• Wed, Dec 11 - 5:30 pm ET

Female Viagra Still Stuck In Limbo Because No One Believes Women Physically Desire Sex

166676237There are currently 24 different types of drugs that treat sexual dysfunction in men, and not a single one that treats it in women. Why? Because we have the feels! You basically need to change our whole brain chemistry to help us with sex. There is nothing physical about it for women! We need poems and candy and flowers – and possibly lobotomies. It’s just not as simple as it is for men.

Ugh. Shut up science. I am getting really sick of this shit. From Huffpost:

Sprout Pharmaceuticals said Wednesday it has reached an impasse with the Food and Drug Administration over its drug, flibanserin. The daily pill is designed to increase libido in women by acting on brain chemicals linked to mood and appetite.

The FDA questions whether the drug’s benefits outweigh its risks, considering its “modest” effectiveness and side effects including fatigue, dizziness and nausea.

Do you know what some of the potential side effects of Viagra for men are?

bloody nose, diarrhea, difficult or labored breathing, flushing, headache, pain or tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones, redness of the skin, sneezing, stomach discomfort following meals, stuffy or runny nose, trouble sleeping, unusually warm skin…

There’s also mention of an erection that can last four or more hours in almost every side effect link I’ve read. Hmm. Yeah, we wouldn’t want to subject women to potential dizziness, fatigue and nausea – otherwise known as the first three months of pregnancy. Something tells me we could handle it.

Viagra works by increasing blood flow to the penis. Female orgasm happens with increased blood-flow to the clitoris. Can someone explain to me why we can scientifically formulate a pill that delivers blood flow to the penis and not the clitoris? What gives? Oh right, women don’t really like sex in the vagina. You have to screw our actual brains. So everyone is trying to think of ways to alter the state of the female brain instead of delivering some happy warmth to the vagina, like they do for men with Viagra.

But unlike sexual problems in men, most of women’s sexual issues are psychological, not physical. As a result, there are a number of alternate causes doctors must consider before diagnosing female sexual desire disorders, including relationship problems, hormone disorders, depression and mood issues caused by other medications.

Right. Men never experience relationship problems, depression and mood issues – so we can just go ahead and deliver the happy juice right to their genitals. Women need mood-altering drugs.

To be fair, Pfizer tested Viagra on women, hoping that the drug’s ability to increase blood flow to genitals would increase sex drive in women. It did create the outward signs of arousal in many women, but researchers concluded that “seems to have little effect on a woman’s willingness, or desire, to have sex.” This is a quote from Mitra Boolel, leader of Pfizer’s sex research team:

“There’s a disconnect in many women between genital changes and mental changes. This disconnect does not exist in men. Men consistently get erections in the presence of naked women and want to have sex. With women, things depend on a myriad of factors.”

Is anyone else disturbed by this massive generalization? They gave up and started testing all sorts of hormones and finally got to actually messing with our brain chemistry. But they can’t seem to approve something – even drugs that are showing positive results.

I can’t help but think we are all so brainwashed into believing women don’t actually want sex – that everyone automatically operates on that assumption – and is giving up.

“We’ve now got 24 drugs for men for either testosterone replacement or erectile dysfunction,” says Cindy Whitehead, Sprout’s chief operating officer. “Yet there are zero drugs for the most common form of sexual dysfunction in women.”

What gives?

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • candyvines

    Maria, you’re clearly forgetting the only reason women should have sex is to procreate, and as long as the menfolk are functioning we don’t need to worry.

  • You know it’s coming! lol puns

    I hope they figure this shit out, mostly because I’ve got my popcorn ready for when the inevitable anti-drug chorus of “YOU’RE TURNING ALL THE WOMEN INTO WHORES” begins.

  • FF4life

    Yeah messing with brain chemistry is never a good idea. Vomiting and nausea is nothing compared to a manic or psychotic episode.. Both of which can happen if your brain chemistry is off

    • SarahJesness

      Agreed. We really don’t understand the human brain that well. Messing with it, especially for something minor, isn’t always a good idea.

  • Andrea

    Oh my god…mind blown…and now I am angry. Where the f~@k are my drugs? I can’t believe I never thought about this before! Gah!

  • Rachel Sea

    If all women knew we’re supposed to enjoy sex, millions of men would get thrown over for vibrators.

    • Blueathena623

      Ladies can use vibrators and men at the same time.

    • meteor_echo

      But at least vibrators are much less of a hassle. They don’t abuse you, either!

    • Blueathena623

      In the general sense, yeah, but I was thinking more my husband and me. Thankfully he doesn’t abuse me, and he does take out trash and clean up dog poop, so I’m keeping both.

    • Rachel Sea

      And many should.

  • Paul White

    Increasing sex drive doesn’t equal increasing orgasms (I mean, that might help but it isnt’ he only way to do it).

  • Bonpolar

    I’m not keen on a drug that alters brain chemistry…that is a potentially a horrid thing.

