Why “Female Viagra” Doesn’t Work – And What To Do About It

“The beauty myth is always actually prescribing behavior and not appearance.” — Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve probably heard about Lybrido—a female equivalent of the libido-boosting medication, Viagra, for men. Because the drug increases blood flow in the female sexual system, scientists hypothesized that Lybrido would help rectify “hypoactive sexual-desire disorder,” which is believed to affect 30 percent of women ages 20 to 60, according to New York Times Magazine. What researchers didn’t anticipate was that while the drug effectively improves circulation, it doesn’t take care of the problem; partakers still lack sexual desire. Why?

Theories abound, many of which are a load of hooey, in my opinion. Some are blaming monogamy for female libido loss, based on the fact that single women with multiple partners tend to have healthier sex drive, and new partners boost libido. Others are saying that the drug holds great potential, but has further to go; additional physiological problems can be tackled, given the proper chemical blend.

Here’s what I think:

Female sexual “malfunction”derives primarily from poor body image, low self-esteem and a society that celebrates and encourages the unrealistic type of sexuality depicted in porn and mainstream films, television and magazines. Women are seldom encouraged to explore or embrace their sexuality—particularly during youth—while being over-sexualized by Hollywood and the media. We’re taught to dislike their bodies and strive for the impossible.

I’ve personally learned that when I feel great about my body and gratified by life—additional factors that seem closely linked—my sex drive is healthy and happy. When I’ve felt emotionally and sexually empowered, my libido has skyrocketed. When I’ve felt stifled, confused or conflicted, I’ve clenched up.

I know what it’s like to be happily and unhappily monogamous, and happily and unhappily single. My relationship status has mattered little compared to how I regard myself. And no drug could have improved my body image or sense of self-worth, particularly not the way internal work and the pursuit of empowerment have.

I’m far from alone, apparently….

♦ A study conducted by Glamour magazine, involving hundreds of women of all sizes, showed that women have harsh thoughts about their body an average of once per waking hour. A disturbing amount of women confess to having 35, 50 or 100 hateful thoughts about their physical shape daily.

♦ Large-scale International Journal of Eating Disorders research showed that women with positive body image are significantly more sexually active, more likely to orgasm, initiate sex and explore new sexual activities, and have greater comfort undressing before their partners than women with lower body image. (Aren’t these the goals of “Viagra” for women—pharmaceutical profit aside?)

♦ A growing body of research shows that men frequently exposed to pornography are prone to sexual dysfunction, and an inability to be turned on by their partners. Women and men tend to hold women up to unrealistic physical standards presented by the media, and both genders suffer. (The over-sexualization in the high-fashion world is pretty ironic; most models have eating disorders, which nuke sex drive.)

So what can we do instead?

The solution to low sex drive begins within ourselves. Prioritizing our sense of self-worth, physically and otherwise, and making serious efforts to love and embrace our bodies can lead us down a path of enlightenment in which we’re more connected to our authentic selves, and more able to experience sexual pleasure, intimacy and love. Toward that end, we can consider the following:

  • Looking in the mirror and seeking beauty, not “flaws.”
  • Talking back to negative self-talk, as though it’s the enemy (which it is).
  • Steering clear of magazines and other media that promote unrealistic physical ideals.
  • Exercising because we enjoy it and the energy and wellness it provides, rather than for calorie burn, punishment or fat loss.
  • Communicating with our partners and loved ones about our bodies, our sexuality and any struggles we may have.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet that provides pleasure—and dodging diets, across the board.
  • Aiming for healthy sleep habits. (Sleep deprivation is linked with depressive moods, weight gain and low body image.)
  • Doing our best to not judge, criticize or compliment others based on size or appearance.
  • Speaking only positively about our bodies. (Language holds power.)
  • Pursuing work and other pursuits we adore.
  • Seeking support, from friends, family or a qualified therapist, as needed.
  • Masturbating. (Self-pleasure boosts sex drive and is associated with positive self-esteem and body image.)
  • Branching out, sexually. (And no, that doesn’t necessarily require additional partners. If you’re in a committed relationship, try new positions, locations or toys. Read or watch erotica. Play out each other’s fantasies. Try something enticing and new.)
  • Distancing ourselves from anyone who makes us feel “less than,” unattractive or unworthy.
  • Seeking and celebrating real beauty all around us: in aging, in curves, in uniqueness, in imperfections, in art, in nature, in laughter, in friendship, in music, in HAPPINESS…

Matters like these fuel Girl Boner, so while I’m saddened by some of the assumptions people are making about female sex drive, and the countless number of women who fail to recognize their capacity for sexual pleasure and love, I’m inspired to keep at it. I can’t thank you all enough for your support as the community grows.

