David Petraeus, hormones, and pheromones: the secret to the warrior's strength?
What happens when a 4-star General meets a 9-star hottie? Sparks fly.

David Petraeus had a remarkable career, ascending to the rank of General in the United States Army and then Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. To do that, he had to outcompete many other very bright, ambitious people. What proved to be his Achilles' heel — an affair with a gorgeous young woman and perhaps others before — may have been a secret weapon he used to fuel his drive.

The drive to succeed is increased by testosterone, a hormone. Its levels rise and fall in response to many physical and psychological stimuli, including hot women, such as Paula Broadwell, an embedded journalist of sorts who wrote a hagiographic biography of him: All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.

One wonders if the title was a Freudian double-entendre about educating the General with a Ph.D. in the School of Hard Knocks, educating him in the bedroom, a Freudian allusion to being “in,” or perhaps a prophetic reference to the catfight that triggered the end of his career, set off by “romantic jealousy that sounds like junior high school.

Broadwell is reportedly also the author of nastygrams allegedly so aggressive they sparked an FBI probe. Women possess testosterone, too, and those with more of it are inclined to be confident with an appealing “can do” attitude and intensely assertive or even aggressive, not a wallflower; in high school, Broadwell was voted “most likely to be remembered.” You can bet on that.

Testosterone can catalyze spunk, gumption, and success. Broadwell — then Paula Kranz — was valedictorian, student council president, and homecoming queen in high school; a former coach said she “knew what she wanted and would go after it.” Indeed.

She appears to have taken lessons on how to be humble from Rush “talent on loan from God” Limbaugh; her high school maxim was “God has given me all of these gifts to use to the best of my ability.” Testosterone can give people an ego that makes them unforgettable, but their big heads more often generate big ideas. Drugs have side effects; hormones do, too. Some are negative, and some are positive.

Women with higher testosterone levels are more sexually aroused and bond more strongly to their male partners—not necessarily their husbands; Broadwell bagged and bedded a trophy General. Broadwell's bulging biceps, slim legs, and apparently receding hairline suggest that she has more testosterone bubbling through her veins.

A bit of the science of sexual attraction and success

The important concept to grasp from this discussion is that the hypothalamus is part of the brain, and its secretion of LRF is influenced by the brain’s mental activity. That is, your mood and thoughts influence LRF secretion.

In men, testosterone is secreted by the interstitial (Leydig) cells of the testes. Its secretion is regulated by luteinizing hormone (LH), a.k.a., interstitial cell stimulating hormone (ICSH). LH is derived from the pituitary gland—the so-called “master gland.” The pituitary's LH secretion is controlled by the hypothalamus via hypothalamic secretion of luteinizing hormone releasing factor (LRF), a.k.a., gonadotropin-releasing hormone. Still with me?

LRF secretion is promoted by certain psychological factors, namely sexual thoughts and activity. The more stimulating they are to you and the more frequently they are engaged in, the greater will be the LRF production and hence the greater will be the testosterone secretion.

If you think this sounds hokeypokey, it is not. It has been proven through clinical research conducted by the United States Air Force (although one might wonder if airmen need any help with their libidos, considering the Tail Hook scandal). In one study, testosterone production increased when men were merely shown pictures of women. Another interesting tidbit is that beard growth (which is partially regulated by testosterone) increases when men move in with women.

Pictures of women are one thing, but as the saying goes, there is nothing like the real thing. Besides providing visual stimulation, some researchers suggest that the physical presence of females can increase testosterone production in men by the reception of pheromones emitted by women. Pheromones are chemicals produced by animals that stimulate a response in other animals of the same species. The production of some pheromones by women is decreased after menopause or hysterectomy.

In ancient times, Greeks and Egyptians thought that sleeping (just sleeping, not intercourse) with a young virgin could restore the libido of elderly men. This may seem like a strange custom to modern people, but there is some validity to it. Compared with elderly women (who were presumably married to the elderly men), young but sexually mature women are more likely to spike the libido of men, elicited by testosterone and various pheromones that increase intersexual attraction.

Thus, the quaint custom of sleeping with virgins may seem wacky, but it can be efficacious. The key to this is prolonged proximity, not sleeping together. Sleeping in the same bed is one of the most practical ways to be close to someone for eight hours, but you could conceivably achieve the same effect by studying together, watching movies, or shadowing a General to write a gushing biography of him.

