Testosterone – a hormone that has been mythologised, maligned and misunderstood. It is frequently cited as the basis of male aggression and sexual violence. Christine Lagarde, former chair of the IMF, once said ‘There should never be too much testosterone in one room’, as a way of pinning the blame for the economic crash of 2008 on the predominance of men in the financial sector.
According to Harvard evolutionary biologist Carole Hooven, such representations of testosterone are simplistic and misguided. And in July 2021 she came to Intelligence Squared to debunk the cultural stereotypes surrounding it. Drawing on the themes of her new book Testosterone: The Story of the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us, she addressed questions about testosterone’s impact on gender and sexual behaviour, parenting roles, childhood play and other areas of our everyday lives. She also addressed the controversial issue of testosterone’s role in gender transition and its effect on athletic performance, a much discussed topic in the debate over whether transgender women competing in female sport have an unfair advantage. And she argued that while we need a better understanding of the science behind this potent force in society, such knowledge should not be used as a means of reinforcing gender norms or patriarchal values.
Hooven was in conversation with Tom Whipple, science editor of The Times, who was named Science Journalist of the Year in the 2020 Press Awards.
‘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, psychologist and bestselling author of The Blank Slate
‘The definitive book on testosterone . . . A brave and significant book . . . simply fascinating and filled with extraordinary facts.’ – Evening Standard
Speakers are subject to change.