Lust is primarily associated with the hormone testosterone in both men and women. Levels fluctuate with every day, week, and year, and throughout the lifecycle. Testosterone levels are further influenced by one’s sex and a number of other biological, psychological, and social factors, as well as the quality and dynamics of the person’s sexual relationship. While men have five times more testosterone than women, a female’s testosterone receptors are more sensitive than a male’s. While often regarded as the male hormone, it is important to realize that testosterone impacts both sexes during sexual activity.
The Rise and Fall of Testosterone
Some researchers hold that male sexual desire is, on average, stronger and more constant from hour to hour and day to day than a female’s since men’s testosterone levels are steadier. For females, testosterone increases around ovulation, with many women experiencing increased sexual desire and libido around the time an egg is released from the ovary. Studies cited in sources such as the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin have indicated that women are likelier to masturbate, initiate sex, fantasize about sex, wear provocative clothing, and frequent singles bars around the time of ovulation more than any other time of the month. Research in selected papers of the Fifth World Congress of Sexology has further reported that women with high versus lower levels of circulating testosterone, in general, have higher levels of vaginal blood flow response to erotic stimuli thanks to this hormone.
Overall, men and women with higher circulating levels of testosterone tend to engage in more sexual activity, including masturbation. Male athletes who inject testosterone, too, experience increased sexual thoughts, morning erections, sexual encounters, and orgasms. On the flip side, low levels of testosterone dampen one’s sex drive, resulting in fewer fantasies, masturbatory activities, and sex. While often chalked up as problematic, low testosterone may serve a purpose at times. According to a 2001 study out of the Mayo Clinic, as a man becomes increasingly attached to his family, his testosterone level goes down. With the birth of his child, in particular, fathers experience a significant decline in levels of testosterone, including when he holds the baby.