Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society by Cordelia Fine is a book about men and women and how the divide between them is only based on nature. This book explores these differences, debunking common misconceptions about the genders that have been reenforced due to cultural aspects. As a Psychologist and professor of history and philosophy, Fine is able to provide factual information on many topics, from mating and reproduction, sexual characteristics and many more. My favorite topics from this book were the discussion of sexual selection, how men and women attempt to secure a mate and her ideas about sex differences between genders.
Chapter 1 discusses the processes behind sexual selection. Darwin’s theory of sexual selection stated that some characteristics, such as size, are usually selected for more strongly in males. These characteristics increase a male’s reproductive advantage in the sense that they are able to better fight for their right females. Other male characteristics, such as bright colors or an appealing smell, are helpful in a different way. These characteristics draw females to the males by boosting the male’s appeal to his potential mates. Darwin’s theory was developed further British biologist, Angus Bateman. Through his experiment he aimed to explain exactly why males compete for females and then females choose from among them. His results indicated that although male reproductive success increased by having multiple partners this was not the case for females. A male’s reproductive success is determined by how many females he can inseminate while multiple partners for females was not a benefit, rather one consistent mate lead to better outcomes.
Chapter 3 discusses the different ways in which males and females attempt to secure a mate. Human males typically attempt to show that they are good potential mates by providing females with gifts. Gift giving has evolved to be a male courtship strategy with the goal of flaunting their resources to show potential mates they can provide for them. This is not always the case though, some males have been known to give presents to assert agency and reestablish social identities through relationships. Women however, have a different strategy. In terms of biology, men are drawn to more attractive and youthful women even though their looks are not a reliable measure of their reproductive ability. Women typically use their looks to attract mates, a slightly sexist, but true concept. Human beings seem to value attractiveness as a first step for mating and this holds true in both men and women; we want a mate who is attractive to us along with all the other important characteristics.
Chapter 4 details the sexual differences between men and women and the idea that a woman can’t be more like a man. this is a long debated topic but Fine states that biological sex may not be the fixed force we assume it to be. The presence of a “X” or “Y” chromosome is not the only defining factor in gender, in fact many chromosomes play a part in determining biological sex. Obviously differences in the sexes can be simplified down to whether they have testes or ovaries but this is not the absolute in determining differences. Research has shown that the brain is actually quite asexual and even specific “male” or “female” characteristics can be present in either sex and often have very little impact on behavior. Our brains are less male or female and rather, more based on neural processes. .
Testosterone Rex is a very well written and factual book, that sheds some light on the differences and lack thereof between males and females. Fine uses a lot of research to back up her points and I think that is something that has been lacking in this area for a long time. People view men and women as unequal based on their sex and the fact that men are “stronger” or “better” when women can do the things men do. Women have been told for the longest time that they need a man to provide for them, or take care of them when, in fact, women are able to do these things without a man. I really enjoyed this novel and learning more in depth what exactly makes the sexes different.