Printer Friendly

Rhythms of desire: the association between menstrual cycle phases and female sexual desire.

ABSTRACT: The recognition that sexual desire is associated with several significant individual and interpersonal life events has led to a corresponding interest in delineating and exploring the correlates and potentially causal antecedents of this sexual phenomenon. Researchers interested in biological causes have focused on the sex hormones and on hormonally-mediated (female) life events. In this review, I first define sexual desire, distinguish sexual desire from other sexual experiences (i.e., arousal, activity), and discuss commonly used operationalizations. I then summarize empirical research exploring the relationship between one hormonally-mediated female life event -- the menstrual cycle -- and sexual desire. I conclude that sexual desire does appear to increase during certain menstrual cycle phases for some women (in particular, at ovulation and during the mid follicular and late luteal phases). However, no single rhythmic pattern emerges that can be said to definitively characterize the sexual experience of the human female.

Key words: Sexual desire Sexual attraction Menstrual cycle Ovulation Hormones

INTRODUCTION

Sexual desire is associated with several significant individual and interpersonal human life events. For example, feelings of desire or sexual attraction may prompt individuals to seek and engage in sexual intercourse; such feelings, therefore, have implications for reproduction and species survival (e.g., Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Sexual desire also appears intricately linked to relationship adjustment and quality; a growing body of clinical evidence suggests that relationships in which one or both partners experience low sexual desire are often characterized by conflict, power struggles, anger, and hostility (e.g., Kaplan, 1979; Leiblum & Rosen, 1988). Consequently, a number of theoretical and empirical attempts have been made to delineate and explore the correlates and presumed causal antecedents of sexual desire. Although some researchers have examined external causes located in the physical or social environment (e.g., physically attractive others, erotic or pornographic media), the majority have focused on causes located within the individual. A variety of intraindividual factors have been examined, including age, gender, personality, mood, and hormonal or biological processes. Of these presumed causes of sexual desire, the latter have received the lion's share of empirical attention. Certainly human sexual response is less biologically determined and more volitional than any reference to "raging hormones" would have us believe. Nonetheless, many young adults believe that biological and hormonal processes cause female (and male) sexual desire (e.g., Regan & Berscheid, 1995), and research strongly indicates that endogenous hormones contribute at least partially to the timing and magnitude of this particular aspect of sexuality.

OVERVIEW

One method of examining the relation between the sex hormones (e.g., androgens, estrogens, progesterone) and sexual desire involves investigating life events and changes that are hormonally-mediated. The majority of major, hormonally-mediated life events are exclusively female (e.g., pregnancy, menstruation). Women experience greater variations in circulating hormone levels during their lifetimes than do most men and, for this reason, women make ideal participants for researchers interested in the relationship between hormones and sexual desire. In the following review, I will: (1) provide a definitional overview of sexual desire, distinguish this experience from other aspects of human sexual response, and discuss the ways in which sexual desire is commonly operationalized; and (2) examine empirical research conducted to determine whether the hormonal fluctuations involved in one female life event -- the menstrual cycle -- are reliably associated with rhythms, peaks, or changes in sexual desire.

DEFINITION AND OPERATIONALIZATION OF SEXUAL DESIRE

Sexual desire is commonly defined as a subjective, psychological experience or state that can be understood broadly as an interest in sexual objects or activities, or as a wish, need, or drive to seek out sexual objects or to engage in sexual activities (e.g., Bancroft, 1988; Kaplan, 1979; Regan & Berscheid, 1995, 1996). This experience is presumed to be distinct from both sexual arousal and sexual activity. Sexual arousal consists of two basic components. The first is termed physiological-genital sexual arousal, and is defined as a state of activation of a complex system of reflexes that involve the sex organs and the nervous system (Masters, Johnson, & Kolodny, 1994). Indicants of physiological-genital arousal include, for men, penile tumescence and, for women, vaginal blood volume or temperature. The second component of sexual arousal, subjective sexual arousal, is defined as the subjective awareness that one is genitally and physiologically aroused (e.g., Green & Mosher, 1985). Subjective sexual arousal is typically assessed via perceptions of genital or physiological changes that occur during exposure to sexual stimuli (e.g., increased heart rate and/or perspiration, awareness of such genital sensations as penile erection or vaginal lubrication). Sexual activity is commonly defined as any overt behavioural response involving the external sex organs, including autoerotic (e.g., masturbation) and interpersonal (e.g., "petting," oral manipulation of genitalia, intercourse) activities.

