A Pill for Desire or a Voyage of Possibilities?
Flibanserin, dubbed the ‘pink viagra’ is a controversial new drug created by Sprout Pharmaceuticals. Its nickname is misleading as Flibanserin is purporting to help women with ‘low sexual desire’ (aka ‘low/no libido’) whereas a man can be feeling desire but uses Viagra to help his erections function.
A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee has recently voted in favour of approving Flibanserin, though previously rejected twice on the grounds that its side effects outweigh the benefits. In clinical trials, Flibanserin only slightly outperformed a placebo trial whilst the side effects included nausea, fatigue and fainting.
Whilst there is certainly a place for some medications, I am not a supporter of Flibanserin for a number of reasons. Flibanserin and Viagra highlight a wider issue – the growing medicalisation of sexual problems. The New View Campaign formed in 2000 to highlight how the pharmaceutical industry wants people to think that sexual problems are medical matters that can be fixed by taking drugs, ignoring the complexities of real life issues. I highly recommend watching Orgasm Inc to find out more about this. The documentary follows the campaign of New View founder Leonore Tiefer, whose work was instrumental in ensuring Flibanserin wasn’t approved by the FDA the first two times its application was submitted.
So whats the alternative? The alternative is to listen to the person who’s not happy with the level of desire they’re experiencing and to find out why it’s a concern for them. With Flibanserin, there is an underlying assumption that there is a ‘right’ or ‘normal’ level of desire for a person to experience. Clients often ask me ‘I don’t feel desire. Am I normal?’ If it’s an issue for them, it’s an issue however much desire they do or don’t feel. Often people compare their level of desire with their expectation that there is a ‘normal’ level of desire that they ‘should’ be feeling.
The model of ‘spontaneous’ desire vs ‘responsive’ desire is also helpful. Many clients assume their desire should be ‘spontaneous’ i.e. just happens naturally. Yet for some people their desire is more ‘responsive’ i.e. they feel desire after sexual intimacy has started rather than before. Many clients that come to me with ‘low desire’ (and it’s not just women) have a ‘responsive’ desire pattern. When I share the idea of ‘spontaneous’ and ‘responsive’ desire with my clients, this is often an ‘ah ha’ moment where they realise there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.
I ask what desire means to them and how things are. As David Snarch asks in his book Passionate Marriage “Was the sex you were having worth wanting?” Often not. Some people tolerate at best mediocre through to uncomfortable and sometimes painful sex.
We then explore the possibilities. What turns them and off. Some people don’t know what turns them on or how to ask for what they want. The gift of this is to discover and learn what truly turns them on whether single or in relationship. And we are changing every day. If we bring an attitude of curiosity to our pleasure, this voyage of discovery never ends and the possibilities are infinite.
A holistic approach is also needed exploring relationship dynamics, sexual history, health, stress, lifestyle, work, emotions, nutrition, pleasure and relaxation and much more.
Frequently it’s not just about sex, it’s about desire for life and feeling alive – what turns you on in every aspect of your life. Desire is always there, like a pilot light which can be rekindled and nurtured. And when it is, it feeds and nourishes the whole of our lives.
The pharmaceutical industry marketing suggests there is a magic bullet to ‘fix’ a persons lack of desire – I’ve already had clients asking me about the ‘desire pill’. There isn’t a magic bullet. What it takes is time to explore the possibilities and create the right conditions for desire to flourish. And with time and cultivation, flourish it will.
If you’re not happy with the desire your feeling in your life or you’re not enjoying sex, please get in touch for a complimentary chat to find out about my bespoke programme designed to support you to cultivate desire in your life.
Sarah Rose Bright