The knockback by the FDA of a new drug for female sexual desire again casts a spotlight on the medicalization of life. The drug was knocked back for the simple reason that it had not been found to actually work
Interestingly the comparison is made with drugs like Viagra (sildenafil), of which there are three on the market. Some have claimed that it is discrimination that drugs are made for men whilst women do not have any. Others question the existence of what is described as hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
So lets look at the facts. Tablets such as sildenalil do not actually stimulate desire for sex (libido) in males. They relax blood vessels allowing increased blood flow to the penis. This only happens if a man is actually in the mood or has been stimulated. The tablet does not affect libido.
Hence calling the new drugs a “female Viagra” is wrong as the proposed new drug is designed to work on the brain and affect libido not work on the blood vessels once desire is already established.
The other key issue is whether a low interest in sex is a disease. The fact that it exists does not make it a disease nor does it mean there is something “wrong” with women (or men) who may have a lower interest in sex than others. It becomes a problem it troubles the individual or is a problem in a relationship.
A problem can be real but not every problem is a disease and hence the answer is not necessarily a drug and may lie elsewhere. Worse still, labeling it as a disease, and looking for a drug as the answer, distracts people from the real cause and hence the real solution.
Sexual desire is influenced by a large number of things. Keep in mind that humans are almost unique in nature in that they have sex other than purely for reproduction of the species. Furthermore what constitutes “normal” is impossible to define. Whilst countless surveys are done to determine how often people have sex and their level of interest, all of these studies rely on self reporting and hence people may report what they want to rather than what they do.
Libido is influenced by tiredness, stress, diet, fitness levels, hormones and our emotions to name just a few. Obesity alone has a major impact on people’s sex lives. Obviously how a relationship is going to have a major influence too. At times other issues in life take precedence. When people are focused on work or on raising children, interest in sex can take a back seat. When people reach bed and are exhausted and really ready to sleep it is not surprising that they do not feel like having sex.
There is at times a clash between the mind which says, “we ought to be having sex” and the body which has not got the energy. As a society we also have very mixed attitudes to sex. Bar maids have been arrested for showing a glimpse of nipple yet half the videos watched don the Internet are pornographic. We express concern about teenagers having sex and yet bombard them with sexualized images. Marketers have known from day one that sex sells.
So what are we to do? A low interest in sex is only a problem if it bothers you. If it does then you need to realistically examine what is going on in your life. It may be that you need to change your eating patterns, or get fitter. It may be that you need to get more sleep. It may be that your relationship needs tending. Maybe you need some injection of romance. It may be that at present other things in your life are actually more important.
There is no absolute right or wrong. What matters is honest with yourself (and your spouse/partner) and making changes if you need and want to. Turning aspects of life into a disease and taking a pill is not the solution.