My creative streams are blocked today, blocked by ascetic obstinacy. I talked to some cute girls earlier and now I have to deal with the repercussions: a manic sex drive, but no freedom to play with myself nor to go outside hunting for pussy. I’m on day 65 of my sexual abstinence challenge and I mustn’t allow myself to fail—what a fucking waste of life!
I already tried to exhaust myself at the gym and then meditated for a while, but my mind is still so full of thoughts about sex and ass and pussy and pussy and pussy and pussy and pussy…—so full, so heated that I can’t be creative.
Hence, I decided to distract myself from my horniness by doing some research on the relationship between testosterone and libido because I wanted to know: “Am I so horny because I’ve talked to those girls, or is it just that my testosterone levels are particularly high today, or are all these three things connected?”
The first alternative seems to be true, considering what I’ve learned from a study by van Anders (2012):
- Natural testosterone in healthy men correlates neither with the desire to masturbate nor with the desire to have sex. (This is interesting because I always thought that my sexual desire is indicative of my testosterone levels. Based on the scientific evidence, however, how horny I get doesn’t depend on how much testosterone my body produces, as long as it produces some.)
- Testosterone levels seem to be relevant for sexual desire only in atypical cases, that is, for men with pathologically low testosterone who lose their sex drive entirely as well as for men with freakishly high testosterone who turn into sexual beasts when they inject anabolic steroids,—but not for healthy men with endogenous androgens fluctuating in a natural range. (The general conception that testosterone increases sex drive is probably due to clinical studies on the effects of exogenous testosterone treatment; see Bancroft, 2005).
- Even the small percentage of men with no desire to masturbate have testosterone levels that aren’t significantly different from all the other, more horny men.
- Men have a significantly greater desire for sex than women. (The problem with this finding is that sexual desire was measured by self-report and I could imagine that men are more likely to report higher sexual desire than women because that’s what the cultural stereotype of masculinity motivates them to report (social desirability bias). Personally, I don’t believe that men want sex so much more than women; we just have a cultural tradition of shaming women who are outspoken about wanting to have sex.)
A problem of this study is that it included only young, healthy men who all had relatively high testosterone levels. Another study by Travison et al. (2006) looked at aging men and did find a significant correlation between libido and testosterone. The big problem with both these studies, however, is that they’re based on self-reported sex drive (reconsider my comment on #4).
When I searched for an experimental study with potentially more objective results, I found a paper by Rupp & Wallen (2007). In their experiment, they let healthy young men look at pornographic images for as long as they wanted. The results: Those men with higher testosterone levels looked much longer at the pictures than those with lower levels, especially in the last session where they already knew the pictures and could thus gain little excitement from novelty. But if the higher-T men looked longer at the pictures, doesn’t this indicate higher sexual interest and a clear correlation? Yes, it does.
Now sexual interest and sexual desire might not be the same, but I think these three studies combined give you an idea of how complex the effects of testosterone are. There is no simple answer to the question of whether natural fluctuations in endogenous testosterone affect a man’s sex drive or not. I’m sorry for this inconclusive conclusion, but that, my friend, is science.
Nonetheless, I also want to a give simple answer, so here it is: I’m particularly horny today (sexual desire) because I’ve talked to some cute girls earlier (sexual cue), which has probably increased my testosterone levels (Roney et al., 2003), and I talked to them partly due to testosterone (sexual interest). And now, with the end of this article, I have to go back to resisting temptation again…
Bancroft, J. (2005). The endocrinology of sexual arousal. Journal of Endocrinology, Vol. 186, pp. 411-427, doi: 10.1677/joe.1.06233.
Roney, J. R., Mahler, S. V., Maestripieri, D. (2003). Behavioral and hormonal responses of men to brief interactions with women. Evolution & Human Behavior, Vol. 24(6), pp. 365-375, doi: 10.1016/S1090-5138(03)00053-9.
Rupp, H. A., Wallen. K. (2007). Relationship between testosterone and interest in sexual stimuli: the effect of experience. Hormones and Behavior, Vol. 52(5), pp. 581-589, doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.07.015.
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. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Vol. 91(7), pp. 2509-2513, doi: 10.1210/jc.2005-2508.
van Anders, S. M. (2012). Testosterone and Sexual Desire in Healthy Women and Men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 41, pp. 1471-1484, doi: 10.1007/s10508-012-9946-2.