Flibanserin, or, Light My Fire

I see here where the FDA has now approved a drug to treat “female hypoactive sexual desire disorder,” previously known as “not tonight, honey” or “I have a headache.”

It’s an adorable little candy-pink pill that works on the dopamine and norepinephrine systems in the brain — for those who are not medical hobbyists, those are the heavy-hitter neurotransmitters manipulated by most psychoactive drugs, which regulate reward and arousal. When you feel lifted by a drink (or an illegal drug) or a hot look from someone sexy, or a high speed careen on a motorcycle or just creating a poem or painting successfully, that’s dopamine. When you respond to a situation with excitement and physical energy and mental focus, that’s norepinephrine. I’ve manipulated them both with amino acids and supplements, though I may say the dopamine precursor I tried once didn’t get me hot and bothered, but I did finish scoring a verse of my setting of John Donne’s “Lecture Upon The Shadow.” It was too expensive for me to go for the rest of the poem though.

This Flibanserin stuff — did anyone notice it sounds like Flubber? — apparently has a host of side effects that the amino acids don’t have, like dizziness, fainting, nausea, and drowsiness, which sound like the perfect combination with ravening desire (or maybe like a frat party flashback).  Reportedly users experience, on the average, 0.5 more sexually satisfying events per month, though how you have half a sexually satisfying event (more college flashbacks rear their, um, heads) is beyond me. Nonetheless, the FDA approved it and I guess some doctors will start prescribing it to women who just don’t feel all that randy any more.

Everybody stand back from the table with their hands in plain sight. An old broad would like to address you.

I am sixty and I have been in this game since I was fourteen. I actually bit the bullet pillow three years later, in my freshman year at college, when I remember the last shreds of virginity exiting to the remark, “Okay, I trust your funny little rubber things.” At the fifty-year mark I finally met the Cute Engineer, and he is still here. In between I was married once, engaged twice, had three other serious boyfriends (the Nazi Ex, the Albino Ex and the Transgender Ex), and if I ever take my standup routine on the road it will include the 68-year-old virgin as well as something Boccaccian that happened in an organ loft, you should pardon the expression. I stopped short, I admit, of keeping an actual catalogue.

And then again, there have been times when I just wanted to put on a flannel granny nightgown and read Tolkien.

They want to give us a pill for that.

Do they have a pill that you can give to Congressmen and state legislators to cure their obsession with restricting abortion and contraception? Because you can’t enjoy sex very much if you don’t trust your birth control method or the one that you could trust isn’t covered by your insurance. The joy of coming together as one blanks out if you know that, despite your own best efforts, it could lead to a pregnancy you didn’t want and can’t end (or can’t end without three trips upstate and a biased counseling session).

How about some birth control methods that don’t themselves screw you up, come to that? Can you dig allergies to latex, to that horrible spermicide they used to put on condoms, septic intrauterine devices, hormone pills that put you in the mood — to tear everyone a new asshole? Diaphragms that no one can get to fit right? You want a tubal ligation? Ready for a lecture from some mansplaining OB-GYN about how you need to see a psychiatrist becuase every normal woman wants at least one child? Years of that kind of experience will really light your fire.

Do they have a pill that will make women’s partners — male or female, I don’t care — clean up after themselves, show respect, take a frickin’ shower, hold a job? Do they have one that will change the labor market and laws so that everyone, male or female, comes home with enough energy to do more in bed than fall on it?

Back in my college years, a friend who transferred from a state school told me how the male students there compiled a photo album of all the incoming female freshmen and passed it around, in aid of deciding which ones they wanted to score with. They called it, charmingly, “The Pig Book.” This morning I read a story about a rape case involving a prep school where the young rascals compete to see “how far they can get” with girls who think they are being genuinely courted. Plus ca change, plus ca reste. Is there a pill for those guys? Because I can’t think of a better boner-equivalent killer than knowing how many men in this world have sex with women in a haze of vague, or even explicit, contempt.

I could go on. You get the idea. At times it’s kind of amazing that women are horny at all.

One piece of good news. If I had not followed up this Flibanserin flap I would not know there was a group of doctors digging in their heels against the pharmification of everything, to include providing continuing education that isn’t funded by someone with a pill (and all its side effects) to sell.

Maybe they’ll come up with a drug for “irresponsible greed disorder” someday. That, I would consider putting in the water.

10 thoughts on “Flibanserin, or, Light My Fire

  1. *sigh* I really feel that most women could have half a satisfying sexual event without any pharmaceutical intervention whatsoever. I also suspect, from many many many frank conversations with my female friends, that at least half of “low female libido” is simply being mentally and emotionally and physically worn out by years of inept and/or bad sex thanks to partners who can’t or won’t listen, adapt, or consider that every woman has her own operating manual, and it’s up to whoever wants to please her to learn it in detail. I’ve been amazed and depressed to learn how many women have just never actually had a partner who gave a shit about her end of the experience. No wonder they’re not in the mood.

    • I’ll elaborate that it starts even before “the experience” — as in (despite the fact I hate myself for quoting John Gray here) “foreplay starts with taking out the garbage.” Or otherwise put, “real men see dirt.” There’s a lot of “please feel free to work yourself to a thread if you want, but I really don’t care if the clutter, grime and shower scum eat the house, so I’ll just be in here watching the news.” And yo, that does not make a girl crazed with lust. Just one example.

      • Ha–that makes sense. I will admit that the one time I lived with a girlfriend, whose personal habits were quite different from mine, our sex life deteriorated the more I had to do housework and the more I had to nag her about keeping the household budget balanced. By the time we broke up, we hadn’t had sex in two months, and the nail in the coffin for me was that she bought a magazine, when we were out of laundry detergent that was the same price.

  2. My mom had a low sex drive. She once, for whatever reason, was given something with testosterone in it. And that did the damn trick, for her. She actually did say she wished she could get some again. I guess for some women this would be a good thing. Well, .5 % of the time.
    I think I was born with an excess of what she lacked, and hell yes it got me in trouble.

    • I used to actually go to a gynecologist who was performing studies and pushing to get transdermal testosterone approved for postmenopausal women, not just over sex but general vigor. Which would make sense, but of course the pharmacy companies always want to sell a tweaked hormone that they can patent, making it all wrong for people’s bodies (it went on the market for men and people started going wrong in various ways almost immediately). In the end, they couldn’t get it approved for women anyway; makes you wonder why this stuff got through.

  3. LOVE this article! Awesome. And David’s comments too. Yes, the name of the drug is horrible. I experience all those side-effects naturally! Nothing to do with sex and everything to do with migraines and meds and ear issues. I’m certainly not interested in the drug, now that I’m totally single and not even dating. I went into menopause last year and my sex drive died. It’s pretty dramatic because for almost 20 years I was constantly horny no matter what. Now? NOTHING. It’s awesome! It keeps me from meeting inappropriate men and trying to rationalize starting up with the jobless losers. I actually did that at the beginning of the year and exited quickly. Nothing since, and it’s great. The longer I go without, the less I want. I wish I could say it’s psychological and not physical, that I have learned dating doesn’t work for me and have made a rational decision to stop, but I don’t think so. While my hormones were still raging, I’d quickly recover from a bad dating experience and jump right back in. Totally different now. I’m sure for some women though, it is more of a combination of factors.

    • I think it was Aeschylus who said that the abatement of sexual urges in his old age (and he lived to be about 80) was like being released “from the caprices of a mad and furious master.”

      This Flubber For Women stuff is supposed to be for pre-menopausal women anyway. Apparently, after menopause, they just assume it’s your hormones.

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