WHY THE HELL would a girl take testosterone?
Well, the idea didn't just come out of nowhere. This self-experimentation took shape out of a particular experience and a penchant for random internet research.
In the spring of '04 I donated my eggs to a couple in California. (God knows why they wanted my genes... but hey, it's a free country.) For a two-week period I, as a donor, took a medicine cabinet's worth of injections that caused my hormones to fluctuate. Donors usually experience periods of extremely high estrogen followed by almost none. During the low-estrogen phase—which is three days long—I was told I would experience headaches, hot flashes, and extreme irritability. Basically, I would get a glimpse of menopause at the age of 22. So I cleared my schedule of any serious responsibilities, took the phone off the hook, and planned to stick it out with Netflix.
But something went wrong—or rather, "right." When this low estrogen phase kicked in, I surprisingly found myself in a state of unabashed exhilaration; I began feeling incredibly energetic, creative, sociable, confident—on the verge of natural intoxication, yet with clarity of mind.
I spent my time in ways I would want, but never do: writing at Slabtown during the day, singing karaoke alone at the Galaxy come night, skateboarding with neighborhood kids, and spending hours playing music on my shitty keyboard. Ah, but this bliss was unfortunately short-lived. My hormones returned to normal levels, and soon I was back to my daily ennui.
A few months after my eggs had been stored safely in a freezer somewhere, studies surfaced on the effects of testosterone in non-menopausal women (testosterone is currently prescribed to women who are experiencing menopause). The most eye-catching experiment claimed that after two-week trials of 20-milligram doses of testosterone (which roughly doubles the subject's natural levels), the women were observed to dress more alluringly and project more self-assurance. Another study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that if one suffered from extremely low levels of testosterone, it could cause depression, anxiety, irritability, weakness, and poor memory. Some studies even associated higher levels of the hormone with being in love!
The characteristics that the testosteroned-up subjects were reported to possess seemed very similar to mine during the low-estrogen days of yore. Testosterone is said to "suppress estrogen receptor expression," so I figured taking it was the closest I'd come to replicating the blissful hormonal cocktail I'd previously experienced. Determination set in to recreate the euphoria of minimal estrogen—which was my cue to get online and score me some steroids.
If you're Googling dope, you have to know what you're looking for.
My research indicated that androgen, steroids, and testosterone typically mean the same thing when searching for the product online. Testosterone is just a specific steroid in the androgen family. Alas, procuring these steroids proved more difficult than downloading a full-length episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force off Lime Wire—and a lot more boring. After 12 hours of searching, all I could find was an abundance of prescription diet pills, painkillers, and relaxants (which I added to my "favorites" bar for later reference). But there didn't seem to be much of a market for testosterone, which was confusing after the studies I'd read. Why weren't there other ladies like me out there pining for the stuff?
Out of desperation, I joined body builder chat rooms—they know steroids. Sure enough, I was led to a "dependable" source, but there was one problem: The serum had to be injected intramuscularly. That means deep... with a big needle. (You can get it in pill form, rubbing creams, or injectables—the latter being the strongest, most painful, and least attractive option.) But, it was cheap, and by this time I was beginning to think finding it in cream form was a pipe dream. After exchanging emails with a Russian man who typed in broken English and used a secret passcode, I finally got the goods.
My roommate looked at me with a raised brow when I excitedly returned from the post office. From a crumpled brown package I pulled out eight glass vials containing a brown liquid that I was supposed to put in my veins, accompanied with injection directions... in Russian... and needles as thick as Sharpies.
"Are you fucking crazy?" he asked.
"Not that crazy," I said sadly, and chucked them in a drawer. (The vials ended up making a novel birthday present, which the birthday boy decided to drink—don't worry; mixing testosterone and Red Bull does nothing, other than waste a perfectly good birthday present.)
I finally threw in the penny-pinching towel and paid $60 to become a member of a prescription meds site, based in Cyprus. I filled out a mandatory medical questionnaire (claiming I was a 34-year-old man with boobs) and received two tubes of Andractim—a gel testosterone—that set me back another $160.
