Procter & Gamble Has It – Why Can’t We?

Procter & Gamble has had a libido-enhancing therapy for women since 2004, known as Intrinsa, but the FDA won’t approve it. It’s available in Europe, however. Why is it that Europe always gets these things before we do? Are Europeans less concerned about safety or are we overly concerned? Imagine a web site like this one in the States, and it’s only about how to talk to your doctor about your low sexual desire. In my experience, doctors don’t ask and hope you don’t tell, partly because there’s so little they can do about it anyway.

Here is P&G’s site that is specifically about Instrinsa.

For more information about the FDA’s stance on Intrinsa, see here.

An article about another therapy called LibiGel, which is now undergoing trials in the U.S.

Viagra for Women – Why Not?

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.

What About the Girl Scouts?

An article in my local paper this morning was about central Ohio Boy Scouts. The headline read, “Region’s Boy Scouts not seeing ranks thin.” That made me curious. What about the Girl Scouts? How are they faring these days?

Not well, it seems. Time magazine reported in an article on November 29, 2008 that the Girl Scouts’ membership is down by 250,000 over the past five years. That has caused the merging of hundreds of councils and the sale of dozens of properties, including camps. Cookie sales are down and apparently the Girl Scouts don’t want to be known for cookies and camping anymore anyway.

I can see downgrading the cookie sales–they’ve become more of a nuisance these days than a cherished tradition. Instead of going door-to-door, the scouts’ parents drag the order forms to work and pester their co-workers for orders (and of course have to drag the cookies back a few weeks later to distribute them). You can buy the cookies directly from the council, but who’s going to go to the trouble of doing that? (And yet I admit I do love their Thin Mints and usually find a way to get my fix!)

But I’m not writing this post to dissect the Girl Scout movement. What I want to know is why have the Girl Scouts never been as popular as the Boy Scouts? Everyone has heard of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout award; few people know that the Girls Scouts have the equivalent (since 1980 it’s been called the Gold Award–part of the problem may be because its name has been changed several times over the years). And the Girl Scouts have always been a smaller organization (presently by about 200,000 members.) (See information about both organizations here.) Of course, the Girl Scouts have always had competition from the Campfire Girls, while the Boy Scouts has been the all-male scouting organization in the U.S. since 1910.

Basically, less print is devoted to stories about the Girl Scouts, as if they don’t merit the attention that Boy Scouts do. Being a Scout doesn’t carry the same prestige for a girl as it does for a boy. Other than the cookie sales, Girl Scouts haven’t been as visible. They are not considered to be the American institution that Boy Scouts always have been.

I was a Girl Scout from the second grade to the seventh. Except for the fact that my mother was one of my troop leaders, I loved it. Girl Scouting probably did more for my self-esteem than any other thing in my childhood. Not that every experience was positive (group showers at camp were excruciating for a chubby pre-teen), but but there was enough positive to outweigh the negative. I was introduced to photography and architecture through the badges I earned, interests that have stayed with me all my life. Camping skills like building a fire and cooking in the outdoors have made me feel competent in ways that I never could on the basketball court or baseball field.

Given all the above, I’ve always been surprised that feminists haven’t been more involved in the Girl Scouting movement. That may be because the Girls Scouts wanted to stay away from controversy. Unfortunately, given the way that many people view feminism, that might be a smart move. But it seems to me that the two are naturally complementary.

I checked out the official GSUSA (Girl Scouts of the USA) website and discovered that the program has become very progressive about how to build self-esteem, leadership qualities and a service mentality. But when I did a search of the word “feminism,” I found zero results. Not surprising, I guess, but disappointing.

At the same time, I don’t think any program that betters the lives of women should be overlooked just because it doesn’t associate itself with feminism. I understand the prejudice against feminism that makes people back off from the term for fear that they’ll be associated with the movement. That prejudice needs to be confronted and revealed to be unfounded. That’s one purpose of this blog.

But I feel that feminism has been remiss in not promoting organizations like the Girl Scouts, even if the Scouts don’t want to be associated with feminism. Anything that fosters self-reliance and broadens horizons for girls and women the way the Girl Scouts do should be given the feminist seal of approval.