Men and women travel
slightly different paths to
arrive at sexual desire. “I
hear women say in my
office that desire originates
much more between the
ears than between the
5. Women take a less
direct route to sexual
legs,” says Esther Perel, a
New York City
psychotherapist and author
of Mating in Captivity. “For
women there is a need for
a plot — hence the
romance novel. It is more
about the anticipation, how
you get there; it is the
longing that is the fuel for
desire,” Perel says.
Women’s desire “is more
contextual, more
subjective, more layered
on a lattice of emotion,”
Perel adds. Men, by
contrast, don’t need to
have nearly as much
imagination, Perel says,
since sex is simpler and
more straightforward for
That does not mean that
men do not seek intimacy,
love, and connection in a
relationship, just as women
do. They just view the role
of sex differently. “Women
want to talk first, connect
first, then have sex,” Perel
explains. “For men, sex is
the connection. Sex is the
language men use to
express their tender loving
vulnerable side,” Perel
says. “It is their language
of intimacy.”
6. Women experience
orgasms differently
than men.
While researchers find it
tricky to try to quantify
issues like the differing
quality of male vs. female
orgasms, they do have
data on how long it takes
men and women to get
there. Men, on average,
take four minutes from the
point of entry until
ejaculation, according to
Laumann. Women usually
take around 10 to 11
minutes to reach orgasm —
if they do.
That’s another difference
between the sexes: how
often they have an orgasm
during sex. Among men who
are part of a couple, 75%
report that they always
have an orgasm, as
opposed to 26% of the
women. And not only is
there a difference in
reality, there’s one in
perception, too. While the
men’s female partners
reported their rate of
orgasm accurately, the
women’s male partners
reported that they believed
their female partners had
orgasms 45% of the time.
7. Women’s libidos
seem to be less
amenable to drugs.
With men’s sex drives
seemingly more directly tied
to biology when compared
to women, it may be no
surprise that low desire
may be more easily treated
through medication in men.
Men have embraced drugs
as a cure not only for
erectile dysfunction but
also for a shrinking libido.
With women, however, the
search for a drug to boost
sex drive has proved more
Testosterone has been
linked to sex drive in both
men and women. But
testosterone works much
faster in men with low
libidos than women, says
Glenn Braunstein, MD an
endocrinologist and chair of
the department of medicine
at Cedars Sinai Medical
Center in Los Angeles and a
leading researcher on
testosterone treatments in
women. And while the
treatments are effective,
they are not as effective in
women as in men. “There is
a hormonal factor in [sex
drive], but it is much more
important in men than
women,” Braunstein says.
A testosterone patch for
women called Intrinsa has
been approved in Europe
but was rejected by the
FDA due to concerns about
long-term safety. But the
drug has sparked a
backlash from some medical
and psychiatric
professionals who question
whether low sex drive in
women should even be
considered a condition best
treated with drugs. They
point to the results of a
large survey published in
the journal Obstetrics &
Gynecology last year, in
which about 40% of women
reported some sort of
sexual problem — most
commonly low sexual desire
— but only 12% report
feeling distressed about it.
With all the factors that go
into the stew that piques
sexual desire in women,
some doctors say that a
drug should be the last
ingredient to consider,
rather than the first.



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