Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oxytocin vs. Testosterone

That was the take-home message of a lecture I attended:


The lecturer was Ziva Kramer, a dating coach / shadchanit / "relationship expert." Sponsored by the Jewish International Connection, the evening also included an open bar (kind of wasted on most women, especially a substance abuse counselor, although I did have one beer), a raffle (which I wasn't interested in, since I'm not a lucky person), and Q&A with "Celebrity Stylist Mark Garrison." For $20, I figured it was worth a shot.

I got there exhausted after a long day of training (and a short night of sleep, like tonight). After signing in, I was offered raffle tickets, which I declined, and told I could curbside Mark G. for hair advice. I'm always interested in hair advice, so I approached him and said that I was suffering from post-Brazilian keratin frizz. He lifted a hank of my hair and ran his fingers through it professionally and dispassionately.

"It looks pretty good," he said. "You haven't done anything else to your hair, right -- no color or other processes?" he asked. "It's virgin hair."

Nice to know that part of me still is.

"Virgin hair doesn't respond as well to process as hair that's already been chemically treated," he told me. "The next time you do the keratin, you'll have less frizz. Where did you have it done?" he asked. I told him. "I'm not familiar with them. We do the procedure at my salon."

I'm sure it costs a lot more at your salon. But I thanked him and got some crudités. I suppose the consult was worth the price of admission.

Ziva spoke for about half an hour about how touching a man induces the release of oxytocin in women, whereas touching a woman induces the release of testosterone in a man.

Oxytocin is a hormone that makes you feel more attached and bonded to a person -- this destroys your objectivity and ability to assess whether a man is really right for you. That can lead to wasting time in dead-end relationships that won't lead to the chuppah. In contrast, testosterone makes men more impulsive and less thoughtful, and will cause them to ultimately lose interest in the woman they're touching. (She only spoke for half an hour, but this was the gist.)

Ziva's got something of a point. She quoted Andrew Sullivan's piece on testosterone therapy for his HIV:

Within hours, and at most a day, I feel a deep surge of energy.... My attention span shortens. In the two or three days after my shot, I find it harder to concentrate on writing and feel the need to exercise more. My wit is quicker, my mind faster, but my judgment is more impulsive.... And then after a few days... [I am] less directed toward action than toward interaction, less toward pride than toward lust.

The odd thing is that, however much experience I have with it, this lust peak still takes me unawares.... It creeps up on you. It is only a few days later that I look back and realize that I spent hours of the recent past socializing in a bar or checking out every potential date who came vaguely over my horizon. You realize more acutely than before that lust is a chemical. It comes; it goes. It waxes; it wanes. You are not helpless in front of it, but you are certainly not fully in control.

How a wife is to manage testosterone surges in her husband and keep him committed to her, Ziva did not address, although I suspect she'd champion taharat hamishpacha. But she says she doesn't charge for her matchmaking services, so I'm going to try to meet with her. Whether I'll be able to keep myself from touching men I date is anybody's guess.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Interesting. I'm not sure how much of dating's ups and downs can be chemically attributed, and I'd bet that Sullivan is getting far more testosterone in his shot than a man gets from touching a woman. There's also a natural "testosterone cycle" in men, where the hormone surges at points every month or so.

    It's probably academic, though, because even with this knowledge, I don't think many couples are going to be refraining from touching (who wouldn't otherwise have already). And God help the couple whose niddah weeks coincide with his testosterone surge.... !

  2. NJG - it would not at all surprise me if a man's body regulated its testosterone surges according to his wife's nidda cycle, if they observing. Many somatic activities have psychological roots.

  3. It sounds a little too convenient for me - apologetics and after-the-fact 'proof' that 'our system' is the best.

    The rising divorce rate among 'traditionally frum' couples oughtn't be happening, then, should it?

  4. Hi this is Ziva:)
    Here’s a question a woman asked me recently:
    You wrote in your book that testosterone represses men’s hearing cortexes, making them “deaf” to women’s needs. So if men are less communicative and more aggressive when their testosterone is stimulated, what’s going to happen when my man and I get married and are having a lot of sex? Is he going to stop communicating with me? I mean, I’m willing to wait until marriage for sex, but I’m afraid that once we’re having sex, everything will fall apart.
    Here’s my answer:
    Moderation! Think about it: Do you eat food? Of course! But do you gorge yourself six times a day? No! Why? Because too much of anything can be harmful. Once you’re married, of course you’re going to enjoy lots of sex, but you still need to control yourself to a certain extent. Luckily, your body “reminds” you to practice moderation. For example, when you get your period, you can take a breather from your sex life. This will allow you time to take care of yourself and will allow him an opportunity to exercise self-control. Your period should be a time for communication, a time when you can talk with and listen to each other, a time for him to pamper you a little.

  5. This is Ziva again:)

    My answer to the rising divorce rate among 'traditionally frum' couples. I agree that the divorce rate is also rising in the traditionally frum couples but studies indicate that the rate of divorce in the frum world is not as much as it is in the secular world.

  6. Ziva answer to what happen to married men after marriage:
    You also might be interested to know that the level of testosterone drops dramatically among married men. fox news: "Study: Married Men, No Matter How Masculine, Have Lower Testosterone Levels Than Single Men". By the way, These men are NOT religous!

  7. Wow, Ziva -- you really have all the answers! But how did you find my blog???

  8. Lol:)
    i have secret agents all over the world:) and I love your blog....