Ladies, Boost Your Sex-Drive: But Not with Pills

Perhaps you've heard about a pill in the works to both boost a woman's libido and decrease appetite. It's worked in monkeys and shrews, and scientists hope to make a version that will work in women. According to the BBC, … Read More

By / May 2, 2007

Perhaps you've heard about a pill in the works to both boost a woman's libido and decrease appetite. It's worked in monkeys and shrews, and scientists hope to make a version that will work in women. According to the BBC, the leading researcher of the Edinburgh team said:

"It is considered a major pharmaceutical endeavor to address the area of the libido. So the next stage is to produce a drug that stimulates the actions of this hormone. It is most likely that we will do it in partnership with a pharmaceutical firm. It could be available to women within the next ten years."

Except most women with low libidos don't need more hormones in a pill, they need psychotherapy to get to the root of their flagging desire–a major psychological endeavor.

Dr. Anita Clayton, author of Satisfaction: Women, Sex and the Quest for Intimacy says, "There are some very specific criteria for a sexual disorder. They don’t affect the large majority of women." But, she adds, that doesn't stop women and men from complaining about their sex lives: This article also says 40 percent of women are thought to experience a low libido at some point in their lives. That may seem marked, but not when you consider that an entire lifespan includes pre-sexual adolescence and very often child birth. During pregnancy, hormonal waves pound the female body, altering a woman's libido. Also, a new parent has precious little time for nooky, much less to even desire it with around-the-clock baby monitoring.

However, as Dr. Clayton's book illustrates with case study after case study, what many men and women perceive as sexual dysfunction in need of pharmacology is actually sexual dissatisfaction. Women who have difficulty achieving orgasms with their partners often don't have difficulty because they can't orgasm, but because their partners aren't doing what they need to do to make them orgasm. This is not a personal attempt at male bashing: I believe much of the onus falls on women. Too many women don't tell their partners what they need to do to make those women climax; then both wind up frustrated. Or worse, women fake orgasms, only making their partners believe they're satisfied when they're nowhere close to it.

Or perhaps there's another roadblock in the relationship stifling open communication about such matters. Study after study has proven that women need emotional intimacy to feel satisfied sexually. Hell, Laura Sessions Stepp devoted a whole book to the topic in Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both.

The case studies in Satisfaction show how addressing the root of failing relationships often jumpstarts the sex drive. For example, a woman who doesn't communicate anxiety about moving to a new city for her husband's new job can easily lose her libido in a web of emotional distress. She fears being alone at home with the kids and no friends or family around her while her husband works all day. She starts telling herself stories about how miserable she'll be and may even begin to resent her husband for something that hasn't even happened yet. But if she hasn't told her husband about her anxiety, how can he help her find a solution? He could very well say, "If you really don't want to move, I don't have to take the job." But if she says nothing her husband will never know.

A year of psychotherapy has taught me relationships won't succeed without good communication. And I don't define success by duration–just because two people stay together doesn't mean both parties are happy. I define relationship success by the level of satisfaction. And sex is a huge part of that emotionally and physically, especially for women.

Women and men are fundamentally different when it comes to sex. Both are driven by the need to reproduce, but women and men have far different criteria for mates. Women, any evolutionary scientist will tell you, are searching for a good father figure, someone who is emotionally available and able to care for them and their children. Men are motivated by the need to spread their seed. This explains why women have an especially hard time detaching sex from emotion and why, Dr. Clayton and Sessions Step say, hooking up constitutes unhealthy female behavior. The connection between sex and emotional attachment is coded in our genes. So it makes sense that the more satisfied we feel emotionally the more satisfying the sex will be.

So if your libido is low, ask yourself how satisfied you are sexually. Once you acknowledge dissatisfaction with your sex life, you can work on assessing its root and gradually tugging it out. Fixing these problems can take a year or two of therapy. But imagine how nice it would be to actually desire sex again–without pharmaceutical aid, that is. And I guarantee if you can do it, you'll feel worlds better about yourself and your relationships.

These scientists are ready to spend 10 years developing a pill to up your libido and lower your weight–two things you can do yourself with a little determination. You have a decade, so get to it.

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