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May. 24 2010 - 12:04 pm | 2,131 views | 0 recommendations | 13 comments

Is achieving orgasm really necessary for women?

The Washington Post looks at the debate over whether or not the major pharmaceutical companies should be wasting time and money on ‘unnecessary’ drugs like flibanserin, the so-called ‘pink viagra’ which is supposed to help women like sex:

That enigma will be part of a Food and Drug Administration committee’s deliberations next month when it considers endorsing the first pill designed to do for women what Viagra did for men: boost their sex lives. A German pharmaceutical giant wants to sell a drug with the decidedly unsexy name “flibanserin,” which has shown prowess for sparking a woman’s sexual desire by fiddling with her brain chemicals.

Even before the FDA’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee meets June 18 to consider the request, the prospect of the drug’s approval has triggered debate over whether the medication, like others in the pipeline, represents a long-sought step toward equity for women’s health or the latest example of the pharmaceutical industry fabricating a questionable disorder to sell unnecessary — and potentially dangerous — drugs.

via FDA considers endorsement of drug that some call a Viagra for women.

Isn’t it absurd that we’d finally really bring this issue up when we’re talking about women’s sexual satisfaction?

No one really raises this question about over the counter allergy medications. On the few days a year when I’ve got hay fever or when I visit my mom who owns a cat, I don’t really need to pop a generic loratadine. But it makes my life easier – my nose runs less, I don’t need to clear my throat, I am less distracted by my temporary respiratory distress. I’m glad Big Pharma developed loratadine and happy that the FDA spent resources approving it. And no one really questioned whether they should develop a drug that you probably would not use if you have serious allergies requiring continuous medical attention because it isn’t strong enough.

But when it comes to women perhaps choosing to take a drug to enhance their sexual lives, suddenly we’re concerned with whether a need that didn’t exist is being created for women, and that someone stands to make a profit off of it. Oh, I see.

I hope flibanserin becomes available over the counter and without a prescription just like loratadine. And even if it isn’t, if it doesn’t work, women won’t want to use it, and the companies won’t sell it because no one will be buying it. If it has too many side effects, it won’t be approved.

Seems like a win-win to me – and isn’t that what sex is supposed to be all about?


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  1. collapse expand

    Men everywhere should be very, very grateful. If all it takes to get a woman to want sex is “fiddling with her brain chemicals” you’ll save a boatload on flowers, perfume, candy and jewelry. Or liquor.

    You’ll be ‘fiddling with my brain chemicals’ at your peril.

    Your point is fair. It sidesteps the larger issue. If sex is “all in the brain” shutting down the emotional or intellectual component that makes many women really want to have sex to simply pump up the requisite chemicals sounds like strapping on a milking machine to me.

    • collapse expand

      I’ve never been one to ply my partners with perfume, candy, etc., although I enjoy getting my girlfriend flowers and pay for most of the booze in our household.

      Anyways, my hope is that the fiddling and milking don’t have much to do with me – just as whether or not my partner chooses to take birth control pills isn’t really up to me either. If my partner decides that she prefers sex with ‘pink viagra’, just as she might choose that she prefers sex while not being on the pill, then I think we’re all better off.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      I think the objective is for when a woman wants to have sex on some level, but just doesn’t have the drive. For example, the many women who complain that being on hormonal birth control lowers their sex drive.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    The way I see it, this sex pill is designed to cover up males shortcomings in the bedroom.

    I have been taught (by free documentaries on the internet/library books) that evolutionarily, women orgasm when the male is attentive and knows what he is doing- and if a woman orgasms, then she knows her partner will also be attentive in other life matters…

    The fact that males can’t make their females orgasm is not the ladies fault, and it is not something a pill can instantly fix…

  3. collapse expand

    The day when my participation to my wife’s sexual arousal is reduced to a pill and my mechanical ability to perform will be … the happiest day of my life.

    Look, as a married man my wife enhances my sex life when she is not actively being mean to me and/or there is no football on. If somehow science can turn the tables in the other direction it *will be* the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    Respectfully,
    A guy who hates buying flowers and candy and doesn’t like watching a two hour chick flick while trying to be charismatic yet not insulting and spontaneous without looking crazy in order to just get freaking laid on a Wednesday.

  4. collapse expand

    Fruz calls it. A woman has an orgasm on her own if/when she’s lucky — it’s said 30 percent (!) of American women can’t have one during intercourse, which certainly doesn’t say much about American men in bed.

    I am only half-kidding about the flowers. etc. It’s not the stuff you buy or watching chick flicks, it’s whether you actually care if your partner is having a great time; as good a time or better than you are and how to actually achieve that. It’s symbolic of your willingness and ability to pay sustained, focused attention, which is what (part of) great sex is.

    Pills, schmills. No woman in her right mind wants to pop pills for anything. How many side effects are likely to show up — oops, sorry — years later?

