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Low Sexual Desire-More Complex Than Popping a Pill

Low Sexual Desire in Women VThe new drug Flibanserin, being sold as Addyi, is now available for women – premenopausal women – who experience low sexual desire. The battle for FDA approval was a heated one, fraught with misconceptions, huge outpourings of money from Sprout Pharmaceuticals, and cries of gender bias in the FDA approval process.

Addyi is not a female version of Viagra, a label that clouds the issue and is used in virtually every article about the medication. Viagra is a drug for men that helps make an erection possible. It has nothing at all to do with desire. It’s about hydraulics, if you will.  Addyi, as the FDA notes, “… is a serotonin 1A receptor agonist and a serotonin 2A receptor antagonist…” It works by altering brain chemistry. It has nothing to do with female anatomy. And as a side note, even though the FDA approved the drug they’re not really clear on how it works.

There are plenty of issues with this new drug, created to treat women diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder. First of all, let’s acknowledge that drug manufacturing is a highly profitable business. Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars convincing people they have an illness that require their unique medication. This drug is no different.

The drug has been approved for premenopausal women only. In trials, women, on average, reported one more sexually satisfying event per month than women taking a sugar pill.* The pill can not be taken in conjunction with alcohol use and in trials some women reported rapid decline in blood pressure and fainting. Clearly this is not going to be the ideal solution for all women who experience low sexual desire.

The issue of dealing with low sexual desire remains a complex issue. I am among a number of sex educators and other experts questioning the efficacy of Addyi or any pill as a ‘fix’ for a low libido. Look at this list of possible issues that should be taken into account when trying to figure out why a woman exhibits a lack of interest in sex.

Contributing Factors to Female Low Sexual Desire:

  • Cultural messages that women who enjoy sex are bad, slutty, shameful
  • Inadequate sex education
  • Menopause-related issues
  • Male lovers who don’t understand female anatomy
  • Women who don’t understand their own anatomy
  • Lack of focus on the female orgasm
  • Penis-to-vagina sex as the only, or primary sexual act
  • The medical profession’s lack of training on sexual health and reluctance to discuss it with patients
  • Women’s reluctance to talk to their doctors about intimate matters
  • Bad marriages or relationships
  • Bad sex
  • Illnesses that interfere with a woman’s ability to enjoy sex or life in general
  • Medications that dampen our libido
  • The demands on women that lead to stresses in and out of the home

Women who experience low sexual desire need to take a look at what’s not working in their sexual relationships. It may be accomplished on one’s own, in conjunction with a partner, in therapy, or with a skilled (in sexuality education) medical practitioner. And, often it requires all of those options in combination.

If you experience challenges with sexual desire who can you talk to? There are plenty of resources on the internet and there are sex coaches and therapists who might be a good fit for you.

Don’t suffer in silence. Enlist your partner’s help. Drop me a note at Talk to your doctor. Read a good ‘how-to’ book on sex and sexuality.

You’ll find more articles on Midlife Boulevard dealing with midlife sexuality. There are articles on sexuality on my website, Walker Thornton, that might be helpful as well.

*MedPage Today’s article on Addyi.

Walker Thornton

We are delighted to have Walker Thornton as our Women’s Sexual Health columnist. After working for over 10 years in the field of sexual violence against women, Walker is now enjoying a new career as a freelance writer, public speaker, and sex educator with an emphasis on midlife women. Her blog, was ranked #5 by in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2014. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter For questions about sexual health, write her at

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Walker Thornton

Monday 23rd of November 2015

As a footnote: There were approximately 227 prescriptions written for Addyi in its first few weeks on the market. Cost for a month's worth of pills is about $780. ( (

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