Skip to main content
Log in

Salivary Testosterone Levels in Men at a U.S. Sex Club

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Archives of Sexual Behavior Aims and scope Submit manuscript


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Aikey, J. L., Nyby, J. G., Anmuth, M., & James, P. J. (2002). Testosterone rapidly reduces anxiety in male house mice (Mus musculus). Hormones and Behavior, 42, 448–460.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Andersson, M. (1994). Sexual selection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Archer, J. (2006). Testosterone and human aggression: An evaluation of the “Challenge Hypothesis”. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 30, 319–345.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Axelsson, J., Ingre, M., Akerstedt, T., & Holmback, U. (2005). Effects of acutely displaced sleep on testosterone. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 90, 4530–4535.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bateman, A. J. (1948). Intrasexual selection in Drosophila. Heredity, 2, 349–368.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bribiescas, R. G. (2006). Men: Evolutionary and life history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Daly, M., & Wilson, M. (1988). Homicide. New York: Aldine.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dixson, A. F. (2009). Sexual selection and the origins of human mating systems. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ford, C. S., & Beach, F. A. (1951). Patterns of sexual behavior. New York: Ace Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gleason, E. D., Fuxjager, M. J., Oyegbile, T. O., & Marler, C. A. (2009). Testosterone release and social context: When it occurs and why. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 30, 460–469.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gray, P. B., & Anderson, K. G. (2010). Fatherhood: Evolution and human paternal behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gray, P. B., & Campbell, B. C. (2009). Human male testosterone, pair bonds and fatherhood. In P. T. Ellison & P. B. Gray (Eds.), Endocrinology of social relationships (pp. 270–293). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hirschenhauser, K., & Oliveira, R. F. (2006). Social modulation of androgens in male vertebrates: Meta-analyses of the Challenge Hypothesis. Animal Behaviour, 71, 265–277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Isidori, A. M., Giannetta, E., Gianfrilli, D., Greco, E. A., Bonifacio, V., Aversa, A., et al. (2005). Effects of testosterone on sexual function in men: Results of a meta-analysis. Clinical Endocrinology, 63, 381–394.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Nyby, J. G. (2008). Reflexive testosterone release: A model system for studying the nongenomic effects of testosterone upon male behavior. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 29, 199–210.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Packard, M. G., Schroeder, J. P., & Alexander, G. M. (1998). Expression of testosterone conditioned place preference is blocked by peripheral or intraaccumbens injection of α-flupenthixol. Hormones and Behavior, 34, 39–47.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Roney, J. R., Lukaszewski, A. W., & Simmons, Z. L. (2007). Rapid endocrine responses of young men to social interactions with young women. Hormones and Behavior, 52, 326–333.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rupprecht, R. (2003). Neuroactive steroids: Mechanisms of action and neuropsychopharmacological properties. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 28, 139–168.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Travison, T. G., Morley, J. E., Araujo, A. B., O’Donnell, A. B., & McKinlay, J. B. (2006). The relationship between libido and testosterone levels in aging men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 91, 2509–2531.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. C. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man (pp. 136–179). Chicago: Aldine.

    Google Scholar 

  • van Anders, S. M., & Gray, P. B. (2007). Hormones and human partnering. Annual Review of Sex Research, 18, 60–93.

    Google Scholar 

  • van Anders, S. M., & Watson, N. V. (2006). Social neuroendocrinology: Effects of social contexts and behaviors on sex steroids in humans. Human Nature, 17, 212–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wingfield, J. C., Hegner, R. E., Dufty, A. M., & Ball, G. F. (1990). The “challenge hypothesis”: Theoretical implications for patterns of testosterone secretion, mating systems, and breeding systems. American Naturalist, 136, 829–846.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michelle J. Escasa.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: