In society, we pretty much only talk about the female menstrual cycle. Because it’s the one that brings life into the world, yes, but also because *sound the feminist alarm* the world has been built to treat men as the default; with anything to do with female biology being treated as deviant from the norm. And men do have a hormone cycle. It’s a 24 hour cycle and is almost entirely governed by the ebbs and flows of their testosterone levels.
A good analogy I’m stealing from Sally at Women With Sparkle is to think of AMAB (assigned male at birth) folks like the sun, cycling through the same rhythms every 24 hours, and to think of people who experience a ‘female’ menstrual cycle like the moon, cycling through a much longer, 29-odd day cycle.
The male hormone cycle
Men have about ten times as much testosterone, on average, than AFAB (assigned female at birth) people do and this is the hormone that exerts the most power over the male hormonal cycle. The male body also produces oestrogen and progesterone, in significantly lower quantities than the female body.
While the testosterone fluctuates in a regular daily pattern, it is also heavily influenced by situational factors. It may sound cliche, but anything from watching an action movie to seeing someone they find particularly attractive can cause testosterone to peak. Similarly, both alcohol and caffeine can cause testosterone spikes, so someone who drinks often in the evenings may not exhibit the same signs of the ‘regular’ cycle as their sober friend, who would be experiencing the symptoms of testosterone at its lowest ebb.
Men’s testosterone levels also start declining with age, are influenced by diet, sleep, and weight, and can change with illness. So… much like a female cycle, in that regard. Isn’t trying to understand the human body like trying to crack a delightful bloody mystery?
Testosterone peaks during the morning. This means they’re likely to be at their most energetic, confident, impulsive, and temperamental (read: quicker to anger) just after waking up. Sex drive in males tends to correlate with their testosterone levels so they’re likely to be more up for morning sex than late-night sex. I say ‘tends to’ as this is heavily dependent on extraneous factors – cortisol, AKA the stress hormone, can significantly impact the ability to produce testosterone, so a stressful day ahead or heightened stress levels in general could deplete the morning horniness!
Testosterone levels in males decrease throughout the day, with the afternoon striking that ‘Goldilocks’ balance. The morning’s temperamental moods have abated, yet enough of the governing hormone remains to keep them upbeat and driven. The afternoon is a really good time for getting work done as they’ll be focused and more open to teamwork.
When testosterone hits its lowest point, it’s common for energy to dip with it, heralding in calmer emotions and tiredness. They’re also more likely to not be in the mood for sex or intimacy and may experience trouble keeping an erection due to the low levels of testosterone.
What does this mean for AFAB people?
As you can probably tell, a male hormone cycle is pretty bloody ideal if you’re working a standard workday. All that energy to propel awake and ready to attack your day early in the morning, a long afternoon of productivity and hyper-focus, and then tiredness starts to settle in just as you clock off from work and get to spend your evening relaxing or spending time with loved ones. Raise your hand if you’re feeling green with envy…
If you’re someone who experiences (or used to experience) a female menstrual cycle, your body doesn’t follow that pattern. Expecting it to is, unfortunately, a daily reality for most of us in a working world designed for men, but hopefully this simple nugget of information helps you understand why you might sometimes find it so hard to get through a normal workday without feeling shattered.
Western society has been constructed on this 24 hour cycle men experience: particularly when it comes to the work week. It’s easier said than done if you have a traditional office job which expects you to perform the same way, for the same number of hours, every weekday, every week, every month, but that’s why we’re such champions of trying to shift your focus to your own cycle and your fluctuating needs and abilities. Sally, a holistic nutritionist and life coach specialising in hormone health, says “we can get all we need to get done as a [person who has periods] but we have to stop trying to cram it into 24 hours or a week – we were built to schedule our lives in a monthly rhythm – just like the moon.”
I used to beat myself up a lot for not being able to control my dives in energy and motivation (okay, still do sometimes). And I don’t have a perfect answer for this problem as changing the expectations of those around us and the way our society itself functions is a much bigger battle. But brush up on your own hormone cycle and learn the ways you can ‘hack’ your hormones to help you feel more balanced. Track your cycle and, where possible, learn how to shuffle your work, responsibilities, and social obligations around according to the stages at your cycle when you know you’re going to be best equipped to handle them. And hell, let’s try to educate all the cisgender men in our lives about our differing hormone cycles and try to alter their perceptions of the way the world has been set up to support them at every stage of their lives.
header image: @cyrillphotographer__