Is Sexual Desire a Medical Issue? New Drug Revives Debate


From STAT: “Its demonstrated effects are modest, but some doctors say the [new drug, bremelanotide] would meet a real need for thousands of women. Others, however, argue it is simply pharmaceutical overreach, another effort that reduces the complexity of human sexuality to a set of measurable dots on a chart.

‘It’s a mismatch of models,’ said Leonore Tiefer, a sex therapist who previously ran the sex and gender clinic at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center. ‘They want the car repair model: “Hello, doctor, I’ve got this carburetor that doesn’t work in my car. Could you fix it for me without talking to me?” It’s laughable’ . . .

Skeptics of drugs like Addyi and bremelanotide argue that they’re not dismissing the distress that comes with conditions like HSDD [hypoactive sexual desire disorder]; they’re taking it seriously by acknowledging the nuances of human sexuality.

To Emily Nagoski, a sex educator and author, prescribing drugs for desire runs the risk of pathologizing normal sexual function. What women diagnosed with HSDD need ‘is not medical treatment, but a thoughtful exploration of what creates desire between them and their partners,’ Nagoski wrote in the New York Times before Addyi’s approval.

To Tiefer, sexuality is best understood through what she calls the dancing model. Dancing, like sex, requires having a body, but no one would study the art of ballet by cracking open Gray’s Anatomy. So why, Tiefer asks, would anyone isolate the biology of sex at the expense of its other facets?

‘Sex is a construct,’ Tiefer said. ‘There’s a body — a penis, a vagina, a circulatory system. And then there’s relationships, people, marriage. But there’s really no such thing as “sex.”‘

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  1. If low or absent sex drive affects a few people here and here, it’s safe to assume the problem lies with them, but when the issue is so widespread that big pharma thinks it can cash in by selling one of their pill “cures”, it’s likely that the root causes are societal rather than individual.

    The other possibility is that it’s a made up problem altogether. Who decides what level of sex drive is normal and healthy and how is that determined? What about the difference between an absence of sexual desire and an absence of desire to have sex, is that ever discussed?

    My default mode when pharma companies come up with a new “magic” pill, or the APA brainstorm club creates a new mental “illness” for the DSM, is one of scepticism and never taking any of their claims at face value.

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  2. This is all so fucked up. It started with Viagra, the idea that not being “able” to “perform” is a medical problem. If you’re not horny you’re not horny. Sexuality is another thing the system turns into a commodity to keep people addicted to and hence controllable.

    Why is it a “problem” if men aren’t walking around with constant erections and women aren’t always ready to hop into bed? I once again defer to John Lennon:

    Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
    And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
    But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see

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