The XX Factor

Lady Libidos Unresponsive to Cure-All Pills

Emily , I’m as disturbed as you are about Leonore Tiefer’s strangely anti-sex attitudes having an oversized impact on the FDA’s decision not to approve Filbanserin, a drug designed to promote women’s libido. I’ve never been a fan of the thin strain of feminism that treats women who want hot sex as if they’ve been poisoned by the patriarchy, and, like you, I suspect that the (very few) women pushing this are just projecting their own issues outward.

But I’m still glad the FDA didn’t approve this drug . According to the researchers, taking the drug only increased the number of satisfying sexual events 1.7 times a month, which is well below the rate of increase male partners can get through traditional, nonpharmacological means such as taking out the trash or even vacuuming something without being asked. No matter how many times you try to capture in pill form that sexy feeling you get when you’re not reduced to nagging, nothing seems to work quite right. Frankly, I’m sure that for the same amount of money these pills would cost a month, one could also simply hire a housekeeper, which would not only work better than the pills, but also has the ancillary benefit of reducing dust allergies.

What bothers me in the coverage over Filbanserin is the cutesy tendency to call the drug “female Viagra.” Drugs to increase libido have nothing to do with Viagra or any other erectile dysfunction drug. ED drugs address situations where the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But most attempts at medicating female sexuality involve trying to encourage recalcitrant women to come around and give their significant others a little more sugar. Though I can see how the legend of Viagra sprung up-men suffering from impotence who feel Viagra’s got their back are a lot more likely to get in the mood in the first place.

Since this is the Internet, I know I have to issue a disclaimer about those women who really do suffer from a complete loss of libido and are distressed by it. I feel for you and realize your pain goes deeper than the relationship doldrums instigated by coming home to find a mess and a man on the couch watching TV. But I’m afraid that a drug that has such a weak effect on women who are having at least some desire is unlikely to do anything for women facing an even more serious lack of desire.

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