Low Sex Drive? It's Just a Shot Away!
Ever since Viagra hit the market in 1998, big pharma has been trying to come up with an equivalent drug for women. One sticking point is that there's no equivalent problem to address. Viagra treats erectile dysfunction, a specific physical mechanism, whereas female sexual desire is a complex matter that begins in the brain.
The FDA has just approved a new drug to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) or in regular English, low libido. Naturally, it will come in a pink box. Unlike the last effort to treat low female desire (a daily pill that prohibited alcohol use), the new drug, Vyleesi, comes in a syringe that you inject 45 minutes before sex. If jabbing yourself in the thigh doesn't sound like a turn-on, don't worry. You are not alone.
Here's how Vyleesi works. Briefly, it's a peptide that affects neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing dopamine and inhibiting the release of serotonin. As one doctor explains, it turns the arousal off-switch to on. In contrast, Viagra increases blood flow to the penis. Where men simply need a tool, so to speak, women have to want to use a tool.
Vyleesi’s approval has reignited debates about the nature of female desire. Some feel that low libido has been over-medicalized, and that drugs aren’t the best solution. We already know that female desire is intricately related to life circumstances, stress, relationship issues and other factors. Trauma, depression, and anxiety affect the libido, and some worry that women will "feel pressured to take the drug to engage in sex,” just to please a partner or meet cultural expectations.
Women are such easy marks when it comes to products directed at our insecurities! We're too fat, too smelly, too hairy, and we need masks to exfoliate every body part. What if we don't want sex enough? How much is enough? What if we don't want it at all? Once, the emergence of male centerfolds seemed like a step toward addressing female desire. But today, we rely on medications to adjust our personalities and tendencies. In the age of porn for all, a low libido means you're not living your best life. You need an adjustment.
In a pair of 24-week trials involving 1,200 women with HSDD, about a quarter of women taking Vyleesi reported a noticeable increase in sexual desire, compared to 17% of those taking a placebo. Around 35% reported a decrease in psychological distress related to their low desire, compared to 31% taking a placebo. Do these small incremental improvements warrant a drug that fucks with your brain chemicals? AMAG, the company behind Vyleesi, thinks these improvements are "meaningful". I believe the correct word is "lucrative."
In my experience, women who don't want sex are reacting to various life circumstances. A woman I know wouldn't fuck her husband after he refused to vote for Hilary Clinton. Another woman I know can't handle her husband's weight gain. When we're angry or exhausted, most of us don't want sex. If our partners stop listening to us, we feel too estranged to want sex with them. If a partner only shows affection when he's in the mood, nope, we don't feel like responding.
If I were your doctor and you came to me about low sexual desire, I would ask you what's going on in your relationship. I'd ask you if your partner was patient, sensitive, and knowledgeable about your anatomy. I'd ask if you'd tried smoking weed. I'd ask if your partner's approach was a problem. I would ask if sex with your partner was boring or painful. I'd ask a million questions before prescribing a drug whose side effects include nausea, vomiting, injection site pain and headaches, and is not recommended for those with blood pressure or cardiovascular issues.
Some women undergoing hormonal shifts may need to use lubricants, icky as that may sound. Some women are sick of getting bladder infections after sex. Some women can't come from penetration alone, and all these issues can be addressed to make sex more appealing.
AMAG has launched a website to promote Vyleesi, with fun facts about low sexual desire. At unblush.com (get it, you don't have to be embarrassed!) there are little quizzes and assurances that YOU'RE NOT WEIRD if you don't want sex. You're not weird, but you need medicating! Go there if you want to learn more, of if you want to be part of "the unblush community."
I want to be part of the "Sex drive isn't static" community. I want everybody to have sex if they want it and not if they don't. I want sex partners to take their time, to play out our fantasies, and to forgive us when we're not in the mood. I don't want a jab in the thigh, that's for sure. What about you?