While I cannot condone what Petraeus did with his fan Broadwell, as a doctor I understand it and view it as one of the unfortunate possible side effects of testosterone and the other soup of chemicals that makes men behave as men—that is, not as saints.

Research suggests that those blessed with more testosterone are more likely to be geniuses and more likely to yearn for things that would raise the eyebrows of people in church. Conversely, men with less testosterone have an easier time being fine, upstanding citizens 24/7/365 every frigging day of their milquetoast lives, but they are less likely to be a creative genius. As Abraham Lincoln said, “It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” Testosterone doesn't create vice, but it fertilizes it.

“Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.”
Nikola Tesla (source)

“The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man—that is, virtuous in the YMCA sense—has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.”
H. L. Mencken
(some interesting science suggests why that is true)

“In heaven all the interesting people are missing.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“A fateful process is set in motion when the individual is released "to the freedom of his own impotence" and left to justify his existence by his own efforts. The autonomous individual, striving to realize himself and prove his worth, has created all that is great in literature, art, music, science and technology.”
— Genius Eric Hoffer in The Passionate State of Mind

Petraeus succumbed to a temptation many men could not resist: a brainy, beautiful, and admiring young woman with stars in her eyes: four stars connected to two eyes that gazed lovingly at the smitten General, bestowing on him the ultimate reward for being a hero.

Petraeus dedicated his life to fighting America's enemies, while I dedicated mine to fighting a war with junk and processed food that is prematurely destroying our health and appearance. A case in point: Holly Petraeus, the General's wife. Once beautiful, she hasn't aged as well as her husband or done as much to keep in shape. He can still run five miles; she looks like she only runs to the kitchen and couch. Bad food, or just too much food, can accelerate aging, not only contribute to obesity. Shun exercise, and your spouse may shun you. Hollister (Holly) Petraeus is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dickinson College, but learned this lesson too late.

Excerpts from an article, What Happened to Holly Petraeus is Every Aging Wife's Biggest Fear:

“Says one commenter on an article about her: "She looks like an old granny." Says another: "She looks like his great-grandmother ... She should be at least 75 pounds lighter ... I blame it on her appearance." … Did she "let herself go"?”

Almost every man's biggest fear is that putting a ring on a woman's finger will give her the green light to pull the ripcord, inflating herself. Other commenters said “she is in her mid 50's but looks like 80” and she “looks like Chris Farley and Mrs. Butterworth combined.

Brilliantly incisive Amy Alkon hit the nail on the head in an article (The Frump Factor) when she wrote:

“Feminism promotes the lie to women that what's inside is what really matters. And, as I wrote in my Psychology Today piece on the realities about beauty, what's inside matters a great deal. But, if you're a woman and you want a man or want to keep the one you have, you need to keep up your curb appeal. Ignore that or deny that at your peril, ladies.”

I once was so fat I could not see my feet when I stood up, but my abdomen is flat decades later even though a broken neck makes exercising and many activities a challenge. I was digging my grave with a fork, so I empathize with overweight people whose problem stems primarily from the Big Food industry that creates big profits by fattening people up. Holly Petraeus is just one of their victims. Now the General is, too.

Many years before he became President, in 1838 Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend about Mary Owens, who “he met briefly in 1833” and considered marrying—until he saw her again in 1836 and was shocked by her appearance:

“ … when I beheld her, I could not for my life avoid thinking of my mother; and this, not from withered features, for her skin was too full of fat to permit of its contracting into wrinkles, but from her want of teeth, weather-beaten appearance in general, and from a kind of notion that ran in my head that nothing could have commenced at the size of infancy and reached her present bulk in less than thirty-five or forty years; and, in short, I was not at all pleased with her.”

A female writer describing that characterized Lincoln as being “a tad shallow when it came to the ladies.” If David and Holly Petraeus divorce and she looks for a new love, would she accept a man who is short, fat, bald, and unemployed?

While their romantic criteria differ, the lovemap of most women is just as shallow as that of men. The seemingly shallow desires of people are anything but; they were ingrained into our DNA and ultimately lead us by the nose into doing adaptive things that maximize our chances of transmitting our genes to subsequent generations. Those who weren't shallow died out long ago. If that's the type of love you're looking for, you'd better get a time machine.

