Just as testosterone is said to contribute to sexual ardour and blamed for road rage in males, it’s been blamed for low sex drive in women. The time may have come to apologise to this maligned hormone.
Australia’s been unkindly described as the country where men are men and sheep are nervous, so it might seem like a good place to find out more about testosterone. It’s the location of what may be a groundbreaking study in sexual function, says the New Scientist.
It’s significant no only because of its scale blood tests of 1400 women aged between 18 and 75 – but because it’s notoriously difficult to figure out the physical factors that affect sex drive when emotional factors play such a strong role.
But the findings by the researchers from Jean Hailes Foundation in Melbourne are conclusive enough to be presented at a meeting of the Endocrine Society in New Orleans (Better known for its mojo than its mutton).
DHEAS affects sexual function
The researchers say it’s not testosterone that affects sexual function in women, but another hormone called DHEAS (Let’s stick with the acronym for know: Alain Proust once wrote a sentence so long it could be wrapped around a wine bottle; it’s the same with scientific names).
If you’re preoccupied with looking young you may already be familiar with DHEAS, as it’s sometimes sold as an anti-ageing supplement.
In the DHEAS study, test subjects were asked to fill in a detailed questionnaire. It was found that women’s levels of testosterone and DHEAS declined with age, and especially during the 20s and 30s.
In women under 45, low levels of DHEAS corresponded with “arousal, responsiveness and desire,” in the words of the report. Over the age of 45, the relationship between libido and DHEAS levels was less strong, but still apparent.
So what’s it all mean? Well, for a start, doctors may be soon able to use DHEAS levels, rather than testosterone levels to decide which women will respond best to hormone treatment.
Women with low sex drive on the other hand, are sometimes given testosterone creams or implants to help boost their libido, and it works for some people.
Physical and emotional intimacy linked
Secondly, it reinforces what doctors and women have known all along: the more remote the relationship, the more remote the idea of intimacy. To many women, emotional intimacy is inextricably linked to physical intimacy.
Some women can have sex with no emotional strings attached – most of them are on Sex and the City. For most it’s an emotional thing and likely to stay that way – in that case, a little hormone therapy might help.
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