To the Moon, Baby

A new essential oil blend called Zestra claims to restore sexual pleasure and drive for middle-aged women. It’s the first female arousal-enhancer I’ve seen on the market, but in the aftermath of Viagra’s success, scientists have been racing to create the first female Viagra. The pharmaceutical versions are sitting in FDA purgatory, but they’re a sure bet to make a buck, so you’d better believe they’re coming. I, for one, am not looking forward to that day.

Think of a guy trying to decide whether he needs Viagra. He wants to get it up; it’s not up. There’s very little room for debate. But for a woman, knowing whether there is a even a problem in the first place is much more complicated.

Until recently, women’s sexuality has been understood in terms of the male experience. This includes our experience of arousal, which is just starting to be understood on our own terms. In her now-famous bonobo study, Meredith Chivers showed women a series of videos, including videos of both humans and bonobos having sex. While women thought they were only into the humans, they were pretty into those bonobos too. Chivers’ results showed that women can accurately identify when they’re psychologically turned on, but are often unable to identify when they’re physically aroused. As it turns out, our bodies and our minds don’t quite connect (I’ll write a post on why that might be adaptive later).

Because we’re not totally in tune with our bodies, I would venture to say–tentatively–that women may be more susceptible to psychological pressures and cultural expectations (which, in our society, are full of contradictions). One recent study surveyed 964 women receiving routine gynecological care and found that a whopping 87.2% believe that they have an abnormally low sex drive. At a percentage like that, they’re normal! But such an enticingly ready market for the drug lords.

Our sex drive is complicated. We need some attention, some time, some vibe. Sometimes we’re stressed out, depressed, rushed, insecure, or dissatisfied in our relationships. Sex drive is a reflection of our mental state. Remember when Samantha Jones lost her mojo until she finally let herself cry? Our bodies are telling us something. Instead of popping a pill, maybe we should learn to listen.



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3 responses to “To the Moon, Baby

  1. liz

    This brings up some interesting questions about exactly what a “female viagra” would be trying to do. You say arousal-enhancer, and I wonder how that would work. Taking a pill could make women feel better about their bodies, their desirability, lower their stress level, improve their relationships and their partner’s sexual technique? Because I, like you, think all of those factor into a woman’s desire for sex, and how much true pleasure she can achieve from it.

    The male version is specifically created to aid in the “function” of the penis, and has nothing to do with arousal or pleasure. If a man can’t get it up for a physical reason viagra helps increase blood flow so he can. It doesn’t help if the inability to get or sustain an erection is in his head–believe me, I know. If he’s psyching himself out of his erections, viagra does nothing, or next to nothing, to help.

    And I believe a lot of female sexual dissatisfaction starts in our heads, for all the reasons above and then some, and also because we’re designed differently and a bit more complicated to figure out. Whereas most guys are so OBVIOUS, and so easy to satisfy, we’re all so subtly different, and have such individual needs. Repeated failures get frustrating, and women can give up.

    I’d hate to be a guy trying to figure out what I wanted without guidance. But then it’s not always possible to direct a man the way you might want to without him taking offense. They don’t always ask for help, and usually (my experience here) resent it, taking any suggestions to mean they’re less than stellar. I know a lot of women who have trouble reaching orgasm with a partner, especially if he’s stuck on intercourse, and not particularly inventive or adventurous.

    I think if more men could appreciate a vibrator as an assistant, rather than competition (what do you need that for, with me here?) men and women would all be better off. So I won’t be taking any pills, I’ll just make sure I’ve got a supply of fresh batteries on hand, and a man who welcomes the assistance.

  2. Hi Nadia! This is Allie, don’t know if you remember me — we met up in Spain several years ago and also had a class together. I am in Manhattan and was at the Brooklyn Book Festival too. I wish I’d known you were around! I love your blog, I actually have something in the same ballpark:
    I feel like we should meet up and talk about Feminist things! I’ll try to Facebook you later (it’s offline now, what the hell?)

  3. Pingback: Updates: Sex and Beer « Birds With Brains

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