Men and women have the same sex drive…or?

Dear Dr Milrod:

Wherever I go for information, it tells me that men have a stronger sex drive than women due to testosterone and men should accept that because it’s a fact of life.  However, some women seem to have a sex drive that is on par with men.  So, do we attribute that to testosterone or is something else going on?

Girl in Nebraska

Dear Girl in Nebraska:

Female and male libido are simply not comparable. That doesn’t mean that women can’t get just as horny as men, or have [even] stronger orgasms than men; however, every available study points to the fact that males have inherently a stronger sex drive than females do.

Of course there are individual differences – some men are not very libidinous and some women are highly sexual. But in terms of comparisons between the sexes – no contest there.

If your question is WHY are some women highly sexual just as men [although if you compare a highly libidinous woman with a highly libidinous man, the man will outscore the woman], then yes, higher levels of testosterone may be part of the picture. But by no means do they constitute the main factor for women, or else you would be able to raise any woman’s lust for sex by giving her testosterone. In studies of post-menopausal women given testosterone, there have been about one third [depending on the study] of women that did NOT increase their frequency of sexual thoughts, feelings or actions.

The LH surge [luteinizing hormone surge] just prior to ovulation can make a woman very hot and horny; note that it’s the surge and not necessarily high LH levels that are responsible for horniness [post-menopausal women are high in LH but it stays up there all the time and doesn’t do anything for libido.] In addition, some women become highly aroused just before their period, due to a slight dip in estrogen levels [and thus unopposed testosterone levels, however small.]

But the biggest sex organ is unquestionably the brain, and for women more so than any other body part. That’s why “female Viagra” and unfortunately flibanserin studies were canceled and millions of dollars lost – it’s difficult to “sex up” the average woman if it’s not there already. And so back to your original $64,000 question: no, it’s not the testosterone. Research points to the fact that some women do feel good about themselves, about their bodies, about their partners, and about life in general. Depending on what drives the woman – being in love or infatuated with a specific person, being turned on by her own beauty or sexuality – you could have a total virago on bed. But by the same token, many men report that have been with women who at some point were insatiable, only to count on this voracious behavior and find that the same woman can turn into a massive sex-refusenik, all within a matter of months.

So there isn’t an easy answer to your question, except for the fact that as a species, human males outscore human females on the appetitive component of sexuality.

Christine Milrod, PhD

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