NOTE: I did not write this article to sell my weight loss book, which is free but priceless if you value health, life, and living all of it with your spouse happily wedded to you instead of wondering if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. If fact, if you are patient enough for me to complete the next edition with many additions, you can have the book free (contact me to get it). As good as the book is, it will eventually be almost worthless because I invented some surprisingly easy ways to lose weight without willpower. That will boost our health, helping solve our healthcare crisis, and help preserve our appearance so we stay hotter for longer. That will strengthen marriages and occasionally even strengthen the country.

How? Ask General Petraeus or President Obama, who must now find a replacement for him who is equally or more qualified. Anyone that good should have already led the CIA, so we may end up with a less qualified and experienced Director at a time when we dearly need one—the terrorists never got the message that we beat 'em.

Testosterone can catalyze the desire to succeed and create a cognitive environment conducive to it, but it can also make men less angelic and more unfaithful. I wrote The Science of Sex because sex is part of medicine and I am a doctor who attended a medical school that strongly stressed that physicians have a professional obligation to treat all sexual topics as matter-of-factly as we do diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer—all of which (and more) are related to sex.

If your doctor isn't optimizing your sex life, he isn't optimizing your health, intelligence, creativity, energy, or mood. Disappointingly, most doctors are more concerned with their image than with maximally helping patients. One might excuse that in the United States, in which adults often possess a bizarre dichotomy about sex, embracing it as immature adolescents, not mature adults. However, cowardly doctors also shy away from other things that might harm their image; I will document some examples in a future article.

Update October 2017:

Lynn Sherr, former correspondent for the ABC news magazine 20/20: Back when I was at the Associated Press, I spent an entire luncheon—a business lunch—where Nelson Rockefeller, the Governor of New York [and later the 41st Vice President of the United States] had his hand on my leg. … I said nothing: I was embarrassed, I was young, I didn't know what to say or do.

Howard Kurtz (on Media Buzz 10/29/2017): Let me just briefly ask you about George H.W. Bush. Four women have now said that the former President, [who?] is in a wheelchair, patted their bottoms and made a dirty joke. … Your thoughts on the Bush situation?

Sherr: I don't find horny old geezers cute.

Agreed, but Bush “moved his family to West Texas, where he entered the oil business and became a millionaire by the age of 40 in 1964,” then became a congressman, ambassador and Director of Central Intelligence, Vice President and President of the United States after “postpon[ing] his university studies [following the attack on Pearl Harbor], enlist[ing] in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday, and bec[oming] the youngest aviator in the U.S. Navy at the time,” serving heroically on 58 combat missions and receiving “the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation.” His service included rescuing other pilots; some of the ones not saved “were executed, and their livers were eaten by their [Japanese] captors in a disgusting display of cannibalism.”

It takes supreme courage to do what George H.W. Bush did. Without him and others like him, Americans could have been slaughtered by the millions, as both the Germans and Japanese did, tortured in horrific ways (ditto, but Japanese atrocities were even more savage, such as by mutilating women—including young children—after raping them), or being cannibalized by Japanese (including carving flesh off living POWs) . The Japanese viewed themselves as superior to other races—thus in their minds justifying their endless war crimes, many of which made what Germans did seem almost civilized by comparison.

I have mixed feelings about what George H.W. Bush did politically, but most mothers would beam with pride if their sons accomplished one-tenth of what Bush did. He was clearly a superstar and as close as one can come to being a real-life Superman. Tracing the roots of his achievements leads to testosterone and how it shaped his mind: primarily for the better, but also manifesting as occasional Bad Boy behavior.

It would be wonderful if we could reap the positive effects of hormones and other substances without suffering their side effects, but that isn't reality. The same estrogen that makes women so irresistible to men also gives them cellulite and heightens their risk of breast cancer and other problems. Men less shaped by the extremes of testosterone are less likely to have others gossiping about what they did, but more likely to be forgotten soon after they die, going to their graves without doing much to make the world a better place.

