Does Testicular Sunning Make You Manlier? A Short, Unscientific Investigation

Did you know there’s either a war against masculinity or our country has a testosterone shortage? I didn’t, but then again, I spend almost zero time watching Fox News, whose hosts and pundits seem to disagree about whether it’s a shortage or war but can agree on one thing: the men in America desperately need to become manlier. 

I learned of this crisis when I learned of the existence of Tucker Carlson’s “The End of Men” documentary, whose trailer I viewed and described in a piece I wrote for the Asheville Citizen-Times in May as “more homoerotic than the best of Abercrombie and Fitch’s mid-aughts advertising.” 

I’ll let Vanity Fair’s recent piece “Tan Your Balls If You Want to Be a Real Man” explain further. 

“You may be a man, but are you a real man? The kind of guy who wrestles his jacked friends and throws giant tires? The sort of guy who milks cows and chugs glasses of raw eggs, just because? No? Well, do you want to be? Because if so, famously rugged tough guy Tucker Carlson has the solution for you: ‘testicle tanning,’” Eric Lutz writes.

As Lutz explains, Carlson talks a lot about testicle tanning but shockingly provides little evidence of how it will make you more manly (and doesn’t even address the homoerotic elephant in the room). 

“More difficult to understand, though, is this business about the testicle tanning, which simply cannot be a good or healthy thing to do. How does that all fit in? Here’s Tucker’s interview guest, ‘fitness professional’ Andrew McGovern, to explain: ‘If you want to optimize and take it to another level, expose yourself to red light therapy,’ he said. ‘It’s testicle tanning, but it’s also full-body red-light therapy, which has a massive amount of benefits. And there’s so much data out there that isn’t being picked up or covered.’ (Note: There’s not a ton of data out there.)”

Did I look up the data that’s not being picked up or covered? No. Could I stand to be a little manlier? Probably—Taylor Swift was the number two artist on my 2021 Spotify wrapped, and I recently found myself watching season one of Friday Night Lights specifically to make myself cry after a particularly tough week. I figured maybe I’d give testicular tanning a shot. What did I have to lose? Plus, it seems like a very Ashevillian thing to do. 

One weekend last month, I was doing my favorite hike loop up near the Shining Rock Wilderness. There’s a cluster of boulders up there in the middle of Flat Laurel Creek that’s a short scramble down the trail (and then another short scramble down the side of the creek) where I like to go and sit and read/write/reflect/listen to music etc., that I figured would be the perfect place for my experiment. I hiked out, scrambled down, got out my book, disrobed, liberally sprayed myself with sunscreen, and got ready to emerge from the woods, prepared to seduce some ladies and rip phonebooks in half with my bare hands. 

The only thing is that I’m not sure I tanned long enough for any significant spikes in testosterone to happen. Pardon the too-on-the-nose-pun, but I don’t think I have the balls for testicular tanning. While I was well shielded in the woods, I couldn’t for the life of my relax, too terrified that other intrepid hikers would scramble down off the trail, scramble down to this specific rock outcropping, catch me, and label me a pervert—you can stop going to mass and not believe all you want, but it’s hard to shake a childhood’s worth of Catholic guilt. Also, I’m a fair man who burns very easily. 

I knew it didn’t work when I returned to my car, turned it on, and Taylor Swift’s “Paper Rings” was already playing on my Spotify. I knew it even more when I stopped to get a smoothie bowl for lunch. 

When I got home, I finally decided to look up that data. Per a urologist speaking on the record to the scientific journal Men’s Health, “There is no scientific evidence available that suggests that tanning your scrotum or testicles in any way is going to boost your testosterone.”

Still, one wonders if this has anything to do with so many Asheville spas now offering red-light sauna services…

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