Differential effects of intranasal oxytocin on sexual experiences and partner interactions in couples

Horm Behav. 2014 Mar;65(3):308-18. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2014.01.009. Epub 2014 Feb 3.


Knowledge about the effects of the neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) on human sexual behaviors and partner interactions remains limited. Based on our previous studies, we hypothesize that OXT should be able to positively influence parameters of sexual function and couple interactions. Employing a naturalistic setting involving 29 healthy heterosexual couples (n=58 participants), we analyzed the acute effects of intranasally administered OXT (24IU) on sexual drive, arousal, orgasm and refractory aspects of sexual behavior together with partner interactions. Data were assessed by psychometric instruments (Acute Sexual Experiences Scale, Arizona Sexual Experience Scale) as well as biomarkers, such as cortisol, α-amylase and heart rate. Intranasal OXT administration did not alter "classical" parameters of sexual function, such as sexual drive, arousal or penile erection and lubrication. However, analysis of variance and a hierarchical linear model (HLM) revealed specific effects related to the orgasmic/post-orgasmic interval as well as parameters of partner interactions. According to HLM analysis, OXT increased the intensity of orgasm, contentment after sexual intercourse and the effect of study participation. According to ANOVA analysis, these effects were more pronounced in men. Men additionally indicated higher levels of sexual satiety after sexual intercourse with OXT administration. Women felt more relaxed and subgroups indicated better abilities to share sexual desires or to empathize with their partners. The effect sizes were small to moderate. Biomarkers indicated moderate psychophysiological activation but were not affected by OXT, gender or method of contraception. Using a naturalistic setting, intranasal OXT administration in couples exerted differential effects on parameters of sexual function and partner interactions. These results warrant further investigations, including subjects with sexual and relationship problems.

Keywords: Couple; Intranasal; Orgasm; Oxytocin; Partner interaction; Sexual arousal; Sexual drive; Sexual intercourse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adult
  • Coitus / physiology
  • Coitus / psychology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Heterosexuality / physiology
  • Heterosexuality / psychology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Libido / drug effects
  • Libido / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orgasm / drug effects
  • Orgasm / physiology*
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage
  • Oxytocin / pharmacology*
  • Placebos
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult
  • alpha-Amylases / metabolism


  • Placebos
  • Oxytocin
  • alpha-Amylases
  • Hydrocortisone