According to the media and to the drug companies, men are supposed to have penises that are 9 inches long and be able to perform sex multiple times while maintaining an erection that you could hang a wet beach towel on. Women are supposed to be multiple orgasmic and in the mood 24/7. If you don’t match up to those descriptions you must have a sexual dysfunction, right?
Let’s take a look at a typical advertisement for a drug to treat sexual dysfunction in women:
“There was a time when Wendy and her husband had sex three times a week. But for the past six years, the purple negligee that Wendy used to entice her husband has been stuffed in the back of a drawer. And now, instead of getting hot and bothered by her husband's advances, Wendy is simply bothered. "All of a sudden I didn't have any desire. There's just nothing there anymore," says Wendy, who requested that her last name not be published.”
Other advertisements for men include depictions of older men playing golf, or running down the beach with their woman in hand followed by things like “Viagra, put more swing in your club” and other ridiculous suggestions.
For about a decade, roughly since the FDA approved Viagra for sexual dysfunction in men, drug companies have been searching for the female version of the little blue pill, a drug to cure what ails women like Wendy in bed. But what ails them, a psychiatric condition known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), defined as a distressing lack of sexual desire, absent other medical conditions , has been notoriously difficult to pin down. That doesn't keep drug makers from trying to develop a treatment, seduced by the prospect of a multibillion-dollar blockbuster that could be even bigger than Viagra and its competitors combined.
Is it really necessary to take a pill for a condition that may be part of a larger problem such as normal aging or perhaps emotional stress or other factors other than a chemically based one?
“Certainly, there may be women who will do better after taking drugs”, says Judy Norsigian in an article by Time magazine. Ms. Norsigian is the executive director of the women's health advocacy Our Bodies Ourselves, based in Cambridge, Mass. She thinks the diagnosis of HSDD unnecessarily medicalizes women's sexual lives. Attempting to treat low libido with a pill ignores the fact that many women's level of desire is deeply affected by everyday life stress and interpersonal relationships. Add to that a cultural milieu that at once promotes shame and ignorance about women's sexuality while wildly inflating their expectations for sex. In many cases, says Norsigian, the proper solution to a lack of sexual desire would involve a number of non-drug approaches, such as therapy, mind-body techniques and getting partners involved in the solution. "That could be equally successful while at the same time not exposing women to the long-term adverse effects of drugs," says Norsigian, who suggests testing drugs like flibanserin against drug-free therapies. "Moreover, the non-medication approaches often address root causes for lack of libido and thus reflect a prevention approach that is usually much wiser."
Drug companies do influence and define our ideas of sexual dysfunction and they sit poised to profit from millions of dollars if they can convince you that you suffer from them.