If There Was A Pill To Increase Female Libido, Would Anyone Buy It?
9:00 am, May 24th | by Sarah Devlin
Sarah: I appreciate that. Hostile work environment and everything. So it’s possible there will be a pill to fix low libido in women, which is not a physical ailment but rather a mental…thing (calling it an ailment/problem seems so wrong. Aaaaah I’m already freaked out about this!). My question to you is this: while I’m sure there’s a market that digs this idea IN THEORY, do you think it would actually sell? My first thought was “No way,” but people are fine with antidepressants altering their brain chemistry in very necessary and helpful ways, so maybe this is the same thing? I don’t know what to think.
Colette: Well, and think about how quickly women latched onto the concept of birth control, which, when you really think about it, sounds like something a character from ‘Barbarella” would dream up — just flooding our bodies with synthetic hormones, programming our cycle with unnatural regularity, sometimes omitting periods all together. I doubt that the chemistry of the pill will deter any woman; I’d argue we’re desensitized to pills.
Sarah: Yeah…but that’s biological. This is so much more ephemeral. Although I guess it’s not that much different than drinking or taking drugs in the hopes of getting to an altered state.
Colette: Oh, I see; you’re suggesting that since the pill is mending “desire” as opposed to function (as Viagra does for men), the women who’d benefit from the pill may be repelled. Gotcha. Well, my question is, why are we (the cultural “we,” the Medical-Industrial Complex “we”) so quick to push the onus of “fixing” this issue onto women? I understand that hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD, is a real condition and can be devastatingly/heartbreakingly hard to work through, but it seems to me that the article is also indicting the sex drive of older women as “too low.” Uh, excuse me, who is to determine what the right sex drive is? Maybe men’s libidos are too high. Why is the female body always perceived as the problem?
Sarah: Wellllllllllllllllllll I’m going to stop you right there. Because in the article we read there were definitely women who were identifying this as a problem! And it’s not like everyone has to take it if it’s available. Plus, you could argue that we DID pathologize male erectile dysfunction. So it’s not like this is the first medical sex aid ever to hit the market and it’s targeting women first.
Colette: Sure, as I said, I recognize that there is a need that merits this medicine and that it is real and that it’s not some specter projected by The Man; with that said, if you ask me whether I think the pill will sell, I think it won’t — not because women don’t value sexuality or sexual desire, but perhaps because MOST women, women who aren’t afflicted with HSDD but are just the “older/bored” women that the article mentions, don’t perceive their “low” libido as an issue. There’s a difference between wanting to be desirous not being able to contact those feelings, and only being “in the mood” occasionally. The latter is what I am referring to when I say “low libido.”
Sarah: Right. See, I wonder if the availability of it will lead those people to seek it out, though. Just to see if it works for them. Colette: I guess, but I’m just hesitant to pathologize women who only want to have sex occasionally because then it suggests that a sexless relationship is intrinsically lacking and I don’t believe that to be true. Well, I suppose men who technically don’t “need” Viagra have used it, right? So a little documentary called Love and Other Drugs taught me.
Sarah: Yeah, but I don’t think people are going to be seeking this out unless they DO believe that a sexless relationship is intrinsically lacking. It’s not going to be mandatory once it’s available. Those people will still be able to keep on keepin’ on.
Colette: Hahah, I realize that the government isn’t going to round us up and force the pill on us like some real life Nurse Ratched. But it’s not as if ideas like “if we’re not bangin’ on the bathroom floor, this relationship is floundering” come out of nowhere. By creating this pill, we are creating a social norm; we are sending out a message that legitimate relationships are defined by sex…which I suppose, as you said early, also happened when Viagra hit the market. I mean, I’m certainly not a part of the target demographic (that’s my euphemistic way of saying, “NO WAIT GUYS, I HAVE A TOTALLY NORMAL LIBIDO. LIKE, I ALWAYS WANT TO DO IT. I MEAN NOT ALWAYS…A NORMAL AMOUNT.”), but I would be interested in experiencing synthetic desire. What do you think it even feels like?!
Sarah: Well I don’t think it would be synthetic, or any more synthetic than the chemicals already in your brain that produce feelings of desire are. I think that’s like asking someone who’s being treated with antidepressants “What does synthetic happiness feel like”? I do think you have a good point, and maybe I’m just in a cranky mood because of various “CHEMICALS/MEDICINE IS THE ENEMY” controversies that have been popping up of late (Portland voting to not fluoridate its water, for example), but I feel like sometimes with stuff like this people project all of their anxieties about what’s going on with them, individually, and what society wants and the pressures that puts on them, individually, while ignoring the fact that it’s totally voluntary to take this medication and there might be a ton of women who really want it, and are maybe feeling a bit crummy about the possible judgment coming their way for wanting to feel “synthetic desire,” and so on. I mean I think you’re making good points, but I also feel like at a certain point a pill is just a pill.
Colette: Oof, yeah, now I feel bad for using the term “synthetic desire.” I didn’t mean it! Everyone’s desire is natural and valuable, even if all you don’t desire at all or only desire to lay on top of a hot water bottle while being hand-fed half-melted Take 5 bars, warmed from your pocket. I don’t think chemicals/medicine is the enemy — I am not a believer in ScienTomCruiseology. I just don’t want women to feel a bit crummy about the possible judgement coming their way from their husbands/wives/partners who have higher and therefore “more normal” or “acceptable” libidos or doctors who determine that there is something wrong with them that can be amended with a pill.
Sarah: I mean I think you’re right, but I also think that’s a separate problem from the pill. The pill wouldn’t create that problem, it already exists. And those people are in bad or uncommunicative partnerships, which obviously no medicine is going to be able to fix (except the HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY OF THERAPY). But I do think there’s a sector of women who are in long term relationships and who are generally sort of uninterested in sex, and they might be interested in taking something for it! It’d be like the medical community’s answer to “two glasses of wine” or whatever. I feel like if it’s framed that way it seems a bit less scary and dystopian.
Colette: I think you just wrote the pill’s copy: “Science’s two glasses of wine.” The print ad could read “For Your ‘Headache’ ;)”, emoji included. Or “Hey…here’s something for that ‘headache’ ;)” if they want it to sound friendly and more accessible.
Great. Our work here is done.
[Photo via Shutterstock]