Eye on Research: Is High Sexual Desire a Risk for Women’s Relationship and Sexual Well-Being?

By Hannah Richardson

Flickr user_Corie Howell

Have you ever wondered how much sexual desire is “normal”? Are you a woman that has ever felt like you have “too high” of a sex drive? To start off, we should probably begin with defining some key terms: sexual desire and hypersexuality.

Sexual desire has been defined as “the sum of forces that lean us toward and push us away from sexual behaviour” (Levine, 2003). However, this definition of sex drive can be inconsistent with reality – many women engage in sexual activity for reasons unrelated to desire (Cain et. al, 2003).

Hypersexuality has often been clinically defined as sexual behaviours, urges, or activities that are uncontrollable or cause distress, impairment, or put persons at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, relationship problems, or sexual violence (Kafka, 2010). High sexual desire has also been a considered an element of hypersexuality (Kafka, 2010; Reid et al., 2012). However, the distinction between hypersexuality and having a high sex drive has often been controversial in the sense that people who are highly sexual are often labelled with a negative connotation that suggests that being highly sexual is mainly problematic for women. Many people view hypersexuality and high sex drive as the same, but hypersexuality may not equal high sex drive.

The aim of this study was to examine women who were characterized as having a high sex drive, hypersexuality, or both high sex drive and hypersexuality. Women were surveyed to study high sexual desire, hypersexuality, relationship intimacy, sexual function, sexual satisfaction, and daily functioning.

What did the researchers do?

Researchers collected data from 2,599 women aged 18-60 living in Croatia. Participants were recruited through Facebook, online dating sites, and Croatian news portals and completed questionnaires that measured sexual wellbeing, relationship well-being, sexual desire, and hypersexuality. Questions such as “Please think of a typical week in the last year and mark the degree of your desire for sexual activities from 1-10” were asked to participants.

What did the researchers find?

Compared to controls, women with high sexual desire, hypersexuality, or both had better overall sexual function. However, women with hypersexuality or a high sex drive and hypersexuality also reported lower sexual satisfaction and more negative behavioural consequences.

What does this mean?

Based on this study, the researchers suggest that women who were characterized as having a high sex drive did not appear to have negative behavioural consequences compared to women who were characterized as hypersexual. Due to the fact that hypersexuality is often characterized as uncontrollable or impulsive sexual behaviour that is often problematic or distressing to an individual, this research may imply that hypersexual women should or want to seek treatment from a health care professional whereas women who have a high sex drive may not. Women who have high sex drives often feel in control of their desires and behaviour, whereas women who are hypersexual do not, and often feel distressed regarding their sexual activities and behaviour. To sum it up, although many people think of hypersexuality and high sex drive as the same, this research suggests that it is possible for a woman to be high in neither, only one, or both.

A limitation to this study was that the participants included were young, educated, non-exclusively heterosexual women, which means that the results may not apply to broader groups of women. Despite the results found, the researches in this study outline that future research should focus on making the definitions of a high sex drive and hypersexuality more clear, conceptual, and understandable.


Štulhofer, A., Bergeron, S., & Jurin, T. (2015). Is High Sexual Desire a Risk for Women’s Relationship and Sexual Well-Being?. The Journal of Sex Research, 1-10. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2015.1084984




















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