, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 121-135

Oral contraceptives, androgens, and the sexuality of young women: II. The role of androgens

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Abstract

The relationships between plasma free testosterone (FT) and measures of sexual attitude, sexual behavior, and gender role behavior were assessed in 55 oral contraceptive-using and 53 nonusing female undergraduates. Plasma FT and other measures of androgenicity were substantially lower in the oral contraceptive (OC) group. Correlations between FT and certain behavioral and attitudinal measures were found in the OC users but not the nonusers. In the OC users, FT was positively associated with frequency of sexual intercourse but not with frequency of masturbation. It was negatively associated with restrictive sexual morality. Correlations between FT and measures of gender role behavior were negligible, and FT was unrelated to proceptivity, homosexual interest, or the use of sexual fantasy. The occurrence of some predicted correlations among pill-using women but not the nonusers requires explanation, particularly in view of the substantially lower levels of FT in the pill-using group. It is suggested that androgen—behavior relationships in women are easily obscured by psychosocial influences and in this sample of young women such influences may have been more powerful among those not using OCs. Such psychosocial influences are likely to differ at different stages of women's life cycles. The importance of controlling for such influences in any study of hormone—sexual behavior relationships in women is emphasized, and the need for prospective studies of women before and after starting on steroidal contraception is recognized.

Supported, in part, by a Medical Research Council of Canada Grant (No. MA-8707) awarded to B. B. Sherwin.