In this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine, the cover story was titled, "Unexcited? There May be a Pill for That." Now, I am sure lots of men and women read this with great interest. Solutions to increase women's desire generate a lot of attention, and rightly so. I read this as a "vagipreneur," a person who has been in the business of female satisfaction and co-founded a female sexual health and wellness business. I've talked to hundreds of women and health care professionals over many years. Bottom line: I am thrilled about any efforts to discuss, contribute to, elevate concern about and improve female sexual satisfaction. Women should enjoy sex.
The article focuses on the clinical development and progress of two new products, referred to, like many products before it, as the "female Viagra,"a product that will combine hormones and neurochemical reactions to "give women the power to switch on lust, to free desire from the obstacles that get in its way." If this product works, if the clinical program is effective in demonstrating efficacy and safety, if it has a manageable side-effect profile, if the FDA approves it, then hats off. Sexual satisfaction might improve for women, their partners -- maybe people would have more sex, maybe their relationships would improve, maybe divorce rates would decrease -- who knows. Society might be vastly improved... or women might just enjoy greater satisfaction more often. It is all good.
BUT, and there are a number of big BUTS, the article continued to make clear that scientifically and culturally, there is some real misunderstanding or oversimplification of the female sexual response and satisfaction. Ladies, most of you know that our sexual response is complex. In fact, the leading scientific model, the Basson model, highlights the interplay of emotional, physical, behavioral, contextual and social factors.
The article likens the approval of these two new drugs to the watershed that was the introduction of the birth control pill -- which effectively separated sex from fear of pregnancy. But perhaps you will share my concern when you listen to the people who are developing these new solutions and I quote: "Over the last decade, there has been fretting within the drug industry, what if, in trials, a medicine proved too effective... that the FDA would reject an application out of concern that a chemical would lead to female excesses, crazed binges of infidelity."
"Crazed binges of infidelity" -- I could not make this stuff up. As billions of dollars' worth of Viagra and its competitors have been sold since 1998, did you ever hear any news reports that the pharmaceutical industry or society is concerned about the impact of these pharmaceuticals on men? Is there fear in the streets that men are running around wielding four-hour erections upsetting the delicate societal balance, acting out in excess, going on sex binges of infidelity? If there is widespread panic, I haven't heard about it.
Dr. Andrew Goldstein, who is involved in the trials for the drugs in the article as well as previous pharmaceutical attempts, said that the work required "the need to show that you're not turning women into nymphomaniacs... There's a bias against -- a fear of creating the sexually aggressive woman." Seriously, in 2013, are we still talking about female sexuality as if it is a scary, uncontrollable force that requires careful management by the drug industry, the FDA, the culture police and anybody else you can think of?
I don't know about you, but that attitude leaves me "unexcited." Maybe what we really need is a pill for the people who are the gatekeepers for female sexuality marketplace, yet don't understand very much at all about women. Invent a pill for that!