There are days when I feel sorry for men, and today is one of them. A headline grabbing study indicates that men with smaller testicles are more likely to be better fathers, presumably because they produce less testosterone which makes them more nurturing. (Time magazine says to “choose dads with smaller ‘nads.”)
Aside from the blush-inducing embarrassment this finding will raise on date nights this week, I pity the male half of our species who are subjected to such findings every few years or so.
Men with male patterned baldness are supposedly less interested in diaper changing and homework responsibilities also due to their soaring testosterone levels. And we’ve been told that women seek out guys with pillow lips and soft chins to settle down with after a more masculine-looking man has already made them pregnant. (That’s based on studies looking at who women are attracted to at certain points during their menstrual cycles.)
When it comes to men assessing women, however, they only seem to be interested in physical qualities that make her more likely to be fertile, according to recent findings from researchers. Big hips and a small waist don’t necessarily predict whether a woman will be more nurturing and less likely to make nasty comments about her teenage daughter’s weight.
But men, it seems, are doomed to be judged as devoted parents on the basis of their hormone levels.
This particular study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, determined that the size of a man’s testicles—in the 70 fathers who volunteered for the study—was inversely correlated with brain activity in “nurturing” regions of the brain when the men looked at photos of their children while undergoing MRI imaging.
Those with smaller gonads had more activation in these areas than those who were better endowed and had particularly strong reactions when shown photos of their child displaying intense emotions like crying or laughing. The Emory University researchers also found that men with bigger berries were less likely to be involved in child-care responsibilities when they conducted surveys of their wives. And, yes, they did have measurably higher testosterone levels.
Do the researchers think women are going to suddenly switch to a preference for less ballsy men? (If women actually have such a preference, which I’m not sure they do.)
Likely they won’t, according to the researchers. They wrote that their finding may be of some importance in illustrating the “trade-off between mating effort and parenting effort, as indexed by testicular size and nurturing-related brain function, respectively.” Women will probably continue to seek out both types of men—or heck, some may be lucky enough to find a blending of the two.
Deborah Kotz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.