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Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior Hardcover – July 25, 2000
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To understand how life works, you must understand testosterone. This male hormone--which is present in both men and women--determines who leads society and how it is led; the professions we choose, and in some cases, how well we do in them; and in some cases how long we live--after all, the high-testosterone guy tends to be a risk-taker.
Author James Dabbs, a social psychologist, has been studying testosterone for decades at Georgia State University, and many of the studies coming out of his lab have made headlines. To pick just one of dozens of examples, he and his colleagues found that high-testosterone soldiers were more likely to get in trouble with the law, use drugs and alcohol, and have 10 or more sex partners in a year. The more testosterone one has, the more wild oats one feels compelled to sow.
Of course, testosterone isn't a static thing; it rises with feelings of victory and accomplishment and crashes with feelings of defeat. Dabbs takes us through the world of testosterone--from the basic chemistry to how it affects love, work, and society--and makes it literate, erudite, and outrageously entertaining. Snippets of Shakespeare are used to make a point alongside stories of high-testosterone female prisoners. Men will find Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers a glorious explanation of their hormonal core, while women can use it to understand the men in their lives, and even themselves--after all, testosterone increases libido in geese as well as ganders. --Lou Schuler
From Publishers Weekly
In the past three months, testosterone has become a hot topic on TV magazine and talk shows, online and even in the New York Times Magazine. Dabbs, a former researcher of social psychology at Georgia State University, "move[s] between science and anecdote, example and principle, theory and fact" to explain everything you wanted to know about testosterone but were afraid to ask. Unfortunately, much of what he serves up as science yields many claims that are scientifically unsupportable. Dabbs has drawn many of his conclusions from testosterone studies he and his students conducted that generally did not follow strict scientific testing procedures, on populations including "college students, prison inmates, trial lawyers, athletes... [and] construction workers." Unfortunately, this leads to such hilariously generalized statements as "high-testosterone men, on average, are leaner, balder, more confident... and likely to favor tattoos and gold jewelry." Or, "high-testosterone men are more likely than low-testosterone men to have blue-collar jobs." Explaining that high-testosterone people have "limited verbal ability," Dabbs cites the sports metaphors that former President Bush used in his speeches as showing "an instinct for the simple logic of testosterone." He also claims that women and men with high testosterone "have characteristics in common with James Bond, Night Man, Buffy the Vampire Slayer [and] Indiana Jones"Ahardly a scientific statement. Aside from these fanciful extrapolations from his research, Dabbs does not address critiques of traditional scientific inquiry as articulated by scientific gender specialists such as Anne Fausto-Sterling or Donna Haraway. Although written in an entertaining style, the book ultimately tells us more about the cultural myths surrounding testosterone than about the hormone itself. (Sept.) COMPLICATED WOMEN: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood Mick LaSalle. St. Martin's, $24.95 (304p) ISBN 0-312-25207-2 ~ Movie quiz: who said, "I'm in an orgy, wallowing. And I love it!" Madonna? Demi Moore? Koo Stark? No, it was Norma Shearer in 1931's Strangers May Kiss. In this breezily written, engaging look at the position of women in pre-Code Hollywood pictures, LaSalle uncovers a host of actors (some, like Ann Dvorak and Glenda Farrell, now almost forgotten) and films that broke social barriers with their frank portrayals of female sexual desire and freedom. Contradicting prevailing film theory that claims the 1940s as the golden age of women in film, LaSalle boldly posits that the best women's movies were made before 1934, when the studios were forced to follow the notorious Production Code. According to the author, pre-Code Hollywood films reveled in nonjudgmental, often quite serious, portraits of women characters exercising enormous sexual, personal and social freedomsAfrom sex outside marriage to having their own careers. "The Production Code," LaSalle notes, "ensured a miserable fate... for any woman who stepped out of line." Drawing upon movies, reviews, social trends such as rising female college admissions and even the writings of feminists such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, he makes a solid case that the freedom women gained in the 1920s changed America, and that this change was reflected, and reinforced, in films. Along the way, LaSalle offers a variety of revealing insightsAsuch as his observations on the anti-Semitism of Roman Catholic clergy in their war against HollywoodAas he entertainingly traces the careers and early work of such major stars as Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford and the once-famous Ruth Chatterton. Photos not see by PW. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Factoids like "men with high testoterone are more aggressive, and more likely to beat their wives etc. etc." didn't give me much to chew on. I did enjoy the statistic that shows that high level corporate types who have successfully clawed their way to the top are not necessarily high in testosterone, though they might think they are... (they actually "relationship" their way up -- which should be good news for women execs). I thought about the execs I know and laughed.
What an interesting ecclectic book. Where to place it on my shelves? Next to the self help books such as 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus'? With the biology and ethology books? Or with my old social psychology books from my college days. Or possibly even in the poetry and literature section. People from all walks of life will find this to be a charming intelligent book about the influence of testosterone on animal and human behavior void of snobbery that so often infects academic works. I especially liked the folksy anecdotes about people and animals that add warmth and color to the book.
Now here's an idea for a commercial offshoot to this work: Would it be possible to produce a testosterone self-test kit similar to pregnancy test kits available in the drug store? If testosterone proves to be such a potent factor in how people get along, well think of the possibilities. Parents of dating-age daughters could screen prospective boyfriends and at least raise warning flags about boys with high testosterone. It could be used on a personal basis as a tool to better understand oneself by tracking fluctuations that possibly lead to mood swings. Speaking personally, when I was divorced a few years ago, my body and brain chemistry went bonkers for a few months, affecting my preferences in books, music, TV programs, and on and on. I suddenly lost interest in sports such as football. Gradually, I reverted back to my old obnoxious male sports-oriented self. Was this due to a testosterone swing?
I'm looking forward to further research about testosterone and other chemicals that affect our behavior, especially as it applies to the gender wars. The thriving divorce industry suggests a dire need for research that helps us better understand and overcome gender differences. Can't we all just get along?
Speaking of the divorce industry, the research comparing trial lawyers to non-trial lawyers was very interesting. Could I venture a hypothesis that matrimonial lawyers will register highest of all lawyer groups on the rogue, er, testosterone scale?
For much of the book, Dabbs opines negatively of high testosterone men. High testosterone has lost its place in modern society, he argues. More successful and educated white color workers have lower testosterone levels than less educated, lower income but higher testosterone blue color workers. Towards the end, however, he raises the specter of channeling the effects of this powerful hormone to positive outcomes such as altruism and heroism. Proper upbringing and social activities can curb the negative tendencies of high testosterone individuals.
In the epilogue, Dabbs admits to the complexity of nature vs. nature analytics and the extent to which testosterone influences behavior. But certain assertions are "clearly established" he claims: Testosterone increases muscle strength, sexual activity, delinquency and marital instability. Other connections, which he claims are less certain include occupation choice, e.g. actors and athletes have high testosterone levels, sex differences, e.g. women maintain lasting relationships while men drop strong loyalties when they change jobs or sports teams, and the nature of heroism and altruism. This is the area the author dabbles in the most, and unfortunately, because of the lack of depth, Dabbs' arguments are not presented in a convincing or thoughtful way.
Robert M. Sapolskly accomplishes in one chapter of his book "The Trouble With Tetosterone" more than Dabbs' entire book.