This article first appeared on VICE US
As someone who regularly espouses progressive ideologies online, I’m used to having my masculinity called into question. This sort of antagonism is hardly a new development. For most of human history, the (pussy) concepts of compassion, empathy, and mercy have butted heads with man’s baser, id-driven impulses. And though the political right has long claimed manliness as a trait intrinsic to its platform, its brand of machismo is enjoying a renaissance in the era of memes and Trump.
While the derision of effete liberal characters like 2013’s “pajama boy” served as early rumblings of what was to come, it was the ascension of the current president, himself a walking parody of bravado, that seems to have been the catalyst for this latest, uniquely aggressive wave of toxic masculinity.
The alt-right, in particular, seems utterly obsessed with proving its own manliness and disproving that of its opponents. Its displays of masculinity take a number of familiar forms, such as championing the subjugation of women via "white sharia," showing off gun collections, or fantasizing about political adversaries’ unfaithful wives. But as you go further down the rabbit hole, the alt-right's standards of masculinity become more confounding, often appearing at odds with one another, such as these two posts from frequent alt-right meeting ground, /r/The_Donald, one proclaiming that "real men hold their own umbrellas," whereas the other suggests "real men don't use umbrellas."
The language used to parse this brand of machismo can be equally convoluted and hard to pin down. With the once-ubiquitous insult "cuck” now passé, and the SJW MSM forcing them to (usually) reserve “faggot” for private company, a new favorite put-down has emerged: “soy boy.” The pejorative is based on the scientifically disproven belief that consumption of soy products feminizes men by lowering their testosterone and the equally baseless presumption that liberals eat large amounts of soy.
Frankly, it all sounds exhausting. With so many waking hours dedicated to arcane guidelines about what does and doesn’t constitute a man, I couldn’t help but wonder where these paragons of masculinity find the time to live the manly lives of their dreams.
I decided to explore this idea by having the manliest day humanly possible, while lab-testing my testosterone levels—the metric of masculinity these folks seem most concerned with—before and after, to see if it had any impact.
After scouring the web and cultivating a list of cliché activities and attitudes that guys from the alt-right and other macho corners of the internet regard as masculine, I composed a T-spiking itinerary to put my testicular fortitude to the test.
On a morning when my facial hair had reached an adequate level of masculine stubble, I collected a “before” saliva sample and got to work.
I began with a trip to my apartment complex’s gym, where I lifted the heaviest free weights I could, making sure to loudly vocalize my efforts. I’m glad the gym was empty while I was doing this because if someone had taken issue with my grunts, I would have been forced to alpha up, staring them down until they submitted.
That said, outside of reactionary displays of aggression, I'd vowed to not ruin anyone else's day with my experiment, so shit like catcalling and other red pill-er forms of harassment were off the table.
Once home and only slightly rinsed-off (to preserve the musk of my workout), I tied myself a lengthy necktie. I then removed the tie, as I was merely demonstrating my ability and only squares suit up when they don’t have to, and put on my actual manly outfit for the day: black denim, biker boots, a flannel shirt, and an undershirt with a plunging neckline that exposed my chest hair. I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t fretting over an outfit the antithesis of manliness? Well, guess what, buddy. I don’t give a fuck what you think, this mindset being fundamentally manlier than your concern.
My manly breakfast consisted of a raw egg, a Monster energy drink, and what I thought was beef jerky but actually turned out to be pork jerky but I actually meant to do that because men don’t admit to mistakes.
Next on the agenda was the classic manly task of auto work. My car was working fine and didn’t need an oil change, so I just jacked up the car and removed one of the wheels, putting it back on once my hands were satisfyingly dirty. Pleased with my work, I lit up a cigar and began the drive to the next item on the agenda, making sure to rev my engine at every red light.
I spent the next two and a half hours in a tattoo parlor having a manly artist ink a badass skull on to my arm that had been designed specifically for this manly occasion. While the needle repeatedly stabbed my flesh, I made sure no trace of pain registered on my face. Nor did I let on as to how happy I was with the job the artist was doing.
Once that was done, I made my way to a brewery to try to watch some sports over a beer. Unfortunately, the spot I’d chosen didn’t actually have any TVs playing sports. As I was prohibited by man code to ask anyone for suggestions on where I might go instead, it took me three more tries to find an alcohol-serving venue that was broadcasting any sort of “big game.” I ordered a stout—they’re manlier than IPAs—and forced myself to watch some college basketball game. The pit stops at game-less bars had put me behind schedule so, after a few minutes of watching, I chugged the rest of my beer—also manly—and took off.
Up next was a fancy steak dinner with a side of potatoes, the only vegetable allowed for the day. I sipped whiskey with one hand, while holding my filet in the other, chomping off bites of meat as carnally as possible.
Signifying the end of my meal with a hearty burp, I set off to my final destination of the evening, a firing range. After embellishing my level of experience with the cashier, I hit the range and fired off a box of rounds. My grouping was perfect, but I lost the target, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Once home, I ended my manly day with a last-ditch effort to spike my T by taking a punch from my roommate right before bed. If that couldn't make me a man, nothing could.
The next morning, I took my “after” saliva sample and mailed both vials off to the lab. Now, back to my normal self, all I could do was wait on the results.
The results came two weeks later, with EverlyWell, the company who’d provided the tests walking me through the results. As it turns out, the day of manly activity had actually slightly lowered my testosterone levels. The "normal" range for a healthy adult male is anywhere from 49.0-185.0 picograms of testosterone per milligram, with diet, exercise, genetics, stress levels, and a host of other factors affecting the levels. In just 24 hours, my levels had dropped from 65.0 to 54.0, dangerously close to the too low cutoff.
Extrapolating from this experience, the only conclusion I could make from this completely unscientific study of a sample of one is that these manhood-obsessed guys aren't just acting like pricks with all the manly man shit—the stress of putting on those airs might actually be counterproductive to their goals in the end.
Sobering these thoughts a bit was EverlyWell's chief medical officer, Dr. Marra Francis, MD, who explained to me that the body has a daily fluctuation of testosterone production between 5–12 percent and my minor dip fell within that biological variance, rendering it insignificant. Dr. Francis noted that there are, indeed, a few ways to legitimately raise one's testosterone, but I'd only touched upon one of those with my day of alt-right approved methods. To cause any significant rise in my testosterone levels, I'd have to commit to months of heavy weight lifting and a total dietary change. But, as Francis then informed me, unless one's pursuing the physique of a power lifter, there's no real reason to try and change your T level if it's already in the healthy range.
So, go ahead, fellas. Cry at the movies, take up knitting, and wash your tofu down with a soy latte. It'll have little to no effect on any measurable level of your manliness. But even if it does, who gives a shit about that stuff anyway? Clearly, being a man has far more to do with your character than any superficial activity or hormone level. Better to be a good person with low T than the deepest-voiced guy holding a tiki torch.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.