Arielle Pardes | The little pink pill


The Screwtinizer | Sexual desire can’t be reduced to the stuff in female Viagra




I t ’s Valentine’s Day. The candles are lit, the lingerie falls to the floor, the condom is on and then … nothing. She’s just not that into it.

Allegedly, this type of disinterest in sex affects one-third of women , according to one study. So, just in time for Valentine’s Day, one company found a solution: female Viagra.

The drug just went to market in the United Kingdom in the form of a little pink pill called Lady Prelox. In a weird way, it’s a sort of accomplishment for women, since it’s the first alternative to male Viagra — which has been on the market since 1998 — made specifically for women.

But Lady Prelox is not quite a feminist advancement. Sure, it’s nice to bring women into the conversation about sexual advancements, but unpacking the meaning of “arousal” and “desire” is not as simple as a pharmaceutical aphrodisiac.

The way that Lady Prelox works is a lot like Viagra — essentially, it increases circulation. The manufacturer claims that it “boosts libido and increases arousal in women” by promoting blood flow to sexual organs and the brain.

It’s fair to say that increasing blood flow would lead to “arousal”: the quickening of the heartbeat, shortening of breath and natural lubrication.

And for many women, that might be just the trick: getting the engine started. But without already feeling mental desire — that rasping, raw sense of wanting to get it on — the physical arousal can only go so far.

Often when we say that we aren’t aroused, what we mean is that we don’t feel that desire to have sex. That might come from a lack of erotic stimulation, from feeling distracted or tense or simply from a low libido.

The first two stem from a sense of feeling reluctance, or even shame, about claiming time to be sexual. Women, more than men, are inclined to feel ashamed of erotic fantasies, of watching pornography or reading erotic literature or taking time to indulge in erotic desires.

But some women simply have lower libidos, and that’s completely normal. The growing interest in forms of “female Viagra” like Lady Prelox can make it seem like not feeling readily available for sex is an abnormality.

To be fair, some women do have physiological problems with vasocongestion (the physiological signs of arousal). Drugs like Lady Prelox might help to resolve those issues. There have also been clinical trials for a drug called flibanserin — but the FDA rejected its application for approval in December (just this week, flibanserin’s makers reported that they would continue clinical trials).

So yes, there is definitely a component of arousal that has to do with the chemistry of brain and body. But desire is much more slippery — and has more to do with society.

A month’s supply of Lady Prelox costs $65. For the same price, you could buy half a dozen erotic novels, a well-made vibrator or enough time to think about real turn-ons.

Arielle Pardes is a College senior from San Diego. Email her at ariellepardes@gmail.com or follow her @pardesoteric. “The Screwtinizer” ap pears every Friday.

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