But if you're on the fence, take this as a sign and a recommendation to try it out and prioritize your mental health. All of Better Help's therapists are licensed professional therapists. They take privacy very seriously. You can even be anonymous. You don't have to leave the house to talk to a Better Help therapist, which with gas prices, you probably don't even want to leave the house. It's going to double the price of the session. Connect by phone or video, even text your therapist at any time. Sometimes it's just helpful to have the ability to vent in a judgment-free zone. Plus, it's more affordable than in-person therapy for multiple reasons. You can get matched with a therapist in under 48 hours. Better Help always wants to make sure you find a therapist that works for you. So you can switch therapists at no additional charge.
[01:01:04] Jen Harbinger: And our listeners get 10 percent off your first month at betterhelp.com/jordan. That's better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan.
[01:01:12] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Progressive insurance. Let's face it. Sometimes multitasking can be overwhelming, like when your favorite podcast is playing and the person next to you is talking and your car fan is blasting, all while you're trying to find the perfect parking spot. But then again, sometimes multitasking is easy, like quoting with Progressive insurance. They do the hard work of comparing rates. So you can find a great rate that works for you, even if it's not with them. Give their comparison tool a try, and you might just find getting the rate and coverage you deserve is easy. All you need to do is visit Progressive's website and get a quote with all the coverage you want, like comprehensive and collision coverage or personal injury protection. Then you'll see Progressive's direct rate and their tool will provide options from other companies all lined up and ready to compare. So it's simple to choose the rate and coverage as you like. Press play on comparing auto rates. Quote at progressive.com to join the over 27 million drivers who trust Progressive.
[01:02:02] Jen Harbinger: Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and affiliates. Comparison rates not available in all states or situations. Prices vary based on how you buy.
[01:02:09] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you so much for listening to the show. Your support of our advertisers and sponsors is what keeps us going around here. Financially, a paywall for this stuff would make a lot of sense. I am not going to do that, but please, please support our sponsors. You can do a quick site search before buying things online. Hell, you can email me if you can't find the code for something and I will send it to you. Happy to help you support the show.
[01:02:29] Now for the rest of my conversation with Dr. Carole Hooven.
[01:02:34] With the athletics though, just to put a bow on this women's records for things like, I guess, sprinting and things like that that are routinely broken by — you can look this up — like high school boys will be able to beat like the women's speed skating world record and stuff like that.
[01:02:46] Carole Hooven: That's right.
[01:02:47] Jordan Harbinger: It almost seems like—
[01:02:48] Carole Hooven: Many high school boys.
[01:02:49] Jordan Harbinger: Many high school boys, yeah. So it's not just like the best ones. It's like hundreds of them can break—
[01:02:53] Carole Hooven: That's right.
[01:02:54] Jordan Harbinger: —the sprinting record that a woman has set. So with athletic performance, it sounds like the difference that testosterone makes, or I should say like male puberty makes is really big.
[01:03:04] Carole Hooven: Well, yeah. And testosterone — even more so if you have high testosterone throughout—
[01:03:08] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:03:09] Carole Hooven: —your career.
[01:03:10] Jordan Harbinger: But then those who try to muddy the waters, it seems like there's like a political agenda there. This is such a freaking mess. No wonder you are on the chopping block, cancel town.
[01:03:18] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[01:03:19] Jordan Harbinger: I know I'm just joking with you on this. It's a serious subject here, but like—
[01:03:23] Carole Hooven: No, you can joke. It's all right.
[01:03:24] Jordan Harbinger: You can't really touch it, right? Like you can't—
[01:03:26] Carole Hooven: I touch it. I feel it. I massage it. I'm in it.
[01:03:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You got your hand firmly on the hot stove right now, right?
[01:03:33] Carole Hooven: Well, it's science to me. It's the truth. And people should be able to speak the truth, right?
[01:03:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, well—
[01:03:40] Carole Hooven: You can be compassionate and caring and want to speak the truth because I honestly think that telling people the truth is the most compassionate thing you can do. Finding the truth and communicating it accurately is the way to help people make decisions. Let people argue with the true information, you know, instead of all this BS. Like, "No, the science doesn't say that men are stronger than women." Like, what are you talking about? You're just confusing everyone. Of course, they are. And of course, it's because of testosterone and everybody knows it, but people don't want to believe it because it makes it seem like men are supposed to abuse women, but of course, they're not. Of course, there are things we can do about that. Just because there's a fact of biology doesn't mean that dictates how we're supposed to be. And it doesn't mean that we can't change how we behave and our culture.
