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A review of the literature reveals that the endocrine determinants of female sexuality are complex and difficult to characterize. In adolescent males, free testosterone directly affects sexual motivation, with social factors exerting little or no effect. In adolescent girls, by contrast, societal and peer pressure play a pivotal role in the appearance of certain sexual behaviors. Throughout a woman's life, hormonal and psychosocial factors are critical influences. It is possible that cyclic patterns of testosterone are less important for female sexual behavior than the “tonic” effect of overall testosterone levels. Although the estrogen dependence of the vaginal epithelium—important for postmenopausal women—has been clearly established, the role of other hormonal factors and treatments, particularly those involving androgens, in human female sexual behavior remains enigmatic. The search for an understanding of these relationships is not merely an interestsing academic exercise but is necessary to determine what role, if any, androgens may play in the treatment of sexual dysfunction during the female reproductive years.
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© 1995 Published by Elsevier Inc.