Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


How High Sex Drives Differ in Men and Women

Women with stronger drives may be attracted to both sexes.

Toa Heftiba/Unsplash
Source: Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Sex drive refers to a hypothetical construct encompassing one’s attitudes toward sex, sexual desires, and sexual behaviors (Baumeister, 2000). Men have a stronger sex drive than women, and this gender difference is evident in cross-cultural research involving men and women from 53 different countries (Lippa, 2009). In each nation studied, men self-reported stronger sex drives than women. While some women do have a very strong sex drive, this sexual motivation functions differently for women than it does for men.


Women’s sex drive is more variable than men’s in two ways. First, women’s sex drive is more variable across women (some women have higher sex drive than others, Lippa, 2009) but women’s sex drive is also more variable within individual women (even women with a higher sex drive will not always have a high sex drive). Women's sex drive is influenced by their menstrual cycle as well as their desire for their own partners or for alternative partners (Grebe et al., 2016). Men’s sex drive is not only consistently higher than women’s, but it is more consistent over time and more consistent across individuals as well (Lippa, 2009).

Attraction to Others

For both gay and straight men, a high sex drive is associated with increased sexual attraction to either men or women, according to their sexual orientation, but not to both. For straight and bisexual women, however, a high sex drive is associated with increased sexual attraction to both sexes. In research spanning 12 different nations and world regions, Lippa (2007) explored self-reported sex drive and sexual attraction. He found that only lesbian women diverged from this trend: Lesbians with high sex drive reported sexual attraction only to women, but not to men. However, because this research involved self-reported sex drive and sexual attraction, it is possible that some participants did not accurately report their attraction to both sexes (Chivers, 2004).

Sexual Frequency

For both men and women, having a high sex drive is positively correlated with both an unrestricted sociosexual orientation (comfort with casual sex) and a greater number of sex partners (Ostovich and Sabini, 2004). For women, however, the link between sex drive and sexual frequency is impacted by their relationship status. In relationships, women’s levels of sexual desire were directly related to their frequency of intercourse. For men, on the other hand, relationship status did not impact the association between sex drive and sexual frequency (Ostovich and Sabini, 2004). These results may indicate that women's high sex drive is more likely to be expressed within the context of a relationship rather than through seeking new or different sex partners.

Facebook image: VGstockstudio/Shutterstock


Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological bulletin, 126(3), 347.

Chivers, M. L., Rieger, G., Latty, E., and Bailey, J. M. (2004). A sex difference in the specificity of sexual arousal. Psychological Science, 15(11), 736-744.

Grebe, N. M., Thompson, M. E., and Gangestad, S. W. (2016). Hormonal predictors of women's extra-pair vs. in-pair sexual attraction in natural cycles: Implications for extended sexuality. Hormones and Behavior, 78, 211-219.

Lippa, R. A. (2009). Sex differences in sex drive, sociosexuality, and height across 53 nations: Testing evolutionary and social structural theories. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(5), 631–651. doi:10.1007/s10508-007-9242-8

Lippa, R. A. (2007). The preferred traits of mates in a cross-national study of heterosexual and homosexual men and women: An examination of biological and cultural influences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36(2), 193–208. doi:10.1007/s10508-006-9151-2

Ostovich, J. M., & Sabini, J. (2004). How are sociosexuality, sex drive, and lifetime number of sexual partners related?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(10), 1255-1266.

More from Madeleine A. Fugère Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today