ó better known as "female Viagra" (though itís
not a very accurate comparison) ó is either a long-overdue
acknowledgment that womenís sexual health matters as much as
menís, or the latest attempt to make women feel broken about
whom you believe.
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in mid-August, Addyi
(pronounced add-ee) is designed to treat "generalized
hypoactive sexual desire disorder" (HSDD) in
for women whoíve known a different level of desire,"
Cindy Whitehead, CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals, told me.
"Women who had a different normal before, and theyíre
bothered by it, and they want to do something about it."
manufactures Addyi (also known as flibanserin), which is a
nonhormonal pill that women can take once a day, unlike Viagra
and other erectile dysfunction drugs for men that are designed
to be taken only in advance of sex.
are pretty clear theyíre not on-demand creatures,"
Whitehead said. "The media loves to call this female
Viagra, but thatís the point at which we start the real
conversation on how this is different for women. Desire is a
state. This goes back to making sure those brain chemicals are
aligned in a way that allows desire to take hold."
drug, Whitehead says, increases the brainís levels of
dopamine and norepinephrine, which increase sex drive, and
decreases the brainís levels of serotonin, which can slow
critics of Addyi say the drug is overkill.
misrepresentation that everybody should be having (sex) ó
needs to have it, wants to have it, has a problem if they donít
have it ó is to change, really, what sexuality is into more
of a medical thing," Leonore Tiefer, a psychologist at
New York University, told National Public Radio earlier this
year. "I think thatís a terrible direction for
knowledge, for understanding, for society."
researcher Emily Nagoski, author of "Come As You Are: The
Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life"
(Simon & Schuster), penned an op-ed for the Tribune
recently that called Addyi a misunderstanding of female
supposed problem that flibanserin helps women solve is an
absence of spontaneous, out-of-nowhere desire," Nagoski
women donít experience that "craving sensation,"
she contends, without stimulation.
over the last 20 years has found that there is another totally
legitimate way to experience desire," Nagoski wrote.
"It is called responsive desire, because it emerges in
response to pleasure, whereas spontaneous desire emerges in
anticipation of pleasure.
desire isnít worse than spontaneous desire; itís just
different," she continued. "Yet Sprout Ö appears,
shockingly, not to realize that a little Ďwinding upí is
calls the criticisms "out of line with the medical
understanding of this particular condition."
desire fluctuates," Whitehead said. "For women with
HSDD, these are women who used to have desire, and now, you
can remove all the other factors ó kids, exhaustion, no
privacy ó and they still have no desire."
brain scans of women who participated in drug trials for Addyi
showed that some participants, when exposed to erotic stimuli,
had regions of their brain light up.
women with HSDD, you donít see that same light-up," she
all candor, the reason I got into this is I was tired of the
societal narrative that will reduce all things in the bedroom
for men to biology and all things for women in the bedroom to
psychology," Whitehead told me. "The idea that women
share their stories of losing all desire and we say, ĎCome
on, thatís normalí ó thatís actually very unfair to
women who wish to want to have sex again.
not unlike what we used to say about depression, ĎOh, youíre
just feeling a little blue,í" she said. "Thereís
a brain imbalance, and for some patients, a prescribed drug
can be very effective."
which will be available Oct. 17, has numerous possible side
effects, including dizziness, nausea and insomnia. A complete
list of possible side effects can be found on Sproutís
why, above all, the most important conversations around Addyi
should occur in your doctorís office.
I am all
for treating womenís sexual health and pleasure with the
same regard and urgency weíve been devoting to menís for
treatment has to take into account the enormous range of
"normal" for sexual desire, from one individual to
another, of course, but also within one personís lifetime
ó allowing fluctuations related to relationships and other
to view Addyi as progress, but if itís used to make women
feel that their normal, default feelings about sex arenít
good enough, it will be anything but.