Fulfilling desire: Evidence for negative feedback between men’s testosterone, sociosexual psychology, and sexual partner number (2015)


Volume 70, April 2015, Pages 14–21


David A. Putsa, b, , , Lauramarie E. Popea, Alexander K. Hilla, Rodrigo A. Cárdenasc, Lisa L.M. Wellinga, 1, John R. Wheatleya, S. Marc Breedlove


  • Testosterone (T) mediated the sex difference in sociosexual orientation.

  • T did not predict sociosexual orientation in women using oral contraception (OC)

  • T was differently related to sociosexual orientation in men and OC-using women.

  • Sociosexual orientation positively predicted T in two samples of men.

  • Controlling sociosexual orientation, sexual success negatively predicted T in men.


Across human societies and many nonhuman animals, males have greater interest in uncommitted sex (more unrestricted sociosexuality) than do females. Testosterone shows positive associations with male-typical sociosexual behavior in nonhuman animals. Yet, it remains unclear whether the human sex difference in sociosexual psychology (attitudes and desires) is mediated by testosterone, whether any relationships between testosterone and sociosexuality differ between men and women, and what the nature of these possible relationships might be. In studies to resolve these questions, we examined relationships between salivary testosterone concentrations and sociosexual psychology and behavior in men and women. We measured testosterone in all men in our sample, but only in those women taking oral contraception (OC-using women) in order to reduce the influence of ovulatory cycle variation in ovarian hormone production. We found that OC-using women did not differ from normally-ovulating women in sociosexual psychology or behavior, but that circulating testosterone mediated the sex difference in human sociosexuality and predicted sociosexual psychology in men but not OC-using women. Moreover, when sociosexual psychology was controlled, men’s sociosexual behavior (number of sexual partners) was negatively related to testosterone, suggesting that testosterone drives sociosexual psychology in men and is inhibited when those desires are fulfilled. This more complex relationship between androgens and male sexuality may reconcile some conflicting prior reports.


  • Androgen;
  • Sex differences;
  • Sexual behavior;
  • Sociosexuality;
  • Testosterone