Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society

Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society

Many people believe that, at its core, biological sex is a fundamental, diverging force in human development. According to this overly familiar story, differences between the sexes are shaped by past evolutionary pressures?women are more cautious and parenting-focused, while men seek status to attract more mates. In each succeeding generation, sex hormones and male and fem...

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Title:Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society
Author:Cordelia Fine
Rating:
ISBN:0393082083
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:272 pages

Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society Reviews

  • Kaisha Khalifeh
    Aug 30, 2016

    This is a much needed review of the outdated scientific interpretations of the roll of testosterone on behavior. From the earliest experiments Fine shows how value laden and culturally reinforcing many of these "scientific" experiments are. To sum up a wonderfully entertaining and thorough investigation of the history of sex hormone research Fine points out that the current agreed upon model is that behavior influences hormones more than hormones influence behavior. There are many studies that n

    This is a much needed review of the outdated scientific interpretations of the roll of testosterone on behavior. From the earliest experiments Fine shows how value laden and culturally reinforcing many of these "scientific" experiments are. To sum up a wonderfully entertaining and thorough investigation of the history of sex hormone research Fine points out that the current agreed upon model is that behavior influences hormones more than hormones influence behavior. There are many studies that now show how testosterone increases when people are put in stressful situations or positions of power. And equally how testosterone decreases when people are given infants to take care of. It blows out of the water the boys-will-be-boys model where testosterone has been blamed (or praised) for making men: logical, assertive, aggressive, risk-takers and just generally better suited to high status positions like finance, higher mathematics and science, fighting and sports. One particularly interesting example is of a testosterone test on men who had just competed in elite international athletic competitions - several of the men had levels BELOW the normal reference range. And these are TOP competing athletes. The book is extremely compelling and should be required reading for parents, teachers, politicians, religious leaders (honestly everybody) or anybody who has a roll in legislating or shaping the gendered experiences of people.

  • Karly
    Feb 18, 2017

    Fine meticulously unpacks research on men and women's supposed "fundamental" sex differences in behavior and makes the argument that, in reality, many different social, physiological, and ecological factors come into play. Sometimes she drives the point home too hard (like, okay I got it after the first example, I don't need 5 more) and the content gets dull. However, Fine's dry humor kept me reading on.

  • Jeremy S
    Feb 03, 2017

    As a new dad, I have had frequent conversations with my wife about all of the gender-neutral discussions taking place with kids toys/clothing etc. so I was delightfully intrigued to see this book come up and I gave it a read.

    It is a feminist book, and already there may be men going "oh no..." but it was a very good read, no matter who you are (which I think is further to Fine's point on gender stereotypes)!

    The whole book breaks down the myth that Testosterone is what fuels erratic/impulsive beha

    As a new dad, I have had frequent conversations with my wife about all of the gender-neutral discussions taking place with kids toys/clothing etc. so I was delightfully intrigued to see this book come up and I gave it a read.

    It is a feminist book, and already there may be men going "oh no..." but it was a very good read, no matter who you are (which I think is further to Fine's point on gender stereotypes)!

    The whole book breaks down the myth that Testosterone is what fuels erratic/impulsive behavior in men, which then leads to men taking more risks, which sees men having higher rewards, being able to sleep with more women, and generally spreading the seed. Needless to say, I found a lot of comfort in the pages of the book and here is why:

    - I am a straight male who works in a field that is 97% women (I am an interior designer...Not a decorator!)

    - I have been very active in my son's early life, and split his care more than 50/50 with my wife for the most part (some days she does more, other days I do, but there is a balance)

    - I grew up fascinated by the arts, music, literature and didn't like playing anything but dodgeball or floor hockey

    - I liked playing video games where I could blow people up, and I played with toy guns with my brother religiously while we were growing up

    - I love my wife dearly and made a pledge to her when we were married that she was the last person I would ever be with, and we will be together no matter the hardships and issues. I have found my one person in this world.

