in which emily has breakdown, writes letters to editors

My winter mood stuff must be setting in. I’m getting cranky and frustrated with everything in the world.

Because I can’t keep my mouth shut, I wrote a letter to the editor of the NYT, in response (reaction) to their most recent failure to critique the medicalization of women’s sexual dysfunction.

Neither the 11/15/12 column, “Going on the Pill. The Blue One,” nor the 7/2/12 article, “More Women Look Over the Counter for Libido Fix“ makes any reference to the well-established research on the psychophysiology of women’s sexual functioning, which has found no clear relationship between hormones or increased bloodflow to the genitals and a woman’s experience of sexual desire/arousal.

Laan and Both’s 2008 paper, “What Makes Women Experience Sexual Desire,” in “Feminism and Psychology,” reviewing their psychphysiologlcal research, states that “we consistently found that… genital responses are not strongly correlated with subjective sexual feelings.” And Brotto, Petkau, Labrie, and Basson’s 2011 article “Predicting Sexual Desire Disorders in Women” in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that no hormones were reliably correlated with low desire; far stronger predictors of low desire were pyschiatric and psychosexual histories.

While some research has found that a subset of women may be “testosterone sensitive” and thus respond well to hormonal treatment, for the majority of women such treatment would be irrelevant.

After more than a decade of trying, the pharmaceutical industry has yet to develop a FDA-approved treatment for women’s sexual desire/arousal, but evidence-based, non-pharmaceutical interventions exist, for example cognitive-behavioral therapy, sensate focus, and mindfulness. And there one FDA approved treatment: a vibrator.


I wrote:

Hey there Jessica,

Ugh, giving critical feedback, right? And we don’t even know each other. Sorry.

The thing is, I spend my life teaching women – mostly young, feminist women – about sexual health, and I know lots of them love Jezebel, and what does Jezebel do? Jezebel has a sex column like Slutever.

I mean, we’re both feminists here, right? We’re both interested in a world full of confident, joyful women in dizzying love with their vaginas? And we both recognize the opportunity that comes with media on the scale of Jezebel, reaching all these amazing young women where they live?

Why waste that opportunity on something that is not merely unfunny but actually inaccurate and disrespectful? Why risk doing harm when there is potential to do so much good? Humor around sex is like humor around rape: you mock the fuckhead perpetrators, not the victim/survivors. Make fun of sex negative assholes who think they’re allowed to control other people’s sexualities, and celebrate the diversity of the totally normal, often terribly worried masses. You don’t make fun of the nice people unless you’re a fucking bully.

So please get someone else to write the sex columns. I was going to say, “get ANYONE else,” but, like, don’t get Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney would be worse. If it’s a choice between Mitt Romney and Karley Sciortino, keep Karley.

Okay, thanks for listening.

And look, because I can’t NOT help, because I’m like frickin’ Spider-Man over here:

Alan, try asking in a way that makes your partners feel like superheroes, like sex goddesses. Wait until you’re both really invested and then ask like you KNOW the tests will come back negative and this one simple, easy, mutually beneficial thing is all that stands in the way of you and her having the mind-blowing pleasure of latex-free, organic AWESOME. Offer condom use as a fair alternative; some people just prefer condoms, which is cool too, right?

Steven: most any oil or handcream plus the internet and/or your imagination = AWESOME SEXYTIMES. Read sexy stories; invent sexy stories. Spend hours getting lost in pleasure and joy and the fabulous, beautiful things your body can do. Be prepared for some of your time at war to create psychological noise in your sexual functioning – that’s normal and to be expected. Just allow it to pass and it will happen less and less frequently with less and less intensity. Also, dude: thank you. I’ll give unlimited free sex advice to anyone who went to war.

And Caitlin: often the best way to avoid having an orgasm is to try really hard to have an orgasm. Women who can’t orgasm and try hard to? The trying gets in the way and I’m always saying, “Stop trying, just allow it.” It’s the opposite for you. Another strategy is to practice having control over your orgasms with the “stop-start” method — see link for details. A third strategy keep on having sex even though you’re ready for it to be over. If you were a guy, I would absolutely be telling you that practice having control of your orgasms AND to stay sexually engaged after orgasm, while your partner still wants to do things. See my post on lemonade sex for details.