starbodyWe all get fed a very specific story about sexuality in the media, in the way sexuality is taught in schools and universities, in the way medicine is practiced, in the way sex is talked about (and not talked about), and in how sex is portrayed in movies, television and in porn. That story is often one of a linear model of sexuality that doesn’t fit many people’s real sexual experiences. Any crisis of desire for women has to do with this, and that’s what we need to start talking about.

Some are calling for drugs to address “desire disorders.” Sprout Pharmaceuticals has put forth the drug Flibanserin three times for FDA approval and it has been denied twice, third pending. Flibanserin did not show significant results on 5,000 pre-menopausal women in clinical trials and the side effects are far too risky for the potential benefits so the FDA has not approved it. This is not a sexist case of women don’t get their female Viagra, it’s a “this is not good for people” situation, and Sprout is now claiming sexism, because, you know, fighting sexism is at the top of the list of big pharmas’ concerns.

If you got any sex education at all—which is not a guarantee in this country—you may have learned about Masters and Johnson and their research on the sexual response cycle. (Today you can tune into their story by watching Showtimes’s series Masters of Sex.) Their work was groundbreaking and important, and in 2015 we can recognize the ways in which their conclusions are dated and flawed. Today I want to zero in on their concept of the sexual response cycle and its implications for how we understand female desire—an important topic, as the FDA considers yet another drug that’s designed to address the so-called crisis of female desire.

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Photo Credit: WildInWoods / Foter / CC BY-NC

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