LONDON — Men with high testosterone are more likely to have multiple partners in the bedroom — at the same time — a new study reveals. Scientists say, in women, the hormone leads to more masturbation or same-sex flings.
Testosterone replacement therapy is becoming increasingly popular to boost men’s energy, mood, and sex drive. Study authors found that men with higher testosterone levels were more likely to have more than one lover over the same period in the last five years. These men were also more likely to have had sex recently.
In women, the study finds testosterone was significantly higher among those who reported having a same-sex relationship at some point. Women with higher testosterone levels also reported masturbating more recently and frequently.
Women channel their testosterone drives differently
The findings come from a review of almost 4,000 adults. Study authors say their results help to address “the deficit” in research into the role of androgens in women’s sexuality. Scientists commonly regard testosterone as the biological driver of sexual desire in men, although evidence is inconclusive. Its role in female desire is even less understood.
“There’s a sparsity of population level data on the differences between men and women in the relationship between testosterone and sexual function, attitudes and behavior,” says study lead author Wendy Macdowall of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in a media release. “Questions have been raised about the nature of sexual desire in women and how little we understand about what it is that is desired.”
“Our data tend to confirm that differences between men and women need to be understood by examining them in the context of social as well as hormonal influences on sexual function and behavior. Testosterone’s marked link with masturbation among women, in the absence of an observed link with aspects of heterosexual partnered sex, may be seen as consistent with the notion of a stronger moderating effect of social factors on hormonal influences on women’s behavior,” Macdowall explains.
Testosterone plays a big role in everyone’s love life
The study analyzed data from the third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Past research on hormones and female sexuality has tended to focus solely on aspects of reproduction, such as menstruation. In men, the focus has been on their role in the ability to perform sexually, such as to achieve an erection.
Researchers scanned saliva samples from 3,722 participants between 18 and 74 years-old — 1,599 men and 2,123 women — using a state-of-the-art technique. Those who had at least one sexual partner in the year before the interview answered questions about problems with sexual function, such as lacking interest in having sex and having trouble getting or keeping an erection.
The team measured a range of behaviors, including different practices in the previous four weeks, frequency of masturbation, and the number and type of partners over the past five years and their lifetime. Participants also gave their views about different types of sexual relationships, such as one-night stands.
Overall, the report finds a stronger link for women than for men between higher testosterone levels and solitary sexual activity. The researchers add this could have a connection to the “different meanings and motivations women attach to solitary and partnered sex.”
Testosterone can also lead to health problems
The male sex hormone comes mainly from the testicles, but also from the adrenal glands, which are near the kidneys. It causes the voice to deepen, body hair to grow, and the genitals to become larger during puberty. As well as affecting sex drive and sperm production, it also plays a role in developing strong bones and muscles, and how the body distributes fat.
Women also create small amounts of testosterone in the ovaries and adrenal glands. It affects their fertility, bones, and muscles.
Low testosterone in men can cause erection problems, low sex drive, infertility, weakened muscles and bones, body fat gain, and hair loss. Too much testosterone, however, can trigger puberty in boys under the age of nine, which has a link to aggression and can increase the risk of prostate problems and cancer.
A male’s testosterone levels tend to be highest at around 20 years-old and declines naturally with age. Higher levels in men also show a link to risk-taking behavior, as well as increased attraction to the opposite sex.
Men have, on average, six times as much testosterone as women. At the same time, previous studies point to men having considerably higher rates of unfaithful behavior. They tend to seek more frequent sexual encounters due to the evolutionary reproductive benefits of having multiple partners. Men with high levels of testosterone also tend to have the perception of being more attractive to women.
The findings appear in The Journal of Sex Research.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.