[01:04:29] Jordan Harbinger: Why would scientists have a dog in this fight? Like you said, it's science, it's the truth. Politics affecting science is, generally, I think just never a good thing. Whether we're talking —
[01:04:39] Carole Hooven: But it clearly is.
[01:04:40] Jordan Harbinger: —hormones or whether we're talking about the climate, right? But it's a thing like scientists should not have a dog in this fight other than investigating and getting to objective truth. Like their dog should be, "I want the numbers on a spreadsheet and see what they say," not, "Well, I really want to make sure that I get funding for this and I'm not going to get funded if I come up with the wrong—" like that shit scares me.
[01:04:58] Carole Hooven: That is it. But why wouldn't they? The whole incentive structure is to promote that second option there. People don't want to tell the truth if it means they can't have a paycheck or their reputation is going to be ruined. Or they won't get a promotion—
[01:05:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:05:12] Carole Hooven: —or they won't get tenure or they won't get their article published. That's how it works. I don't totally blame those people.
[01:05:18] Jordan Harbinger: Phew. Yeah.
[01:05:19] Carole Hooven: I blame people who have a lot of power and are being a-h*les. I don't blame people who don't have a lot of power or security or cannot deal with the reputational costs, but there are people in positions of power who should be doing better and are not. And I think that's shameful.
[01:05:34] Jordan Harbinger: If I can go there, you early on had a reaction to some science when you were, I think, an undergrad maybe, that you didn't like, and you headed out with your professor. Can you tell me about that?
[01:05:43] Carole Hooven: Yeah. So in graduate school, I was in a graduate seminar on evolution of sexual behavior. So there were some graduate students and there was a male professor. There was also a female professor in there. And I remember this vividly, we were discussing a paper on the evolution of rape. And there's a book that the same guy who wrote the paper wrote this book. And his argument is that rape is an adaptation in humans, basically, to increase reproductive success. And that's uncomfortable, but the paper argued — he was using the scorpionfly as an example. And the scorpionfly sort of does what seems like rape to the female scorpionfly. And he was arguing that human males evolved to be bigger than human females, basically, so that they could do something similar. And I have, you know, a history with sexual assault. I'm kind of sensitive about that topic. A lot of women have a history with sexual assault.
[01:06:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:06:49] Carole Hooven: So when I read that paper — you've seen how I'm emotional?
[01:06:53] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, you mean right now or just generally?
[01:06:55] Carole Hooven: No, just generally. Like, that's just how I am, right?
[01:06:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:06:58] Carole Hooven: So when I read that paper—
[01:06:59] Jordan Harbinger: I like that about you. I mean, we haven't been friends for a long time, but I like that about you. I feel like it's a very endearing—
[01:07:04] Carole Hooven: Thank you.
[01:07:04] Jordan Harbinger: —thing, but yes, I have noticed it. I have noticed it.
[01:07:06] Carole Hooven: Thank you. Okay.
[01:07:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:07:08] Carole Hooven: So when I read that paper, I was angry, but really the anger came from hurt, came from feeling vulnerable and wanting to fight back. I was supposed to be learning to analyze the argument and the data. And like we were supposed to talk about this argument — did the evidence support the argument? And I said, "This guy is an assh*le." And of course, that's not the way a scientist is supposed to be responding to an argument, right? I'm supposed to be evaluating the evidence. And the professor in the room kept saying to me, "Look at the evidence, look at the evidence, look at the data." He didn't move on. He didn't say like, "Do you need to go to the bathroom and clean up or anything?" He just wanted me to do what I was supposed to do as a student, getting a PhD at Harvard in the sciences, which is not fall apart when I can't deal apparently with somebody's argument. I need to learn how to deal with my emotions, which are intense. That's okay. I can be offended. I can be upset. I can still function. So he kept telling me to do that and reorienting me. And I did eventually learn how to, you know, really analyze the guy's argument in a way where I wasn't prejudging it because I was upset. So the point is that the truth can be very hard to deal with, but that doesn't mean it's any less true. And I want to know if that's true about rape. I really want to know that.
[01:08:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:08:38] Carole Hooven: I'm not going to pretend it's not true or resist it being true, because it would be so unpleasant if it were true.