Sexual desire undoubtedly is closely associated with physiological/genital and subjective sexual arousal, and desire often precedes sexual activity. However, although desire, arousal, and activity may co-occur (for discussion, see DeLamater, 1991; Kaplan, 1979), the latter do not themselves constitute adequate indicants of sexual desire. That is, the occurrence of sexual activity does not necessarily imply a desire for such activity, nor does the absence of sexual activity necessarily reflect a lack of desire. For example, young adults often report having engaged in sex without desire (e.g., Beck et al., 1991), and relationship partners may abstain from intercourse during times of menstruation or pregnancy due more to cultural proscriptions than to personal inclination (e.g., Kenny, 1973). Thus, it is important to maintain both a theoretical and empirical distinction among these three aspects of human sexuality. In sum:

Sexual desire is a subjective sexual experience that is sometimes but not always accompanied by physiological (e.g., increased heart rate, perspiration) or genital (e.g., erection, vaginal lubrication) sexual arousal, subjective sexual arousal (awareness of physiological and/or genital arousal), and such sexual behaviors as masturbation, "making out" or "petting," and intercourse. Sexual desire can be understood broadly as an interest in sexual objects or activities, or as a wish, longing, or craving to seek out sexual objects or to engage in sexual activities (Regan & Berscheid, 1995, p. 349).

A variety of operationalizations for sexual desire are utilized in the literature. The majority of researchers directly ask their participants about sexual desire or sexual interest (frequency, level, degree, or amount). Others employ such motivationally-oriented euphemisms as sexual motivation, sex drive, sexual urge, sexual craving, and sexual appetite. Still others refer to the Freudian motivational concept of libido, explicitly defined as erotic or sexual desire or interest (e.g., Benedek & Rubenstein, 1939a, b).

Other researchers attempting to measure sexual desire have operationalized the concept in terms of cognitive events (e.g., sexual wishes, thoughts, fantasies) not associated with any overt sexual activity, under the assumption that these phenomena represent motivational aspects of sexual experience and therefore may serve as indirect measures of sexual desire (e.g., Sherwin, 1985). The fact that women who seek treatment for low sexual desire also fantasize less during sexual activity and general daydreaming than normal controls lends support to this assumption (e.g., Nutter & Condron, 1983).

A final operational category includes such psychological events as sexual feelings not associated with overt sexual activity and not meant to include genital sensations, and sexual attraction or an attraction to another individual that is explicitly based on sexual feelings.

This review explores the association between menstrual cycle phases and female sexual desire. I adhered to the following guidelines when selecting articles for inclusion in this review. Articles included are those whose authors: (1) specifically mentioned sexual desire or sexual interest in the body of their article and/or included these terms in the measures administered to their participants; (2) invoked such motivational terms as sexual motivation, sex or sexual drive, sexual appetite, and libido and were clearly referring to sexual desire; or (3) indirectly assessed sexual desire by utilizing an operationalization that adequately reflects the construct of sexual desire (e.g., such subjective, psychological sexual experiences as sexual thoughts, wishes, feelings, cravings, or attraction). At all times throughout this paper, I have attempted to clearly state the specific operationalizations of desire employed by each author.

THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE: MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES AND PHASES

There are four major sex hormones associated with the menstrual cycle. These hormones are produced by the ovaries and by several of the various glands that comprise the endocrine system (e.g., the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland). In women, androgens (masculinizing hormones) are primarily synthesized in the adrenal cortex (the outer section of the adrenal glands) and to a lesser extent in the ovaries. The primary naturally occurring androgens are testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone (Brooks, 1984; Naik & Pennington, 1981). Throughout the menstrual cycle, average values for plasma testosterone concentrations range from 14 to 176 nanograms per 100 millilitres (ng/100 ml) of plasma, and mean values for androstenedione range from between 112-200 ng/100 ml. The feminizing hormones known as estrogens are largely secreted by the ovaries, with lesser amounts manufactured in the adrenal cortex and peripheral tissues (e.g., fat, muscle, kidney, liver, hypothalamus; Baird, 1976; Fotherby, 1984). The primary naturally occurring estrogenic hormone is estradiol; levels range from 30 to 570 picograms per millilitre of plasma (pg/ml) throughout the menstrual cycle. The sex hormone progesterone is primarily produced by the ovaries (and, during pregnancy, the placenta), with lesser amounts manufactured in the adrenal cortex. In premenopausal healthy women, progesterone concentrations range from mean levels of 31 to 1550 ng/100 ml during the course of the menstrual cycle. Prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland. Mean levels of this hormone tend to range from approximately 9 to 18 ng/ml in women, although normal serum levels are generally defined as equal to or less than 30 ng/ml (Pennington, Naik, & Bevan, 1981).

