Testosterone is not what you think it is, and it is decidedly not a “male sex hormone.” Here is the debunking life story of a molecule we thought we all knew. Testosterone is a familiar villain, a ready explanation for innumerable social phenomena, from the stock market crash and the overrepresentation of men in prisons to male dominance in business and politics. It’s a lot to pin on a simple molecule.
Yet your testosterone level doesn’t in fact predict your competitive drive or tendency for violence, your appetite for risk or sex, or your strength or athletic prowess. It’s neither the biological essence of manliness nor even “the male sex hormone.” This unauthorized biography pries T, as it’s known, loose from over a century of misconceptions that undermine science even as they make urban legends about this hormone seem scientific.
In Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography,Rebecca Jordan-Young and Katrina Karkazis focus on what testosterone does in six domains: reproduction, aggression, risk-taking, power, sports, and parenting. At once arresting and deeply informed, Testosterone allows us to see the real T for the first time.
Rebecca Jordan-Young, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College
Katrina Karkazis, Carol Zicklin Endowed Chair in the Honors Academy at Brooklyn College