The piece is particularly focused on how sex is being increasingly portrayed in terms of physiology, bodily mechanics and disorders while ignoring the role of psychology and relationships.
This is particularly pertinent at the moment, owing to millions being pumped into the so-far fruitless search for a ‘female Viagra’ intended to increase sexual desire in women.
Eager to replicate the outsized profits that erectile dysfunction drugs have brought, several pharmaceutical firms are in hot pursuit of a women’s version. Because female sexual desire is far less straightforward than men’s, success has been thus far elusive, but there are several candidates in the pipeline. Whether any of them will work well enough – and without significant adverse health effects – to gain FDA approval remains to be seen. (In Europe, a testosterone patch to boost sex drive in post-menopausal women has been approved, but its efficacy is debated.)
For critics, the problem is not whether a women’s Viagra will work, but what happens if it does. They argue that the very concept of “female sexual dysfunction,” the condition that such drugs would be targeting, is not an actual medical condition so much as a creation of the pharmaceutical industry. While surveys show that 20 to 40 percent of women describe themselves as having a lack of interest in sex (the higher figures tend to come from studies funded by pharmaceutical companies), only about a quarter of those women describe that as a problem. It’s hard to call something a disorder or a dysfunction, some sex researchers argue, if the people who experience it don’t tend to see it that way.
The piece looks at a group of sex researchers and clinicians who are arguing for a ‘New View’ that doesn’t think of all sexual difficulties as medical disorders and focuses upon the important role of psychology in sexual arousal, motivation and exploration.
As Petra notes, it’s unusual to see a mainstream article straying from the now well-worn path so get it while it’s, er, hot.