'Female Viagra' is a turn-off. Here's why

'It might distract from small kids, a stressful career and money worries for a while ... but what I resist most is the insistent, pervasive, inescapable message that we all must be happy,' writes Anne Perkins.

'It might distract from small kids, a stressful career and money worries for a while ... but what I resist most is the insistent, pervasive, inescapable message that we all must be happy,' writes Anne Perkins.

And so, forward, the onward march to perfection. The US Food and Drugs Administration has finally licensed a drug, Flibanserin, to enhance women’s appetite for sex. Drugs for male sexual dysfunction have been around for 30 years, but this is the first for women, and it has taken a fierce campaign to persuade the FDA to overlook its reservations about side effects (probably best not to wash it down with a pint of vodka).
There are even worries that the FDA has been shamed into passing it by aggressive women wanting, you know, more sex.

All the same, I wonder, do we really need this? In my mind’s eye, I see rampant pensioners knocking back their Viagra and their Addyi (the marketing name of the new drug) and chasing each other around on their Zimmer frames when they could be sitting down with a nice cup of tea and a large-print book. It would be like Soma, the happiness drug in Brave New World.

I know that female sexual desire and I can see that a mismatched appetite for sex can scupper a relationship (although the answer to that could be to try a different partner). But small kids, a stressful career, money worries – none of those really make for nights of unalloyed passion. A drug that turns you on only turns you on. It doesn’t deal with the kids, the job or the money, although I admit it might distract from them for a little while.

What I resist most is the insistent, pervasive, inescapable message that we all must be happy. Not some of the time, but all of the time. And not just happy, but striving to be happier and happier yet. This is self-defeating. It doesn’t work.

The idea of drugs for sex, which is after all largely a recreational activity, is a bit like middle-aged men using EPO so they can win cycling races. It is another symbol of our universal acceptance of what our lives ought to look like if we are to be judged, and to judge ourselves, as successful. Sometimes it feels as if the whole world has to be shoehorned into the mould established by golfers and their wives and girlfriends: uniformly thin, blond and lovely. With great teeth.

At the root of this is the idea that to desire and to be desirable is the acme of fulfilment. Happiness does not exist unless it has been granted some external authentication. Being sexy is no longer the upside of those torrid years somewhere between 15 and 35; it is a state to which we should aspire for all eternity, or at least until we are as old as, say, Andrew Neil.

No wonder that, in other news on the happiness front, English 10 and 12-year-olds (the study is silent about children in other parts of the British isles) are more miserable and stressed than any others except in South Korea. In a report for the Children’s Society, they reported widespread bullying and low self-esteem. Girls stare gloomily in the mirror and worry whether they are as fat as they have just been told they are. Boys get hit. All in all it is a picture of almost unremitting gloom. Children can be beastly sometimes. They establish pecking orders. They tease. Sometimes they bully. The Children’s Society wants more counselling and better access to mental health services.

In terms of kitting them out for the rest of their lives, though, might it not be more useful to deal with the bullies, teach everyone about healthy eating and taking exercise, and encourage every child to develop the mental resilience that they will need to survive in the adult world. Maybe without sex drugs. Who knows, maybe without sex at all. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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