Most women menstruate, and therefore experience rhythmic fluctuations in these hormones. The majority of researchers, recognizing the relative invariability of this monthly hormonal secretory pattern, have related measures of sexual desire to temporal phases of the menstrual cycle (as opposed to actual circulating levels of specific hormones). Several non-hormonally-derived "menstrual marker" techniques have been utilized to estimate both the timing of ovulation and to divide the cycle into its various discrete phases. These include the "reverse cycle technique" in which the 14th day counting backward from the succeeding menstruation is defined as the time of ovulation, with the record stopping at the 28th day (e.g., Adams et al., 1978; Alexander et al., 1990; Matteo & Rissman, 1984); the "forward cycle technique" in which the days of the cycle are numbered forward from the beginning of the preceding menstruation and the record is stopped at 28 days, with the 14th day again serving as the best estimate of ovulation (e.g., Udry & Morris, 1977); the "standardized cycle technique" in which the events of the entire cycle are expanded or reduced to fit a 28-day cycle according to a mathematical formula (e.g., Udry & Morris, 1977); and the "basal body temperature (BBT) technique," in which ovulation is identified by a specific BBT nadir in the cycle, closely followed by a sudden BBT rise (e.g., Benedek & Rubenstein, 1939a, b; Harvey, 1987; Stainslaw & Rice, 1988; Wade & Cirese, 1991).

Other researchers, criticizing such techniques as methodologically imprecise and interpretatively ambiguous (see, for example, Persky et al., 1978), rely instead upon such hormonally-derived methods as the "luteinizing hormone (LH) technique" in which the concentrations of LH in a woman's plasma or urine are monitored, an identifiable LH surge serves as an indication of impending ovulation, and the remaining days of the cycle are numbered positively (after ovulation) and negatively (before ovulation) around that point (e.g., Silber, 1994; Udry & Morris, 1977). A similar technique involves monitoring levels of plasma progesterone as a means of assessing luteal function; high levels are regarded as evidence of ovulation (e.g., Alexander et al., 1990). The "vaginal smear technique" is used less frequently than the former methods, and involves analyzing cells obtained from vaginal smears for the presence or absence of various sex hormones, and then inferring a particular menstrual phase (e.g., Benedek & Rubenstein, 1939a, b).

Researchers utilize any or all of these methods to divide the menstrual cycle into its various phases; no standard method of cycle phase derivation has been accepted. In addition, there is little general agreement about the appropriate label to be given to each phase. The possible variations in phase number and terminology are endless and, as Steklis and Whiteman (1989) observe, can result in the same data yielding radically different conclusions about the exact timing of peaks and troughs of sexual desire. Fortunately, most researchers note the precise days on which sexual desire or other sexual events occurred, and thus it is often possible to compare results across various studies by focusing on the date of occurrence of an event rather than on the researcher's interpretation of the phase of occurrence. I have chosen to present the results of the studies reviewed below in accordance with the typical 28-day, seven-phase cycle profile outlined in the following paragraphs and illustrated in Figure 1. Thus, when a researcher indicated that the greatest amount of sexual desire was experienced on the 8th day of a 28-day cycle, I concluded that desire peaked in the mid follicular phase (as defined below), even if the researcher defined the eighth day as falling within the "postmenstrual" or even the "preovulatory" phase.

One complete menstrual cycle generally ranges from 21 to 35 days in length, although the majority of women menstruate at approximately 28-day intervals (e.g., Allgeier & Allgeier, 1988; Elkind-Hirsch, 1984; Naik & Pennington, 1981; Wade & Cirese, 1991). Ovulation typically occurs on the 14th day of the cycle. For descriptive purposes, I will discuss the cycle as composed of seven somewhat overlapping yet distinct phases, each characterized by a different hormonal milieu, and each derived from the corresponding ovarian state. A typical 28-day cycle profile is illustrated in Figure 1.

