How Science Explains the Link Between Testosterone and Masculinity

For centuries, masculinity has been connected to high levels of testosterone. The male sex hormone often is associated with manly behavior and a set of characteristics, like aggression, strength, energy, and high sex drive. Recent scientific studies discovered that this correlation might be impeding us in fully grasping the modern meaning and notion of masculinity.

The Role of Testosterone

It’s now common knowledge that testosterone is found in both men and women – but for a long time, that wasn’t the case. Early scientists believed that the hormone was exclusively found in male species, and it had solely sexual and functional developments. Then, in the 1920s, they started uncovering data that showed the presence of the hormone was not sex-exclusive. Moreover, they found out that testosterone was critical in many other functions in our bodies, such as bone development, liver metabolism, and more. 

Even though it has long been discovered that testosterone’s role in our systems is much larger than sex-related functions and appearance, it’s still referred to as the male sex hormone. Many people still believe it’s the key to more physical strength, better athletic performance, and even higher levels of aggression. But contrary to popular belief, the hormone is not responsible for producing a more masculine physical appearance.

The Masculinity Label

Katrina Karkazis, a professor at Brooklyn College and a researcher on the topic, says men often use the hormone to explain certain behavior. Things like high achievements, risk-taking, athleticism, proactivity, and physical strength get a label for being masculine or primarily associated with men, and thus, with high levels of testosterone. That, Karkazis explains, is not the case.

Grasping what that means requires a major shift in mindset. We’re used to explaining one behavior as “male” and “female” but that new insight requires us to look more deeply into the stereotypes and social norms, especially when it relates to gender. The findings of this research should be a stepping stone towards removing labels from human behavior that classify it as either male or female and widen our perspective on both.