Shakespeare refers to the concept in The Tempest when the magician Prospero describes the monster Caliban as “a born devil on whose nature nurture can never stick.” At the risk of oversimplifying, the debate boils down to whether or not an individual’s genetic makeup supersedes their external influences, like their environment. This biological lens has been used to study everything from animal behavior to developmental psychology, and it can be a key component of our debates on societal issues as well.
For example, no one is born voting Democrat or Republican. In our minds, we hold certain priorities over others which might influence our vote one way or the other, in addition to observing how our parents and peers vote. But is it possible that a biological change can influence your political convictions? The short answer is yes, as one study found that more testosterone gets men to vote Republican.
Evidence of a “Red Shift”
Before we delve into the research, we should acknowledge that we don’t know a lot about voting patterns among the sexes to begin with. But we do know that, historically, ever since the 19th Amendment was passed, women statistically vote at a higher turnout than men. And we also know, according to the Pew Research Center, that in the 103 years since women were granted the right to vote, the gender gap between political party affiliations grows more and more with each election season.
In the 2016 presidential election, 63% of eligible women voted, compared to 59% of eligible men. Additionally, we know that 56% of women were registered Democrats in 2018 and 2019, compared to 50% of men who were registered Republicans. Women tend to be more left-leaning, as they see progressive policies as issues of tolerance and empathy, while men are more likely to be naturally concerned with conservative values, which they see as moral issues. But 42% of men still consider themselves Democrats.
Higher T correlates with conservative values, lower T with more progressive ones.
However, one researcher found that a biological change – introducing more testosterone to male test subjects – induced a “red shift” in their voting patterns. The study in question was conducted at Claremont Graduate University by Professor Paul Zak, director of neuroeconomic studies.
During the 2012 presidential election cycle, Zak analyzed the voting preferences of 136 men. Participants were either given synthetic testosterone or a placebo after disclosing their voting preferences, and participants who indicated they were neither Republican nor staunch Democrats but “weakly-affiliated Democrats” saw their voting preferences shift 45% to Republican candidates after the administration of the testosterone. The study concludes with the determination that “neuroactive hormones affect political preferences.”
Stereotypes Exist for a Reason
Our culture may be obsessed with decrying how offensive stereotypes are, but they all come from somewhere. Recent content from the news media not only covers these harmful generalizations but reinforces them. After all, we were recently told that exercise – a seemingly innocuous physical pastime for many – is now a hallmark of the right wing. Vice recently published a story on how “gym bros” are more likely to be “right-wing a**holes, according to science.”
If the devotees of the right wing are militantly fit by their opponents’ own admission, what does that in turn say about the opposition? If “gym bros” are in shape and vote conservative, then logic naturally dictates that a left-leaning, progressive type, colloquially known as a soy boy or a beta, is as physically intimidating as a crisp french fry. These types are as pervasive online as their gym bro counterparts. You can’t miss them online – they’re posting selfies from an abortion rights or other feminist movement rally, with their pronouns in their profile bios and a Ukranian flag in their handle.
All of this sounds almost laughable when you think about it, but now we have conclusive scientific proof that those with higher testosterone prefer Republican candidates. The proof is in the pudding: Higher T correlates with conservative values, lower T with more progressive ones.
Perhaps this is the very reason masculinity is so demonized in our culture today. There is a very real male fertility decline in this country, but left-wing outlets refuse to take it seriously, or even mock advocates of high testosterone and/or traditional masculinity, despite observing firsthand what weak men have done for our dating lives, our familial stability, and our overall cultural consciousness.
How This Influences the Men We Choose
We don’t just choose our mates by their physical attributes, although that is an important aspect of romantic attraction. Our boyfriend’s or husband’s personal convictions and ethics that are important to him might be just as much of a turn-off as their physical hygiene habits or their emotional baggage.
There’s nothing amiss with desiring a mate who has the same convictions we do, especially if there’s a prospective family in the future. It’s completely natural to want a husband and potential father to our children who shares the same values we do, only now, we have evidence that physicality can tell us which way that potential mate might lean politically.
Strong men, in the physical and literal sense, do have a tendency to want families.
Interpreting an individual’s trustworthiness or other crucial characteristics by their outer appearance is known as physiognomy, a practice that is attributed to ancient Greek philosophers. Many today consider physiognomy to be a pseudoscience, but when we consider the physicality of the heroes and villains of our favorite fairy tales and films and even the public figures we see in the news and on social media, we have to admit that the theory does have some credence.
Legitimizing this theory probably wasn’t the intent of the initial study on testosterone in men, but it does legitimize what many of us have observed, both with our literal and figurative eyes. Strong men, in the physical and literal sense, do have a tendency to want families, as well as a desire to create their own homes free from the overreach or influence of those who don’t understand their values and a willingness to protect that stake at any cost. It should then come as no surprise that weaker men are unlikely to stand up for these convictions, which should be one of the highest factors of consideration when we’re choosing a mate.
Politics influence everything from our Twitter algorithms to our dating preferences, and now it’s potentially disproving the old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” If your man goes to the gym regularly and takes pride in his workout regimen and health, it’s probably not the deal breaker you might think it is.
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