Sexual desire is typically measured as a unitary erotic phenomenon and is often assumed by biological and biomedical researchers, as well as the lay public, to be directly connected to physiological parameters like testosterone (T). In the present study, we empirically examined how conceptualizing sexual desire as multifaceted might clarify associations with T and contextual variables. To do so, we used the Sexual Desire Questionnaire (DESQ), which assesses multifaceted dyadic sexual desire, to explore how contextual variables such as social location, relationship status, and desire target (e.g., partner vs. stranger) might be meaningful for reports of sexual desire and associated hormonal correlations. We focused on women (N = 198), because sexual desire and testosterone are generally unlinked in healthy men. Participants imagined a partner or stranger while answering the 65 DESQ items and provided a saliva sample for hormone assay. Analyses showed that the DESQ factored differently for the current sample than in previous research, highlighting how sexual desire can be constructed differently across different populations. We also found that, for the Intimacy, Eroticism, and Partner Focus factors, mean scores were higher when the desire target was a partner relative to a stranger for participants in a relationship, but equally high between partner versus stranger target for single participants. DESQ items resolved into meaningful hormonal desire components, such that high endorsement of Fantasy Experience was linked to higher T, and higher cortisol was linked with lower endorsement of the Intimacy factor. We argue that conceptualizing desire as multifaceted and contextualized when assessing hormonal links—or questions in general about desire—can clarify some of its complexities and lead to new research avenues.
Archives of Sexual Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 25, 2017
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