again with the pink viagra

So, here it is again:

… Tefina is a testosterone gel that is absorbed into the body through the nose. According to ONENews, the gel would absorb within a few minutes and impact a woman’s libido within a few hours. The spray is meant to treat Female Orgasmic Disorder (FOD), defined by the American Psychological Association’s diagnostic manual as: “Persistent or recurrent delay in, or absence of, orgasm following a normal excitement phase.”

(BTW, avoid the comments section. There’s a whole separate post to write about the ways rape culture manifests within the discourse of medicalized women’s sexual dysfunction. Hell, there’s a THESIS to write about it.)

I can see why people would be excited about this drug, which is just beginning Phase II testing. (You put out a press release about a drug like this going into Phase II clinical trials when doing so will cause people to invest in your company.) Tefina specifically targets orgasmicity, which is an important difference between it and other drugs that have sought FDA approval (and it addresses one of the problems with people’s pro-drug anger). Imagine it: you squirt some juice up your nose and it makes it easier to orgasm!

What kind of moron WOULDN’T be in favor of such a drug? Hell, if it worked, I’d take it just for fun – as would lots of people, which the pharmaceutical industry knows, which is why they are still trying after nearly 15 years of failing.

But it won’t work. Pharmaceutical intervention for women’s sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm is a dead end, because medication can’t address the factors that genuinely increase women’s desire, arousal, and orgasm.

And even Viagra doesn’t really do those things for men! Viagra and the other vasodilators break down the enzyme that breaks down testosterone, which increases bloodflow to the penis when stimulation is added. What happens when you increase bloodflow to the penis? Erection sufficient for penetration of a bodily orifice. Woohoo!

The drugs function the same way in women: they increase bloodflow to erectile tissue. I took it once myself and found, an hour later, after watching quite a lot of “Out of Africa,” that I looked like I was wearing lipstick because my lips were vasodilated.

But what happens when you increase bloodflow to erectile tissue in women? (crickets chirping, silence, silence.) That’s right! Nothing to write home (or a peer reviewed journal article) about!

The difference is that in men there is a nice, reliable correlation between what the penis is doing and what the guy is experiencing, whereas in women there just isn’t (PDF if you have access).

Indeed, we have abundant evidence that adding testosterone won’t affect women’s sexual functioning (PDF), while we have equally good reason to believe study participants will experience a strong placebo effect.

So it won’t work. Drugs can’t work on any sexual difficulties not caused by organic malfunctions, and hardly any women’s sexual difficulties are caused by organic malfunctions. Mostly they’re caused by her life – stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, an unresolved history of trauma, negative body image, sleep deprivation, relationship difficulties, or a basic lack of knowledge about how women’s sexuality is supposed to function.

There’s good news, though. There are things that work to increase women’s desire, arousability, and orgasmicity. Better relationships, less stress, more positive body image, improved overall health, and – above all – abundant understanding of their own healthy, normal sexual functioning all make women’s sex lives measurably better. Here are some ideas. Honestly, your whole life can change. It’s not even remotely as easy as taking a pill, but, unlike a pill, it can actually work.

I gave a talk at a conference last week all about this stuff. People gave really positive feedback and I know there are people who had lightbulbs turn on about their own and their partner’s sexual functioning. Based on that talk, I’ll be taking my little show on the road to some medical facilities and medical schools, talking to doctors and med students about how women’s sexuality really works.

My hope is that if your doctor understands about non-concordance of arousal and about responsive desire, he or she will feel empowered to direct you to educational interventions, rather than medical ones.

Women vary (.DOC) from each other and across their lifespans. The more women can appreciate and embrace their body and their sexual functioning, to the extent that they are experiencing consensual, satisfying sex with confidence and joy, they will not be persuadable by profit-motivated pharmaceutical companies trying to convince them they are broken.