Sexual cues are an important predictor of sexual desire in women

Sexual cues are an important predictor of sexual desire in women, according to a study published this July in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. The research suggests that encouraging women to explore their own motivations to engage in sexual activities, and to more openly share their sexual cues with their partners, could contribute to enhanced sexual desire levels.

Sexual desire is defined as the “the sum of the forces that incline us towards and away from sexual behavior”. Higher levels of sexual desire and frequency of sexual activity have been shown to predict greater satisfaction within a relationship. Furthermore, the factors that are associated with this reveal that sexual desire decreases as women age, is lower in married women compared to single or divorced, and is lower among women with lower educational levels. Research also indicates a negative impact of mental illness – especially anxiety and depression.

Research on sexual cues to engage in sexual activity indicate that, regardless of ages, the main reasons women are involved in sexual activity is based upon emotional cues (express love, intimacy, attachment), followed by physical cues (physical appearance of the partner, experiencing and providing pleasure). Furthermore, a high number of sexual cues for involvement in sexual activity are associated with higher sexual functioning and sexual desire. Despite this, there is a lack of studies on the ability of the different sexual cues to predict sexual desire in women.

The study, by Diana Barreto, Sandra Vilarinho & Pedro Nobre of the University of Porto, investigated the ability of sexual cues to predict sexual desire, when controlling for demographic, medical, psychopathological, and relationship factors. A sample of 546 Portuguese women completed a web survey assessing socio-demographic variables, medical conditions, psychopathology, relationship dimensions, sexual cues and sexual desire.

The results revealed that overall sexual cues predict sexual desire in women, with this being a more important predictor than the other dimensions which are known to impact upon levels of sexual desire. More specifically, explicit/arousal cues were the most significant predictor of female sexual desire.

The findings suggests that specific sexual cues measured, such as sexual daydreaming, awareness of a partner’s arousal and physical response, and an attentional focus on sexual activity, are all important for predicting and influencing sexual desire.

“Considering women’s sexual health, these findings suggest that encouraging women to explore, deepen and focus their different motivations to engage in sexual activities as well as to more openly share their sexual cues with the partners, could contribute to enhance sexual desire levels, and eventually their sexual pleasure”, the researchers concluded.