    - I am a total fashion snob and enjoy shopping.

    What do all these things have in common? Nothing, other than to prove that, as a male, I am not defined by testosterone, and women, should not be defined by their lack of it, as it does not guide in any way who you are as a PERSON. That was the big takeaway for me from this book: we are all unique individuals, regardless of sex. Some men will have more female tendencies, while some women will have more male tendencies. The idea is that we should understand and proport a society where respecting the person over respecting the sex is paramount.

    One of my favorite parts, which I will leave as a takeaway, talked about how we use the term "Testosterone Fueled Event" when in reality, based on numerous studies, when we find ourselves in a situation that may make us aggressive or angry, we release testosterone, not the other way around.

    I am doing a terrible job at simplifying the incredible amount of work that went into this book, but I would highly recommend reading it, no matter your stance on the issues of gender equality or feminism. It was a witty and enjoyable read that may change your position on a few things without you even knowing it.

  • Margaret Sankey
    Jan 27, 2017

    GNC is capitalizing on the current political millieu with an obnoxious add shouting at men that their testosterone is less than their father's, and his was less than grandpa's--and we're being PUSSIFIED! (and GNC is going to make America macho again). If you're tired of having gender essentialism used to explain why men can never be nurses (testosterone precludes empathy and caregiving!), or why women will never be interested enough in business to be CEOs (maybe we should make calculators pink!)

    GNC is capitalizing on the current political millieu with an obnoxious add shouting at men that their testosterone is less than their father's, and his was less than grandpa's--and we're being PUSSIFIED! (and GNC is going to make America macho again). If you're tired of having gender essentialism used to explain why men can never be nurses (testosterone precludes empathy and caregiving!), or why women will never be interested enough in business to be CEOs (maybe we should make calculators pink!), this is a popular science repackaging of the actual scientific articles which demonstrate that hormones often follow behavior, that social and cultural structures are often far more to blame for the way men and women behave (women are also interested in casual sex, when the deck isn't stacked to get them killed of socially shunned) and that taking GNC Testosto-Boost is not going to fix personal insecurities.

  • Brian
    Feb 08, 2017

    I had read Cordelia Fine's earlier book, "Delusions of Gender", a while back, enjoyed it greatly, and so I was eager to read her next book. "Testosterone Rex" did not disappoint. Fine has a delightful writing style, combining personal anecdote and a great deal of humor with clear arguments and large amounts of evidence supporting her views. This book was perhaps a drier topic, at least to me, with a great deal of biology, but I nonetheless found the book fascinating, and many of the key argument

    I had read Cordelia Fine's earlier book, "Delusions of Gender", a while back, enjoyed it greatly, and so I was eager to read her next book. "Testosterone Rex" did not disappoint. Fine has a delightful writing style, combining personal anecdote and a great deal of humor with clear arguments and large amounts of evidence supporting her views. This book was perhaps a drier topic, at least to me, with a great deal of biology, but I nonetheless found the book fascinating, and many of the key arguments were novel to me. Two in particular - that T levels might be a response to, rather than a cause of, certain physiological or behavioral changes, and that some gender differences might serve to make behavior similar despite reproductive biology differences, rather than the behavior being different because of those differences - really stood out. Correlation is not causation, and here are two huge causation arrows that can possibly be turned the other way. Fine is quite deft at dissecting the motivated reasoning and confirmation bias of various research efforts, something she does with humor and understanding rather than rancor. Human behavior, she frequently points out, is complex, and is not necessarily comparable to animal behavior in all ways. Fine also rightfully points out the folly of assuming that all human evolution traces only to the Stone age; much has happened since then that affects behavior. All in all, this was a wonderful book, and I recommend it.

