On Tuesday I got a call from Jenny Stocks from the Daily Mail asking me about the use of erotic literature to enhance women’s sex lives. Her article, Give Your Libido a Boost, is in today's edition. It is about natural alternatives to the new ‘female Viagra.' I’ve been following the news about the big pharma-cure for the ever-nebulous female sexual dysfunction awhile now.
I think any discussion of female sexual dysfunction has to take into account the way the culture shapes how we women see ourselves sexually. One episode of Mad Men is enough to have us all cringing, thankful that we live in a more enlightened time.
And indeed, the news the past few days has been all about the big sex survey in the States. Everyone seems to be having more sex, being more adventurous in the sex they have, and having more orgasms. Yet, we’ve elevated female sexual dysfunction to the level of a disease, and the pharmaceutical companies have rushed in with the big drug cure.
Would that it were that simple, but we have a nasty tendency to base our expectations of ourselves and our sexuality on what magazine adverts, television commercials and films present to us as the ideal woman, airbrushed, deodorized, glamourized, and always ready for mad, passionate sex with her own personal version of Brad Pitt or Clive Owen. That would be clean, unmessy sex, in case you’re wondering. Our make-up would never be smudged, and our hair would never be mussed. We would be comfortable in suicide stilettos and under-wire bras that double as torture devices. Oh, and did I mention the glamourous career and the perfect 2.2 children? If we can’t manage all the above with grace and aplomb and still be horny on demand, then surely we must need a cure.
To add to the insanity, we have the religious right homophobically preaching sexual purity, and submission to husbands. What, no husband? Find one, and forever keep your hands out of your knickers. We have the feminist anti-porn brigade shouting the anti-women, turn-our-children-into-serial-killers evils of porn from a platform almost totally devoid of fact.
Do you feel crazy, yet? I know I do.
Jenny’s article covers the gamut of drug-free ways to boost female libido, from couples’ therapists to psychologists, from personal trainers to erotic boutique owners to sexy literature. All this brings us back to how we women see ourselves sexually.
As a young girl, I navigated my way through the minefield of female sexuality in the safe pages of books, Cosmo magazine and the odd copy of Playboy or Penthouse I found stuffed away in bedside tables I wasn't supposed to be snooping in. I didn’t self-combust, I didn’t become a serial killer, my fingers didn’t fall off, and I didn’t go blind. What did happen is that I discovered what I like, what gives me pleasure. And I discovered that it was okay to own that part of me and to share it.
It’s difficult for any woman to see her way clear of all the rhetoric and propaganda, to be able to look openly and honestly at her own sexuality and understand it, be comfortable with it. Instead of the massive hand-out of drugs to treat female sexual dysfunction, maybe what we really need is just a safe place to explore our female sexual function instead. I have a sneaking suspicion that in a lot of cases, the function is still there, it just needs a little safe, playful coaxing.