The Food and Drug Administration, noting that Filbanserin--the so-called "pink Viagra"--performed poorly in tests, did not approve the European drug for use in the U.S. (Read my take on the little pink pill.) What should we think about this? On the one hand, a group of activists, including some feminists, are taking credit for pushing the FDA to their climax. If these protesters actually had any real influence, we shouldn't feel good about that at all. Should women's sexuality be politicized--again? On the other hand, tests do appear to show limited success and a fair share of side effects. Most scientists conclude that a woman on Fibanserin may have one more "sexual episode" per month, with the possibility of headaches, nausea, dizziness and other problems. Really? We want more bang for the drug buck than that.
Hopefully, the conversation on desire and the lack of it will be ongoing. We don't know enough about the illusive quality of desire. More research, especially using fMRI studies, is necessary.
Meanwhile, we do know:
- Desire and arousal are often confused. You can be aroused without feeling desire and vice versa. Most importantly, people don't understand The Desire Curve. The mistaken belief that lovers should be able to sustain an erotic high throughout decades of "hot monogamy" permeates our culture and causes a lot of grief. Desire rises fast in a new relationship, peaks and falls from the high in eighteen months to three years. You need to be smarter about sex than the average American to create and sustain undulating waves of desire after you fall from the height.
- "Pink Viagra" is a misnomer. Viagra acts by increasing blood flow to the penis. Filbanserin (and anything else that has been tested for women) changes brain chemistry. It's a lot easier to engineer blood flow.
- Men also suffer from low or inhibited desire. When feminist critics of desire drugs for women rant about how "patriarchal pharmacological culture" is trying to re-make female sexuality into the image of rampant male sexuality--they are demeaning men. They are also overlooking the reality that women have far greater capacity for orgasm and sexual pleasure than men.
- Good sex technique does matter. Many women turn off to sex because their sexual experiences are disappointing. Would I be interested in sex if I weren't easily orgasmic? I don't know the answer to that, but I suspect: Not so much. I do believe that we need to teach women: Orgasms matter--and show them how to get theirs reliably and consistently.
Desire is a complex subject; and the roots of low desire are tangled. Can one pill solve every problem? Not likely. But should a group of activists with agendas determine the fate of a desire pill? I don't think so.
Two interesting stories on the FDA verdict:
"Push to Market Pill Stirs Debate on Sexual Desire" in The New York Times.
Let's keep the dialogue going. Tell me what you think--
about desire, male and female
and about pills to treat low desire.
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