Testosterone poisoning is a popular term used to explain behaviors that are deemed excessively masculine.
An early printed reference to "testosterone poisoning" came in 1975 from actor Alan Alda. In a parody of self-help writing, Alda diagnosed the "ailment" of masculinity and offered methods for its "cure". He wrote:
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 recently 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 Dictionary.
Carl Sagan gave the phrase more publicity when he praised Moondance magazine writer Daniela Gioseffi's American Book Award winner Women on War as follows: "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?" A Los Angeles Times op-ed piece accused Sagan of "pompously inform[ing] us that the whole planet is imminently endangered by 'testosterone poisoning'".
A 1996 Psychology Today article referred to the phrase as "only a joke", but noted, 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.
Berenbaum et al. (1997) stated that exposure to high levels of androgens in utero is associated with higher levels of adult aggression. Mazur et al. (1998) stated that males with higher testosterone levels tend to be slightly more aggressive than others. The authors suggested that highers testosterone levels were a result of aggressive behavior rather than a cause of it.
In Family and Friends' Guide to Domestic Violence, Elaine Weiss wrote that "deadly testosterone poisoning" (DTP) is one of "many misunderstandings about abusive men". She continued: "[This] is not a war of the hormones, an inevitable biological clash between estrogen and testosterone. If it were, then there would be more of it; every heterosexual relationship would be abusive".
McDermott (2007) found a significant positive relationship between levels of testosterone and aggression. However, the link between testosterone and aggression was questioned in a 2010 study published in Nature. According to that study, "a single dose of testosterone in women causes a substantial increase in fair bargaining behaviour, thereby reducing bargaining conflicts and increasing the efficiency of social interactions. However, subjects who believed that they received testosterone—regardless of whether they actually received it or not—behaved much more unfairly than those who believed that they were treated with placebo."
Beth Gallagher's Salon.com essay "Road Sows", which discussed sports utility vehicles, asserted that "Not long ago, if you found yourself being tailed within an inch of your life by one of these monsters, you could be reasonably sure that testosterone poisoning was at work. But now I don't even bother to check my makeup -- the macho creep back there is as likely to be the soccer mom next door, or even her mom..." 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). Dr. Karl Albrecht made testosterone poisoning a synonym for male chauvinism in his 2002 book The Power of Minds at Work: Organizational Intelligence in Action; he described the phenomenon as one of 17 basic syndromes of dysfunction.
In a 2003 Wall Street Journal essay, Kay S. Hymowitz chided Western feminists for neglecting the rights of Third World women in Muslim countries; she wrote: "There is no need, in their minds, to distinguish between Osama, Saddam, and Bush: They're all suffering from testosterone poisoning".
Magazine editor Tina Brown used 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.
The term is sometimes used by transfemme people to describe how testosterone has damaged them.
- Booth, Alan; Granger, Douglas A.; Mazur, Allan; Kivlighan, Katie T. (2006). "Testosterone and Social Behavior". Social Forces. 85 (1): 167–191 – via JSTOR.
- Rainbolt, Martha; Fleetwood, Janet, eds. (1984). On the Contrary: Essays by Men and Women. SUNY Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-87-395720-5.
- Alan Alda, "What Every Woman Should Know About Men", Ms., New York, October 1975.
- A Feminist Dictionary, ed. Kramarae and Treichler, Pandora Press, 1985.
- Daniela Gioseffi. "Women On War".
- Patrick M. Arnold (14 May 1990). "In Academe, Misogyny Meets Its Match: Misandrosy : Behavior: The uproar at Mills College illustrates a nasty new trend: man-hating. What parent would send a son into such an environment?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
It is the shadow side of the extreme feminist movement, an ideology of hate whose name is not yet found in the dictionary. I term it misandrosy (Greek: "hatred of men"), the mirror opposite of misogyny. Misandrosy, not yet as widespread or harmful as misogyny but not yet as well recognized, either, is beginning to show itself mainly in liberal circles in the arts, literature, religion, media and academia. [...] Carl Sagan even pompously informs us that the whole planet is imminently endangered by "testosterone poisoning".
- Tremper, Bruce (February 1991). "Life as a Human Being". The Avalanche Review. Archived from the original on 2005-11-08. Retrieved 2005-11-12.
- Doskoch, Peter (December 1996). "The Trouble with Testosterone". Psychology Today. Archived from the original on 31 January 2013.
- Reinisch, J. (13 March 1981). "Prenatal exposure to synthetic progestins increases potential for aggression in humans". Science. 211 (4487): 1171–1173. doi:10.1126/science.7466388.
- Berenbaum, Sheri A.; Resnick, Susan M. (October 1997). "Early androgen effects on aggression in children and adults with congenital adrenal hyperplasia". Psychoneuroendocrinology. 22 (7): 505–515. doi:10.1016/S0306-4530(97)00049-8.
- Mazur, Allan; Booth, Alan (June 1998). "Testosterone and dominance in men" (PDF). The Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 21 (3): 353–63, discussion 363–97. doi:10.1017/S0140525X98001228. PMID 10097017.
- Weiss, Elaine (2003). Family & Friends' Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk, and Take Action when Someone You Care about is Being Abused. Volcano Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-88-424422-3.
- McDermott, Rose; Johnson, Dominic; Cowden, Jonathan; Rosen, Stephen (September 2016). "Testosterone and Aggression in a Simulated Crisis Game". The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 614 (1): 15–33. doi:10.1177/0002716207305268.
- Eisenegger, C.; Naef, M.; Snozzi, R.; Heinrichs, M.; Fehr, E. (21 January 2010). "Prejudice and truth about the effect of testosterone on human bargaining behaviour". Nature. 463 (7279): 356–359. Bibcode:2010Natur.463..356E. doi:10.1038/nature08711. PMID 19997098.
- "Demonizing Men", by Antonia Feitz, The Australian Daily View, Feb. 9, 1999.
- Gallagher, Beth (2000-05-24). "Road Sows". Salon.com. Archived from the original on 2007-11-13. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
- The Atlantic, "Word Fugitives", Barbara Wallraff, June 2001.
- "Detour". karlalbrecht.com. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
- "The Women Feminists Forgot", by Kay S. Hymowitz, The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 7, 2003. Archived 2013-10-11 at the Wayback Machine
- "Why Can't a Man Be More Like a Woman?" by Tina Brown, The Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2005.
- Archer, John (February 1991). "The influence of testosterone on human aggression". British Journal of Psychology. 82 (1): 1–28. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1991.tb02379.x.
- White, Roderick E.; Thornhill, Stewart; Hampson, Elizabeth (May 2006). "Entrepreneurs and evolutionary biology: The relationship between testosterone and new venture creation". Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 100 (1): 21–34. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2005.11.001.