The follicular phase consists of the first 14 days of the menstrual cycle. During this half of the cycle, the ovarian follicle develops and matures under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and possibly prolactin. The early follicular phase encompasses the onset through the cessation of menstrual bleeding, and is characterized by low levels of estrogen (primarily estradiol), progesterone, and androgen (e.g., testosterone, androstenedione). Near the end of this phase, the low levels of ovarian estrogens begin to rise. The mid follicular phase (also called the postmenstrual phase) follows and extends from the end of menstruation to approximately 2 to 3 days prior to the midcycle estradiol peak. During this period, progesterone remains low, estradiol continues to rise, and androstenedione and testosterone begin a gradual ascent. The late follicular phase is an approximately 4-day period prior to ovulation that is centred around a sharp midcycle estradiol peak, which rapidly declines as ovulation approaches. The level of progesterone, although still lower than that of estradiol, begins to rise during this phase, and testosterone and androstenedione levels reach their respective peaks.

At midcycle, a surge of LH secretion is responsible for ovulation, the process whereby the mature follicle in the ovary ruptures and releases the ovum. Ovulation begins roughly 18-24 hours after the LH surge and extends for approximately 60 hours. During this brief phase, estrogen values continue to decline, progesterone continues to slowly rise or stabilizes briefly, and androgen levels remain comparable to their late follicular values.

The luteal phase, like the follicular phase, also lasts approximately 14 days. After ovulation, the developed egg leaves the ovary and the ruptured follicle undergoes luteinization and becomes a progesterone-secreting structure known as the corpus luteum. After 10 to 12 days of secretion, the corpus luteum involutes, the plasma concentrations of estrogens and progesterone decrease, menses occur, and the cycle begins again. Specifically, during the early luteal period the estrogen level begins another gradual increase, the progesterone level starts on a more rapid upward climb, and androgen levels enter a progressive decline from their late follicular peaks. The progesterone level peaks during the following mid luteal phase, mimicked by a second, more modest peak in estrogen. Androgen levels, however, continue to decline. The late luteal phase (or premenstrual phase) is characterized by progressive declines in estrogen, progesterone, and androgen levels as the cycle begins again with the occurrence of menstrual bleeding.

DO WOMEN EXPERIENCE RELIABLE RHYTHMS OR PEAKS IN SEXUAL DESIRE?

The association between sexual desire and the rhythmic hormonal events experienced by women is of great interest to theorists from a number of disciplines. For example, evolutionary psychologists argue that sexual desire may be a basic biological mechanism designed to increase the likelihood of conception and the propagation of the species (e.g., Buss, 1994; Riley, Riley, & Brown, 1986). According to this framework, a woman's sexual activity and her desire to engage in such activity therefore should peak at the time of maximum fecundity (i.e., ovulation or that hormonally-mediated phase of the menstrual cycle in which coitus is most likely to result in conception). Certainly, research in comparative psychology has demonstrated that the female members of many mammalian species experience rhythmic hormonal changes that have relatively clear effects upon various aspects of sexuality. For example, female lower mammals are most likely to evince an interest in sexual activity and to accept the sexual overtures of males during estrus, or the time corresponding to ovulation (e.g., Bancroft, 1981; Baum et al., 1977; Beach, 1976; Feder, 1981; Herbert, 1977). In addition, although in many non-human primates sexual activity or behaviour seems less confined to one particular phase of the estrus cycle than in lower mammals (e.g., Dixson, 1983; Hrdy & Whitten, 1986; Kendrick & Dixson, 1983; Loy, 1987; Rowell, 1972; Slob et al., 1978), a number of laboratory and naturalistic studies have demonstrated midcycle peaks in female sexual proceptivity, receptivity, and attractivity (e.g., Beach, 1976; Gordon, 1981; Johnson & Phoenix, 1976; Kendrick & Dixson, 1983; Nadler, 1982; Wilson, 1977).

