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Libido in a nutshell

Updated: May 13

We're often told that men are visual creatures and that they're always ready and raring to go when it comes to physical close-ups. On the flip side, we're led to believe that women are not very much into it and that their libidos are more complicated than their male counterparts'. But is this really the case? Let's take a closer look at the science of libido to see what the experts have to say.

The first thing we need to understand is that there's no such thing as a "normal" libido. Everyone is different and there's no right or wrong when it comes to how often you want to have physical close-ups. Some people want it every day, some once a week, some once a month, some never —and all of these scenarios are perfectly normal.

The science of desire

However, there are some gender-based differences when it comes to libido. If you are in a heterosexual relationship with a cis man (and you are not one), there is a scientific explanation for why your sex drive is lower than your partner's. And it has a lot to do with hormones. Specifically, testosterone.

Testosterone is the hormone responsible for libido in both men and women. But here's the thing: men have about 5-10 times more testosterone than women.

Studies have shown that men tend to have a higher libido than women, and that their desire to get close is more "spontaneous" (i.e. they can get aroused more easily and without much stimulation). Women, on the other hand, tend to have a lower libido overall but their desire is more "responsive" (i.e. they need more foreplay and stimulation before they're fully aroused). That means that even if you're not in the mood for close-ups when your male partner initiates it, you'll probably change your mind once things get going 🔥 (of course, if you don't, nothing obliges you to continue). On the other hand, men are more likely to experience spontaneous desire. That means they'll be the ones who want to initiate it more often. However, new studies are proposing to forget this distinction between spontaneous and responsive, because it sets women's desire as "problematic" and something to be fixed, when it is actually perfectly normal and healthy.

There are other hormones at play too, like estrogen and progesterone. But testosterone is the big one when it comes to libido. In fact, one study found that when women were given testosterone supplements, their desire increased by as much as 50%. But before you go running to your doctor for a prescription, there are some things you should know about testosterone supplements. They can cause some pretty serious side effects like acne, hair loss, masculinization, and even heart disease. So look for safer alternatives to boost your sex drive, pls 😁 Most importantly, who says women have to match their male partner's desire?

Many studies show that women's desire is more relational: feeling desired and accepted, sharing emotional intimacy, and egalitarianism are key factors for a woman to desire another person. This flexibility also explains why women are more focused on the relationship they have with the other person.

Science proves over and over that long-term couples with a healthy balance and equality have more sexual desire for each other. For example, inequitable division of labor at home and with children, and objectification of the woman will reduce sexual desire, especially on the female side. Societal expectations around strict gender roles also have a negative impact in sexual desire, both for men and women! The expectation that men should always be in the mood is very detrimental for those who don't experience sexual desire that often or "spontaneously".

Of course, these are generalizations and we all move in a spectrum rather than a binary. But in general, men tend to be more visual when it comes to arousal (hence why pornography is such a big industry) while women tend to need more mental and emotional stimulation before they're in the mood for close-ups. Because of this, things like stress, anxiety, and relationship problems can all lead to a decrease in libido, particularly for women. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased overall levels of stress and lower desire in romantic relationships, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked to problems with hormones, desire, and satisfaction in veterans. You may have noticed increased desire after ending a relationship, and that is probably because your emotional needs were not met with that person and you feel free now.


How often is "normal" for you to feel desire? No wrong answers!