[01:08:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:08:45] Carole Hooven: And that was a valuable lesson for me. And I try to teach my students that same way. And I tell them this story because they're going to be upset by things I say in my classes.
[01:08:55] Yesterday, I was talking about how I define sex and that there are two sexes, male and female, and that it has to do with gametes and reproduction. People had different points of view and they aired them and it was interesting and productive. I'm just thrilled that my students can do that. Some other people cannot.
[01:09:13] Jordan Harbinger: I was just going to say not a lot. I feel like a lot of people can't do that.
[01:09:17] Carole Hooven: Yeah. It's because I have students in this year as a seminar and we're learning to trust each other and respect each other and we know that everybody is acting in good faith. But when you make a claim publicly, the people who don't know you are going to come out and be critical and try to ruin your reputation and get you fired, et cetera.
[01:09:37] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Look, science is sometimes uncomfortable because we don't always like the reality of its conclusions or we want to debate the reality of a conclusion. This is where I start to feel like a boomer yelling about what's happening in our institutions and in academia, where things are supposed to be kind of sacrosanct, you know, get to the truth on the ground. And I realize—
[01:09:56] Carole Hooven: Yeah, that's not happening.
[01:09:57] Jordan Harbinger: I'm driving us a little bit towards cancel town right now. But I guess this is why it's happening in science and academia right now. Like nobody wants to get canceled and lose their career, lose their funding, like you mentioned, lose their grants.
[01:10:09] Carole Hooven: Can I pause you for a second?
[01:10:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:10:12] Carole Hooven: Because what the piece that's missing is reputation. And just from an evolutionary point of view, your reputation in your social group was everything. Your life depended on your reputation. So we, I think psychologically, are so sensitive to reputational damage.
[01:10:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[01:10:31] Carole Hooven: Because we know it's so unpleasant. I went through this. I'm still going through this and it's awful because I think I'm a good person. And for people to be talking about me as though I'm not, or that I don't care or that I hate trans people. Oh my God, it's so awful. So it's not just the grants and all that. It's how you're perceived especially if you're a public figure or a tenured professor. You don't want your grad students thinking you're an awful person.
[01:11:01] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:11:01] Carole Hooven: You don't want just people in the world, even if you don't know them or on social media saying you're an awful person. It still triggers those really intense negative responses. So people will do that, whatever they can to prevent that from happening. So anyway, I interrupted you.
[01:11:16] Jordan Harbinger: No. That makes sense. And I want to talk a little bit more about the whole cancellation thing in a bit, but first I want to make a little detour well away from, hopefully, well away from cancel town. I want to talk about toxic masculinity or the phrase toxic masculinity, because it used to mean, or at least I thought it used to mean, like beating people up and assaulting them and like telling boys that they shouldn't have any feelings and certain like weird kind of hyper-masculine gender roles. Like you'd get from some creepy, bad influence on Instagram. You know, like—
[01:11:47] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[01:11:48] Jordan Harbinger: "Shoot guns and bang chicks, bro." Like, that's what I thought it meant. But now it's almost like everything masculine is toxic somehow. And I realize it's an extreme point of view, but I see more and more of that. And it's like really kind of jump the shark, the whole concept.
[01:12:01] Carole Hooven: Yeah. It is an extreme point of view, but it is a point of view that I would say some media prefers. Like that point of view is public. People write articles about how toxic men are that get published in the Guardian and the Washington Post. And people are saying, arguing, that's logical to hate all men.
[01:12:21] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:12:22] Carole Hooven: Are they going to publish something by a man saying it's logical to hate all women? Do we have toxic femininity? No. Why not? Women can be pretty horrible to each other. There are things about that are feminine that are characteristically feminine that are pretty bad.
[01:12:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:12:38] Carole Hooven: But we are not the ones who are responsible for the overwhelming majority 95 percent of like the murders or almost all of the sexual assaults, right?
[01:12:50] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:12:50] Carole Hooven: So I think that's where it stems from is that for those really bad things, it's almost all men. I mean, hardly any women are doing that stuff. It's mostly men who are doing extremely violent acts.
[01:13:04] Jordan Harbinger: Is that like a testosterone thing then if it's mostly men doing it?
[01:13:08] Carole Hooven: Well, I would never say that testosterone causes it, but I would say, yes, it is a difference in say empathy.
[01:13:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:13:17] Carole Hooven: The bar for physical, like violent aggression is much lower in men and given the right environmental circumstances, these behaviors are going to be expressed at a much higher rate, but you and your friends are not out murdering, right? And you're masculine.
