Women’s Low Sexual Desire-Is It a Medical Problem or Something Else?

Women’s Low Sexual Desire-Is It a Medical Problem or Something Else?

The Little Pink PillThis article was originally published at MidlifeBoulevard.

If you’re following the news reports about flibanserin, referred to as the female Viagra, or “the pink pill’, you know there’s been a lot of debate over the need for a pill for women who suffer from low libido, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)*.

There are plenty of issues involved, from the idea that the FDA discriminates against women to the fact that the most ardent supporters of thos “promising” medication have some financial involvement with the drug’s manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals. And, somewhere in the midst of this debate is the question of women’s sexual dysfunction and how to best address it.

There isn’t really going to be a true female equivalent to Viagra because it’s not a drug designed to work with the female anatomy. Viagra increases blood flow, including flow to the penis, which can make it easier for men to get and sustain an erection. It’s all about mechanics, nothing to do with women’s low sexual desire.

The issue for women is about desire. Or is it?

There have been no studies I’m aware of that indicate a significant number of women have clitoral dysfunction. Do women really have HSDD or is that just a new way to create an illness so pharmaceutical companies can make more money? Would a pill fix what ails us as women? Not in a world where the norm is intercourse, which as we know, rarely provides the stimulation of the clitoris so necessary to achieving orgasms.

Maybe women, who don’t feel desire in the way they used, to have other issues contributing to their lack of interest in sex?

I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. A partner who doesn’t want, or know how, to provide the stimulation necessary to bring a woman to orgasm.  He doesn’t understand or appreciate the role of the clitoris.
  2. Fatigue and stress related to child rearing, a stressful job, caregiving, family issues, illness, menopause, financial challenges and on and on… If we’re stressed out we don’t have the energy to feel sexy.
  3. A failing relationship. Sex isn’t very satisfying when 2 people aren’t enjoying their time together. It takes mutual engagement and connections to build and sustain intimacy. Lack of interest in sex often indicates relationship problems of another nature.
  4. Sexual trauma—Child sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape and possibly genital-related surgery (hysterectomy, cancer) can lead to a fear or reluctance to have sex. Genitals may feel numb or hold residual pain. Trauma can resurface at different times in a woman’s life and have varying impacts on her relationships and her sex life.

No pill in the world is capable of fixing those issues. They each call for creative problem solving, therapeutic support or other life/ relationship changes


A recent study of French women  provides an answer that resonates with my experience and thoughts on the question of female desire. Researchers studied 251 women ranging in age from 18-67, all sexually active.

“The women in the study–176 who defined themselves as “orgasmic,” and 75 who defined themselves as “not orgasmic”- answered questions about the emotions, thoughts and behaviors that typically play a role in being able to orgasm, during both sex and self-stimulation.”

And what they found was that women who regularly reached orgasm during sex reported more erotic thoughts.

“Study author Pascal De Sutter, professor of sexology and family science at the University of Louvain in Belgium said “It seems that women have no problem focusing on erotic fantasies when they are on their own, but women who do not have regular orgasms during intercourse seem to have more difficulties focusing their attention on the present moment when they have sex with their partners.”

I love what Elke Reissing, the director of the Human Sexuality Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa, has to say. She suggests “that mindfulness approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunction might be helpful for women who have trouble achieving orgasm. Mindfulness techniques could help women focus on the present moment during sex and thus increase their arousal and reach orgasm.”  (Source)

When I talk about stepping into one’s desire and practicing sexual meditation, I urge women to focus on their bodies and their feelings of desire. By taking the time to think about sex, knowing what we want and what feels good we are focusing our minds on our bodies, our arousal and our desires. This awareness of our own bodies is what helps us achieve orgasm.

If a woman goes into sex thinking she’s not going to be satisfied, or she needs to be doing the laundry, writing the business report or whatever, she’s not present to her partner. More importantly, she’s not present to her own body and her arousal.

When we feel our genitals tingle and become wet. When we feel arousal as blood flows into our labia we are present to our bodies. We feel each sensation and touch and we recognize our arousal. That’s when we’re most likely to have an orgasm or, at the very least, feel pleasurable thoughts and an increased level of sexual satisfaction. And when sex feels pleasurable and we are satisfied—we want more. It’s not about ‘fixing’ a dysfunction, or popping a pill. It is about us stepping into our full sexual capacity as women, creating what we want and allowing ourselves to give and receive pleasure.

* “HSDD is defined as an absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that does not have an obvious cause, such as depression or libido-suppressing drugs, and that causes distress to the sufferer.” (Washington Post) Read more….


What do you think? Is this really a Disorder?

  • Jett
    Posted at 11:18h, 12 August Reply

    I have a serious questions for you. My male partner is without libido and from what I gather, this is nothing new to him. We’ve talked about it and both feel if I were to instigate sexual activity he’d jump right in. The problem is I don’t have any desire, either. I am on Prozac but have been for years and don’t think that’s the problem. I’m in my 60s and my partner is in his mid 50s. Neither of us are really bemoaning the lack of sexual activity but obviously it bothers me more than I thought or I wouldn’t be posting. Honestly, I don’t want to be the instigator. I want him to be. I want him to have the desire. Thoughts?

    • Walker
      Posted at 11:28h, 12 August Reply

      Thank you for sharing this- a situation many women experience. I am running out the door, but want you to know that I hear you and will answer in detail later.

  • Bola
    Posted at 15:30h, 15 August Reply

    At the rate we are going, every thing our parents considered part of life would be labeled as disorders.

    Our desire for sexual intimacy waxes and wanes throughout our lives due to a myriad of reasons.

    I am yet to hear of anyone who died from not having enough sex. This is a first world problem for sure.

    • Walker
      Posted at 16:01h, 15 August Reply

      You’re so right about the onslaught of medicalizing everything! Amazing to me how we seem to have turned menopause into an illness! I guess these really are small issues compared to the troubles women face across the planet.
      Thanks so much for over to visit and comment.

  • Lisa Froman
    Posted at 08:41h, 17 August Reply

    This was a thoughtful post; I enjoyed it. I think sexuality is complicated and health issues, relationship problems, etc, can affect how sexy one feels. I am suspicious of these types of pills…

    • Walker
      Posted at 10:44h, 17 August Reply

      Thank you Lisa. I’m suspicious of pills too…particularly when we’re not addressing, as you noted, the other factors that come into play with sexual intimacy.

  • Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com
    Posted at 20:38h, 17 August Reply

    Hi Walker! This is definitely an interesting topic! I so agree that all those reasons for not finding pleasure or orgasm during sex could not be helped by taking a “pill”. But then I also agree that mindfulness is a GREAT solution to much of the problem. To the extent that we women can learn to be present in our bodies AND appreciate and accept our bodies, feelings and emotions–how can that not help to make our experience of sex so much better? ~Kathy

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:02h, 18 August Reply

      Kathy, you’re right…when we’re present, and mindful, most experiences are better. Body image, self-awareness and comfort with our partner are all part of good sexual intimacy.

  • Low Female Sexual Desire, the FDA and Big Pharma - Walker Thornton
    Posted at 09:32h, 24 November Reply

    […] invited me to attend a seminar and the webinar. I am assuming this flurry of attention was due to my writing a less than positive review of the topic, specifically the drug Flibanserin being developed by Sprout […]

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