I’m having a fuzzy brain day today, and I’m not really sure what to write about. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t write anything, but I’m 8 days into my 31-day, 500 words challenge, and I’m determined not to fail it, so I’ve logged into WordPress, opened up the ‘Add New Post’ page, and I’m hoping inspiration will strike! (If you don’t want to read 500 words of waffle, you may want to go straight to the next post!)
Since I joined, about a week ago, I’ve been spending a lot of time of a popular asexuality group on FaceBook. Most of the group members are younger than me, which gives me an interesting perspective. Although most of the members there have known they were asexual for a lot longer than I have, I have a lot more life experience and – dare I say it! – maturity than many of them, so I’ve actually found myself in the position of being able to give some useful advice as well as doing a lot of learning myself. There are also some very interesting discussions (topics ranging from all aspects of sexuality to US gun regulations) as well as a lot of light hearted chat and humour that can probably only be understood by asexuals.
Anyway, one of the topics that came up yesterday was the new drug, flibanserin (to be sold under the name Addyi), which was approved by the FDA earlier this month as a treatment for women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. In other words, its target consumers are women who have a low or absent sex drive.
There are a lot of questions over whether the drug should have been approved at all, and these are covered in detail in this article. In brief:
- Flibanserin is often described as a female alternative to Viagra, but they work very differently. Viagra increases blood flow to the genitals and is taken before sex, flibanserin acts on neurotransmitters in the brain and has to be taken over a long period.
- The effectiveness of the drug is somewhere between 8 and 13 percent. Not great!
- Side effects include low blood pressure, fainting and dizziness, and are likely to be exacerbated by alcohol and hormonal contraception. I hate to be the one to mention this, but women who are experiencing an increased sex drive as a result of taking flibanserin are also more likely to need contraception.
A recent demonstration by members of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) argues that the drug should be banned because it may lead to it being prescribed inappropriately to asexual women who are experiencing difficulties in relationships due to differences in the couple’s sex drives, and members of the FaceBook asexuality group are unsure of whether to support this stance. Well, let’s be honest. Some support it, some don’t, and others – like me – are firmly on the fence. I posted my personal perspective on AVEN’s position (which largely supports it) this morning:
I am a sex-repulsed asexual who doesn’t have a libido. Let’s say this drug was available when I was with my ex and I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want sex. Let’s also say my doctor prescribed it for me, and it worked amazingly well, and I suddenly had a libido and wanted sex often. Great … except I’m still asexual, so I’m still not sexually attracted to my partner, so my new sex drive is undirected. Plus, I’m still sex-repulsed, so even if I do want sex with my partner, I’m still going to feel disgusted and hate myself afterwards. Clearly, this has not helped my own self-esteem and has not fixed the problem in my relationship, even though the drug has done what it’s supposed to. Additionally, I’ve now been diagnosed as simply not wanting sex because I have a low (or non-existent) libido, and the fact that I’m actually asexual, which is a totally different thing, has been overlooked.
The thing is, when I was in a relationship and felt totally unable to have sex with my partner, it upset me because I knew it was upsetting her. All the messages we get from society and the media tell us that sexual attraction and a desire to have sex are totally normal things, and should be part of everyone’s lives. Obviously, I was the problem in the relationship. If someone had offered me a pill that claimed to fix me, I would have taken it.
Despite the fact that studies suggest around 1% of the population (about 70 million people worldwide) is asexual, the medical profession tends to treat people who don’t experience sexual attraction as dysfunctional, in much the same way as homosexuals were in the past (and still are, in many places around the world). Since the majority of asexual people appear to be women – and I have a theory for that, which I’ll discuss in another post – they have never had any means to treat the “asexuality dysfunction.” Now they have.
This is what worries me most about the approval of flibanserin. It gives society a new tool to marginalise asexuals and say, “Your imaginary orientation doesn’t really exist. You are just dysfunctional. Here, take this pill, and you’ll get better.”
And this is what’s really at the heart of the problem. Having a low (or non-existent) libido is not a problem, and most (I suspect all) people with a naturally low libido are not inherently unhappy. The problem is the external pressure from society, and from a partner with a higher libido who has been told (by society) that as much sex as you want, whenever you want it, is not far from being a basic human right. The person with the low libido is not broken and doesn’t need fixing. Society is broken and needs fixing.
There is a small number of people who could probably benefit from this drug. They are the women who have previously had a higher libido, which has fallen, possibly due to a medical condition or side effects of medication. If they are unhappy with their new, lower libido, then flibanserin may be a solution. (Although, taking into account its low success rate, in most cases, it probably won’t be.) As long as medical professionals are properly educated about the new drug, and only offer it to women whose libido has fallen, and this is causing them distress, then there will be no problems. But is that what’s actually likely to happen?
Of course not! Its manufacturers will want to sell as many of the so-called ‘pink pills’ as possible, and that means marketing it as a miracle cure for low or absent libido in women, whether they are distressed by their lack of libido or not. Doctors will prescribe it, and women will take it, because society has conditioned us to expect a pill that will solve all our perceived problems.
That’s why I can’t emphatically say that flibanserin should be banned – because some women could benefit from it – but I think it would have been much better for asexuals if it had never been developed.[If you came here because you’re asexual, you don’t enjoy sex, and you want to change, read this.]
It’s amazing what you can manage even when you sit down in front of the computer with no idea what to write about. My predicted 500 words of waffle has turned into 1,200 words on what I think is a very interesting topic!