[01:13:38] Jordan Harbinger: Who said I rape and murder as much as I want, which is zero?
[01:13:41] Carole Hooven: Right.
[01:13:42] Jordan Harbinger: The rule of law people would be out there raping and murdering. And it's like, well, I'm already raping and murdering as much as I want, which is not at all.
[01:13:48] Carole Hooven: Okay. I think that that's because of the culture that most say Western men are in where it's not cool to rape and murder.
[01:13:59] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:13:59] Carole Hooven: But there are cultures where it is basically acceptable to beat the crap out of your wife or commit rape. And most of the men are happy to behave that way. There's no culture where most of the women are happy to behave in these violent, aggressive ways. There is no culture where the sex differences flipped. So I do think the evidence suggests that it depends on how, what culture you're in, what environment you're in, how you're brought up, what the norms are. But if the norms are, you can do whatever you want, basically, to women, then men will rape and it will be many men. It may not even be the exception. So I do think there's a greater genetically influenced, which is via hormones, motivation for men to behave in these ways. That's why we've constructed institutions the way that we have and cultural norms the way that we have because we can't live like that. That needs to spread to the areas of the world where those norms are not in place. So I do think testosterone has something to do with it. But the point about masculinity is — have you seen this movie about the men who work together to save those Thai football players from the cave? It's called The Rescue.
[01:15:18] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, you told me to watch it and I totally did not because it's on Disney Plus and I don't have it cause my kids are too young.
[01:15:22] Carole Hooven: Okay, all right. But it, to me, exemplifies the positive aspects of masculinity that I think also have to do with evolution and testosterone, which is this kind of heroism, this kind of brave, bold risking your life for total strangers. Women do that too. But to a much lower degree, this is mainly a male enterprise.
[01:15:46] This morning, I was out on a little pathetically, slow run, and I saw a bunch of fire and rescue trucks. And these guys are out mostly on the frozen pond, I thought, "Oh my god, they're out there saving someone." But no, they were out on a training mission to learn how to save people, I assume who've fallen through the ice. It was all men. And that to me is masculinity. That's the positive side of masculinity. You being an awesome dad. That's masculinity. You're going to rough and tumble play with your kids. I hardly do that with my son, Griffin. My husband is doing it constantly.
[01:16:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:16:26] Carole Hooven: Like they still like really play physically. He needs that. That's masculinity. Yes, a lot of the bad stuff is done mostly by men. And we have to deal with that, but that is not what masculinity is. And I don't want to associate masculinity with this word toxic.
[01:16:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:16:42] Carole Hooven: It doesn't do anyone any good. It shames men, it shames good men. And it means that people who are having struggles, who might want to act out, they're not going to talk about it, because they're just going to get shut down and called names and shamed. And that's never a good idea. We should try to understand the issues that men are dealing with, so that they can be addressed. And so that they don't feel, you know, bad for being met. Nobody should just feel bad for who they are.
[01:17:11] Jordan Harbinger: On that note, actually, that's a perfect transition. There are a lot of people that say, "Well, Carole Hooven, one to say, don't be ashamed of who you are. She is transphobic," you know, as you mentioned earlier in the show. I'm genuinely curious. What am I missing? Like, I want to hear from trans people who hate your message and why they hate it because I don't understand what the problem is. Like, what are people reacting to?
[01:17:34] Carole Hooven: Well, I should first say that the trans people I interact with are happy to read my book. Like there's so much in there for trans people about what testosterone does to your body, what it does to your mind. And I interviewed trans people and their words, they are describing their experiences. Most transgender people I have interacted with have been great. They don't have any issue with me. I obviously don't have any issue with them. I have been attacked by a couple of trans people, but that's the minority. But the problem is it's saying that there are two sexes and that sex is a material reality. Because there is a narrative that is gaining in popularity that maybe sex is on a spectrum, or it's something that's in your brain, not in your gonads.
[01:18:26] And I will not change what I'm saying because people are angry at me. I'm an educator. Like that would be doing a disservice to my students and to anyone who's listening to me on podcast or reading my book. I'm not going to change what I believe to be the truth. And most evolutionary biologists understand that sexually reproducing organisms come in two types. Those two types can be, you know, clown fish start as one sex and might transition basically to the other sex. But the types of gametes they produce change. You know, like turtles can be male or female depending on the temperature. And then their gonads will develop in a male or female direction and they'll make eggs or sperm.