What do you think about female “Viagra?” Do you think that drugs can take care of libido problems? Have you noticed a link between your body image and sex drive? I always dig your respectful thoughts.

If you enjoy these posts, please join me and the Girl Boner community on Facebook and Twitter.

A special thanks to those who’ve made sacrifices for our country. We at GB Central Salute you, this Memorial Day and always.

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37 Comments

  1. I absolutely think my body image affects my sex drive. I’ve gained about thirty five pounds in the last couple years (and have since lost fifteen), and I know that feeling sluggish and heavy (even if it is a product of my mind and not actually my body) has stopped my sex drive with a screech. I’ve been taking active steps to not only lose the weight, but to get strong for real. I hope it helps!

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing, Emmie! You’re far from alone in this regard. It’s ironic, as sex and positive body image (self-acceptance, not dieting, etc.) can enhance weight control, but most women aren’t nearly as comfortable naked with excess pounds. I hope you’re taking care of yourself in happy, healthy ways. 🙂

      Reply
  2. YES! I love the new Girl Boner logo. I’ll bop over to like the page as soon as I finish here.

    WOW! I thought I had body image nailed until I read …”not to compliment based on size or appearance…”

    I had flashbacks to the number of times I’ve said, “You look great! You’ve lost weight haven’t you?” The PERSON looks great — the whole person. They rock the color they’re wearing. Their smile extends to their eyes. It should not matter whether they’ve gained or lost weight.

    The same goes for me. My ego puffs when someone comments favorably on my size or weight. Perhaps I’m still smearing salve on the body-image issues I carried for decades. It’s also an ongoing “for” item on continued sobriety — as if the serenity I feel without that crutch isn’t enough in and of itself.

    Exercise? A huge boost to my day because I’ve done something good for myself. But, I confess. The catalyst that gets my rear in gear is reduction in tummy fat, losing the jiggle when I practice a belly-dance shimmy. My brain needs reprogramming (for that, among many whack-a-doodle notions).

    I love to leave questions for you because (1) you always have the best answers, and (2) you always comment when asked. *grin*

    You mention reading or watching erotica, but listed over-exposure to porn as a turn-off. Yes. I understand the difference. What I don’t know is how and where one finds erotic video libido-boosters.

    Reply
    • Gloria, I figure the erotic video libido-boosters also depends on your interpretation of “erotic”. Most of the time erotic=porn…but not always. Recently a new blogging buddy introduced me to a hot series of YouTube videos… Take a look. You’ll totally get it. Walt Whitman never sounded so interesting…;-)

      Reply
    • Thanks so much for the awesome support, Gloria, and for your openness. When people comment on weight, even with positive intentions, it promotes those harsh ideals, and puts value in the wrong place — yet it’s so darn easy to get caught up in! It takes asserted effort and practice to change our thoughts and behaviors in this way, but the end result is beyond beautiful. 🙂

      I’ll be sharing more on erotica versus porn (and “feminist porn,” which is similar to erotica), sometime soon. Erotica is significantly less easy to find than porn, from what I’ve gathered, and my research is ongoing. Some of the best I’ve seen have turned out to be foreign films with erotic themes. (Talk about hot surprises!) There’s an intriguing list at this link.

      Reply
  3. Girl, I’m pretty sure you already know where I stand on this subject. It’s a shame so many of us have such negative self images. Unfortunately, even more sad is the fact that there are so many of us unwilling to do anything to change it. :-/

    Reply
    • I refuse to believe my Kitt, and her Inner Wildcat have negative self images. You are a rock star!

