Well, not quite. However, a drug that is supposed to boost a woman’s libido is being considered for approval by the FDA. This drug, flibanserin, is supposed to have three positive effects: 1) increase in sexual desire, 2) greater sexual satisfaction, and 3) a reduction in emotional distress. Roughly put, it promises better sex through chemistry.
Since men who suffer from erectile dysfunction have various erection corrections to chose from, it seems only fair that women have a similar opportunity to rectify their sexual problems. Given the delay in the development of comparable drugs for women, it might be suspected that old attitudes about female sexuality were a factor. After all, the old stereotypes are that while men are always interested in sex, it is natural for women to lack sexual desire and to merely endure sex without experiencing pleasure. As such, one might claim, a lack of sexual desire and pleasure are not conditions that need correction but merely the natural state for women. Of course, research seems to show that this is not the case and thus the drug would seem to be addressing real problems.
Rather than get into a debate about the true nature of female sexuality, I will instead address the matter of medication. If the drug is addressing a medical problem, then it seems reasonable for women who have that problem to use the drug. This would be analogous to the situation of men who medically need Viagra and to the situation of people who need blood pressure medication.
However, the drug might also be used in cases in which the conditions it is supposed to address are caused by factors that the drug itself does not correct. For example, if a woman is not experiencing desire because of stress or a poor relationship, the drug will merely cover up those problems with a chemically created pseudo-desire. As another example, if a woman is not enjoying sex because she and her partner are not doing a very good job, then the drug will merely cover up that problem as well. As a final example, if a woman is feeling distressed because of real problems, then the drug will merely mask the feelings without doing anything to solve the problems.
It might be replied that even in such cases the drug would be a real improvement because it would enhance the woman’s quality of life: she would feel more desire, more pleasure and less distress. Surely, one might argue, that would justify using the medicine?
That is, of course, a reasonable point. After all, when I take aspirin because of a running injury, it does not help heal the injury. It merely reduces the pain. But, of course, taking the aspirin is fine. That is, provided that masking the pain does not interfere with addressing the underlying cause of the pain. If it does, then the aspirin will actually contribute to making things worse. An even better analogy might be alcohol: it is said that alcohol can help with sexual desire-but that is hardly a desirable solution.
Likewise for the drug-if a woman medicates herself and does not address the underlying problems, then these problems will remain unresolved. They would either tend to remain the same or even grow worse, perhaps requiring more or new drugs. As such, it would be more sensible to address the underlying problems rather than masking them.
Another reply might be that this criticism would seem to be yet another example of sexual stereotyping. After all, why single out this drug for criticism?
This is a reasonable concern and would be a serious objection if my view were limited to this drug. However, my view of this drug is based on a general principle about drugs, namely that masking problems using drugs is not a wise approach. This is not to say that I am opposed to drugs. But, I think that we have created an unfortunate approach to medication and health issues that has been partially fueled by the pharmaceutical companies. To be specific, there is a general tendency to over-medicate.
In the case of this specific drug, I have no issue with women who have a legitimate medical need for treatment. However, I think it would be a poor choice to use this drug without first determining the cause of the problems and the possibility of addressing them. While I am no expect on female libido, I suspect that in many cases the cause is not a medical disorder but a life problem (the relationship, work, stress, and so on). While a drug might address the effects of life problems, it would not address the causes.