Vertebrate males commonly experience elevations in testosterone levels in response to sexual stimuli, such as presentation of a novel mating partner. Some previous human studies have shown that watching erotic movies increases testosterone levels in males although studies measuring testosterone changes during actual sexual intercourse or masturbation have yielded mixed results. Small sample sizes, “unnatural” lab-based settings, and invasive techniques may help account for mixed human findings. Here, we investigated salivary testosterone levels in men watching (n = 26) versus participating (n = 18) in sexual activity at a large U.S. sex club. The present study entailed minimally invasive sample collection (measuring testosterone in saliva), a naturalistic setting, and a larger number of subjects than previous work to test three hypotheses related to men’s testosterone responses to sexual stimuli. Subjects averaged 40 years of age and participated between 11:00 pm and 2:10 am. Consistent with expectations, results revealed that testosterone levels increased 36% among men during a visit to the sex club, with the magnitude of testosterone change significantly greater among participants (72%) compared with observers (11%). Contrary to expectation, men’s testosterone changes were unrelated to their age. These findings were generally consistent with vertebrate studies indicating elevated male testosterone in response to sexual stimuli, but also point out the importance of study context since participation in sexual behavior had a stronger effect on testosterone increases in this study but unlike some previous human lab-based studies.
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Escasa, M.J., Casey, J.F. & Gray, P.B. Salivary Testosterone Levels in Men at a U.S. Sex Club. Arch Sex Behav 40, 921–926 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-010-9711-3
- Sexual activity
- Sexual function
- Challenge hypothesis