So! Hypoactive sexual desire disorder and Flibanserin! If you read other feministy blogs, you're probably already heard about it-- but if not, the FDA is currently considering the use of Flibanserin as a way to treat premenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder. This is a really interesting thing to discuss, and there are different angles to tackle it from-- the fact that science is paying attention to female sexuality and desire, to the fact that it's a further form of medicalizing sexuality, to a discussion of what normal or desirable or hypoactive even mean when we're talking about sex.
Miriam over at Feministing posted a really good question-- "Who decides what is hypoactive (aka not active enough or under active) sexual desire anyway?" It's a good question because the way we frame issues and discuss them is important-- so here, what is hypoactive sexual desire? How low does it have to be? How much of an effect does it have to have-- on the individual woman, or her partner, or the relationship? What is it being measured by-- her own perceptions, or a comparison to her partner's desire?
I think one of the most important questions to address is how it gets measured-- because I think it's really interesting that we're discussing the hypoactive sexual desire of women... as opposed to, say, hyperactive sexual desire of men. It's also interesting because a lot of the social messages that people my age got when we were young were that men were interested in sex-- but that to be a good girl, and later a good woman, you shouldn't be interested in those things. That's changed already, but instead of getting rid of problematic messages, their direction has just changed.
Still-- in most relationships, there will be some level of mismatch between the desires of the people involved. most of the people I've discussed this sort of thing with are straight cisgender women, and most of them do mention mismatches, however small, in the ways they want sex. Some women I know have been in relationships where they want more sex than their partners, but most do fit into the stereotype of wanting less sex. In most healthy relationships, people compromise-- maybe having less sex than partner A wants, but more than partner B wants-- but when the differences are extreme, a true compromise is less likely to leave either partner satisfied. I have, though, seen women agonizing over what's wrong with them when they don't want to have a lot of sex-- instead of thinking something is wrong with their partner, or acknowledging that really, nothing might be wrong with either of them. I think that any level of sexual desire is fine, and not something "wrong", but I do think it's interesting how many women tend to blame themselves for any problem in bed.
It's like a modern of application of treating male sexuality as the norm, and female sexuality as abnormal, or an application of how in science, the male body is treated as the default human, and women are-- exceptions. Hell, there are plenty of commentaries out there on how female biology was not studied, and as such, women were told to look for the same disease indicators as men, even when the illnesses manifested differently. And still, women are told "Good girls don't, good girls don't", and that men will want sex, and they have to not put out or he won't respect him, but then once they grow up, they have to magically switch their thoughts around and become sexually giving and good in bed, and really embody that virgin/whore dichotomy.
So, what is hypoactive sexual desire? The most obvious answer is any level of sexual desire that is lower than an individual's partner. That is clearly not nuanced enough. To be a disorder, things typically have to interfere with an individual's life, or cause great distress. I can easily see a much lower sex drive causing distress-- but the question then is, is it causing distress because the individual misses her previous sexual desire, or really wants to have the experience of sex-- or is it causing distress because she has to turn down her partner, and has been socialized to think that one of her main areas of value in a relationship is the sexual pleasure she can give to her partner? Doing things to please your partner is not wrong, of course-- it's something both people in a relationship should be doing anyway-- but putting an inordinate amount of your self-worth into your sex life is a problem, and one that should maybe be addressed with talk therapy if its part of the motivation in seeking treatment for hypoactive sexual desire.
However, even if there are a lot of troubling things in the way society views female sexuality, the fact remains that there are women who want a higher sex drive and a greater ability to desire and be aroused. Sure, it does matter why they want a higher sex drive-- but regardless of the reason, isn't treating something they view as a problem a positive? The medication doesn't seem like it's guaranteeing more orgasms-- but more desire. Most partnerships are based on a combination of elements, but sexual desire is usually an important part of them-- especially in younger couples. While I understand the resentment of at least one asexual woman, the point here is that there are people who are not asexual, but who are not feeling sexual desire. A lack of sexual desire can be truly troubling-- I've read stories before about women who want to want their partners, and how a growing gap of desire causes problems in relationships. If this drug does