      Thanks for the video link. I’m in SBUX, so — yeah — I think I’ll have to find a better place to view this titillating tidbit. 😉

      Reply
      • I go through my moments, just like everyone else. Mine’s an easy fix, though. I just need to make a little time to work out. Even if my body isn’t “perfect”, I’m fine as long as I’m doing what I can to take care of myself. 🙂

    • Very true, Kitt. It’s difficult to convince people that self-acceptance and embracement actually boost sex-drive and attractiveness. Both also make it easier for our bodies to land at a healthy body weight. Your attitude ROCKS!

      Reply
  4. From what I know, Viagra is not a libido booster either. It’s design is to make the physical stuff happen, but doesn’t really increase desire. The actual sexual desire is a mental/emotional thing and can’t really be helped by drugs. In women AND men.

    Reply
    • Fair point. Lybrido’s being called “female viagra,” but based on the companies’ websites, Viagra is intended to treat erectile dysfunction and impotence in men, and Lybrido is intended to treat “low sex drive and motivation,” among other symptoms of HSDD.

      Reply
  5. What were they thinking? Obviously this drug idea was developed by a man, and one who has never actually talked to women about their sexuality apparently.

    Women are not men without penises and with boobs, for Pete’s sake! Research established decades ago that, barring psychological issues, women’s sex drive stays fairly constant throughout life. And if it does go down for something other than psychological reasons (or overall health issues such as those that cause fatigue), it is most likely due to a drop in testosterone (small amounts of which are released by the adrenal glands in women).

    The concept behind this drug doesn’t even jive with male sexuality. Older men don’t lose interest in sex; they lose the physical ability to have reliable erections due to a gradual reduction in testosterone (which is normal in men as they age). Viagra and the drugs like it don’t affect the guy’s sex drive as much as they make it possible for him to perform sexually again.

    I truly can’t believe that a drug company invested money in developing such a stupid drug.

    And yes, August, the biggest things that affect women’s sexuality are their self-esteem/self-image and depression (that can be related to a lot of things). Please keep up the good work of championing women’s right to feel good about themselves!!

    Reply
    • Good call, Kassandra. Lybrido was developed by a male Dutch scientist, in effort to better understand why his girlfriend dumped him. (Is it just me, or does that sound like SNL fodder?)

      It’s so sad that research is continuing on this and similar drugs, by the belief that dipping chemically into the female psyche will somehow cure deeply ingrained societal problems. We can’t bottle up positive body image, yet individuals and companies in the diet, entertainment and fashion industries continue to make significant amounts of money by keeping women and how we feel about ourselves down… Then we have awesome folks like you, who won’t stand for it. 🙂 Thanks so much for the support—means a lot from you!

      Reply
      • ROFL I knew it was a guy!! Definitely that is fodder for SNL. 😀

        BTW, my e-mail account keeps dumping the comment notifications into my spam folder, I guess because of ‘viagra’ in the title. Can’t decide if that’s a sad or funny commentary on all this. Keep up the good work, August. You’re a gem!!

      • LOL Should’ve guessed that that might happen! I could have used “Faux-agra” in the title, and would not have been far off. 😉

  6. I think it’s sad that the solution to everything these days seems to involve one sort of pill or another. It’s like the fast-food mentality has permeated everything. Instead of taking the time to prepare a healthy meal, just stop and pick up some garbage that looks like food and will fill you up. Likewise, rather than taking steps like you listed above, pop a pill. It won’t solve anything, but it will make the patients feel like they’re doing something. And then when, amazingly enough, that pill doesn’t work, there’s always another waiting in the wings to solve the new problem.

    Reply
    • Very insightful, Kristy. We’re certainly living in a quick-fix, “just medicate it” type of society. Putting a “bandaid” on a deep issue really doesn’t help.

      Reply
  7. Wonderful, thoughtful food for thought.

    Reply
  8. Rohan 7 Things

     /  May 28, 2013

    I definitely agree with what you are saying. Most male erectile dysfunction is due to feelings of inadequacy and emasculation so it stands to reason that female sexual drives would suffer in the same way. With men the drug induced erection itself can boost sexual self confidence and therefore increase libido, however with women things are a little more complex.

