A total of 99 men provided a baseline saliva sample, imagined and wrote about a sexual or control situation, and provided a second saliva sample 15 min later. Results indicated that, for participants in the sexual condition, higher baseline and post-activity cortisol corresponded to larger increases in self- reported sexual and autonomic arousal. Although sexual thoughts increased sexual arousal, they did not change testosterone or cortisol compared to control conditions. Our results suggest that sexual thoughts are not sufficient to change testosterone or cortisol in men, but cortisol may facilitate sexual arousal by directing energy towards a sexual situation.
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Note: Very high levels of cortisol can decrease testosterone blood levels and may decrease arousal. The cortisol levels detected in this study are moderate.