Without men like George H.W. Bush, America would not now be the Land of the Free, it would be a living Hell on Earth, and women lucky enough to still have a pulse would not be free to sit on their high horse and criticize what Bush did 0.0001% of the time; instead, they would be running like scared rabbits. If you disagree, do what I did and spend six months researching what Japanese soldiers did to Chinese and other Asian civilians circa World War II. The sanitized history I learned in school was that Nazis did monstrous things—and they did, but so did the Japanese and our then-ally, the Russians, such as during The Horror at Neustettin when 500 German women were butchered by having their breasts cut off and mutilated in other ways, screaming until they died.

People like Lynn Sherr usually paint with a broad brush highlighting only flaws fitting their narrative while ignoring the big picture that our world, flawed as it is, would be markedly worse without men bubbling with testosterone defending it from villains, shaping its civilization, and contributing to progress via science and technology. More testosterone also makes women more successful and appealing; Paula Broadwell is Exhibit A.

Turned off by too much testosterone? You may be even more repulsed by a shortage of it. Aside from what it does personally to degrade bodies and minds, it is frequently accompanied by whining about problems instead of solving them and doing little or nothing to advance the world.

Want less Bad Boy behavior? Scrub the world of Leonardo Da Vinci, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Erwin Schrödinger, Robert Oppenheimer, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ben Franklin, and other luminaries, all of whom did things Lynn Sherr would likely condemn, along with things of inestimable and enduring value.

Related topics

Why geniuses are often so fond of sex

Musings & notes:

  1. Article: Sex is major reason military commanders are fired
  2. How did a novice writer become the official biographer for such a big shot General? 'Cause she's hot and he was enchanted?
  3. Presidents are masters in the art of distraction. While we focus on what their right hand is doing (figuratively), their left hand is often getting away with murder (figurative again), unnoticed by voters and (sigh) the press, most of whom are happy to assist the President in pulling the wool over our eyes.

    After hearing a report that high government officials knew of the Petraeus scandal long before it surfaced (at least one member of the press knew of it in the spring of 2012), and considering the public announcement of this just after the election, is this sex scandal just camouflage to distract our attention from voting fraud? Or the Benghazi attack? Or both?

    Broadwell’s father Paul Krantz agrees, saying “his daughter is the victim of character assassination and implied the bombshell story is just a smoke screen for something bigger. "This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out," … Krantz [said].
  4. [Another!] General investigated for emails to Petraeus friend
    Excerpt: “Gen. John Allen is under investigation for alleged "inappropriate communications" with a woman [Jill Kelley, who serves as an unpaid social liaison at MacDill Air Force Base] who is said to have received threatening emails from Paula Broadwell, the woman with whom Petraeus had an extramarital affair. [ … ] 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails and other documents from Allen's communications with Kelley between 2010 and 2012 are under review.”

    Comment: 20,000 to 30,000 pages? In two years? To “an unpaid social liaison” not in the Air Force? When we're losing the War on Terror? When our government is bankrupt? When Americans are struggling to survive and pay taxes so oversexed Generals can get chummy with stunningly gorgeous groupies young enough to be their daughters? How did he find the time to squeeze in work? Allen and Petraeus: Generals who let their privates make the decisions. Would a female General have wasted so much time communicating with a foxy socialite?

    Allen “is believed to have exchanged thousands of flirtatious emails with [Kelley,] a 38-year-old married woman,” a “stunning socialite [who] was an unpaid military hostess.” He was caught, but he is not the only government employee wasting our money. Virtually every time I see government employees at work, many are standing around or working at a snail's pace. I don't intend to disparage all government workers; some were relatives of mine who were admirable workers, but too many (like the General) find the time to waste time. Lots of it. And guess who is paying them to goof off? You and me.

    An unnamed FBI agent” “allegedly sent shirtless photos of himself toJill Kelley. Trying to impress the stunning socialite? How about instead using that time to find the men who brutally murdered my father? (UPDATE: He was later identified as Frederick Humphries, who sounds as if he is a stellar FBI agent and quirky, which isn't a crime except in the federal government that encourages robotic behavior and discourages individualism. His shirtless photo would be inappropriate if he did not know her personally before this case developed, but evidence suggests he did, so FBI agents should be allowed the freedom to be themselves in their off-hours. They're human, too, and those with more testosterone are more likely to be eccentric but gifted; it's part of the genius package—take it or leave it.)

