For women, emotional awareness may play an important role in the link between testosterone and sexual desire

The relationship between testosterone and sexual desire in women is dependent on relationship status and bodily and emotional awareness, according to preliminary research published in the journal Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology.

“What came to my mind was that the conscious experience of sexual desire requires the conscious perception of specific emotional and bodily reactions, including those caused by testosterone. If emotional or bodily awareness is reduced, then the correlation between testosterone and desire would be less likely, as the effects of testosterone on libido would not be consciously felt,” said study author Rui Miguel Costa of the William James Center for Research at ISPA – University Institute of Psychological, Social and Life Sciences.

“But this could not be all. Testosterone appears to be a hormone connected with searching for partners rather than with deepening the connection of a committed couple. Therefore, sexual desire of committed people should be more independent from testosterone.”

The study of 168 Portuguese women found that the interaction of testosterone and emotional and bodily awareness predicted sexual desire among women without a regular sexual partner. In other words, unpartnered women with higher testosterone levels tended to have higher levels of desire, except among those with difficulties in perceiving emotional and bodily changes.

Similarly, higher testosterone levels were associated with higher desire among unpartnered women who reported using less maladaptive defense mechanisms, such as denial and passive-aggressiveness.

But this was not true among partnered women, whose desire was only predicted by greater emotional awareness.

“It is important to pay attention to our body, to the messages that come from within. This would help in better understanding what is influencing our choices and behaviors, in other words, to know ourselves better,” Costa told PsyPost.

The study includes some limitations. For example, the sample was mostly comprised of young university students.

“This line of research is in its beginnings. Replications are needed,” Costa said. “It would be important to examine if therapies aiming at enhancing awareness of internal bodily sensations increase the correlation between testosterone and desire in women without committed relationships.”

The study, “Do Psychosocial Factors Moderate the Relation between Testosterone and Female Sexual Desire? The Role of Interoception, Alexithymia, Defense Mechanisms, and Relationship Status“, was authored by Rui Miguel Costa, Gonçalo Oliveira, José Pestana, David Costa, and Rui F. Oliveira.