Although women generally find high testosterone men attractive and especially around the time of their ovulation,there are still more important traits that women consider crucial and are important for a healthy balance.
Men with high testosterone are known to be more aggressive and violent. A man with all of the attractive masculine qualities who is cruel or mean can prove to be impossible to live with. So, women also desire men who are intelligent, dependable, and emotionally stable. These are the men who make good fathers and husbands. Research shows that there is a correlation between intelligence and men who value exclusive sexual relationships (interestingly, women showed no such correlation between intelligence and desire for exclusive relationships). Men who have the combination of high testosterone and high intelligence are rare commodities indeed!
In summary, it’s easy to see why the question of what a woman wants in a man can be so puzzling for men. It can definitely constitute a mystique. And yet, with our ancestral history, it is easy to begin to understand why women’s preferences can be so complex and have so many variations. Their preferences are very dependent upon context and there are facets that are being analyzed (consciously and unconsciously)on many different levels. Their decisions reflect innate programs that are the result of the challenging survival situations that ancestral women had to deal with over millions of years of female choice. Testosterone and Oxytocin.
There is a trade-off between testosterone and oxytocin. Higher levels of testosterone drive down levels of oxytocin and vice versa. Generally, men have many, many times higher levels of testosterone than women and women have substantially more oxytocin (and estrogen that boosts its effect) than men. That’s why women on average are more empathetic, more focused on the well-being of others, more generous with money, time, and volunteering, and are overall, more charitable than males. As we have said before, this hyper-testosterone situation is also a major influence in the tendency of men to be players.
But at the same time, testosterone gives men the tendency to be judgmental of other men who practice infidelity. Elliot Spitzer, a former New York state attorney general, was famous for crusading against corruption, while at the same time patronizing prostitutes from an escort service. During the 1990s, some of the top congressional leaders who were adamant about impeaching Bill Clinton because of his connection to the affair with Monica Lewinsky were also carrying on. Before it was over, each of the five, family-values Republicans were revealed as being involved in their own adulterous affairs and at least one had fathered an illegitimate baby by an affair.
In both of the above cases, males display less empathy than females. Testosterone actually blocks the binding of oxytocin to the receptor, which lowers men’s empathetic responses and also affects their willingness to do the understanding or virtuous thing. The higher the testosterone level, the more oxytocin is blunted, and the less empathy men have. The less empathy someone feels, the less generous they are. So, testosterone particularly interferes with the uptake of oxytocin, essentially throwing a wet blanket on the tendency to be caring and feeling.
I have witnessed this phenomenon many times in my classes. Each semester we do what we call a campus food tour to check out the nutrition quality of the food that is offered across campus. In all my years of doing this learning activity, I have never observed a male offer to come to the aid of a classmate who wasn’t able to do the running associated with doing this tour. It has, however, been commonplace for women who realize that their injured classmates would not be able to keep up with the running group to request that they be allowed to walk and accompany their injured classmate so their classmate doesn’t have to be isolated from the group. Each time I’ve observed this phenomenon, I have examined the situation carefully to see if there questing young woman is asking just to get out of running. Each time, it has been an athletic student who loves physical activity and is a leader in the class. As I’ve continued observing, I’ve become convinced that it is all about the empathy she is feeling for her classmate who isn’t able to fully participate, as well as empathy for her unwanted state of debilitation. She is willing to forgo her own workout in order to ease the loneliness and stress her friend is feeling. I believe it is a sterling example of what we are discussing here with the magnified effects of the sex differences when it comes to testosterone and oxytocin ratios in young men versus young women.