Beyond masculinity: testosterone, gender/sex, and human social behavior in a comparative context

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2013 Aug;34(3):198-210. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2013.07.001. Epub 2013 Jul 16.


Largely based on pre-theory that ties high testosterone (T) to masculinity, and low T to femininity, high T is mainly studied in relation to aggression, mating, sexuality, and challenge, and low T with parenting. Evidence, however, fails to support this, and the social variability in T is better accounted for by a competition-nurturance trade-off as per the Steroid/Peptide Theory of Social Bonds (van Anders et al., 2011). Four key domains are discussed: adult-infant interactions, sexual desire, sexual behavior, and partnering. Empirical engagements with gender/sex are shown to lead to important insights over assumptions about masculinity-femininity. Humans are discussed within a comparative framework that attends to cross-species principles informed by human insights alongside human-specific particularities like social constructions, which are critical to evolutionary understandings of the social role of T. This paper thus integrates seemingly orthogonal perspectives to allow for transformative approaches to an empirically-supported social phenomenology of T.

Keywords: Androgen; Competition; Desire; Gender; Nurturance; Parenting; Sex; Sexuality; Social bonds; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Libido
  • Male
  • Masculinity
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners
  • Social Behavior*
  • Testosterone* / blood
  • Testosterone* / physiology


  • Testosterone