Reproductive Writes: The Short Cut To Sexy

"Sexual anorexia - have you heard of it?" Glamour coyly asks us this month. In the world of Glamour we all want sex, all the time – and if we don't, we should do it anyway as it makes men happy and validates our existence as women. It's not a world in which women might have a 'preoccupation with the avoidance of sex,' as this problem is described by sexual health expert Dr. Patrick J Carnes. 'Like self-starvation with food or compulsive dieting or hoarding with money, deprivation with sex can make one feel powerful and defended against all hurts,' he explains.

When a 'disorder' is defined and given a name, as is now the case with 'sexual anorexia,' the hope is that this recognition will bring help to those who suffer from the symptoms. Often these symptoms sound like difficulties we all experience at some time, just magnified to debilitating proportions. According to counselor Dr. Doug Weiss sexual anorexics in a relationship will withhold sex and be unwilling to their share feelings. According to Dr. Carnes, the avoidance of sex is seen as a way of solving all of life's problems.

Thing is, once a disorder is diagnosed, what's more likely to happen is that all kinds of people will be tagged as sufferers - from those who choose to be celibate right down to those who just don't feel like having sex all the time. If we work from the norm presented to us by Glamour as to how often we are meant to be having sex, or thinking about sex, or preparing for having sex – well, we could all be classed as sexual anorexics.

Where there's a disorder there has to be a cure. Unfortunately it's less and less likely to be of the talking kind, and more likely to come with an expensive prescription. At the end of last year the drug Flibanserin – otherwise known as the Female Viagra – was all over the news. It was described as a treatment for women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder, that is – 'a distressing lack of sexual desire.' (No word here as to what constitutes 'distressing,' of course.) The women tested on Flibanserin reported a doubling in their number of 'sexually satisfying events.'

Some news reports, including one from our favorite Fox SexPert, have described the effect of the drug, creepily, as 'decreasing inhibitions.' Low libido is painted as more of a problem for women than erectile dysfunction in men (because men want to have sex all the time, obviously). But, how is low libido defined? If this treatment is primarily for those who are 'distressed' by their low libido, this distress might due on their impaired quality of life but it could also be a result of pressure within their relationships. I have to admit, after reading some Glamours and Cosmopolitans, I began to feel quite distressed about my apparent abnormal level of sexual desire. It looks to me like if I don't want to do it in the office bathroom on my lunchbreak, I'm all wrong.

If and when Flibanserin is out on the market, it is possible that – as was the way with the progression of Viagra – this drug will go from a treatment for a severe problem to a treatment for everyone who just wants to be, or feels they should be, ready and willing at all times. We might easily get to the point when it is thought that if there's a pill available that you can pop to make you want sex all the time, then why wouldn't every woman take it, at least sometimes? And if you don't want to, what's wrong with you?

Guess what? Subscriptions to Bitch—our award-winning, 80+ page print quarterly—are 20% off to help us reach our $25,000 funding goal by September 30. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

13 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Thank you

Thank you for this wonderful and well-written piece. Time and time again I have encountered women who feel as though something is wrong with them because they do not have the same sex drive as their partners (male or female). I hope that this article may reach those women and continue to tell them that a lack of desire to have sex 24/7 or even once a week is okay - it does not make you less of a person.

I am saddened by sociologist, psychologists, doctors etc who simply want to create an illness where it doesn't exist only to scare women into submission and increase the earnings of pharmaceutical companies.

Anyhow, thank you for your words.

Self Will Versus Fashionable Self Deprivation

My initial cursory glance at the title of this post caused me to look for references to the current fashion of ultra-high panty revealing hemlines and the difficulty of getting designers to stop glorifying anorexia in the fashion world. Your intriguing piece on psychological conditions (or lack thereof) for which the pharmaceutical Flibanserin is prescribed poses an entirely different thought proving set of questions. Sometimes frigidity and or asexuality may be natural and not undesirable. Simultaneously there are almost certainly people of all genders who have had problems allowing themselves to have or to enjoy any kind of sexual gratification and a range of both experiences or hormonal imbalances which conceivably one could attempt to counterbalance with pharmaceuticals. The huge questions in my mind about the effects of the "Treatment" of "sexual anorexia" (a form of self-deprivation) are these: Do pharmaceuticals like Flibanserine work by decreasing inhibitions across the board and allowing self will to run riot? If someone like me took it would I wind up getting myself on the nightly news for putting myself on display in my full brief nylon panties? Do they make people more horny? Could they be used to treat bulimia and anorexia? Do they turn people into mindless sheep who will do whatever they're asked? Do they work at all or are they more like a placebo? Is it really like a female viagra or something much more? Can guys take it? Is it safe? How it works and what the side effects are will probably determine whether it gets used or over-used (or if all use is over use).

No Thanks

I was reading the 50 Steps to Simple Happiness in New York Magazine and came across this gem of a quote:
13. “Just say yes every time your partner wants to have sex. It’s only twenty minutes out of your day, and it makes you both feel better. If you’re not in a relationship, say yes to your own private date night at least three times a week.” —Claire Cavanah, Co-Founder, Babeland

I thought this was relevant. And ignorant. What if I don't have to have sex every time my partner wants to? What if I would rather be reading Bitch Magazine or doing something else with my free time? No surprise that this link was posted by a writer for Glamour magazine. Hah.

Read more: 50 Steps to Simple Happiness -- New York Magazine http://nymag.com/health/features/63043/#ixzz0gI9TYjmP

WOW!

