Fitness,  Food & Nutrition

Don’t be fooled by the lab coats and test tubes – the rise of Andrew Huberman was driven by men who want to feel more masculine


Andrew Huberman, a Stanford University scientist, is currently being "cancelled". An NY Mag article was published last week which outlined how Huberman skillfully managed to maintain relationships with 6 women at the same time without any of them knowing.

First of all, let me get something straight - as far as I can tell, Huberman has done nothing illegal here, and some of the reactions I've seen to what he's been up to have seemed a tad overblown to me. I think that he should be allowed to continue to publish his podcasts and his YouTube videos, and people should be free to continue to listen to him. And likewise, people should be free to now take everything he says with a pinch of salt. If he's willing to lie to 6 different women at once, maybe he's willing to lie to his audience too.

But that's not what we're here to talk about today. What I really want to talk about is the Huberman phenomenon itself, which has always struck me as slightly bizarre. How has a podcast which essentially consists of a scientist, often sat on his own, talking for up to 4 hours about a topic, with minimal visuals, become one of the biggest podcasts in the world?

I think some people have convinced themselves that it's because of the quality of the content, but I don't think it can just be that. Scientists publishing long, monotonous talks on a single topic is nothing new, and the topics that Huberman covers are not exactly unchartered territory (some of his most popular episodes include alcohol, dopamine, and fasting). So what is it?

I'm going to be very simplistic here, and I want to start by saying that Andrew Huberman is clearly an intelligent and impressive person. But I genuinely think that the main reason Huberman has garnered such as following is because of how he looks. I don't swing that way, but he's a handsome guy - defined jaw, perfect beard, muscular physique, piercing eyes (ok, maybe I'm starting to swing that way). Scrawny, nerdy-looking scientists have been telling us to do many of the things that Huberman talks about for years, and nobody listened to them. But if you're a young, impressionable male and a masculine figure like Huberman tells you to do something, you stop and take notice.

This theory would be irrelevant if Huberman's audience was predominately women, but I don't think it is. We'll never really know because Huberman himself is the only person who has access to that data, and it's worth noting that Huberman claims it's a 50/50 split. This goes against a poll which was conducted on the very popular /r/HubermanLab subreddit, which suggested his audience is more like 70% male.

And again, I could understand his popularity if he was very entertaining or injected lots of fun into his podcasts, but there's very little of that to be had. For all his popularity, I wouldn't exactly describe Huberman as a "personality", despite his efforts to convince us otherwise. On a Joe Rogan appearance he claimed he's a "punk" at heart, but his references to 'baby's first punk pack' bands such as 'Rancid' suggest he's read the Wikipedia page for Punk, and that's about it.

I really do believe that much of the popularity of Huberman can be explained by how masculine he looks, and how that appeals to young men. To back this up, something which is really interesting to note is the sorts of people who have leapt to the defence of Huberman in light of what's recently emerged about his extra-curricular activities, and what those defending him are saying to justify his actions. Like I said earlier, I don't think he's done anything illegal, but his behaviour is pretty gross. And to see men saying things like "c'mon man, all he was doing was sleeping with 6 women at once, lying to all of them, convincing some of them that he loved them....what's the problem?" is pretty worrying. It also hints at what I've been suggesting - for many, Huberman is the embodiment of masculinity, and shagging multiple women at once is, for many men, a perfectly acceptable masculine behaviour.

So the question is, what next for Huberman? He'll lose some of his audience, but I think he'll probably gain some new audience too. And that audience will be predominately male. And as with figures such as Andrew Tate, maybe the more he is cancelled, the more he'll be radicalised. Maybe they'll start a podcast called 'The 2 Randy Andys'.

A month ago I would have said he seemed too smart to go down that route, but given how he thought he could get away with what he's been up to, I'm not so sure now.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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