[01:19:12] The point to me is that the existence of sex and knowing that there are two sexes, whether you're male or female doesn't have to define or dictate anything else. Like it doesn't answer the question of whether Lia Thomas should be able to swim in the female category, right? That's something that we decide.
[01:19:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:19:29] Carole Hooven: Evolution decides, and biology decides what sex we are, but what you do with that, how you talk about it, when is that actually meaningful for policy, or how we behave or how we express ourselves, that's up to us. People think I'm transphobic because I'm not backing down from saying that you're either male or female.
[01:19:50] Jordan Harbinger: Harvard seems to really have reacted poorly to this. Like they really have, in many ways, seemingly turned their backs on you in a way that seems quite dramatic.
[01:19:59] Carole Hooven: Well, okay. This is complicated. I will say that I'm only going to work now to teach because it's not a pleasant environment for me. The people who — I didn't even think about it explicitly, but it just seemed like when I started being attacked publicly by Harvard people, that the people that who were friends of mine, say who have tenure, who have power, would've come out and publicly supported me and said like, "This is wrong. What is happening?" And that didn't happen. And I don't want to get too much more detailed about what's going on, but it's—
[01:20:37] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:20:37] Carole Hooven: Yeah, it's been brutal. I'm really disappointed that, yeah, people turn their backs on me. Some people join the pile on. Other people just failed to speak out, who are my friends — it's amazing. People are scared. People are scared. They're not trying to be mean. They're trying to protect themselves.
[01:20:59] Jordan Harbinger: I understand that human impulse. And look, I'm also very open to being wrong on everything that I talk about here on this show, and especially in episodes like this. Like I'm not a scientist. I don't really have an opinion on this. I guess I'm just not sure why — you've told me, but I'm still not sure why people are trying to destroy you for this. I just feel like I'm missing some giant piece of the puzzle here, or maybe I'm extremely naive because I've never had, well, not never, but I haven't had a real job in 20 years. You know what I mean?
[01:21:24] Carole Hooven: I mean, it's a minority of people, but they can be very vocal and I hope it's dying down and I could be wrong, right? I could be wrong about everything. And I think that's the attitude that everyone needs to have. But what do you do when you disagree with someone, you're supposed to say, "Hey, I disagree with you about this." Not, you assume the person is a horrible human being for believing that something is true and then you attack their character. And that is what is happening increasingly. It's too bad. And what I had hoped is that I could stay at Harvard and try to promote academic freedom, which I think is really important, but I don't feel like I have a lot of support for that because other people — a lot of people who I hoped would be invested in that kind of endeavor — are really not. And so it's just a difficult environment, I guess, because I kind of feel alone.
[01:22:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, how do you then now see your role as a science educator? Because you really are like you're up against it.
[01:22:25] Carole Hooven: I'm not sure that I see a future within an academic institution. I'm not sure — yeah, it's a little bit of a difficult time for me. I'm just not sure what to do now.
[01:22:37] Jordan Harbinger: It's such a shame to lose somebody who loves teaching a subject to other people for any reason, we don't have enough people that want to do that.
[01:22:45] Carole Hooven: I think so. And I love teaching and my students are very happy with my classes and I'm devoted to them and I get so much out of teaching. I really adore my students and they know it. And so this is very, very hard.
[01:23:00] Jordan Harbinger: What do you want people to take away from the book? You know, I've read it. It's like a bio textbook that you actually want to read. It keeps you interested. There's not many books like that about biology.
[01:23:09] Carole Hooven: Ugh, it's not a bio textbook. Geez.
[01:23:11] Jordan Harbinger: But I'm saying it has a lot of—
[01:23:12] Carole Hooven: No, bio textbook.
[01:23:13] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. Compliment gone around.
[01:23:15] Carole Hooven: No one wants to buy a bio textbook—
[01:23:17] Jordan Harbinger: No, no but it's not — what I'm saying is it's not a bio textbook. It teaches you a lot about biology, but you actually want to read it and it keeps you interested. How's that?
[01:23:24] Carole Hooven: Thank you.
[01:23:24] Jordan Harbinger: I'm not going to edit my comment because I did screw up that compliment and people need to know that I butcher this stuff as much as anyone else.
[01:23:31] Carole Hooven: Yeah. That's right.
[01:23:31] Jordan Harbinger: But what do you want people to take away from the book? There's a lot in there about a lot of things. What would you say? What do you want people to leave with?