  • Charlene Lewis- Estornell
    Feb 18, 2017

    There is some really important information in this book that, in my opinion, could have been delivered in a more relatable manner. This is a subject that is of interest to many but the language was not really inclusive. This book was clearly aimed at academics with a background in gender studies. I felt as if I were in class- and not a class in which we were all taking part in wonderful debates or discussions, but rather a class where I felt that I had to sift through jargon to really appreciate

    There is some really important information in this book that, in my opinion, could have been delivered in a more relatable manner. This is a subject that is of interest to many but the language was not really inclusive. This book was clearly aimed at academics with a background in gender studies. I felt as if I were in class- and not a class in which we were all taking part in wonderful debates or discussions, but rather a class where I felt that I had to sift through jargon to really appreciate the full impact of what was being said.

  • Peter Geyer
    Feb 07, 2017

    Cordelia Fine has appeared somewhat controversial in a controversy-cluttered area, to the extent that I had avoided her work, notwithstanding it being in and around a topic of great interest and it wasn't until I read something about her and this book in a kind of interview/review that I decided to test out what she had to say.

    Fine's area of interest is broadly what scientific research can tell us about makes and females, as categories, inclinations and behaviours with respect to various groups

    Cordelia Fine has appeared somewhat controversial in a controversy-cluttered area, to the extent that I had avoided her work, notwithstanding it being in and around a topic of great interest and it wasn't until I read something about her and this book in a kind of interview/review that I decided to test out what she had to say.

    Fine's area of interest is broadly what scientific research can tell us about makes and females, as categories, inclinations and behaviours with respect to various groups of humans and other animals. Her interest isn't descriptive, but investigative and evaluative and so we are presented with research and opinion from a number of sources, including a comment coming from the first female jockey to ride a Melbourne Cup winner, in which she labelled the horse racing industry as patriarchal, and that they had made incorrect assessments about female capacity and physical strength.

    In the last week, a women's Australian Football League has been launched in which the players demonstrated a vigorous and competitive playing style and will to win, as well as a general excitement from some players interviewed beforehand that they'd been waiting all their lives for this day to come.

    Naturally, Fine doesn't reference this, but this event is at the core of the discussion, examples and theme of the book, which is about the kinds of myths the public at large, people in various positions of power and researchers of all kinds appear to take for granted, which is the role testosterone plays in the kinds of attributes I've mentioned with the women playing football, particularly including risk-taking.

    The book critiques the above views by providing research and other evidence, demonstrating that some researchers prejudge their outcomes or report favourably on statistical differences that don't really say anything, research males, and infer results to females (unresearched), don't take account of environment and social expectations, have limited pools of subjects (usually students) that are hardly representative, and so on.

    Economics researchers come in for some stick, for some very good reasons, as their research methods appear to tightly bound to ideology of some king, as well as the bewildering idea (to me anyway) that you can get meaningful data from people making decisions over a dollar or two. This lack of largesse, as Fine puts it, surely has an influence on whether participants would really be invested in the task. I remember being engaged in such a "game" at a university course in 1989 (not economics) in which $5 was at stake, which ;left the whole exercise somewhat unrealistic for the participants, all of whom were in well=-aid and permanent employment.

    Fine is a particularly witty and fluent writer and explains these issues with clarity. Sometimes, a genuinely funny statement appears after a particular method is described, which makes you go back to what's been said, to really get the point.

    Where she starts, of course is with notions of hard-wired male and female brains with the theme of testosterone not far behind. We discover that a demarcation point for these categories is impossible to find and that external definitions of what masculinity and femininity are used in this case, such as a scale of masculinity, something obviously socially constructed, to this personality researcher at any rate. How males and females respond to tasks, or just daily life (more fluid categories than one might think) is astutely examined and critiqued.

