Daniel Bergner recently wrote a story for The NY Times on new pills in testing phases, Lybrido and Lybridos, that aim to encourage women’s sexual interest. Amanda Marcotte wrote a really intelligent piece of commentary on it for Slate’s XX Factor. Both stories are deeply interesting and ultimately hone in what it means that so many women do lose interest in their long-term sexual and romantic partners and that both individual and companies are driven to getting that desire back.
Giving the background of the pharmaceutical side of the issue, Bergner says, “The search for a female-desire drug has been an obsession of the pharmaceutical industry for more than a decade, largely because the release of Viagra, in 1998, showed that gigantic sums of money can be made with a quick chemical solution to sexual dysfunction.” And the individual stories in his article echo this fierce determination. Women and men alike want to understand and possibly control female sexual desire.
Marcotte’s analysis looks at what these efforts say about our society, looking at the previous findings of evolutionary psychology which hypothesized reasons for male promiscuity and female fidelity based on the relative levels of investment needed to procreate (the two cent version being that it doesn’t take a lot out of a man to get a woman pregnant, but that the pregnancy and birth take a lot more out of a woman, hence men wanting sex with many ladies for many babies but women wanting sex with one man who will help her through the process). That news was so easily accepted, and nearly weaponized by some who used to excuse rather than explain bad behavior, revealing the comfort our culture has with a narrative of men’s roving eyes and women’s need for monogamy. Her article also looks at the new research that says, “women are far more likely to lose interest in sex with their partners. This doesn’t necessarily translate into infidelity—a choice many reject because it’s so hurtful—but, Bergner reports, spouse-weary women often just avoid sex altogether.” This idea explains the loss of sexual interest that spurs the desire for pills like Lybrido or Lybridos.
Both articles take a critical eye to the concept of chemically-created desire, but also acknowledge just how much some people and some companies want women to be able to pop a pill to get into the mood. It is a complicated issue with compelling arguments for and against such pills. However medicine attempts to chemically bypass issues of boredom and desire, it cannot fix relationships so easily.