    Federal, state, and local governments are WAY behind the times in utilizing 21st century technology to improve services while reducing costs. They use a hidebound mentality to keep themselves from recognizing the merit of new ways to provide better services at no cost. For example, roads could be plowed during the wintertime faster, more often, and free.
  5. Men in Power: Why Do Women Have Affairs with Men like Petraeus?
  6. Commenting on what Petraeus did, a woman wrote, “I never understand why some of those with very public and/or successful careers would jeopardize their careers with affairs. You've worked so hard to get where you are, why throw that away for extramarital sex?

    Doesn't she know that men often gravitate to positions of power to obtain its fringe benefits? That includes beautiful women.

    I went into medicine because I am fascinated by science, love helping people, and wanted to have enough money so I could eat as much as I wanted at McDonald's (I grew up often poor). Beautiful women, including some who looked better than most supermodels (example), surprisingly found me attractive after I became a doctor. I was interviewed for an AMA article (Prescription for love: The online way to find a mate); here is the relevant excerpt:

    Just saying you're a doctor in an online personal can attract attention like a shark to chum.

    “It's certainly easier to get a date. I look in the mirror and think, 'It has to be something to do with my degree,'” said Kevin Pezzi, MD …

    Attractive doctors have an even easier time catching hot partners—and they're just doctors; über-rich men can look like fossilized prunes and magnetically attract stunning women who are drawn to money and power. Sometimes power is enough, right General? (UPDATE: I was wrong; see below.)
  7. Petraeus scandal puts four-star general lifestyle under scrutiny
    Excerpt: “The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms …”
  8. For making his mistake, Petraeus resigned under pressure, while Presidents who make mistakes typically say they “accept full responsibility” but never suffer any consequences.
  9. Current Petraeus affair has nothing on nation’s first sex scandal
  10. Petraeus Scandal: Paula Broadwell in Classified Document Probe
    Excerpt: “Paula Broadwell … is suspected of storing significant amounts of military documents, including classified material, at her home, potentially in violation of federal law.”
  11. Generals Petraeus and Allen seem utterly unaware of the beautiful woman syndrome. Paula Broadwell has some redeeming qualities, but if her depiction by the press is accurate, Jill Kelley is an odd amalgamation of a woman with a magnetic exterior and a repulsive interior. She is living proof you can't judge a book by its cover.

    Men with common sense realize that estrogen isn't a sufficient antidote to the nuttiness that oozes from some women so impressed by their appearance they feel entitled to ignore their character development, as if beauty alone should be enough for any man.

    Let me tell ya: if Petraeus and Allen don't get this, they are missing a vital component of brainpower. Some mental defects are isolated, but as a doctor I know when there is smoke, there's often fire—a lack of something upstairs is often accompanied by a lack of other essential abilities. No wonder why we're losing the War on Terror. We have IQ tests and personality tests, but we really need a test of common sense for our leaders, many of whom would flunk it.
  12. Women in Petraeus scandal had visited White House
  13. Businessman: Jill Kelley Asked for $80M, Bragged of Petraeus Connection
  14. The Truth About Beauty: It would be so nice if inner beauty triumphed over outer appearance. But men are designed to care about packaging. It's time to accept the not-so-pretty facts about looks.
    Comment: Alkon's way with words suggests that she is a genius. The way she melds ideas with an endless well of wit is addictively spellbinding.
  15. The frump factor and Holly Petraeus
    Excerpt: “ … it is a little shocking that the wife of that powerful man [General Petraeus], nerdish as he is, would thwart the beauty industrial complex quite so vigorously.”
  16. 'Cult of David Petraeus': Did media perpetuate a myth? Members of the Pentagon press are shaking their heads in the wake of the David Petraeus scandal. Some think Petraeus's savvy and personable style led them to be too soft on him.
    Comment: And when will the media wake up and realize the personable style of another powerful leader, and their soft treatment of him, created a cult that was nothing but a myth? At least Petraeus had some substantive accomplishments. To borrow a line from the article, it is time for those propagandists masquerading as journalists “to do a bit of soul-searching.”
  17. Elevated testosterone causes bull market trading
  18. ‘SNL’ skewers Petraeus scandal:
The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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