Saturday, 2 October 2010

Loss of libido

On top of everything else expected of today's women, they're assumed to be hot for sex at any time of the day or night. If they aren't, they're obviously suffering from Female Sexual Dysfunction, and they need a few pills to gee them up again.

Or so goes the conventional wisdom. Which Ray Moynihan, an Australian lecturer, demolishes in his latest book.

There's no such thing as Female Sexual Dysfunction*, he says. It's a pseudo-medical disorder promoted by drugs companies to market drugs that supposedly put it right. Except that they don't because it doesn't exist.

Yes, some women aren't very interested in sex, or their interest has declined. But that's perfectly natural. They may be too busy, other things may be more enjoyable, men's behaviour may be offputting. That's not necessarily a problem. Even if they think it is, it's really a psychological or relationship problem, and counselling is more suitable than a bunch of chemicals.

How come it's "normal" for women to be hot for sex, or somehow defective if they aren't? And it's not just men who say that. It's also the agony aunts and lingerie boutiques. Nobody dares stick their neck out and say "Actually sex is no big deal. So what if you're not panting for it?"

One female journalist compares sex with shopping. You may have been crazy about shopping when you were young, but twenty years on it's just a bit of a chore. Should the doctor give you pills to make you shop more often? How ridiculous.

Women are often afraid, she says, that if they aren't interested enough in sex, their man may leave them for a woman who is. So what they're really concerned about isn't loss of libido but loss of security and status.

And if there's anything guaranteed to make you less interested in sex, it's the endless onslaught of sexual images and references in the media. We feel permanently surfeited by it, even without doing it. No wonder there are still so many women who say "Not tonight, darling, I've got a bit of a headache."

* Of course this is just a modern version of the discredited idea of frigidity


  1. The pharma companies accidentally discovered Viagra and it and its clones are the hottest selling things ever. It logically follows for the pharma companies that they should replicate the experience and the onslaught.

    You are perfectly right in your analysis.

  2. There is no mention of chocolate!

    I would much rather do 'what comes naturally' naturally than aided with a pill. Now I wonder if I can remember how to do it!!!!

  3. Ramana - Yes, the same applies of course. Although men are also supposed to be hot for sex, in reality they may be much more interested in footie or trimming the hedge.

    Grannymar - Amy Jenkins (the journalist) does mention chocolate. I think chocolate would win hands down with most women. Though I'm sure your memory can't be that hazy....

  4. Nick,
    I think that the media has misrepresented the treatment that Boehringer are bringing to the market by calling it a female Viagra. The drug that has caused all of this media coverage was trialled as an anti-depressant and many female patients on the trial reported an increase in their sex drive. It is certainly not the same as Viagra because that drug has a physical effect that kicks in soon after a pill is swallowed (increasing blood flow down below).
    Flibanserin works on the brain and has a psychological manifestation. I read that they project that patients would need a six month treatment period before noticing an effect.
    Of course pharma companies would love a female Viagra but that drug isn't it. If you think of why Boehringer was encouraged to develop the drug for the purpose (depressed people with low libido started to enjoy a sex life again) I don't think that they 'invented' this problem.

  5. Aidan - The Independent article said that flibanserin was rejected by the US Food and Drug Administration for not giving the claimed benefits and risking serious side effects.

    I think what Moynihan is saying is not that the drug companies invented lack of interest in sex (natural enough) but that they presented it as a medical disorder best treated with drugs.

  6. I've been following the articles with some interest. Talk of a crock!

    Talk to any woman and she will tell you REAL sex is all about the emotion and the feelings.

    A wham bang can be accomplished by anyone.

    Quality over quantity for this female, any day.


  7. i must be one of the few women who is pretty much always up for it

  8. i am acquainted with a woman whose husband did, in fact, leave her for somebody who wanted more sex and she has lost a whole lot of security because of that.
    i still cant decide if he did a reasonable thing

  9. www - Absolutely, it's about emotion and feelings - and closeness. Lack of interest might simply be because those things are not right.

    Kylie - Pretty much always up for it? Well, good for you. If you enjoy it, grab it!

    Hard to say if he was reasonable without knowing all the details of their relationship. Quite often of course a man stays with his wife but has a vigorous sexual relationship with another woman on the side. But personally I think a man who walks out simply because of that is immature. Then again, if he does walk out it's probably because of other marital problems as well.

  10. Blogger ate my comment!

    What I'd said, if I remember correctly, that I always hated that ridiculous "diagnosis."

    And also that there are many reasons why women become disinterested in sex - among them, fatigue from carrying the bulk of the responsibility for keeping up the house, the very physical demands of young children, and husbands who want sex but not the romance or affection tat make that more appealing. I've had plenty of female patients who just get fed up.

    However, I'm with Kylie on this one - I seem to have the libido of an adolescent boy and I'm pretty much always interested in sex.

  11. Secret Agent - Indeed, there are many many completely natural reasons why women don't want sex. In fact sometimes with the pressures they're under it's surprising they ever want it at all! The libido of an adolescent boy? Well there you are, we're all very different and there's simply no sexual "norm".