Testosterone (T) for women is generating a lot of interest recently. As our knowledge of the function of the human body increases, our questions become more sophisticated as well. We know that testosterone drives sexual appetite. That said, if a man desires more sex than his female partner, wouldn’t giving her a dollop of testosterone remedy the situation?
Testosterone can be a magic elixir for women. However, to benefit from the libido-boosting effect of T, women must be deficient, which is rare. Our bodies maintain a small but essential level. Testosterone and its related androgens make estrogen, and we have storage facilities for it throughout our bodies. We produce T in the ovaries and indirectly through the adrenal glands. We even cleverly store it in fat cells, especially after menopause. If we are testosterone-deficient, we may experience lessened sexual desire and responsiveness and loss of energy and wellbeing. In other words, we are not much interested in anything, including sex, but those symptoms can have many causes. It is worth investigating for women who have had their ovaries surgically removed or who experience a precipitous drop in energy and libido that cannot be otherwise explained. Check with your health care professional. For the few women who are deficient, there are tests to determine it, effective treatments to correct the condition, and fun activities to celebrate the ‘cure’. Former sexual appetite is restored, as is energy.
If you find, however, that your lack of sexual interest is not hormonally based, you have a number of other leads to follow. Many women complain that we lack agency over our sex lives. Raised to be receptive to men’s advances, we did not learn initiation skills and therefore forfeit the privilege of asking for sex when we want it. Instead we must use charm and flirtation to manipulate our lover to invite us to make love. The result is that women are always figuratively, if not literally, on the bottom. Eventually this lack of control robs us of our entitlement to our own sexiness. We lose our sense of ownership of our lust and begin to feel like objects rather than subjects. In the angry years of the Feminist revolution we blamed this on men; it has taken a long time to understand our own complicity in this counter-productive dance.
All these factors—lower testosterone levels, social and cultural expectations of submissive role posturing, lack of assertiveness skills—keep women from exploring their full sexual potential. Having sex only when he wants it, how he wants it, on his terms eventually erases a woman’s unique contributions. She loses interest because she no longer feels involved. Sex has little to do with her. As surely as these factors affect heterosexual women, they shape the sexual responses of lesbians as well, though the dynamics are a bit different. I will address these in a separate column.
It is by boldly embracing sexuality as our own that we become fully involved in the action, equal partners and peers with our men. This requires us to confront the messages we learned as children about how women—and men—are supposed to behave. We need to question our belief systems and critically analyze our media and everyday speech. We need to have deep conversations with our lovers about the roles of sex and power between us and how we can equalize them. We need to negotiate and renegotiate the rewards and costs of redefining our relationship dance.
The pay-off, of course, is improved sex in a peer relationship with someone you like who respects and honours you. Oh, yeah, and having your mojo running, too.