    I must admit that this contention isn't new to me, and it;s obviously more representative of what people and other beings are really like. Actually, how the latter go about things doesn't make for rigid behaviour categories. In some respects the idea presented here is that a person might be male or female (taking into account some species change this orientation according to circumstance) but it's how they go about things, or express that orientation that's the real point, Not every male wants to be in finance or a CEO or something, some females mght be so inclined

    One of the things I was most startled about in this book came towards the end, when gender-based marketing strategies were discussed, in particular the pink and blue divide, which is known to be socially constructed i.e. in the past the reverse was the case as far as boys and girls were concerned. Maybe this points to a lack of research or interest in the facts. I was startled partly because I don't venture into the toy stores Fine speaks of, and that I recall contemporaries who became parents mentioning that no toy gund came into the house, that the toys they selected were gender neutral and that one of their sons liked playing with dolls. So I was presuming progress in this area; from what is recounted here, apparently not.

    It also brought to mind a comment by my elderly mother a year or two ago in which she expressed her regret that she had never bought me a train set when I was a child. Friends had these things, and I could never understand their interest as once you'd gone around the track, that was that. So I explained my complete lack of interest, hoping that would assuage her guilt. But she may also be wondering what she did wrong to raise a son for whom mechanical things were of no interest . On the other hand, she did buy books for my sister and me on a kind of egalitarian basis, so who knows?

    This is an excellent book that worked well for me to the book by Frans de Wall that I bought at the same time. Some people apparently think Fine is a behaviourist, but I think that's far from the case.

  • Ietrio
    Feb 19, 2017

    It has started decades ago: people trained in the scientific method had the nerve to assume the humanities should be run in the same scrupulous work ethics. Blasphemy! To have the nerve to say that

    , the untalented soccer player turned state paid prophet does not understand advanced math would be a something like saying "in France, Winters can get pretty cold." Those statements have hurt only the egos of the many academic bureaucrats who have built a well paid career by mindlessly

    It has started decades ago: people trained in the scientific method had the nerve to assume the humanities should be run in the same scrupulous work ethics. Blasphemy! To have the nerve to say that

    , the untalented soccer player turned state paid prophet does not understand advanced math would be a something like saying "in France, Winters can get pretty cold." Those statements have hurt only the egos of the many academic bureaucrats who have built a well paid career by mindlessly singing odes to the Emperor's new clothes. And by publishing

    the world got to see how many academics were scurrying to hide their nakedness behind century old desks.

    Cordelia Fine deals a new blow to the impostors. Say one Gijsbert Stoet who can declare:

    although he never encountered live stone age hominids, unless his priestly confessor can do channeling. That was written in jest, anybody can tell stone age people don't have souls as the precede the Garden of Eden by some 100.000 years. And is paid as a professor and researched by the British state to do his rain dance. In this sick Medieval game Cordelia Fine tries to bring some light.

    In the end, there is no controversy, only mostly old white men scared that their prized male offsprings will not enjoy their level of privilege because of some sort of biblical reenactment with the feminists playing Eve giving once more the dumb Adam the fruit of knowlege.

  • Sara
    Feb 25, 2017

    Great premise and well researched but I felt like it could have been an article not a book. She did not make the background science interesting for me.

  • Joseph
    Feb 26, 2017

    A fine corrective to decades of scientific and pseudoscientific (and pop-scientific) pap about how evolution created modern brains that are hard-wired for sex-specific behaviors. With a sly sense of humor, Fine debunks the Testosterone Rex fallacies and shows that there's almost no biology behind the differences in sex roles in careers, play, relationship roles, etc. My only reservation is that almost all of the book, beginning to end, is about debunking the bogus scientific studies or summarizi

    A fine corrective to decades of scientific and pseudoscientific (and pop-scientific) pap about how evolution created modern brains that are hard-wired for sex-specific behaviors. With a sly sense of humor, Fine debunks the Testosterone Rex fallacies and shows that there's almost no biology behind the differences in sex roles in careers, play, relationship roles, etc. My only reservation is that almost all of the book, beginning to end, is about debunking the bogus scientific studies or summarizing the corrective studies. Though convincing, it's a lot of experimental studies.