Researchers have discovered that we can be influenced by sexy ads on TV, even when they are subliminal?in other words, they flash by too fast for us to be consciously aware of them.

In, Ker Than describes an experiment in which 40 men and women were shown subliminal erotic images that had been manipulated to bypass their conscious awareness. All they saw was a probe pattern, and they were asked to tell whether it was moving clockwise or counter clockwise. The trick was that this pattern appeared where a sexy image had sometimes briefly flashed onto the screen just before.

Men did better on the test: they almost always identified the probe direction correctly more often when it followed an erotic flash. In fact, hetero men did better on images they saw after a subliminal image of a naked female, and gay men did better after glimpsing a naked man. Women’s reactions were more mixed.

However, a study that used thermal imaging technology to measure the sexual arousal of women showed that the conventional wisdom, which says women become sexually aroused more slowly, is not true. Psychologist Irv Binik says, “Comparing sexual arousal between men and women, we see that there is no difference in the amount of time it takes healthy young men and women to reach peak arousal.”

But this may not matter, because other studies have shown that testosterone levels in American men are dropping dramatically for the last 20 years?and no one knows why. Researcher Thomas G. Travison says, “In 1988, men who were 50 years old had higher serum testosterone concentrations than did comparable 50-year-old men in 1996. This suggests that some factor other than age may be contributing to the observed declines in testosterone over time.”

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. Low levels of testosterone have been linked to diabetes, low libido, and other medical conditions. Typically, testosterone levels in men peak around their late 20s, and then begin a gradual decline from age 30 onward. Testosterone also is present in women, but at much lower levels.

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