At long last, the tube of confidence sauce I had been trying to get for months was in my hands, and all I had to do was twist off the cap. But I wasn't about to just gob it on without any documentation.
For one month I had been keeping tabs on my eating, sleeping, body weight, sexual encounters, and orgasms (the latter two were pretty easy to track). Next I would embark on a program consisting of two weeks of use, two weeks off, and then another two weeks on. This was the regimen recommended for menopausal women—plus it would be long enough to observe the effects, and short enough to be "safe."
Administration was as easy as any primping routine: Twice a day, I filled the linear impression of a spatula-like stick with two doses (two and a half grams) of the testosterone gel, rubbing it on the undersides of my arms. Two weeks later, my experiment began showing interesting results—though not in the ways I expected.
Unlike my post-egg donation experience, when I needed little sleep or food, this time my appetite shot through the roof. I was eating an increase of 1,200 calories a day. I fixed steak every other night and added bacon to my egg and sausage breakfast. I was also sleeping two hours more, plus napping. This did not adhere to the super-energetic and success-driven fantasies of myself I had cultivated—in fact, this sucked. I ended up gaining over 13 pounds, and it was noticeable. My friends said that the weight I gained was definitely fat, but I also looked muscular. I periodically flexed in the mirror, trying to make the best of it.
More difficult to record were vacillations in my temperament; swinging from feelings of confidence to anxiety. This was not a surprise in itself, but the intensity of it was. I was quicker to tell off my friends and become verbally sarcastic, even hostile. When a friend showed up 25 minutes late to meet me at the Matador I asked, "What the fuck is wrong with you? Is your time more important than mine?" I'm usually pretty mild when confronted with conflict, but suddenly I was turning into Courtney Love.
On the flipside, at work and in social situations, I was more open to talking to strangers or presenting ideas that had been mulling around in my head. I also made six new close friends during this time, and started marketing myself more aggressively as a freelance writer.
24-HOUR FEMALE ERECTION
The most notable effect of the testosterone was that my sex drive went into hyper mode. "Surprise, surprise," is what you're probably thinking—but to tell the truth, I wasn't sure how this would be affected. Most studies only support heightened sex drives in females who are already lacking normal testosterone levels.
As it turned out, both my sexual encounters and orgasms tripled. I almost put the kibosh on the entire experiment because I couldn't expel sex from my mind for the greater part of the day. It was becoming a consumptive distraction, but I was determined to stick with it—after all, it was only six weeks, and besides, these days getting an STD is about as big a deal as getting a tan, right?
During the fifth week, I wrote, "My erotic thoughts are focused on imagery of moving parts rather than any particular person." I developed attractions to people I would have ordinarily passed by—including men twice my age—and found alluring attributes in even the most platonic of coworkers. I downloaded 15 lesbian porn scenes and sorted through the ones I liked, labeling them accordingly for easy access ("hvy make-up asian eats vluptous blnde"). "Drunk dialing" became regular "dialing," and on two occasions I took boys home, and then sent them on their way without even asking for a number—a proud first. It was fun, and for once I felt like I understood the male sex drive.
You're probably wondering if it was really the drug, or if I was just using it as an unconscious excuse to project my usually comparatively constrained sexuality. I couldn't say for sure, but I do know that there were physiological reactions down there, like heat and swelling. (I'll stop there. My dad is probably going to read this.) Physiological changes from the drug make the likelihood of related behavioral changes very high. Regardless, I was impressed at the degree of my sacking success—especially considering the rate that hair was developing above my lip.
THE ENTHUSIASTIC GUINEA PIG
This six-week experience certainly wasn't what I had expected or worked toward, but it did share some qualities with those invigorating days I had been trying to restore. I doubt I'll ever take that high of a dose again—considering being a hairy-lipped sex monger is only fun for about five weeks. But it did reaffirm my love of self-experimentation, and helped me empathize with the male sexual catalyst.
When the next new miracle drug for women comes along, you can bet I'll be the first to try it. Until then, I have half a tube of Andractim to go—and as any guy can tell you, a little testosterone goes a long way.