    • collapse expand

      Boo. The fact that you are probably right is of no comfort.

      Whenever this conversation comes up, it’s always in the context of “great” sex. And I know how to climb that mountain (or should I say “find” that mountain — since apparently that’s an issue for some couples).

      But what about “mediocre” sex? What about underwhelming sex? What about “it’s marginally more entertaining than watching Law and Order reruns” sex? For some reason most women find these versions of sex a non-orgasmic horror show — and that honestly doesn’t make sense to me. Men don’t need “sustained, focused attention” to achieve orgasm — we need a willing, basically attractive partner and a couple of minutes. Why does it take some much other “fuss” for a woman to achieve the same physical pleasure?

      And why is it on the man to provide this attention? I’ve had sex with women who bring about as much emotional energy to the proceeding as a couch. Not great sex to be sure, but I took it upon myself to make sure I enjoyed it well enough. It was better than bowling. But for some reason the woman cares whether or not I care in a way that’s directly tied to her physical response? That doesn’t even make any sense. If 30% of women can’t have one during intercourse, then 30% of women need to help themselves to an anatomy book and figure out how this interaction is supposed to work instead of sitting around and waiting for a man to show them how it’s done.

      It’s so unnatural that I am forced to believe that these problems are socialized. Women are taught to be afraid of sex and their own pleasure and not ask questions and if they like it too much or are too good at it then there’s something wrong with them. Hogwash. But I think all those messages get into their head and start messing with their brains and the next thing you know you’ve got ladies who can’t get off with the lights on b/c they’re afraid their partner will see their ass.

      So, if there is a pill that can turn all that BS off somehow, I think that’s a great thing. To put it another way: if my orgasm were suddenly dependent on whether or not my partner decided to put forth real effort, if my orgasm could suddenly be stopped because my “head just wasn’t in the right place” … I’d irradiate my brain until I killed whatever the hell was screwing with my mojo.

      Yes, it felt good to get that off my chest. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find some antiseptic for my knuckles.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I’m empathetic to a fair amount of what Elie is writing about how women are socialized for sexual activity – in response to Caitlin, a lot of women have their own problems putting their finger on what they find sexually satisfying.

        On the other hand, to Elie, I think you’re underestimating the frequency of sexual dysfunction among men – and not just the kind of dysfunction that masculine-colored viagra addresses. If Law and Order: SVU is to be believed, it’s a major driver for sex crime. Additionally, when men have a sexual dysfunction, it’s more socially acceptable (though perhaps not legal) for them to pay for whatever it is they need to overcome that dysfunction. I.e. men pay money for whatever it is to help them achieve sexual satisfction, rather than talking about whatever the core mental health issue might be, but heavens forbid a woman should make the same calculus.

        I guess this just comes down to my social libertarianism, but I think it’s not for social institutions to say what is ‘necessary’ where sexual expression is concerned. If enough women want to pay to strap on the milking tubes as Caitlin would have it above, I say they’re welcome to do so. If not enough women care for it because this isn’t a real problem, German pharma companies aren’t going to make money off of this, and that will be game over. My point here is to not to say that there isn’t enough an imbalance in the bedroom – too often there is. My point here is to say that we only start talking about what’s medically necessary when some women want to avail themselves of it to enhance their sex lives.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Good article. I think there is an argument to be made about pharmaceuticals constructing markets, and the over-medicalization of problems that are socially rooted; on the other hand I don’t think it’s much help to individuals to tell them that their depression or sexual dysfunction or whatever is a symptom of a broad social problem that calls for a long-term policy solution. So I agree with you overall.

          However, this:

          I think you’re underestimating the frequency of sexual dysfunction among men – and not just the kind of dysfunction that masculine-colored viagra addresses. If Law and Order: SVU is to be believed, it’s a major driver for sex crime.

          is just weird. I hope you were joking or being ironic, but it’s hard to conclude that from the context.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            I am being jokey as it relates to SVU. But I think it’s true that men who have a particular fetish – or a particular sexual dysfunction – get the message that it’s OK to go out and pay prostitutes or spend money in other aspects of the sex industry to find sexual satisfaction.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Women are taught to be afraid of sex and their own pleasure and not ask questions and if they like it too much or are too good at it then there’s something wrong with them.

        I agree with this. However…

        Your ideal sex scenario sounds akin to two people masturbating with each other’s bodies, if that makes sense. You’re complaining about having to “fuss” over pleasuring you partner for more than a couple of minutes? Really? Sex is a collaboration between two people “fussing” over each other. If you find that tedious, then buy yourself a fleshlight and stop subjecting women to yourself.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      No woman in her right mind wants to pop pills for anything.

      It’s not a question of “wanting” to pop pills, it’s a question of need. I’m sure most women want a fulfilling sex life.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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