Submitted by TommyMaddox on
Printer-friendly version

I'm wondering what effect not orgasming has on testosterone? I'm reading a book right now (The Testosterone Factor) which says that for a man's testosterone levels to be optimal he should have sex at least once every 4-5 days and ideally "once a day or so". Now of course the book doesn't make any distinction between orgasmic and non-orgasmic sex (books almost never do) but I think the implication here is an orgasm once a day for optimal testosterone.

Given what I've read about testosterone and its impact on health I think this is an important issue. When I went without orgasms for six weeks I feel stable emotionally but also didn't seem to have the libido that I normally do (especially after a couple of weeks with no orgrasms). This is what Marnia's writings would suggest (that the cravings go away as hormone levels stabilize) but perhaps cravings going away also means testosterone levels are lowered.

I'm confused on this one...

Researching something

Researching something unrelated (OK, not totally unrelated...) and came across this article from Marnia: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201007/ejacula... According to the study she cites (and admittedly, this is only one study), less frequent orgasm does produce slightly higher testosterone levels (in contradiction to the book I'm reading). The citation that Marnia offer says this:

Twenty males participated in a 2-month study examining the relationship between 8 a.m. plasma testosterone levels and orgasmic frequency. Within subjects, higher levels of testosterone are associated with periods of sexual activity. Over subjects, however, the direction of the relationship is reversed. Mean testosterone levels were higher for sexually less active individuals.

Can someone translate the italicized portion into English for me? :)

This topic comes up

so often, that we collected some items in a wiki article about it:

Testosterone levels and orgasm
http://www.reuniting.info/node/4038

I'm sure there's more to learn, and I'll bet that sex (even without orgasm) is indeed important for all kinds of hormonal balance. Right now, our culture thinks about sex and orgasm as synonymous, but they aren't, of course.

The jargon you asked about means:

When a man has sex, his testosterone rises for a bit, and then drops down.

However, when one looks at the whole group of test subjects (those having, and not having, sex), those who weren't having it had slightly higher levels of testosterone overall.

So the question remains...what about sex with no orgasm? Doesn't seem like it would create a testosterone problem, but there's no research yet.

Translation attempt

Individual A, who has sex at a relatively high frequency, might have hypothetical testosterone levels of 1.0 mg/dl (I have no idea whether this is a reasonable quantity, but that is not important) when he is sexually active, but only 0.5 mg/dl when he is sexually inactive. In contrast, individual B, who has sex at a relatively low frequency, might have testosterone levels of 2.0 mg/dl when sexually active, and 1.0 mg/dl when sexually inactive.

This seems to be a very counter intuitive result. If increased intra-individual sexual activity increases testosterone, it would be intuitive to hypothesize the same consequence for inter-individual testosterone. A sample size of 20 may be inadequate for this purpose, and we are not provided with any significance information, so I would be fairly skeptical about the conclusion. In any case, there are good reasons to pursue relatively low testosterone levels, including reduced risk of prostate cancer and reduced severity of anger, although the former correlation is not necessarily causative. If those don't sound like worthy goals, and the higher libido associated with increased testosterone seems like a better idea, then there doesn't really seem to be any epidemiological reason to try to lower testosterone.

Personally, I find it more useful to establish habits and behavioral patterns that make life and relationships easier in the present rather than to give half a shit about how much testosterone might be in my blood relatively to the population mean. Hell, there have been some fairly bizarre manipulations of testosterone in history that would suggest it is less important than cultural expectations. The Inca elite used to feed mashua, a nasturtium-family root vegetable that massively lowers testosterone levels and libido, to their troops during wars so that they would 'forget their wives' and fight more effectively. Doesn't really make sense, since ++ testosterone usually makes XY's more pissed off, and you might imagine that anger would be a better war-fighting tool than loss of libido. Anyway, my point is that 'optimizing' testosterone needs a better definition. Optimum for what, libido maintenance? Being nicer to people? Being meaner to people? Maybe I should read this Testosterone Factor book, but from the comfortable sofa of ignorance, I'm inclined (reclined?) to suspect that the author is capitalizing on male insecurity.

You asked for translation, not pontification. I apologize for the digression.

testosterone and prostate cancer myths

One school of thought (and my doctor agrees) is that low T increases the risk of prostate cancer.

Here's a good (long) article on testosterone by a Harvard urologist who debunked - "high T increases the risk of prostate cancer"
http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/dec2008_Destroying-the-Myth-about-Te...

