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How Myths About Testosterone And Masculinity Shaped American Culture

testosterone_hormone.jpg
Photo by Dr. Eduardo García Cruz CC BY-SA 2.0: http://bit.ly/35igUzJ"

Testosterone is both blamed and praised for varying human behaviors. How do the biological hormone's actual functions compare to its non-scientific, word-of-mouth history and what's been the impact of these common misunderstandings?

Loosely referred to as T, the molecule has influenced culture and widely held beliefs for over a century, but society's shared misconceptions continue to perpetuate the false narrative.

Testosterone has a reputation for being a catalyst for dominance, aggression and violence. It is thought to be directly connected to athletic prowess and increased sexual appetite. All of these can be challenged, as can concepts of testosterone as the “male sex hormone” or the chemical essence of masculinity.

In what ways is the lore of T limiting our social understanding of men and women? What other myths about testosterone need busting?

What are its actual functions? What processes does this hormone regulate? How does testosterone really impact life in the domains of reproduction, aggression, risk-taking, power, sports, and parenting?

Guest: Rebecca M. Jordan-Young, professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University and co-author of "Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography"

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Thursday, January 2.

Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.