Viagra for Women – Why Not?

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Viagra is celebrating its tenth anniversary–and there is still no counterpart for women. There have been some developments on that front, but so far nothing has been approved by the FDA. Why not? “Before we approve a therapy that could be used by millions of women, I’d like to know that we’re not going to hurt them, particularly when the benefit is modest.” [Italics mine.] So says Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

It’s nice to know that the medical establishment is so concerned about women’s sexual satisfaction. Let women decide if the benefit is modest. Maybe we think that any benefit is better than nothing. I don’t mean that there shouldn’t be any testing, but how long does it take to come up with something–anything–that would help women enjoy sex and achieve orgasm?

The medical establishment asserts that helping women sexually is not as simple as it is for men, because “female sex problems are more complicated and can be caused by a combination of hormonal, psychological, and interpersonal factors, ” says Anita Clayton, professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, and coauthor of Satisfaction: Women, Sex and the Quest for Intimacy. That may be, but I can’t help but wonder if women would have as much trouble with sex if they were as easily aroused as men are.

Leonore Tiefer, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, says that a decline in libido in healthy women is normal and doesn’t warrant medical treatment. Tiefer is a self-professed feminist and heads a countermovement that agrees with her. The irony is that a man who can’t experience sexual desire is not considered healthy or normal, but it’s okay for women to be desexualized. This is a feminist position that I don’t agree with.

Women may have been made differently than men, but does that mean that they have to forgo sexual satisfaction? I don’t see how a feminist can sit by and allow women to lose such a major source of pleasure and intimacy. And it isn’t something that women suffer silently: 43% of women claim disinterest in sex and/or difficulty achieving orgasm. These are the ones who report it! How many others keep their problems to themselves because they think that they will be considered to be freaks. Or would they? Maybe people assume that a woman experiencing – sexual dysfunction is normal.

How dare they assume this? There are plenty of women who have no trouble getting aroused and being orgasmic. What research has there been comparing them to women who have difficulty? I’m not saying that there aren’t other factors than the physical that cause women to lose interest in sex. But men also have hormonal, psychological and interpersonal problems that affect their sexual response, but their sexual dysfunction was deemed to be important enough to come up with at least a physical solution. Why can’t the same be done for women?

That is not to say that nothing is being done. There are estimates that some kind of therapy for women is just over the horizon. But why the delay in coming up with libido-enhancement and/or lubrication therapies for women? Could it possibly be that men’s sexual dysfunction has been thought of as more detrimental to men than women’s dysfunction is for women? Ask any woman what she honestly thinks about this and I think you’d be surprised at the answer.

After all, it doesn’t help a man to use Viagra if he can’t find a willing partner. And too often that partner is a younger woman, because we all know that women lose interest in sex as they get older. Something needs to be done to equalize this situation–and the sooner the better.

Sources for this post:
A March, 2008 article from U.S. News & World Report.
A Women’s Health Center report from Discovery Health.
An October, 2004 article from Business Week.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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