Women and Testosterone

There are efforts to detach estrogens from the stereotype of being the 'female' hormone, and suggest that men have estrogens too. Would be a heresy to suggest, also, that testosterone is not the sole preserve of masculinity?

Women have traditionally been opposed to any attempts to study their biological background.

In 1989, John Bancroft(1) wrote, "The notion that 'biology is destiny' is inflammatory for many in the women's movement. I have been told that I should not do research in this area. . . . . I have emphasised the interaction that may occur between biological and social influences and the importance of avoiding an 'either-or' approach. Some women may experience more difficulty because their particular biological natures may conflict with what is expected of them by conventional society. There may be a reason for modifying the social influences but not for denying the biological ones."

It does, however, seems that testosterone has an effect on human female, as well as male, sexual arousability. It will be remembered that testosterone rises, then falls slightly during the menstrual period. There are indications that, among couples, sexual activity is somewhat higher during this period.

One area where something seems to be known, is the variation during sports, no doubt prompted by problems in detecting illicit use. It seems that, in men at least, testosterone drops to a low level after endurance sports such as marathon running, while it is elevated in sports involving short period high-energy bursts such as the sprint.

More recently it has been found that, in many sports, testosterone levels are high after the activity has taken place, in women as well as men. With women, however, it reduces very quickly, while with men it remains elevated for a period. Unfortunately, this was mentioned in a television documentary which, as usual, cited no documentary evidence. It would make sense for testosterone to remain high for a period for males in nature, since a vanquished opponent may rally or counter-attack.

What is the basis for female sports performance? Clearly women do utilise testosterone, even if only to synthesise estrogens from androstenedione. If the difference is that it has to be produced, rather than there being an excess bound to blood protein, ready for release, it would imply a delay, compared to the situation with males.


1. Bancroft J. (1989) Human Sexuality and its Problems, (p342), Edinburgh: Churchill Livingston (bookshelf)

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Bland, J.,(2003) About Gender: Women and Testosterone.
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Web page copyright Derby TV/TS Group. Text copyright Jed Bland.
08.04.98 Last amended 09.12.03, 30.12.03