By George Dvorsky
A clinical trial is about to get underway in Australia, Canada, and other parts of the world to test a new female ‘sex-drive’ drug that could increase the libido of women suffering from “female orgasmic disorder.” Called Tefina, it’s a testosterone gel that is sprayed up the nose about an hour before a sexual encounter (how romantic). The developers say the drug could boost female sexual arousal and satisfaction.
Tefina, which has been dubbed the “female Viagra,” is not without its critics. While some see it as an important development — one that can help women to better control their libido — others see it as a solution to a fictional problem.
Speaking to ONE News, fertility expert Dr Ric Gordon noted that, “Men use sex to de-stress and women need to be de-stressed to have sex, so that’s a very complex emotional issue.” Critics like Gordon are concerned that the real reasons behind a woman’s low sex drive are being overlooked, and that elements of female sexuality are being co-opted and pathologized by commercial interests, namely Big Pharma.
And indeed, given the success of Viagra, the company that’s developing Tefina, Trimel Pharmaceuticals, have jumped on the opportunity. They’re hoping that their product will help some women to overcome their female orgasmic disorder (FOD), which they define as:
…the persistent or recurrent delay in, or absence of, orgasm following normal sexual excitement phase that causes marked personal distress or interpersonal difficulties. The etiology of FOD is often characterized by whether the dysfunction has been lifelong (primary) or acquired (secondary). This condition affects 1 in 5 pre and post menopausal women worldwide. Currently there are no approved treatments for FOD and therefore represents an unmet need for women suffering distress from this condition.
Susan Davis, director of the Women’s Health Research Program at Monash University, disagrees with the critics. “These droplets,” she argues “will change lives.” In an editorial for the Herald Sun, she writes:
But the many women who suffer sexual problems know their problem is real, as opposed to [it being] invented by someone else, and their well-being and relationship suffers. They want treatment options and researchers like me are trying to develop them. We already know most women with a partner engage in sexual activity.
However, many who do so do not experience full sexual satisfaction, and surveys indicate that 30 per cent of women cannot climax during intercourse. For many women, this inability translates into sexual activity becoming a chore or a duty instead of a shared positive experience.
This is a frustrating situation for women who have previously enjoyed a satisfying sexual relationship. We know women with low sexual satisfaction have lower well-being than women who are satisfied with their sexual life. Differences in sexual satisfaction in a relationship commonly lead to the development of substantial tension within the relationship. This tension does not usually remain confined to the bedroom but seeps into other parts of home life, and sometimes beyond.
Testosterone levels play a key role in sexual function, and that is why our approach is based around this hormone.
Clearly, women need to be mindful of their reasons for taking a drug like Tefina while remaining wary of corporate intrusions in the bedroom. But some of the arguments against its development and use sound nothing short of paternalistic (whether they come from a man or a woman). It also sounds condescending — as if women don’t understand their own sexuality and how to manage it.
And in fact, the arguments sound startlingly familiar to the ones that are set in opposition to the development of a male birth control pill — an objection that’s rooted in the belief that men aren’t responsible or caring enough to manage their own fertility.
Ultimately, when it comes to a female viagra or a male contraceptive, it’s about personal choice and a person’s right to have access to these technologies. Assuming they’re safe and effective, we can decide for ourselves how to best use them.
Image: Kirill Linnik/shutterstock.