SOME QUOTES FROM ARTICLE:
"In 2004, when my article in the New England Journal of Medicine was published, there were fifteen of these longitudinal studies examining the relationship of hormones and prostate cancer. Since 2004, there have been approximately a half-dozen more. Not one has shown any direct relationship between the level of total testosterone in a man’s blood and the subsequent likelihood that he will develop prostate cancer"

"The old concepts, taken as gospel, do not stand up to critical examination. I believe the best summary about the risk of prostate cancer from testosterone therapy, based on published evidence at the time this book is written, is as follows:"
- Low blood levels of testosterone do not protect against prostate cancer and, indeed, may increase the risk.
- High blood levels of testosterone do not increase the risk of prostate cancer.
- Treatment with testosterone does not increase the risk of prostate cancer, even among men who are already at high risk for it.

Nice post, Brick

However, I just want to say that the research we cited *does* make sense to me. It makes sense that during sexual arousal testosterone would show a rise...to help get the job done.

And it makes sense that if you're not getting any for quite a while your testosterone would be a bit higher...to encourage you to get off your butt and go find a mate. Wink

Also, some people here say that they believe lots of masturbation actually lowers testosterone.

On the whole, though, I agree with your assessment. The effects of these hormones are very complex, as is their relationship to our behavior. Over and over again, balance (achieved via a healthy lifestyle over the long haul) proves better for health than any short-term fixes or prescriptions. You guys may have seen this, but just in case:

http://www.reuniting.info/science/changing_lifestyle_changes_genes_prost... Here's our description:

A recent study on prostate health suggests that holistic lifestyle changes can turn off disease-promoting genes, and activate beneficial ones. In the study, the prostate health (of patients with prostate cancer) responded dramatically to stress management techniques (participation in a weekly support group, yoga-based stretching, breathing techniques, meditation, and daily guided imagery), walking thirty minutes per day, and dietary supplements.

After three months, researchers repeated a biopsy of normal tissue in the subjects’ prostate. They found that genes associated with cancer, heart disease, and inflammation were down-regulated or “turned off,”while protective, disease-preventing genes were “turned on.” Researchers suggest that similar lifestyle changes may benefit all men, as the biopsies were of healthy tissue.Might soothing bonding-based lovemaking someday prove to be one such beneficial lifestyle change?

A clarification

Thank you both for the additional information.

Gary: I have not read extensively in this area, but I did recently read a paper (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/521214_2) suggesting that testosterone therapy was not dangerous for patients with prostate cancer, which is consistent with the article that you cited. Courtesy of wikipedia there is the suggestion that increased ejaculation in one's 20's reduces the prostate cancer risk, but at least they temper that claim with the admission that other studies found no such connection (I vaguely recall seeing a discussion of this on the forum at one point).

Marnia: The intra-individual component of the cited research did make sense to me--there should be more plasma testosterone during arousal/sex, and less when not engaged in sexual activity. The inter-individual result, however, seemed counter intuitive. I assumed (ignorance coming into play) that testosterone physiology might resemble dopamine physiology. That is, high frequency of elevated neurotransmitter levels leads to low receptor sensitivity (or saturated receptors? (more ignorance)) and over-production of dopamine to compensate, so I thought that high frequency of elevated testosterone from more sexual activity might lead to the same kind of overproduction. Evidently the endocrine system is more complex than I expected, and your rationale that testosterone levels should rise when sex is infrequent would have good support from an evolutionary perspective.

Those shifts in gene expression after lifestyle changes are very interesting--I'll have to read more. One personal observation: reducing my orgasm frequency to ~2/week (June) did not seem to fundamentally change my mood, but reducing even further to <1/week (July, August), has apparently had observable effects. I have been in several high-stress situations in the last month, but my typical reactions to these were mitigated or entirely absent. As always, there may be confounding factors. I have been routinely meditating, the porn-based dissatisfaction is receding ever farther into the past, and I have changed several other potentially relevant habits. These kinds of lifestyle changes are much easier to measure qualitatively, and instant (or relatively rapid) feedback is more useful in the short/medium term than monitoring testosterone levels and trying to guess at what medical science will eventually identify as 'optimal' plasma concentrations. The medical establishment has been wrong in the past about a host of physiological mechanisms, so skepticism is not necessarily misplaced.

The answer would probably be

"go by how you feel," rather than trying to work this all out in your head. Your love life is a laboratory...try your own experiments. After all, that's what you've been doing right along, whether you knew it or not. Wink

I have a friend who

I have a friend who masturbate everyday since 12 years old, and he has high testosterone, deep voice. He is now 34.

I mastruabated everyday too since 12 years old, but by 21 i reduced to once every 2 days, by 28 I only did it once every 3 days (with semen retention). Until now, even with retention, i cant say i have high testosterone. I only get a deep voice if i stop ejaculation for over 1 week.

it depends on the individual