The way I feel about that quote is more than words can explain. I tried their tip for years, and so do many young girls in the world and it didn't turn into simple happiness it turned into a confusing cycle of disgust, shame, guilt, hatred, pent-up anger, etc. Sex should only be used to pleasure both parties involved when you both are in the mood. If you don't want it your not going to enjoy it and your partner will, that makes you have feelings of frustration towards yourself and feelings of anger toward your partner which if held in for long enough can really screw you up big time.....you may start feeling like all you are made for is to please.....

"(No word here as to what

"(No word here as to what constitutes 'distressing,' of course.)"

From what I've read about it in the past, there's no word on what constitutes it because it's precisely what it looks like. If their libido falls off a cliff, and they're not in the least bothered by it having done so, it's not distressing them and thus fails to meet diagnostic criteria. It's usually how the line is drawn when it comes to something that's not, in and of itself, a problem--does the person experiencing it view it as a problem? Are they bothered by it?

I've been hearing a lot

I've been hearing a lot about the supposed epidemic of low libido in women lately, and the more I read about it, the more I feel like it's simply a way of medicalizing something that is simply part of the normal spectrum of human sexuality. I mean, according to the Wikipedia article on 'Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder', 20% of women are estimated to suffer from this problem. That seems awfully high to me.

We all like to laugh now about how the normal Victorian-era woman was not supposed to have sexual desires and that women who were very sexual were seen as deviant. Are we not committing the same sin now from the opposite perspective - medicalizing women who do not match up with society's ideal of sexuality?

I am inclined to believe that sexual desire is simply a spectrum - some people are, by nature, more sexual than others. If your libido is significantly than your partner's, perhaps you are not the best matched sexually, and likely you will need to come to some sort of reasonable compromise to make both of you happy. However, agreeing to sex at all times or taking drugs to make yourself a more sexual being is ridiculous.

I agree

And think that a lot of those "20% of all women" were considered that way because they simply don't want sex when there partner wants it and they feel guilty like they should, especially now since this pill is out telling them that something may be wrong with them. This pill should only be used if you want to have sex but you just cant get aroused, sort of like how you feel if you take anti-depressants and they affect your libido.

I've been hearing a lot

I've been hearing a lot about the supposed epidemic of low libido in women lately, and the more I read about it, the more I feel like it's simply a way of medicalizing something that is simply part of the normal spectrum of human sexuality. I mean, according to the Wikipedia article on 'Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder', 20% of women are estimated to suffer from this problem. That seems awfully high to me.

We all like to laugh now about how the normal Victorian-era woman was not supposed to have sexual desires and that women who were very sexual were seen as deviant. Are we not committing the same sin now from the opposite perspective - medicalizing women who do not match up with society's ideal of sexuality?

I am inclined to believe that sexual desire is simply a spectrum - some people are, by nature, more sexual than others. If your libido is significantly than your partner's, perhaps you are not the best matched sexually, and likely you will need to come to some sort of reasonable compromise to make both of you happy. However, agreeing to sex at all times or taking drugs to make yourself a more sexual being is ridiculous.

A couple of months ago I

A couple of months ago I came across an ad for extenze aimed at women. Initially I was confused as I had no idea what they were hoping to 'extenze' on a woman. I eventually learned that the product was meant to increase female libido but the thing that bothered me about the commercial was the male spokesperson explaining the benefits of Extenze for Women, by the end I was convinced this was some new form of date rape drug. I'm not sure if they came out with any more commercials for the drug that featured women as the spokespersons but if they haven't that is probably the path they should take.
What I wish to address is that yes while I have seen commercials in which women come on and encourage the use of the men’s version of this product (although usually alongside her 'husband') and while I'm not opposed to a male opinion or even one of those fake testimonials by a couple of how amazing the product is, shouldn't a product that effects women's hormones and sexual inhibitions be marketed to women by women?

a little peace please!

As a woman who has been slut-shamed by at least three ex-partners for having a higher sex-drive than them I can only be sympathetic to those women who have a lower drive than their partners and say I wish I could give you some of mine. It's very tedious to be told that you are making your man feel inadequate and unmanly by fancying them too much.

Doubtless at some point though I will go through a period of lower drive (I haven't had kids yet so...) and the last thing I would want is someone telling me to pop a pill and get over it. Why is the focus ALWAYS on women's sex drives and never on men's which can fluctuate and vanish and just plain bumble along being barely noticeable in exactly the same way as women's can?

Good point

How this could be used as a date rape drug is a scary thought to think about. If man gives this to a woman when she says she doesn't want to have sex, she would think she wanted it at the time even if afterwards she felt bad. Would that be considered rape though since it does not have sedative effects?

WOW

This is terrible. Not the pill but the way that it may be used. When you look back at how much feminism seems to have helped women become less dependent and slave-like towards a mans every need and want you think we have made great process. Then I read your blogs and I think how we might be starting to go back in time tenfold. First a pill that stops your period all together, then a pill that makes you want sex all the time. Both advertised to be empowering to women, an independent choice, but to me it seems like a mans perfect world: A non-menstruating and always ready to fuck woman.........

This kind of scares me.

I think a good general rule

I think a good general rule of thumb is that if something (anything: no interest in sex, too much interest, drinking too much, etc.) is interfering with your ability to function/lead a life you're happy with, or is giving you significant and repeated distress, it's a problem.
For those who have a low sex drive and are okay with it, they're fine.
If it becomes a problem then it is an issue, and they would probably be happier in their life if they addressed the issue.