[01:23:39] Carole Hooven: First of all, like, this is what I feel I can do for students who come in saying they don't like science. So I get a lot of students who are like, "I'm humanities, I'm this, I'm that, I'm English," and they're nervous and they don't like science, but they want to learn about themselves. They want to learn about their sex selves. They want to learn about the endocrinology of stress or appetite or diabetes or whatever. I think what I can do for them is show them how cool and fun and like fascinating science can be if done right. You know, if put in context of our real lives, how does this molecule affect real people? How does testosterone shape men? And then how does that shape the rest of us? And I'm trying to connect that molecule to big social issues.
[01:24:22] And one of the social issues is the denial that it's important. And so throughout the book, I'm pushing back against arguments that this molecule and that sex differences in our genes and in our hormones aren't important that sexual selection and evolution doesn't have much to do with the brain and behavior. That's all social. So I'm pushing back against that by trying to present convincing evidence that this hormone really is important and explains so much about who we are.
[01:24:50] You know, people are telling me that they love reading it and that it's fun and engaging. And that was the other thing I tried to do was just write a book that people really want to read. I'm in it, you know, it's sort of my journey too.
[01:25:03] Jordan Harbinger: When I originally planned this interview, I was not expecting to go down a lot of these different roads and I thought, you know, it's really — you just think like, "Oh, I know a lot about hormones, you know, I'm a guy, like it's not that complicated." And the more of these little rabbit holes, you go down from the book and from conversations like this, the more I just get so interested in it. And I think that your candor and vulnerability is also just such a perfect way to teach what for many people as a really sensitive subject as well.
[01:25:32] Carole Hooven: Thank you. And you're not what I expected.
[01:25:35] Jordan Harbinger: Really? What did you expect?
[01:25:37] Carole Hooven: No, I thought you'd be more sleek.
[01:25:40] Jordan Harbinger: Sleek. Okay.
[01:25:41] Carole Hooven: And you're genuine that it turns out — when I first started this stuff, I was nervous because I didn't know how to be the type of person I thought I was supposed to be as a science authority.
[01:25:53] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, like a media-trained person?
[01:25:55] Carole Hooven: Yeah, no, I did get media training because I was scared—
[01:25:57] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, you did. Okay.
[01:25:57] Carole Hooven: —about what I'm doing now, which is not being the way I was scared of just being myself basically. But it turns out people like it when you're yourself.
[01:26:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, they do.
[01:26:08] Carole Hooven: And if you are yourself and people like it, that feels amazing. So maybe that's part of why you — but yeah, I learned a big lesson. People don't want, like, "This is how this works and I'm in a big authority and blah, blah." They want like real people.
[01:26:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah, no, that makes it way more interesting. I think we probably could have found a lot of hormone endocrine experts that would explain things in a dry way. That doesn't work as well in podcasts.
[01:26:36] Carole Hooven: Right.
[01:26:36] Jordan Harbinger: And I appreciate that. I'm not sleek, whatever that means, that might mean. I agree with you.
[01:26:42] Carole Hooven: Thank you.
[01:26:42] Jordan Harbinger: But I'm not sure what it means.
[01:26:43] Carole Hooven: Yeah.
[01:26:44] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I appreciate that. And again, thank you so much for coming on the show. I've really, really enjoyed this.
[01:26:48] Carole Hooven: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[01:26:52] Jordan Harbinger: You're about to hear a preview of The Jordan Harbinger Show with former professional skateboarder and entrepreneur, Rob Dyrdek.
[01:26:58] Rob Dyrdek: I made my mom come in and meet with the counselor and the principal, and just basically sold them on this idea that I'm going to be a pro skateboarder now.
[01:27:09] Jordan, I live in kill mode. Kill mode is like my lifestyle. You know what I mean? Like I am so optimized and operated such a high level that alone gives me energy. I track every hour of every single day and have it tagged. And it all pumps into a living dashboard of how perfectly balanced my time is. So I've gamified living at this deeply, highly optimized existence. That's also a hundred percent balanced by design.
[01:27:41] I live as light as a feather. When that system is out of balance, it's impossible to grow into your full potential, right? And then if you haven't defined what your full potential is in what the life that you want to live and what all aspects of that look like, then you're never going to find it. It's looking at everything you want to achieve and breaking it down to the very first task that you know, you can do.
