Posted in  The MamaSutra  on  March 5, 2015 by  Lanae0 comments


NPR’s All Things Considered featured a story called “Female Libido Pill Fires Up Debate About Women And Sex” and the teaser clip that was played was a woman who said:

“I would gladly take risks of side effects to keep my marriage and my relationship.”

You can read and listen to the story here:

When the story finished, I knew I had to write something about this topic. My post has two parts: 1) Why Flibanserin is not “Female Viagra”, and 2) Some suggestions I have for women and/or couples who may be in a similar situation as the woman in this NPR article. I will post Part 2 tomorrow.

Part 1

Briefly, let’s look at this “Female Viagra” candidate. First of all, what do we know about Viagra? Drugs like Cialis and Viagra are called vasodilators and they affect blood flow to the genitals. To put it in simple terms, they work to dilate the arteries in the genitals. A penis is basically filled with blood when it gets engorged (no bones or muscles, just lots of spongy tissue that fills up with blood) so it becomes erect.

Flibanserin is not a vasodilator. It’s a psychoactive drug that affects brain chemistry, particularly your dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin outputs. The long term effects of that are yet unknown and I hesitate to suggest that a person take a daily pill without some serious consideration given to side effects, not to mention long term consequences.

Given that Flibanserin and the vasodilator drugs work on different parts of the body, this is much more serious than a simple “…men get Viagra, so why can’t women” issue. Yes, historically female sexuality has gotten (and continues to get) the short end of the attention stick, but it is not sexist to spend time making sure this drug works. Since Flibanserin does not act in the same manner a vasodilator does, it is not comparing apples to apples.

In 2009, Orgasm Inc., a documentary about Female Sexual Dysfunction, was released. It documented the very real race to market of drug companies trying to make a “Viagra for women”. But the reason it hasn’t been done so far is because sexuality, especially for females, is much more nuanced. Just because you want something to be a thing doesn’t mean it is a thing. My takeaway from the documentary was also the glaring need for more and better education about female sexuality.

I encourage Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Flibanserin, to do as much thorough ethical research and follow up as they can (not just pursuing the almighty dollar) and for the FDA to push for safe and sustainable results from the drug before they approve it. Women deserve access to all viable options but we don’t want another situation like Propecia on our hands.

Let me point this out, notice how no one is asking for a corresponding arousal pill for men that changes their brain chemistry? And there are no such pills on the market for them either. Think about why that is; the idea that men are raging fiends who always want sex plays into this (which is not true by the way, as sometimes their desire wanes as well).

So many people could and do benefit from more and better education in the area of sexuality. Sometimes when I tell people I’m an educator, I get the response, “Oh, I don’t need any education in that area”. When a person says that to me, I always want to reply, “Would your partner agree that you don’t need any pointers?” Typically, they don’t know what they don’t know. I recognize some women are in desperate need for help with their lack of desire and some may need a drug to solve the problem. But until that exists, I hope they will consider changing things up with a little more sex education.

Check back here for Part 2 tomorrow! It’s already written (*wink) and in it I offer suggestions for couples that may be in a similar situation as the couple in the NPR article.

The MamaSutra


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  1. HiLanae,

    Long time no chat. Thanks for writing a balanced article – rare these days of polarizing rhetoric. just one thing (as the guy who led the flibanserin development program)….we DID in fact want to research low desire in men. See J Sex Med. 2012 Mar;9(3):812-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02592.x. Epub 2012 Jan 12. Characterization of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in men.DeRogatis L1, Rosen RC, Goldstein I, Werneburg B, Kempthorne-Rawson J, Sand M.

    1. Hi Michael!
      Thanks for reading and for your compliment. I try. 😉
      I want everyone to have access to all options that work for them, including education (since that job isn’t done very well). thx again!

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