Marketing Female Sexual Dysfunction: The Search for the Pink Viagra

By Christine Cupaiuolo — March 13, 2008

As we approach the 10th anniversary of FDA approval of Viagra — a moment of silence, please, in memory of Viagra-free email, commercials and Bob Dole — the search for a woman’s version of Viagra continues.

Even the most optimistic researchers believe that a “pink Viagra” is still about five years away, according to the Washington Post. But the race is on.

As David Segal writes, “Though it’s unclear exactly how many women would ask for a prescription, no one doubts that the first company that gets to market a remedy for female sexual dysfunction, as it’s formally known, will earn a fortune.”

Maybe it’s time to consider a different, some would say New View:

“Drug companies want to say to women, ‘You don’t need to know anything; you can have the satisfying sex life that you seek — people dancing on TV, the whole bit — without knowing anything. Just ask your doctor,'” says Leonore Tiefer, a psychotherapist and clinical associate professor at New York University, who has long decried what she calls “the medicalization of women’s sexuality.”

“I resent that, because there are specific harms that come from being ignorant and dependent in the world we live in,” adds Tiefer. “There may be lots of people who aren’t interested in sex, but is there a medical reason for that, and do we diagnose that?”

The Post’s Segal adds:

Tiefer’s critique centers, in part, on the way that pink Viagra is sure to be marketed — with ads day and night, suggesting that women who aren’t feeling frisky have a medical problem. She and her allies — organized as the New View Campaign — are also galled that so much money and media attention are heaped on the lust drug, even before it exists, when for many women the solution to their libido problems isn’t that exotic.

Maybe they have a partner who hasn’t a clue about technique. Maybe they’re stressed out. Maybe they can’t possibly get in the mood because they’re so busy raising children. Therapy, counseling, even free day care, says the New View Campaign, might do more for women’s sex lives than any drug company ever could.

The story is well worth a read for the science behind the search for a female aphrodisiac and a good discussion of the potential stigmatization of women who aren’t as interested in sex. For more information, see What’s the “Right Amount” of Sexual Desire? That Depends on You.

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