The Full Wiki

Testosterone poisoning: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Testosterone poisoning is a pejorative neologism that refers not to actual poisoning, but to a negative perception of stereotypical aspects of male behavior. This speculative and controversial expression is based on a belief that men and boys with more masculine traits have more negative traits than they would otherwise. Masculinity, as represented by the androgen testosterone, is associated with "poisoning" or a negative outcome.

James Dabbs states that

"identifying testosterone with aggression is an idea whose time has come and gone."[1]



The earliest printed reference to "testosterone poisoning" came from actor Alan Alda's article, "What Every Woman Should Know About Men", published in Ms. Magazine in 1975. In it he said,

"Everyone knows that testosterone, the so-called male hormone, is found in both men and women. What is not so well known, is that men have an overdose... Until now it has been thought that the level of testosterone in men is normal simply because they have it. But if you consider how abnormal their behavior is, then you are led to the hypothesis that almost all men are suffering from testosterone poisoning."


Ten years later, that same sentence from Alda's article was quoted in the 1985 book A Feminist Dictionary2.

Carl Sagan gave the phrase more publicity when he praised Moondance magazine writer, Daniela Gioseffi's, American Book Award winner Women on War:

A book of searing analysis and cries from the heart on the madness of war. Why is the half of humanity with a special sensitivity to the preciousness of life, the half untainted by testosterone poisoning, almost wholly unrepresented in defense establishments and peace negotiations worldwide?3

Some took offense at this phrase. A Los Angeles Times op-ed piece referred to Professor Sagan's use directly:

Carl Sagan even pompously informs us that the whole planet is imminently endangered by "testosterone poisoning." 4

Bruce Tremper used the term in The Avalanche Review, stating that being "a man" is best proven by dying "a stupendously violent death."5

The phrase was used by Susan Ivanova in the television series Babylon 5 to describe the rude and unreasonable behavior by another military officer.16

Psychological analysis

Testosterone poisoning is not an actual medical or psychological condition. A 1996 Psychology Today article refers to the phrase as "only a joke," but notes, in reference to several studies about testosterone and male employment, that testosterone levels were lower for successful new male employees at a southern U.S. oil firm.6

In the words of James Dabbs, a researcher in this area,

"Identifying testosterone with aggression is an idea whose time has come and gone" (Dabbs, 1998) [1].

Mazur et al. (1998) stated that males with higher testosterone levels tend to be slightly more aggressive, and argue that this appears to be due to the way acting aggressively raises testosterone levels rather than the reverse.[2]

Berenbaum et al. (1997) stated that exposure to high levels of androgens in utero are associated with higher levels of adult aggression (Reinisch, 1981[3]; Berenbaum & Reinisch, 1997[4]).

However Anderson RA et al. stated that increasing level of testosterone in men does not increase self-reported ratings of aggressive feelings [5].O'Connor R. et al. founds that injections of testosterone has limited psychological effect and does not lead to aggressive behaviour or mood. [6]


References to testosterone poisoning are often used to criticize men. Magazine editor Tina Brown uses the phrase thematically in a 2005 Washington Post essay about the downfall of Harvard University president Larry Summers and the problems of Disney's former embattled CEO Michael Eisner.8 Beth Gallagher's essay "Road Sows" about the drawbacks of sports utility vehicles describes those vehicles' growing popularity as having spread beyond testosterone poisoned men to soccer moms.9 Dr. Karl Albrecht makes testosterone poisoning a synonym for male chauvinism in his 2002 book The Power of Minds at Work: Organizational Intelligence in Action where he describes it as one of 17 basic syndromes of dysfunction.10

Occasionally this perceived moral decadence of men turns against women, as in Kay S. Hymowitz's sarcastic reference to Western feminists in a 2003 Wall Street Journal essay chiding them for neglecting the rights of Third World women in Muslim countries:

There is no need, in their minds, to distinguish between Osama, Saddam, and Bush: They're all suffering from testosterone poisoning.11

Several readers submitted "testosterone poisoning" to a 2001 Atlantic Monthly competition to find a male equivalent for hysteria (which was originally regarded as a female-only condition). 1


Antonia Feitz has protested against the use of the expression in a 1999 essay in the Australian Daily Issues Paper, calling it hate speech.15 Neuroscientist Christoph Eisenegger at the University of Zurich has conducted a study and concludes that the evidence debunks the myth that testosterone causes aggressive, egocentric behaviour, suggesting instead that the sex hormone can encourage fair play, particularly if it improves a person's status. <>


National Public Radio's popular show "Car Talk" has used the term repeatedly. 13 11

The Darwin Awards lists one category of its dubious winners under the heading "Testosterone Poisoning." 14

See also


Note 1: [1].
Note 2: A Feminist Dictionary, ed. Kramarae and Treichler, Pandora Press, 1985.
Note 3: [2].
Note 4: [3]. "In Academe, Misogyny Meets Its Match: Misandrosy," by Father Patrick M. Arnold, SJ, assistant professor of theology at the University of San Diego, Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1990.
Note 5: [4].
Note 6: [5] "The Trouble with Testosterone," by Peter Doskoch, Psychology Today, Dec. 1996.
Note 7: [6]
Note 8: [7]. "Why Can't a Man Be More Like a Woman?" by Tina Brown, The Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2005.
Note 9: [8].
Note 10: [9].
Note 11: [10]. "The Women Feminists Forgot," by Kay S. Hymowitz, The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 7, 2003.
Note 12: [11]
Note 13: [12].
Note 14: [13].
Note 15: [14]. "Demonizing Men," by Antonia Feitz, The Australian Daily View, Feb. 9, 1999.
Note 16: Babylon 5 episode, "A Voice in the Wilderness".


  1. ^ a b Dabbs, J.M. Jr. (1998) Testosterone and the concept of dominance. Behavioral & Brain Sciences 21:370--371.
  2. ^ Mazur, A. & Booth, A. (1998) Testosterone and dominance in men. Behavioral & Brain Sciences 21:353--397.
  3. ^ Reinisch, J.M (1981) Prenatal exposure to synthetic progestins increases potential for aggression in humans. Science 211:1171--1173.
  4. ^ Berenbaum, S.A. & Reinisch, J.M. (1997) Early androgen effects on aggression in children and adults with congenital adrenal hyperplasia Psychoneuroendocrinology 22:505--515.
  5. ^ Anderson RA, Bancroft J, Wu FC (1992)The effects of exogenous testosterone on sexuality and mood of normal men."J Clin Endocrinol Metab" Dec;75(6):1503-7.
  6. ^ O'Connor D. Archer J. Wu FC (2004) Effects of Testosterone on Mood, Aggression, and Sexual Behavior in Young Men: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-Over Study "The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism" Vol. 89, No. 6 2837-2845.
  • Archer, J. (1991) The influence of testosterone on human aggression. British Journal of Psychology 82: 1-28.
  • White R.E., Thornhill, S. & Hampson, E. (2006) Entrepreneurs and evolutionary biology: The relationship between testosterone and new venture creation. Organizational behavior and human decision processes 100: 21-34.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address