Influence of sexual behaviour on testosterone

The general concept that behaviour can feed back to hormone levels was first described with regard to sexual behaviour in an often cited publication (Anonymous 1970). A man working on an island attributed his increased beard growth immediately prior and during his visits to his girlfriend on the mainland to elevated androgen levels induced by sexual anticipation and sexual activity. Since then, numerous empirical studies dealt with effects of sexual behaviour (e.g., sexual stimulation, masturbation and coitus with or without orgasm) on testosterone levels. It could be demonstrated that almost any sexual behaviour can significantly alter sex hormone levels; however, cognitive factors and emotional involvement of the subjects produced mixed results. The majority of data on eugonadal men reports on effects of ejaculation. Orgasmic frequency in males, whether through masturbation or coitus, correlated positively with free, non SHBG-bound testosterone and serum testosterone (Christiansen et al. 1984; Dabbs and Mohammed 1992; Knussmann etal. 1986; Kraemer etal. 1976), while earlier investigations (Lee etal. 1974; Monti et al. 1977; Stearns et al. 1973) could not ascertain behavioural-hormonal interactions. A significant rise in testosterone and DHT after masturbation was measured in blood samples of young males (Brown etal. 1978; Monti etal. 1977; Purvis etal. 1976) while a case study by Fox et al. (1972) found a testosterone increase in one male subject only after ejaculation during sexual intercourse but not after masturbation. This was explained by the man's lack of emotional involvement with his autoerotic behaviour.

Endocrine effects of erotic stimulation were investigated by Christiansen et al. (1984) who detected a significant increase of testosterone levels after more or less accidental sexual stimulation through attractive people, erotic pictures and movies -not sexual activities - during 24 hours before the blood sampling. Even closer correlations were found in controlled laboratory experiments showing erotic or sexually neutral films (Carani et al. 1990b; Evans and Distiller 1979; Hellhammer etal. 1985; Lincoln 1974; Pirke etal. 1974; Stoleru etal. 1993).

Up to now, very little attention has been paid to behavioural-androgenic effects in women. Only Dabbs and Mohammed (1992) measured salivary testosterone levels in women after sexual intercourse and detected a significant increase of testosterone compared to a baseline value. Samples taken in the evenings without preceding coitus did not show such an increase.

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