    There’s no doubt that female body image and sexuality have been the target of an incredible amount of abuse and distortion over the centuries and we are still living with it. It’ll take more than an artificially swollen clitoris to solve those issues!

    Thanks for sharing and offering solid advice 🙂

    Rohan.

    ps. Love the logo by the way!

    Reply
    • Great points, Rohan. I can certainly see why researchers assumed that drugs might help to a degree. Their reactions to the findings have been pretty astounding, IMO.

      I’m really glad that this post struck a note with you, and that you dig the logo. 🙂 It’s awesome to have talented friends.

      Reply
  9. “Female sexual “malfunction”derives primarily from poor body image, low self-esteem and a society that celebrates and encourages the unrealistic type of sexuality depicted in porn and mainstream films, television and magazines. Women are seldom encouraged to explore or embrace their sexuality—particularly during youth—while being over-sexualized by Hollywood and the media. We’re taught to dislike their bodies and strive for the impossible.”

    This^^^^^^^^!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  10. Hilarious! You and your #GirlBoners! You ended up in my SPAM filter! hahahahaha! 😉

    Reply
  11. August, until now I have refrained from “liking” or commenting on your Girl Boner series because you deal with so many subjects like orgasms, masturbation, etc., that my Christian readers and followers think we should never discuss in public. I’ve finally decided, however, that your message is too important to ignore.

    Although your series is directed at female sexuality, it’s important to men also – for two reasons. First, we love women and want the best for our lovers, and secondly, whatever prevents our lovers from having satisfying sex lives affects us, too, by limiting our own.

    Keep writing, August.

    Reply
    • That means so much me, David. Thank you! I realize that the content isn’t preferable or comfortable to everyone, but agree that exploring and celebrating female sexuality benefits all of us. Cheers. 🙂

      Reply
  12. I love the way you’ve stepped up for your fellow females, August.
    Well done!
    Powerful Girl Boner logo, too!

    Reply
  13. August, I don’t know if you saw this article:
    http://blog.sfgate.com/hottopics/2013/05/29/scientists-fear-female-libido-booster-too-effective/
    I find it to be a bunch of crap. I like your ideas much better.
    Women are beautiful and I wish more would be okay with being told that.
    Scott

    Reply
  14. Very good blog. I fully agree. Body image and self esteem are very important. Women that don’t feel beautiful on the outside tend to hide on the inside. Sometimes the right partner can lift that out of them, but most woman stay trapped.

    Reply
    • There’s definitely truth there, both in wonderful, loving partners making a positive impact, and the limited reach they often have. Thanks for chiming in!

      Reply
  15. Raani York

     /  June 1, 2013

    You know… I LOVE your blog posts, August. And this is one I really took the time to read slowly.
    I personally think having the right partner in many ways helps the woman’s sex drive. At least it helps mine. 🙂 And believe me – I really am happy about this! Having him will definitely make sure I won’t need any kind of medication to “support”… 🙂

    Reply
  16. August, I think that the problem with female orgasm is most definitely NOT pharmaceutical. I think we have unrealistic expectations of what male and female sexual drive should be. I know a lot of mothers, for example, experience pressure to have sex when they are tired and exhausted from raising children, having a full time job and other demands on their energy. We have unrealistic expectations of body image, of energy levels and so much else. Sex is an activity and a desire that flows from within.

    Reply
    • Beautifully said, Maggie! It really does flow from within, and sleep loss is the biggest libido stopper for both genders, as I understand. Thanks so much for chiming in. 🙂

      Reply
  17. I venture that many obstacles for a man’s sexual health lie in the same themes as affect women. We think a blue pill or watching porn or finding a partner who will do certain things is the answer, but if we took a look at how we treat women and even the act of sex, we’d recognize that we’re a bigger part of our problem than we thought.

    Reply
  1. Sexual Confidence: How to Feel Sexier Naked | August McLaughlin's Blog
  2. Sexual Confidence: How to Feel Sexier Naked

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