Viagra for women?

Tests are under way on a new pill for women with lagging libidos.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
January 3, 2008 6:05AM (UTC)
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Ah, a new year and new hope for a cure for female frigidity! The Associated Press reported yesterday that tests are under way on a "Viagra-like" drug for women called LibiGel, an ointment that is applied to the upper arm and channels testosterone into the bloodstream over a 24-hour period, thereby pumping up a woman's sex drive. A study is under way at the University of Virginia, where the drug will be given to women who have had ovariectomies and are taking estrogen supplements -- but, if it's approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, its makers plan to target "any woman complaining of a low sex drive," according to the AP.

So, what's a feminist to do: Shun the medicalization of female pleasure or cheer the possibility of a libido booster being made available to women? As Stephen M. Simes, chief executive of LibiGel's maker, says, "A lot of women have this problem, but unfortunately they've been largely ignored by pharmaceutical companies. It's not fair that women have no drugs, while men have many." In fact, a whopping one-third of American women are thought to have hypoactive sexual desire disorder.


But, of course, there the feminist school of thought that many -- maybe most -- of those cases are not purely physical. For instance, there's the New View Campaign (tag line: "sex for our pleasure or their profit?"), which aims "to expose biased research and promotional methods that serve corporate profit rather than people's pleasure and satisfaction." The campaign's chief concern is that the current classification of female sexual dysfunction holds male and female sexual experience as equivalent, erases "the relational context of sexuality," and levels off differences among women's sexual experiences.

It's great, of course, that women might one day have the option of taking a pill to perk up a lagging libido. But there's also an argument to be made against over-reliance on pharmaceutical treatments like LibiGel (and Viagra, even) in that they ignore emotional or relational causes of a low libido. There's also the potential to invalidate women's sexual complaints; if her private bits aren't working properly, it can be seen as simply her -- rather than her lover's -- fault.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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