Gender associations start pretty young. Back when I was a kid, I remember one of the most common questions my peers would ask was “what’s your favorite color?” The question was relatively superficial, but considering that coloring is a popular socializing activity for youngsters, it’s like asking an adult what they like to drink. As young as we may have been, we soon learned that certain colors were associated with boys and others with girls. So if you were a girl who shared that she likes the color blue, there’s a good chance you’d hear the peanut gallery tell you that blue is a “boy color”.
We see this phenomenon on a regular basis when it comes to hormones. Despite increased awareness around the importance of testosterone in both men and women, there is still a prevalent association with testosterone being exclusively a male hormone. Many women associate testosterone with masculinity, body building, and uncontrollable sexual urges. In reality, it is an essential hormone for women as well. Women do not have or need as much testosterone as men, but it is nonetheless a strong component of healthy sexual desire and can impact sexual functioning when it is lacking.
Just as testosterone levels fluctuate over time in men, they do the same in women. There is no magic number that works for everyone. Life cycle events such as menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause or plain old stress can all contribute to these fluctuations. In addition, various medications (e.g. birth control pills), stress, and lifestyle factors can affect testosterone levels as well, which can have a serious impact on sexual functioning.
So, the bottom line is that women have and need testosterone, and the amount they have can impact sexual functioning. Hopefully, with more education and healthy discussion around sexuality, women will have a better understanding of the role of testosterone in their bodies…..before it’s lacking!