[01:28:06] The most extraordinary way is to begin to turn the idea of deciding what you want, defining, you know, four or five milestones, and then doing one after another, till you get to it and doing that in all aspects of life over and over again, you begin to feel as if you control reality because you put something that didn't exist as the mile marker. And then you built a plan to do it. And you did it.
[01:28:33] Jordan Harbinger: To learn more about how Rob Dyrdek dropped out of high school at age 16 and how he now optimizes his life to the fullest potential, check out episode 498 on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:28:46] Wow. So there was a lot to process in this one. I really enjoyed this. I, of course, also hope it doesn't torpedo my career somehow, but who knows? You just can't tell, what's going to get you these days. Again, open to being wrong about what was discussed today as well. But it has to be from a scientific perspective. It can't just be like, "I don't like that information." If there's something we missed or whatever, please do tell me. Looking forward to most of your reactions to this episode. Some of the letters we get here on the show, they're about how someone's life has changed because of something they heard here. Something that they maybe wouldn't hear anywhere else because they're teachers or other people in their life that they know are literally afraid to talk about this at all.
[01:29:25] I mean, look, at Dr. Carole Hooven's tenure here at Harvard, she's getting freaking destroyed by her own colleagues. Some of them, student organizations are popping up to label her a terrible person. I mean, it just seems a little bit unfair. Again, maybe I'm missing something, but man, it just seems like this is blown way out of proportion.
[01:29:43] It would seem that culture/society largely makes men, men and women, women, but T plays a crucial role. And I've also heard interesting stuff here. T levels will drop when we are defeated or even when our favorite sports team loses. I also found it interesting that domestic abuse, so inter-partner violence between males and females, men do more damage. They're stronger. They do worse things, but the abuse rate is similar on both sides. I thought that was fairly surprising. I really thought it would be like 90, 10 or 95, 5 with men doing the majority of it. Although I do get letters from many of you that are being abused by your significant other, your female significant other, and I've encouraged you to get help.
[01:30:22] Also fascinating for me, testosterone and social status and hierarchy obsession. I don't think I need to explain this to men. We are all about that, especially in our teenage years. Women have this too, but it's different. Also in the book, she goes into how T increases attention to those channels for status. So basically, if you give testosterone to a bunch of yogis, they're going to stretch and meditate more and compete in that way. But if you give it to a street gang, you are going to see more violence, or I don't know, maybe just more dance-offs if it's an '80s music video street gang. In any case, I hope y'all enjoyed this one as much as I did.
[01:30:57] All things Dr. Hooven will be on the website in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Books are at jordanharbinger.com/books. Please use our website links if you buy the books from any guest on the show, for that matter, it does help support the show. Transcripts are on the show notes, videos on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. They're all in one place. It's searchable. Please consider supporting those who support this. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or connect with me right there on LinkedIn.
[01:31:28] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use. It's our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. I don't need your billing information. I just want you to get some skills. That's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty and build relationships before you need them. This is the stuff that has helped me build my business to where it is. And honestly, I wish I knew it 20 years ago. Again, that's jordanharbinger.com/course.
[01:31:56] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. As I said last time, please share it with somebody who's interested in sex, gender, all of these types of topics we discussed, unless you think they are going to have a nuclear freaking meltdown and come over to my house with a baseball bat, maybe skip those people. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:32:35] This episode is sponsored in part by Walk-Ins Welcome podcast. You're looking for another high-quality fascinating podcast to add to your rotation? Check out Walk-Ins Welcome with Bridget Phetasy, my friend over there. Every Thursday, Bridget talks about the beautiful failures and frightening successes of her own life and the lives of her guests. I've been on this show before, so I can tell you she's a good interviewer. She has genuine conversations with thought leaders, comedians, academic pundits, just a plain old regular folks. Colin Quinn has been on there, Amanda Knox who you've heard on this show, Andrew Yang. By the time you're finished listening to this, you're going to have a newfound appreciation for the guest, of course, their thoughts in their journey. And Walk-Ins Welcome embodies the importance of speaking plainly and honestly, with anyone, regardless of their politics, their credentials, their point of view. These conversations will remind you that we can laugh in pain and cry in joy, but there's no greater mistake than hiding from it all. And our lowest moments can be the building blocks for our eventual fulfillment. And I'm telling you, the show is educational, entertaining, relevant, witty, and most importantly on my same network, PodcastOne. So check out, Walk-Ins Welcome, where all are welcome, on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.