Little Pink Pill: So-called Female Viagra may be available in the US as early as 2015

In 2013, researchers completed clinical trials of a drug called Lybrido. This drug is one of the first that has increased female sexual desire at rates that are both statistically significant and clinically relevant. Lybrido represents a major breakthrough for women with Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). Despite the fact that as many as 40% of women in the U.S. may suffer from FSD over the course of a lifetime, this disorder has been persistently ignored and treatments are almost non-existent. Although Lybrido may be prescribed for many forms of FSD, it is targeted at one subset in particular: Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). HSDD is defined as a persistent lack of sexual desire that causes the individual distress or difficulty in relationships.

Lybrido is a combination of testosterone and the drug Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. Specifically, Sildenafil causes relaxation of smooth muscle tissue and thus allows more blood to flow into sexual organs. As with anything involving female sexuality, the arrival of Lybrido is not without controversy. Several articles cite fears that Lybrido will make women “sexually aggressive.” Interestingly, there was little to no fear of Viagra increasing men’s sexual aggressiveness, despite the fact that the majority of sexually violent crimes are committed by men.

Perhaps this is because society views “sexually aggressive” women as a threat to monogamy and thus the social norm of the nuclear family. We are taught that women, in their “normal” state, desire monogamy above all else, that for women, sexual attraction grows with emotional connection and stability.

But is this true? The answer is hard to determine as scientific studies of female sexuality are few and far between. Certainly, some studies, which have relied largely on sexual questionnaires, seem to support the notion of woman as an essentially monogamous creature, a creature whose desire grows with increasing familiarity with her lover.

But are these women’s true desires or have women simply internalized society’s expectations for them? A study by Meredith Chivers of Queen’s University aimed to answer this exact question. Chivers played 90 second sound bites describing pornographic encounters with male and female individuals, described as both long time lovers and strangers. Her subjects, all straight females, verbally reported the most desire for the male long-time lovers, in accordance with societal expectations.

But self-reports were not the only measurements that Chivers took. She also used a plethysmograph to collect data about genital blood flow, another metric for measuring desire. Interestingly, the plethysmograph data seemed to completely contradict self-reports. Subjects experienced attraction to both female strangers and friends. Interestingly, women experienced the most blood flow for male strangers and the least for male long-time lovers. According to physical measurements of arousal, then, women feel the most sexual desire for strangers.

Marta Meana, a psychology professor at the University of Nevada, has come to a similar conclusion from her research – a series of in depth interviews with women in long-term relationships. Often, these women have lost desire for their long-term lovers and they wonder what is wrong with them. Being emotionally close, they are distraught that their sexual drive has fallen away. But Meana believes that this extreme emotional closeness might actually be the cause of the women’s sexual indifference. Meana asserts that, “female desire is not governed by the relational factors that, we like to think, rule women’s sexuality in contrast to men’s.”

But closeness, empathy, friendship – are they not an essential part of a healthy and long-lasting relationship? Is there a way to have these things without squelching desire? Lybrido, far from creating sexually rampant, promiscuous women, might actually help make monogamy stronger by alleviating sexual boredom. This is, of course, not guaranteed, but is certainly something to consider when the drug hits shelves in a few short years.

 

Sources

Bergner, Daniel. What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.

Emotionalbrain.nl. N.p., 2013. Web. 28 Dec. 2013.

Krychman, Michael L., MD. “Female Sexual Disorders: Treatment Options in the Pipeline | Formulary Journal.” Formulary Journal. N.p., 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Dec. 2013.

“Lybrido for Female Sexual Dysfunction.” Home. National Institutes of Health, July 2013. Web. 28 Dec. 2013.

Poels S, Bloemers J, van Rooij K, Goldstein I, Gerritsen J, van Ham D, van Mameren F, Chivers M, Everaerd W, Koppeschaar H, Olivier B, Tuiten A. Toward Personalized Sexual Medicine (Part 2): Testosterone combined with a PDE5 inhibitor increases sexual satisfaction in women with HSDD and FSAD, and a low sensitive system for sexual cues. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2013;10 (3):810-823.

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