Information about the sex drive

and same- and other-sex attraction  study

in the April 2007 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior


The complete reference for the article is:

Lippa, R. A. (2007). The relation between sex drive and sexual attraction to men and women: A cross-national study of heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual men and women, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 209-222.


Recent research suggests that, for most women, high sex drive is associated with increased sexual attraction to both women and men. For men, however, high sex drive is associated with increased attraction to one sex or the other, but not to both, depending on men's sexual orientation (Lippa, R. A., 2006, Psychological Science, 17, 46–52). These findings were replicated in a very large BBC data set and were found to hold true in different nations, world regions, and age groups. Consistent with previous research, lesbians differed from other women in showing the male-typical pattern, that high sex drive is associated with attraction to one sex but not the other. Bisexual women and men were more similar to same-sex heterosexuals than to same-sex homosexuals in their pattern of results. The correlation between same-sex and other-sex attraction was consistently negative for men, was near zero for heterosexual and bisexual women, and negative for lesbians. Thus, same-sex and other-sex attractions were, in general, more bipolar and mutually exclusive for men than for women. The current findings add to evidence that sexual orientation is organized differently in women and men and suggest a biological component to this difference.

A brief description of the study:     

The higher women’s sex drive, the more they desire both sexes.  However, the higher men’s sex drive, the more they desire either one sex or the other, depending on their sexual orientation.  These are some of the findings presented in a new study by California State University psychology professor, Richard A. Lippa, published in the April 2007 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The findings were based on data collected from over 200,000 people who responded to an Internet survey posted on the BBC Science and Nature website.

For most men, a higher sex drive simply intensifies their existing sexual orientation, Lippa reported.  The common-sense view is that heterosexual men with high sex drives are very interested in women, and gay men with high sex drives are very interested in men, and this is indeed what the BBC data showed.  The unexpected result was that women seem to be more intrinsically bisexual in their sexual attractions. Whereas men tended to be either-or (heterosexual or gay), women had more shades of gray.

Lippa, a prominent gender researcher, said that the data from the BBC Internet survey suggests that the observed differences between women and men may have biological causes, because the results were very consistent across a number of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India, Malaysia, and Japan.  Results were also consistent across a number of world regions, including Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, and they were equally true for people over and under 30 years of age. 

Lippa’s analyses of the BBC data showed that most women were considerably more attracted to men than to women, and thus it is incorrect to label most women as “bisexual.”  However, many more women than men expressed some degree of attraction to their own sex.  In the BBC survey data, 90 percent of women labeled themselves as heterosexual, 7 percent as bisexual, and 3 percent as lesbian.  In contrast, 91 percent of men labeled themselves as heterosexual, 4 percent as bisexual, and 5 percent as gay.   Thus, nearly twice as many women as men identified themselves as bisexual, but almost twice as many men as women labeled themselves as homosexual.

Lesbians were the only group of women who did not show the "high sex drive leads to increased attraction to both sexes" effect.  Instead, they showed the pattern typical of heterosexual men.  For lesbian women, high sex drive was associated with increased attraction to women, but not to men.  Why lesbians differed from other women is not clear.  Lippa speculated that the difference might result from the effects of prenatal hormones, particularly androgens, which include male hormones such as testosterone.  Some social scientists argue that sexual orientation is influenced by prenatal variations in sex hormones like testosterone.

Lippa served as a research consultant to the BBC Internet survey, which was developed for use in the BBC documentary Secrets of the Sexes.   He is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Fullerton. 


This article appeared in a special section of the April 2007 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, guest edited by Richard Lippa, devoted to studies that analyzed data from the 2005 BBC Internet survey.  Results from this survey were presented in the BBC One documentary, Secrets of the Sexes.  About a quarter of a million people across the world responded to the BBC survey, which investigated psychological sex differences--how men and women differ in their cognitive abilities, personality traits, sexual attitudes and behavior, mate preferences, and attitudes.  For further information about the BBC studies and their results, see the BBC Science and Nature website.

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