In a recent interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, fitness professional Andrew McGovern suggested that men should try "testicle tanning" in order to increase their testosterone. Then, against all sense and precedent, Carson went on to try to sell the idea to Kid Rock.
A clip of an interview for the Tucker Carlson Originals documentary series – this episode is titled The End of Men and focuses on the apparent decrease in testosterone-led "real" men – has tickled the internet for going so hard on machismo it seems to have circled around to homoerotic.
In the clip, Carlson talked to the self-proclaimed "bromeoatherapy" expert about using "red light therapy" on your testicles. McGovern actually explains he meant all over the body, but Carlson ignores this in favor of further talk about "testicle tanning".
“Half the viewers right now are like, ‘What?! Testicle tanning, that’s crazy!’” Carlson says in the clip. “But my view is: OK, testosterone levels have crashed and nobody says anything about it. That’s crazy, so why is it crazy to seek solutions?”
Well, Carlson, it's not crazy to seek solutions, but we'd start with options that aren't attempting to tan your testicles. The practice of testicle tanning via sunlight or tanning beds in order to increase testosterone is, frankly, a danger to your balls. The links between tanning and skin cancer have been known for years, and this also applies to your balls. In fact, balls don't often see the light of day so have even less protection against the Sun or UV light than skin that builds up protection against them ie. a tan.
If we're being really fair to the claim, you could say that exposing testicles to sunlight could increase vitamin D levels, which has been shown to increase testosterone levels. But why get your vitamin D through the scrotum, rather than, well, any other place on your body? The scrotum does not have special sunlight-absorbing powers. If you are genuinely worried about vitamin D levels, supplements are an option before you consider pointing your balls at the Sun (maybe check with your doctor first though).
Additionally, heating your testicles can lower your sperm count. There's a reason they are outside the body. As for shining infrared light on your testicles rather than tanning, one study has found that exposure to bright light can increase testosterone levels in men. But again, this study makes no claim that the light should be shone on the scrotum, and it doesn't mean that therapies available on the market are proven.
So what is red light therapy? Developed in the late 1960s, photobiomodulation or low-level laser (light) therapy does appear to have some potential therapeutic benefits as it can alter the way cells function in our bodies. Capitalizing on this are companies selling infrared equipment that essentially involves pointing lasers at your genitals in the hope of improving sex drive, testosterone, and fertility.
“Almost all the studies that purport to improvement — whether it's light therapy or the multitude of men's products out there — not a single one has any convincing scientific evidence or properly done studies," Dr Marc Goldstein, urologist and director of Male Reproductive Medicine and Fertility at Weill Cornell told Inverse of red light "therapies".
Unperturbed by a lack of evidence, Carlson tried to sell the idea to a skeptical Kid Rock.
"Don't you think at this point when so many of the therapies, the paths they told us to take have turned out to be dead ends that have really hurt people, why wouldn't open-minded people seek new solutions?" he asked, we must stress, Kid Rock.
"I don't know what the hell is going on in this world," Kid Rock responded after a moment of bafflement at the question, adding, "some days I just want to stop this planet and let me off".
Us too, Kid Rock, us too.