    I have bipolar disorder which is as far as I know, thought to be caused by a brain chemistry imbalance. I can attest to that during a manic-phase, and I’m sorry for the TMI but it goes hand and hand with the topic, I suffer from hyper-sexuality and its….horrible. I don’t see the appeal of having a drug that does the same thing considering its like having a perpetual itch you can’t scratch…. messing with the brain and how it works is a big nono.

    This study is bullshit, considering the need or interest in sex shouldn’t be a thing one is entitled to have and altering Women’s brains to force more sexual response is actually all kinds of fucking creepy….but thats just how I read into it.

    I’m sure women do suffer from sex disorders and that should be addressed but not like this.

    I hope I make sense. I’m sorry!

    • Blueathena623

      Yep to bipolar hyper sexuality. However, with me, it wasn’t so much an increase in libido so much as using sex to boost my self-esteem. I don’t know, maybe that is an increase in libido. Whatever it was, it wasn’t healthy. And it wasn’t even good sex.

      On a side note, if you’re ever interested, try reading about the connections between bipolar and epilepsy. In some ways, manic episodes are similar to seizures. I could say a ton more, but I don’t want to bore you.

    • Bonpolar

      No no! That sounds interesting! Do you have an article on it? I’d really love to know more about that.

    • Blueathena623

      There are tons of articles, I try and find a couple. There are many types of seizure, but I’m referring to focal point (I believe that’s the right term). But in short, both manic episodes and seizures are caused by increased electrical activity in the brain. Increased electrical activity is known to relieve depression, which is the basis for ECT (electro-convulsive therapy, or electric shock treatment) during which patients experience artificially induced seizures. Many patients with epilepsy also suffer from depression. So in a way, people with bipolar and epilepsy have a self – correcting mechanism for their depression — their own ECT, except for epilepsy its a seizure and for us its hypomania or mania. Also, seizures and manic episodes have a kindling effect, where the electrical activity causes a tiny bit of brain damage that reduces the threshold needed for another seizure or manic episode. Which is why its better to get things under control the younger you are so you can avoid that brain damage and why its harder for people who have suffered for a long time to get things under control — they have a much lower threshold. Finally, its no coincidence that many, if not most, of the most popular bipolar meds were developed for seizures. My father has epilepsy, and we take the same med.
      there is also a little research out there about viral induced bipolar, which basically says that people can have a genetic tendency for bipolar, but its activated by exposure to the Epstein Barr virus. Again, this is fledgling research and doesn’t apply to everyone, but it interested me because I had mild symptoms before I developed mono for two years (yes, I tested positive for the virus for 2 freaking years) and it was only after I got mono that I went batshit.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    Yeah. Women don’t ever experience a libido drop due to hormones, dryness, poor circulation, or just low desire. It’s all in the ladies’ heads. All of it. All the time. No matter what.
    And a man’s psychology never affects his ability to perform. Ever. Nope.

  • Kay_Sue

    This is all kinds of confusing.

    On the one hand, it’s double-edged cultural stereotype. We aren’t supposed to “want” it at as much / guys are supposed to want it all the time. That makes me wonder how many guys pumping Viagra and all of its many side effects in their system are guilty of the flipside of the very stereotype we’re talking about here when they just need to sort out their relationship or psychological issues.

    On another hand, I don’t think drugs altering our brain chemicals are necessarily a thing we want the FDA to allow…

    On yet another hand, we have several studies that suggest that women don’t necessarily orgasm in casual hook ups as men, which is probably in the minds of these researchers lending credence to the idea that women don’t need a magic drug–they just need unicorns that shit diamonds.

    It is a complicated issue with a tone of social overtones. I am interested in reading up on it some more.

  • Blueathena623

    First of all, I don’t think we can compare a daily pill that alters brain chemistry with an as-needed pill that does something nitrous oxide or something like that. 2nd, the side effects associated with Viagra wouldn’t necessarily prevent sex, but I’d have to be pretty darn horny to have sex while nauseated or dizzy. 3rd, and Im going to start counting after this, but do any of the male medications increase libido or just facilitate erections? They have tried Viagra on women, as you’ve noted, it didn’t do much. In Mary Roach’s book Bonk she talks about some suction device that is supposed to increase the ability to orgasm in women or something like that, but as Roach notes, its a little sucking vibrating device placed on the clitoris, so duh.
    I was pretty sure they had linked hormones to actual sex drive. Estrogen, isn’t it? Something is surging around ovulation and supposed to make us more horny then and whatever it is it drops off after menopause. But if it is estrogen, can’t that contribute to breast cancer?
    And while this isn’t a huge factor, I believe women take more anti-depressants than men, and those can be libido killers.
    Believe me, I’m all for ladies getting their groove on, but I think this is a really complicated area.

    • Kay_Sue

      That was my impression too. it’s a crazy complicated subject. And you have a good point about Viagra and other male drugs–it’s not sex drive or libido. It’s the actual physical ability to have erections. Thus why they are described as treating “erectile dysfunction”, and not “low libido”. Good points.

