‘Manly’ hormone actually makes women want to pleasure themselves rather than have sex

It has long been assumed that men typically  want to have sex more often than women because they have higher levels of  testosterone.

Scientists have now cast doubt on whether the  ‘manly’ hormone is responsible for encouraging friskiness.

A team from the University of Michigan found  that women with high testosterone had a greater desire to masturbate compared to  their peers.

However, they were surprised to discover that  women with higher testosterone levels were less likely to want to have sex with  a partner.

It suggests a far more complex web including  anxiety and relationships may be involved.

Lead author Sara M Van Anders from  the  University of Michigan, told LiveScience.com: ‘People have argued  that sex research focuses too  much on dysfunction  and pharmaceutical treatment as opposed to questions like  pleasure or  relationships or stress.

‘There is a whole scope of factors that go  unstudied.’

The study was one of the few to study healthy  adults. Most other research into sexual desire has relied on animal models or  people being treated for abnormal hormonal levels.

They recruited 105 men and 91 women who  completed questionnaires about their sex lives, answering questions such as ‘Are  you self-conscious of your body during sex?’

They also provided a saliva sample which was  tested for both testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol. Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is released by  the ovaries in  women and testes in men as well as in the adrenal gland in both  sexes.

Van Anders found that levels of testosterone  had nothing to do with how often men thought about masturbation or sex.

However, women with higher testosterone were  less likely to want sex with someone. Although it may seem counter-intuitive it  fits with previous studies that have found women in long-term relationships have  lower testosterone.

It could be that the hormone drives them to  find a partner to be close to rather than just have sex with, van Anders said.  Or it may be that higher testosterone reflects higher stress in women rather  than a higher sexual drive.

She told LiveScience.com: ‘When you’re saying  you desire sexuality with another person, what are  you desiring and are people  desiring different things sometimes?

‘Are some people more desiring to be with  their partner, to give their partner pleasure, to have a routine, or for their  own  pleasure?’

The one link van Anders did find was  between  masturbation and sexual desire. Men were more likely to  masturbate than women  and also reported a greater desire to have sex. It is not yet known whether  desire triggers masturbation or vice versa.

The research has been published online in the  journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour.

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