Terra Sigillata

Only time for a short post today but many news outlets are just now picking up on a 12 March WaPo article by David Segal on the 10th anniversary of the US FDA approval of the erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra. As we noted in yesterday’s post, the active ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil, is so popular that even dietary supplement manufacturers are doping their products (illegally) with it and other related compounds.

While some may be cracking silly jokes today, Segal’s article focuses primarily on the complexities of the female side of sexual relationships and the challenges in psychology and medicine. He addresses the very serious issues of how a pill cannot be expected to improve dysfunctional relationships, why there isn’t a similar pill for women, and why insurance carriers will cover the cost of Viagra for men but not always for counseling related to sexual issues.

Segal interviews those who applaud the increasing attention given to decreased female libido, particularly as it occurs in peri- and post-menopausal women. However, he also presents the side of women like NYU’s Dr Leonore Tiefer who protest “the medicalization of women’s sexuality.”

So, while women might take a pass on reading this widely-reprinted article today, our female readers should give the original a good read since it’s all about you.

Thanks, Mr Segal, for your attention to these underappreciated issues.

Comments

  1. #1 Romeo Vitelli
    March 27, 2008

    I am reminded of all those Viagra commercials with happy, singing women dancing in the street because their men are potent again. Annoys the hell of me.

  2. #2 acmegirl
    March 27, 2008

    I find it interesting that there is little discussion about the fact that men who are capable of achieving erection may experience low levels of libido in the form of infrequent interest, lack of interest in their committed partner (but interest in others), or only be capable of erection in response to inappropriate stimulus. Clearly Viagra cannot help these men, any more than it can help women with decreased libido. We should be protesting the medicalization of everyone’s libido.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, guys, but in my experience, men are quite capable of the disconnect between being “hot and bothered” but not feeling the emotional components of arousal. Why do we insist on painting men as mindless fuck machines? Maybe if we gave everyone permission to experience waxing and waning periods of sexual desire, and encouraged partners to be more flexible in how they work together to satisfy each other’s sexual needs, everyone would be happier.

  3. #3 Bee
    March 27, 2008

    While I agree that ‘medicalizing’ sexual desire for either men or women certainly has its downside, I think there is a place for medication that works – if anyone ever finds it. A sudden post-menopausal drop in libido (which occurs for quite a few women) can lead to marital disappointments. It would be nice to be able to choose whether or not to deal with that pharmaceutically. As well, going the counselling route is often just another way of telling a person with low libido that there’s something wrong with them that needs to be fixed.

    I agree about those happy dancing women in the Viagra ads – causes severe eye-rolling here. Some women (and some men) are not interested in sex and don’t feel a need to be, and should not be made to feel that is an un-natural position.

  4. #4 bill
    March 27, 2008

    Drugs, schmugs; I bet humans are not sexually very different from rats, but there’s no money in following up that observation.

  5. #5 Bee
    March 27, 2008

    Now that, Bill, is a very interesting bit of observation. I think you’re onto something.

  6. #6 Abel Pharmboy
    March 28, 2008

    Very nice, Bill – for those who didn’t go over to Bill’s post, his closing sentence is spot-on:

    All I am pointing out is that maybe it would also be a wonderful thing if we, as a society, were to explore the idea of personal autonomy as female aphrodisiac.

    Interestingly, Bill, Segal’s article speaks of the drug from the rodent study you cite, PT-141. Palatin Technologies had fashioned it into a nasal spray due to concerns about systemic cardiovascular issues but ended the clinical trial last August due to hypertensive side effects that still occurred.

  7. #7 DrugMonkey
    March 28, 2008

    err…Abel? and what are the “hypertensive side effects” of sex? or were you not talking acute side effects…

  8. #8 bill
    March 28, 2008

    @Abel: yeah, the Wikipedia entry on PT-141 mentions the canceled Phase III trial. The compound has been around for ages (aphrodisiac effect first noted in late 90s I think), so I’m a bit surprised to find it has taken this long for it to make it to the clinic. Is that sort of timeframe normal?

    I really, really wish the rodent study would get more airplay; it’s an elegant and profound result, and I think it says bad things about all the social Darwinist/Ev-Psych types that they aren’t all over it.

  9. #9 DuWayne
    March 28, 2008

    acmegirl -

    Maybe if we gave everyone permission to experience waxing and waning periods of sexual desire, and encouraged partners to be more flexible in how they work together to satisfy each other’s sexual needs, everyone would be happier.

    Amen.

    I have my ups and downs, but for the most part, I am not into having the sex all the time. I suspect that in part, this is due to my tendency for getting hyper-focused on other things. It is not that I don’t like it, I do. And I often find myself able to please my partner, even when I am “not in the mood” as it were. But there are times when it’s just not going to happen. Personally, I take umbrage at the notion that there is something wrong with me when this occurs. I don’t need a pill under the circs, I just don’t need to have the sex at that time.

    What bothers me is the idea that there is something wrong with a guy who just isn’t in the mood. I love your eloquent response to this notion; Why do we insist on painting men as mindless fuck machines? Indeed. My partner actually made the very same point with her best friend, when she complained that her then partner had failed to get into it the night before. She took it personally, like she was somehow suddenly not turning on her partner. I jumped in with the shocking idea that she’s not always in the mood either, why does she assume men are any different?

  10. #10 acmegirl
    March 28, 2008

    @Bill:
    Personal autonomy as a female aphrodisiac? Damn straight that’s no surprise! But you’re right, there are plenty of people who don’t want that to get out! We’d have women running around all uppity like, choosing when and with whom to have sex and getting off on it! Oh, no! That almost sounds like fun!