    • Blueathena623

      And I have to state that erections don’t necessarily = orgasm. So it seems like the article is looking for a pill that makes women want and enjoy sex more (which usually involves orgasm), but we don’t have that for men yet either.

    • DatNanny

      The fact that the ‘solution’ may be a drug that alters brain chemistry really bothers me. I don’t want to say too much and step on any toes – but I personally believe we have a problem with over-medication in this country, and I don’t think this pill should be taken as lightly as a pill that simply treats a physical problem. As has been said, lack of sex drive and inability to have erections are not the same thing.

    • SarahJesness

      I do agree, we gotta be careful with any drug that plays with the brain. We really don’t know much about the human brain; we should be careful with any drug that messes with it.

    • Blueathena623

      Its also a cost thing. A new drug is going to have a patent and therefore no generic, so who knows what the company will charge. Unless a guy wants to have sex every day (not knocking him if he does), Viagra might be cheaper because its as-needed instead of daily.
      And yes, altering brain chemistry scares me since I already take so many medications that alter brain chemistry, so I know their power.

  • Talknerdytome

    It’s actually not that simple or that sexist… Btw I’m a grad student studying psychology with a focus on sexuality. Viagra works by relaxing the clenching of smooth muscles in the pelvis which allows genital vasocongestion (pooling of blood in the genitals). This is true in men AND women. The clitoris is analogous to the male penis as is the clitoral hood to the foreskin. So yes, blood will be able to pool in the genital tissues of both genders while on Viagra. The problem is that in clinical trials women who were taking Viagra didn’t have much more success than those who took the placebo (although even the placebo effect was unusually substantial, showing that for many women it really can be chalked up to sexual anxiety). The reason is probably because women’s genitals are basically sort of internal, the Latvia minora and clitoris is protected by the labia majora and the clitoris also has the clitroal hood, leading to a lack of visual cues to arousal (men can see their erections) and a lack of overt physical cues (men can easily feel the change in penile rigidity) for women, especially those who suffer from poor interoceptive awareness (noticing the subtle changes of their physiology in one or more areas). Also, women are not taught to touch ourselves in this culture, whereas boys are taught as toddlers to hold their penis while they pee, this is one of the many cultural factors involved. It’s not that the FDA or the mental health community doesn’t want women to have sex or something, we’re trying to trust me. But for women, it’s just not going to be as easy as popping a pill.

  • Talknerdytome

    Btw, I think that for many women, myself included, education in sex research can have a huge impact on sexual functioning! I would strongly recommend reading studies by Cindy Meston, she has well over 100 studies that focus on female sexual functioning that take a psychophysiological perspective. And a she’s a great writer, but if the journal articles feel daunting I would suggest just skipping to the discussion sections. It’s amazing what you can gain from understanding psychology and biology, there a lot of science going on in your pants :)

  • Talknerdytome

    “between 40% and 80% of men with ED who began treatment with Viagra stopped taking the medication (Leiblum, 2002). Similarly, in another study 31% of men discontinued their use of Viagra after their first prescription, and 48% discontinued use within 3 years (Sato et al., 2007).”

    W. Edward Craighead, David J. Miklowitz & Linda W. Craighead. “Psychopathology.” John Wiley & Sons, 2013-07-23.

    It’s not all that helpful for men either….

    And find out if the medications your on are part of the problem! Antihistamines for example can cause lubrication problems for women because they dry out mucus membranes like your nose… And your vaginal tissues.

  • val97

    I have found something that works wonders in this department if anyone is interested. No, this is not spam! It’s a little something called weed. I don’t know why it works. It did not have this affect on me when I was younger – in college all it did was make me silly and hungry. But for some reason, now that I’m in my 30s, it’s working like a female viagra on me.

  • Jayamama

    I used hormonal birth control the first two and a half years of my marriage because we knew we were not in a position to have kids. (Granted, it was the patch, not the pill, because remembering something every day was just not going to happen for me.) It did its job; we had no pregnancies. But we also had very little sex because it totally screwed up my libido. We had waited until we got married to have sex, so I just figured that I didn’t like sex. That is, until we decided that having a baby wouldn’t be so bad and I tossed the box. Then, good luck keeping me off my husband.

    Unfortunately, (or fortunately, if you want) it only took us two months to get pregnant. Then, once again, I wanted nothing to do with sex. In hindsight, it makes sense because hormonal birth controls work by making your body think it’s pregnant so it doesn’t ovulate. But my body just won’t get aroused if I’m pregnant. After my daughter was born, it took very little time before I was feeling frisky again. But during pregnancy number two, we were right back in the same celibacy boat. I’m now postpartum, and I’m already feeling back to normal.

    My fear is that in a few decades, when I’m menopausal, I will once again not be into sex. I sure hope that by then, there are some drugs to help women’s libidos, because otherwise, I’m screwed. No pun intended.