Some researchers have noted an association in human females, similar to those observed in females of other mammalian species, between the ovulatory portion of the menstrual cycle and increased sexual desire. Recall that the ovulatory phase generally occurs fourteen days after the onset of the menses, follows a sudden surge in LH secretion, and is characterized by declining estrogen levels, rising progesterone levels, and relatively high amounts of the androgenic hormones. Specifically, a number of women have prospectively reported a significant increase or peak in sexual desire, feelings, fantasies, dreams, and free associations during this phase of the cycle (e.g., Adams et al., 1978; Benedek & Rubenstein, 1939a, b; Cavanagh, 1969; Harvey, 1987; Stanislaw & Rice, 1988). Although the techniques employed in many of these studies to estimate the timing of ovulation are diverse (for example, Adams et al. [1978] used the reverse cycle technique, while Benedek and Rubenstein [1939a, b], Harvey [1987], and Stanislaw and Rice [1988] relied upon an analysis of BBT patterns), the similarity in the above pattern of results is certainly worthy of note. In addition, at least one early study involving retrospective reports of sexual function has corroborated these findings. Cavanagh (1969) interviewed women who were currently using the rhythm method of contraception (which involves employing a mathematical formula to estimate fertile and non-fertile cycle phases); the majority indicated that their sexual desire was greatest at the time of ovulation.

This pattern is not universal, however. Other researchers have discovered that sexual desire for some women may in fact be lower during the ovulatory phase than other portions of the cycle. For example, several prospective studies have revealed an association between the mid follicular phase (also called the first postmenstrual week by some researchers) and peaks in sexual feelings, thoughts, and fantasies (Bancroft et al., 1983; Matteo & Rissman, 1984), and sexual interest and desire (Laessle et al., 1990; McCullough, 1974; Walker & Bancroft, 1990). In fact, even when different methods (e.g., reverse cycle, forward cycle, BBT) were employed to estimate the time of ovulation and standardize menstrual cycles of disparate length into one general pattern, Udry and Morris (1977) discovered that the desire for intercourse as reported in daily diaries tended to peak approximately 5-6 days prior to ovulation, during the mid follicular phase. Similar results have been reported in retrospective studies; women in Warner and Bancroft's (1988) survey retrospectively reported experiencing mid follicular highs in sexual interest. In direct opposition to the results noted above, then, these results indicate that desire, at least for some women, is more likely to peak during the first postmenstrual week.

Peaks in sexual desire also have been observed to occur during the late luteal period, commonly referred to as the premenstrual period. Davis' (1926) sample retrospectively reported that their highest level of desire occurred on the 27th or 28th day of the cycle, just prior to menstruation, and more recently Stewart's (1989) sample recalled an increase in sexual interest during this period. Similarly, 42% of the women in Chaturvedi and Chandra's (1990) study reported premenstrual increases in sexual desire, with 29% experiencing marked increases (although the interpretation of such reports is somewhat clouded insofar as the researchers included the first two menstrual days as part of the premenstrual period).

The studies cited above all found a single peak in desire, reported by women who experienced only one noticeable heightening or intensification of sexual feelings during the course of each menstrual cycle. Some women, however, experience more than one peak in sexual interest. Interestingly, the majority of those who report two reliable peaks in sexual desire each month also tend to do so during the ovulatory, mid follicular, or late luteal phases, thus providing additional support for the hypothesis that all three of these phases are likely to be associated with peaks in desire and interest. For example, higher levels of sexual desire (Alexander et al., 1990) and sexual interest (Silber, 1994) have been prospectively reported by non-pill using women during the postmenstrual (mid follicular) and ovulatory phases. In addition, the majority of the 89 women in an early study conducted by Davis (1926) who experienced two periods of heightened sexual desire each month retrospectively reported that these occurred on days 5-8 of the cycle, during the mid follicular phase, and also on cycle days 26-28, or the late luteal phase. Forty-four percent of Tinklepaugh's (1933) sample experienced a similar bimodal rhythm of sexual desire, prospectively reporting immediate pre- and post-menstrual peaks (again, during what I have respectively termed the late luteal and mid follicular phases), and McCance et al.'s (1937) analysis of daily log data revealed that women experienced a primary peak in sexual feeling on cycle day 8, as well as a secondary, lesser peak on the 26th cycle day. Similar results are reported by Hart (1960), who assessed "interest in having intercourse", and by Ferrero and LaPietra (1971), who measured "libido."

Thus, it appears that sexual desire, in general, reaches its peak intensity or greatest frequency during the mid follicular phase, characterized by low androgen and progesterone levels and rapidly rising estrogen levels; and/or at or around ovulation, a time of relatively high androgen levels, rising progesterone levels, and rapidly descending estrogen levels; and/or during the late luteal phase, associated with low androgen levels and rapidly falling progesterone and estrogen levels.

