Differences in sexual desire between women with clinical versus biochemical signs of hyperandrogenism in polycystic ovarian syndrome

A. H. Rellini, N. Stratton, S. Tonani, V. Santamaria, E. Brambilla, R. E. Nappi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The role androgens play in female sexual desire remains unclear. We investigated whether androgen sensitivity or elevated androgen levels contributed to sexual desire using a motivational model of sexual desire. Eighty-five women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) were categorized depending on whether they exhibited clinical symptoms of androgen sensitivity or high biochemical androgen levels. Additionally, instead of looking at desire as a uniform construct, we divided desire based on the reasons why women experienced desire, thus distinguishing desire to have sex for relational purposes from the desire to have sex for mating selection or physical pleasure. Findings confirmed that clinical signs suggesting sensitivity to androgen levels, but not biological levels of androgens per se predicted levels of sexual desire. Moreover, in agreement with our hypothesis, we found support for a relationship between androgen sensitivity and some, but not other aspects of sexual desire. Cues that are most closely related to mating selection were significantly associated with androgen sensitivity, but not cues associated with desiring sex to feel emotionally close or create a love bonding with a partner. This study presents a new way to investigate desire and shows some preliminary findings on the importance to consider androgen sensitivity when investigating the relationship between sexual desire and hormones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013



  • Androgens
  • Female sexuality
  • Free testosterone
  • PCOS
  • Sexual desire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems

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