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An Unauthorized Biography

Rebecca M. Jordan-Young, Katrina Karkazis

ISBN 9780674725324

Publication date: 10/15/2019

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An Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal Winner

“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…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 M. Sapolsky, author of Behave

Testosterone is a familiar villain, a ready culprit for everything from stock market crashes to the overrepresentation of men in prisons. That’s a lot to pin on a simple molecule.

But your testosterone level doesn’t actually predict your competitive drive, appetite for risk, sex drive, strength, or athletic prowess. It isn’t the biological essence of manliness—in fact, it isn’t even a male sex hormone. So what is it, and how did we come to endow it with such superhuman powers? This unauthorized biography pries the much-maligned T free from over a century of misconceptions.

T’s story begins long before the hormone was even isolated, when scientists first went looking for the chemical essence of masculinity. Over time, this molecule provided a handy rationale for countless behaviors—from the boorish to the enviable. Today, as competitive athletes turn to testosterone for competitive advantage, and we continue to debate what it means to be a man or woman, it is back in the news again. What we think we know about T has stood in the way of an accurate understanding of its surprising 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 lets us see the real T for the first time.


  • 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.

    —Linda Roland Danil, Los Angeles Review of Books


  • 2020, Winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards


  • Rebecca M. Jordan-Young is a sociomedical scientist and Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, which won the Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Women in Psychology, and was a Guggenheim Fellow.
  • Katrina Karkazis is a cultural anthropologist who spent fifteen years at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics. A Guggenheim Fellow, she is Professor of Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies at Amherst College and a Senior Research Fellow with the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale University.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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