On the way to a meeting this morning I heard a piece on the radio about the FDA’s approval of a drug to increase the libido of women with low libidos. This drug has been up for approval before but was rejected because the FDA said that there wasn’t sufficient evidence that the drug had an impact and it has serious side effects (like a sudden drop in blood pressure that can lead to fainting). After the drug was rejected, a number of people said the FDA was being misogynistic in its rejection because this could help women, it fits a cultural narrative that women have low libidos and they don’t like sex (so why fix the problem), and because there are already a number of treatments for medical problems that cause sexual dysfunction in men. But, I don’t know if we can say the FDA is being misogynistic here. Unless we’re saying they were being unnecessarily paternalistic protecting women who could be benefiting from the terrible side effects (if the ads are to be believed, Viagra also can cause a drop in blood pressure). How medicine is discovered, researched, tested and produced could itself be the problem here. The medical community as a long and storied history of ignoring women altogether. In The First Twenty Minutes Gretchen Reynolds discusses many studies on health and fitness that only looked at male participants. As another example, growing up we were taught signs of how to spot a heart attack or a stroke. It was only when I was out of college that you started to see discussions of how heart attacks present differently in women. I get that women’s sexual problems are often treated as psychological and not medical and having a specific medical intervention could signal a change on how doctors are thinking about women’s sexual health. (I’m not holding my breath on that, though.) Treating women like a lack of sexual desire is all in their head is certainly misogynistic. But, I’m not sure the FDA doing their job and asking for evidence is misogynistic. Society itself doesn’t do right by women and I’m pretty sure that’s not on the FDA to fix. Still, though, this medicine being approved may spur other researchers to consider women’s health (sexual or otherwise) more seriously and that could be the real victory here.
As an unrelated aside: It disgusts me that people are calling this “The Little Pink Pill”. Especially since Viagra is the little blue pill. I can hear you saying, “Isn’t it cute? His and Hers!” No. It is not cute. It is gross.by