Testosterone: Misunderstood. Mythologized. Controversial.
A Harvard evolutionary biologist debunks the myths and cultural stereotypes surrounding testosterone and reveals its far-reaching effects on gender and sexuality, sports, relationships, and many more aspects of our everyday lives.
The biological source of virility and masculinity has inspired fascination, investigation, and controversy since antiquity. From the eunuchs in the royal courts of ancient China to the booming market for “elixirs” of youth in nineteenth-century Europe, humans have been obsessed with identifying and manipulating what we now know as testosterone. And the trends show no signs of slowing down—the modern market for testosterone supplements is booming. Thanks to this history and the methods of modern science, today we have a rich body of research about testosterone’s effects in both men and women.
The science is clear: testosterone is a major, invisible player in our relationships, sex lives, athletic abilities, childhood play, gender transitions, parenting roles, violent crime, and so much more. But there is still a lot of pushback to the idea that it does, in fact, cause sex differences and significantly influence behavior.
Carole Hooven argues in T that acknowledging testosterone as a potent force in society doesn’t reinforce stifling gender norms or patriarchal values. Testosterone and evolution work together to produce a huge variety of human behavior, and that includes a multitude of ways to be masculine or feminine. Understanding the science sheds light on how we work and relate to one another, how we express anger and love, and how we can fight bias and problematic behavior to build a more fair society.
“One of the most compelling books on human behavior I’ve ever read, T is a scientific mystery story told with insight, intelligence and panache.”
—Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of the New York Times bestseller Stumbling on Happiness
“Hooven’s review of what testosterone does and does not do is science-writing at its best: intriguing, personal, bold, persuasive, and most importantly, transparent. Her gripping account will fascinate, whether you’re a teenager in the throes of puberty or are just curious about the nature of sex and gender—one of the most important debates of our time.”
—Richard Wrangham, author of The Goodness Paradox
“With all the talk about testosterone in sex, sports, and politics, we need a good explanation of the science and its implications, and this one is outstanding.”
—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of How the Mind Works and Enlightenment Now
“Filled with fascinating—often astounding—insights, T takes us on a journey from the discovery of this powerful hormone, to its effects throughout the animal kingdom, to a crucial understanding of how it shapes human minds, bodies, and behavior. Hooven is a compelling and compassionate guide, and T is a book we need now.”
—Emily Yoffe, journalist and former “Dear Prudence” at Slate
“T is the story of the most famous, most misunderstood, and most maligned chemical in our bodies: testosterone. A fascinating, brave, and brilliant book—the best I’ve read on the topic.”
—Steve Stewart-Williams, author of The Ape that Understood the Universe
“A superb and engaging book that delivers the unfiltered truth about testosterone, sex and sex differences, told with clarity and compassion. T conveys a deep understanding about the hidden power of testosterone in our lives, but also teaches us how scientific knowledge exposes harmful misconceptions and helps us become more humane.”
—Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised: How Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding
“With wit, warmth, and a touch of motherly love, Hooven lucidly lays out a formable scientific case for how and why the sexes are different. Boldly confronting contemporary gender issues, T speaks directly to why getting human nature right matters for making the world a better place.”
—Joe Henrich, professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, and author of The WEIRDest People in the World and The Secret of Our Success
About the Author:
Carole Hooven, PhD, is lecturer and codirector of undergraduate studies in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. She earned her PhD at Harvard, studying sex differences and testosterone, and has taught there ever since. Hooven has received numerous teaching awards, and her popular Hormones and Behavior class was named one of the Harvard Crimson’s “top ten tried and true.”