Time course of effects of testosterone administration on sexual arousal in women

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000 Feb;57(2):149-53; discussion 155-6. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.57.2.149.


Background: The assumption that testosterone is involved in human female sexual functioning is mainly based on results of studies of women with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. This study sought to determine the effect of testosterone administration on physiological and subjective sexual arousal in sexually functional women.

Methods: In a double-masked, randomly assigned, placebo-controlled crossover design, we examined whether administration of a single dose of testosterone to sexually functional women increases vaginal and subjective sexual arousal when they are exposed to erotic visual stimuli. To search for a time lag in the effect of testosterone therapy, we exposed 8 healthy women to 6 erotic film excerpts depicting intercourse. The first and second excerpts were shown immediately before and 15 minutes after, respectively, intake of placebo or testosterone; the last 4 excerpts were then shown at 1(1/2)-hour intervals.

Results: Sublingual intake of testosterone caused a sharp increase in plasma testosterone levels within 15 minutes; these levels declined to baseline values within 90 minutes. Three to 4(1/2) hours after reaching peak testosterone level, we found a statistically significantly increase in genital responsiveness (P = .04). Furthermore, on the day of testosterone treatment, there also was a strong and statistically significant association between the increase in genital arousal and subjective reports of "genital sensations" (P = .02) and "sexual lust" (P = .01) after 4(1/2) hours.

Conclusions: There is a time lag in the effect of sublingually administered testosterone on genital arousal in women. In addition, a consecutive increase in vaginal arousal might cause higher genital sensations and sexual lust.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Sublingual
  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Erotica
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido / drug effects*
  • Motion Pictures
  • Placebos
  • Plethysmography
  • Sensation / drug effects
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects*
  • Testosterone / administration & dosage
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vagina / blood supply
  • Vagina / drug effects
  • Vagina / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology


  • Placebos
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone