The answer to the question of why people are afraid of testosterone is very simple: they do not understand the hormone. People complain about birth rates and spermatogenesis, yet they believe that having high testosterone makes one a ‘savage’ who ‘cannot control their impulses’. However, if you knew anything about the hormone and how it’s vital to normal functioning then you would not say that.
I’ve covered why testosterone does not cause crime by looking at the diurnal variation in the hormone, showing that testosterone levels are highest at 8 am and lowest at 8 pm, while children commit the most crimes at 3 pm and adults at 10 pm. The diurnal variation is key: if testosterone truly did cause crime then rates of crime would be higher in both children and adults in the morning; yet, as can be seen with children, there are increases in amounts of violence committed when they enter school, go to recess, and exit school. This shows why those times are related to the spike in crime in children.
I have wrote a previous article citing a paper by Book et al (2001) in which they meta-analyzed testosterone studies and found that the correlation between testosterone and aggression was .14. However, that estimate is too high since they included 15 studies that should have not been included in the analysis. The true correlation is .08 (Archer, Graham-Kevan, and Davies, 2004). So, clearly, along with the fact that the diurnal variation in testosterone does not correlate with crime spikes, it shows that testosterone has no relationship to the cause of crime; it’s just always at the scene because it prepares the body to deal with a threat. That does not mean that testosterone itself causes crime.
One main reason people fear testosterone and believe that it causes crime and by extension aggressive behavior is because of racial crime disparities. According to the FBI, black Americans by and large commit the most crime, despite being 13 percent of the US population. And since it has been reported that blacks have higher levels of testosterone (Ross et al, 1986; Lynn, 1992; Rushton, 1997; Ellis, 2017), people believe that the supposed higher levels of testosterone that blacks, on average, have circulating in their blood is the ultimate cause of the crime disparities in America between races. Though see above to see why this is not the ultimate cause.
Blacks, contrary to popular belief, don’t have higher levels of testosterone (Gasper et al, 2006; Rohrrman et al, 2007; Lopez et al, 2013; Richard et al, 2014). Even if they did have higher levels, say the 13 percent that is often cited, it would not be the cause of higher rates of crime, nor the cause of higher rates of prostate cancer in blacks compared to whites. What does cause part of the crime differential, in my opinion, is honor culture (Mazur, 2016). The blacks-have-higher-testosterone canard was pushed by Rushton and Lynn to explain both higher rates of prostate cancer and crime in black Americans, however I have shown that high levels of testosterone do not cause prostate cancer (Stattin et al, 2003; Michaud, Billups, and Partin, 2015). Looking to testosterone as a ‘master switch’ as Rushton called it is the wrong thing to research because, clearly, the theories of Lynn, Rushton, and Ellis have been rebutted.
People are scared of testosterone because they do not understand the hormone. Indeed, people complain about lower birth rates and lower sperm counts, yet believe that having high testosterone will cause one to be a high T savage. This is seen in the misconception that injecting anabolic steroids causes higher levels of aggression. One study looked at the criminal histories of men who self-reported drug use and steroid use Lundholm et al (2014) who conclude: “We found a strong association between self-reported lifetime AAS use and violent offending in a population-based sample of more than 10,000 men aged 20-47 years. However, the association decreased substantially and lost statistical significance after adjusting for other substance abuse. This supports the notion that AAS use in the general population occurs as a component of polysubstance abuse, but argues against its purported role as a primary risk factor for interpersonal violence. Further, adjusting for potential individual-level confounders initially attenuated the association, but did not contribute to any substantial change after controlling for polysubstance abuse.“
The National Institute of Health (NIH) writes: “In summary, the extent to which steroid abuse contributes to violence and behavioral disorders is unknown. As with the health complications of steroid abuse, the prevalence of extreme cases of violence and behavioral disorders seems to be low, but it may be underreported or underrecognized.” We don’t know whether steroids cause aggression or more aggressive athletes are more likely to use the substance (Freberg, 2009: 424). Clearly, the claims of steroids causing aggressive behavior and crime are overblown and there has yet to be a scientific consensus on the matter. A great documentary on the matter is Bigger, Stronger, Faster, which goes through the myths of testosterone while chronicling the use of illicit drugs in bodybuilding and powerlifting.
People are scared of the hormone testosterone—and by extent anabolic steroids—because they believe the myths of the hulking, high T aggressive man that will fight at the drop of the hat. However, reality is much more nuanced than this simple view and psychosocial factors must also be taken into account. Testosterone is not the ‘master switch’ for crime, nor prostate cancer. This is very simply seen with the diurnal variation of the hormone as well as the peak hours for crime in adolescent and adult populations. The extremely low correlation with aggression and testosterone (.08) shows that aggression is mediated by numerous other variables other than testosterone, and that testosterone alone does not cause aggression, and by extension crime.
People fear things they don’t understand and if people were to truly understand the hormone, I’m sure that these myths pushed by people who are scared of the hormone will no longer persist. Low levels of testosterone are part of the cause of our fertility problems in the West. So does it seem logical to imply that high testosterone is for ‘savages’, when, clearly, high levels of testosterone are needed for spermatogenesis which, in turn, would mean a higher birth rate? Anyone who believes that testosterone causes aggression and crime and that the injection of anabolic steroids causes ‘roid rage’ should do some reading on how the production of the hormone in the body as well as the literature on anabolic steroids. If one wants birth rates to increase in the West, then they must also want testosterone levels to increase as well, since they are intimately linked.
Testosterone does not cause crime and there is no reason to fear the hormone.