Friday, July 25, 2008

The Poor Low Female Libido

I came across a write-up of a study about the lack of sexual desire in women, with these findings:

A study in last week's Archives of Internal Medicine shines new light on the question.

Researchers conducted phone surveys of 2,207 women age 30 to 70 and found that 36.2 percent – or more than one out of every three women – admitted to tepid sexual desire in the last 30 days. All the women had been in a steady relationship at least three months.

The finding is consistent with earlier studies. For instance, when University of Chicago sociologist Edward Laumann asked U.S. women about sex in a landmark 1999 study, also published in JAMA, 32 percent reported having low libidos. (By contrast, 15 to 17 percent of men acknowledged a diminished sex drive.)

Fascinating stuff. Note that men and women may have different incentives to answer questions about libido honestly, because libido is linked to the concept of manliness. My guess is that the actual percentage of men with low libidos is higher than 15 to 17 percent.

What's much more fascinating about the study is this:

(The study was funded by Procter & Gamble, which wants to sell a testosterone patch for women in the U.S. It's already available in Europe.)

A small conflict of interest there? I'm willing to bet a lot that Procter & Gamble wanted to find lots of low libido among women, because they plan to sell testosterone patches to fix it. The writer of the blog post I quoted should be commended for pointing that out. But it might have been good to also point out that the funder's interests make the study theoretically suspect.

Do you want to have some real feminist fun? Go and read the comments thread to the post. You will find a guy suspecting that it's all those uppity career women who have problems, because they get high testosterone levels and grow facial hair and so on. Of course testosterone is the hormone that increases sexual desire in women...

You will also find lots of evolutionary science speculation about the reason why women don't have much sexual desire (note how the one-third figure sorta expands to 100% in many of those comments), and you will find women attacked for not being willing to do their marital duty and so on.

It's a little bit like lifting a rock and watching the creepy-crawlies.