However, while some agreement appears to exist as to the timing of such peaks in sexual desire, the assumption that such peaks occur in all women is unwarranted. Desire may peak once or twice in any given menstrual cycle, but it may also occur fairly consistently throughout the course of the entire cycle and thus fail to reach a noticeable peak. For example, approximately 34.4% of Ferrero and LaPietra's (1971) sample, 34% of Hart's (1960) sample, and 29.5% of Davis' (1926) sample failed to observe or report any periodicity of sexual desire or feelings. For these women, desire may be high or low or even moderate; whatever the case, this aspect of sexual experience appears to progress along on a relatively even keel, untouched by soaring highs or precipitous lows.

CONCLUSION

In sum, sexual desire does appear to increase during certain menstrual cycle phases for some women. Specifically, the subset of women who experience one single peak in desire tend to do so at ovulation or during the weeks immediately prior to or subsequent to menstruation. Those women who experience more than one peak in desire also tend to do so during two of the aforementioned phases (i.e., ovulation, mid-follicular, late luteal). Other women, however, do not report reliable peaks or fluctuations in their feelings of sexual interest and desire. Consequently, no single rhythmic pattern emerges that can be said to definitively characterize the sexual experience of the human female. It is possible that such a pattern does not exist; that is, the human female simply may not be as influenced by cyclic, hormonal fluctuations as are her primate cousins. Alternately, such a pattern may exist but be obscured by the various methodological difficulties that plague menstrual cycle research. I have already mentioned the lack of a uniform method for determining cycle phases and the lack of agreement about the appropriate label to be given to each phase. Such imprecision is problematic and may lead to inaccurate conclusions. For example, if one researcher's premenstrual phase is another's postovulatory phase, and yet still another's mid or late luteal phase, and if all three researchers report peaks in desire during their respective phases, unwary readers of this literature may conclude that the data are contradictory--that sexual desire reached its maximum height in three separate phases -- when, in fact, it peaked in but one phase. Continued advances in the arena of hormonal assay will allow researchers to more precisely define the type and amount of hormones actively present when various sexual experiences occur (e.g., we may learn that sexual desire rises, not solely during ovulation, but at all times of increased androgenic activity).

Data collection procedures also pose methodological dangers for researchers who venture into this arena. Many researchers rely upon retrospective, as opposed to prospective, data collection procedures. In the typical retrospective questionnaire study, however, women must remember instances of desire that may or may not have been experienced at certain times throughout one or more cycles; this is a relatively difficult task that requires cognitive effort and excellent recall ability (e.g., Bradburn, Rips, & Shevell, 1987). In addition, desire experienced postmenstrually one month may become confused with desire experienced premenstrually the following month; memories may be biased by beliefs about sexuality and the menstrual cycle (see below); and the menstrual flow itself may serve as a convenient marker during the cycle such that events that occur near or during menstruation are recalled more easily, even though they may not actually occur with greater frequency or consistency.

In addition, the fact that alternative explanations exist for many of the changes in desire attributed to the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle adds to the difficulty in interpreting the research in this area. Specifically, menstruation not only involves oftentimes drastic alterations in the existing hormonal milieu of the human female, but also invokes a variety of cultural and societal stereotypes and expectations whose very presence renders it difficult to pinpoint uniquely hormonal effects upon sexual experience. For example, many women view the menstrual flow itself as a negative event, and both men and women subscribe to the belief that women experience cycle-related changes in aspects of physical and psychological function (e.g., Brooks-Gunn & Ruble, 1986; Paige, 1973). Thus, it is difficult to know whether fluctuations in sexual desire seen during the cycle are primarily due to a specific hormonal configuration present at a particular time or, rather, reflect a woman's psychological response to a given period in the menstrual cycle. For example, a woman may be less likely to report and perhaps even to experience sexual desire during the premenstrual phase in a culture that has taught her to associate that time of the cycle with physical and emotional debilitation.

These limitations notwithstanding, it is certainly important to recognize and to explore the contribution made by the sex hormones to the experience of sexual desire. It is also important, however, to pursue non-hormonal factors as we attempt to conceptualize and understand the causal antecedents, correlates, manifestations, and consequences of this human sexual experience.
COPYRIGHT 1996 SIECCAN, The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Pamela C. Regan
Publication:The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality
Date:Sep 22, 1996
Words:4709
Previous Article:Lesbians and psychoanalysis: revolutions in theory and practice.
Next Article:Differences in subjective sexual arousal in heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women.
Topics:

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters