Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography
Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review and Top 10 Science Books for fall 2019



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.

T’s story didn’t spring from nature: it is a tale that began long before the hormone was even isolated, when nineteenth-century scientists went looking for the chemical essence of masculinity. And so this molecule’s outmoded, authorized life story persisted, providing ready cause for countless behaviors―from the boorish and the belligerent to the exemplary and enviable. What we think we know about T has stood in the way of an accurate understanding of its surprising and diverse functions and effects. Rebecca Jordan-Young and Katrina Karkazis focus on what T 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.

For press inquiries, please contact Megan Posco at Harvard University Press: megan_posco@harvard.edu

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It’s stimulating fun when the assumptions and interpretations of scientific findings must undergo major revision.  It’s more than just fun when that revisionism concerns a subject rife with sociopolitical implications with a history of doing harm.  Jordan-Young and Karkazis ably take on this task with respect to the perpetual misinterpretation of what testosterone has to do with behavior, a subject at the intersection of masculinity, gender, aggression, hierarchy, race and class.  This subtle, important book forces rethinking not just about one particular hormone, but about the way the scientific process is embedded in social context.
— Robert Sapolsky, Stanford University and author of The Trouble with Testosterone
Testosterone science does not mix well with biases, social preconceptions, and politics of all sorts. Jordan-Young and Karkazis provide a thoughtful overview of testosterone myths, their deep roots, and grave consequences.
— John P. A. Ioannidis, Stanford University
Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography shines an urgently needed light on our collective, troubling myth-making about a hormone blamed for everything from male aggression to unfair advantage in athletic competition. Through rigorous analysis and a transcendent examination of cultural narratives, it not only reexamines and challenges some of our core beliefs about T; it also traces the way bias about gender is foundational to the science used to uphold those narratives. Eye-opening, accessible, and intelligent, this book will change the way you think about masculinities, race and class, and maybe even your own body.
— Thomas Page McBee, author of Man Alive and Amateur: A True Story about What Makes a Man
A brilliant book. With a rare combination of meticulous scholarship and page-turner readability, Jordan-Young and Karkazis unravel, dissect, and ultimately explode the traditional story of testosterone. This book provides a revelation on every page, and readers will finish with a far richer understanding of the complexities of both testosterone and science.
— Cordelia Fine, author of Delusions of Gender and Testosterone Rex
Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography is a beautifully written and important book. The authors present strong and persuasive arguments that demythologize and defetishize T as a molecule containing quasi-magical properties, or as exclusively related to masculinity and males. As they persuasively argue:

’T is often a mechanism for individualizing the social, most often with gender. Too often, T is invoked as an apologia for status quo sexism in which sexual violence, higher male salaries, men’s overrepresentation in prestigious occupations, and the tasking of women with domestic drudgery must all be accepted as natural and inevitable.’

These essentialist claims function to marginalize, elide, or exclude other factors that are just as crucial, such as socialization, institutional structures, and power dynamics that replicate and perpetuate the status quo via entrenched, heteronormative gender binaries.
— Los Angeles Review of Books
With Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography, we can add testosterone folklore to the mythology claiming that biology determines our character, behavior, and status. Jordan-Young and Karkazis brilliantly show how a wide range of popular beliefs and scientific research about testosterone support dangerous gender, race, and class stereotypes that blame biological differences for inequalities of power. They compel us to think more critically not only about T, but also, more broadly, about the fraught relationship between biology and social identity.
— Dorothy Roberts, author of Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century
Everyone knows that testosterone is what makes men men, and too much testosterone is what makes some men toxic – or is it? In this timely and urgent book, Jordan-Young and Karkazis take us on a rollercoaster ride through what we know, what we think we know, what we should know, and what we need to know about that most quixotic of substances: testosterone.
— Sari van Anders, Queen’s University