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The news has recently been awash with stories about a new miracle pill. Flibanserin – the supposed ‘female Viagra pill’ – is intended to treat something called hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD, which is defined as ‘persistent or recurrent lack of interest in sex that (women) personal distress’.
From the description you’d think this was incredible. Until you look closer and realise that this isn’t the magic pill it appears to be.
To first understand a woman’s lack of sexual interest, you must first understand female sexuality. The most basic stereotype is that women just aren’t as interested in sex as men are; all those old shows where the wife complains of a headache, to the frustration of the husband. Now this isn’t entirely true, based mostly on both biological and social aspects of female health.
Women can be just as interested in sex and have incredibly high sex drives. But arousal in women can be affected by a myriad of things: from menstruation to work pressures to simply not being in the mood. And part of arousal for females is the production of fluid in the genitals; if the woman isn’t aroused, she isn’t wanting sex.
Here we see the main difference between Viagra and Flibanserin. Viagra merely increases blood flow to the penis – the want is already there but the body is not reacting. In women, the want is not there either. And that isn’t a medical condition, that’s just part of life.
Secondly, unlike Viagra (which is taken just before, ahem, intercourse), Flibanserin needs to be taken every day, long term. This pill isn’t a short term solution to a temporary blockage, it’s a long-lasting pill that affects brain chemistry.
And here we see the main crux of the problem. Flibanserin isn’t like treating an inability to gain or maintain an erection, it works on neurotransmitters. Just like antidepressants do.
Female sexuality isn’t a problem that needs medicating. Women who have a persistent disinterest in sex are not medically unsound, they’re just not interested in sex. It’s another example of the medicalisation and commodification of female sexuality. Just 100 years ago women were having their uteruses removed because of ‘deviant’ high sex drives, now they’re being treated for a lack of sex drive?
And what about lesbian couples? If lesbian couples become disinterested in sex but still have a mutually loving and caring relationship, do they need to be prescribed pills?
What Flibanserin does is fix a problem that is only a problem for the male partners of females. Maybe men need to take a step back and realise that sex just might not be that big of a deal for their partner. Maybe we need to stop treating every aspect of life with a pill. And we need to stop trying to ‘fix’ female sexuality, it’s fine just the way it is.