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One for the team

Across the world the search continues for solutions to the top ranking sex problem facing women – loss of desire. Drug companies are seeking a pink Viagra, a drug to boost female libido. The stakes are high with some surveys suggesting over half of all women experience fading of desire in long-term relationships. Marital distress is inevitable when women lie in bed at night dreading the hand creeping towards them.

The latest cabs off the rank are Lybrido and Lybridos, explains Daniel Bergner, whose book What Do Women Want? – Adventures in the Science of Female Desire will be published next week. These new drugs are very sensibly targeting activity not just between women’s legs but between their ears. Writing recently in The New York Times, Bergner describes research on the biochemical ingredients governing sexual desire, the balance between the lust-inducing dopamine rush produced by testosterone and the inhibiting effects of serotonin. Lybrido has a testosterone coating that melts in the mouth before the woman swallows a delayed-release tablet containing a Viagra-like substance which increases blood flow in the genitals. In Lybridos, the Viagra-like molecule is replaced by an anti-anxiety medication which suppresses serotonin.

Initial trials from both drugs are looking good and are soon to be presented to the Federal Drug Authority which is likely to require larger trials. If all goes well, these new drugs will hit the market around 2016, no doubt to be snapped up by huge numbers of women. An Adelaide professor ran a trial for another libido-enhancing drug and had women contacting him from all over Australia, desperate to get on board.

Yet many others won’t be interested. For every woman keen for a solution to her lost libido there are others who wouldn’t dream of popping a little pink pill to enhance sexual desire. There are plenty of women happy to shut up shop, simply refusing to have sex – expecting their husbands to just suck it up.

Controversy surrounds the clinical definition of low libido in women (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder) which only includes women who see their diminished drive as a problem i.e. it causes them personal distress. Only 10 to 15 per cent of women meet the criteria for HSSD – while surveys that include women not bothered by their low libido can hit nearly 60 per cent. The Sex in Australia survey of nearly 20,000 people found 55 per cent of women reported low desire.

Does it really make sense to dismiss low desire if the woman regards it as no big deal? If a couple visited a therapist with the woman complaining the man was a premature ejaculator, the fact that it didn’t bother him wouldn’t be regarded as grounds for ignoring the problem. Surely the impact of any issue detracting from a harmonious sex life deserves proper attention.

This is not to suggest low drive women are obliged to consider drug treatment. But many regard it as outrageous to even suggest there is any obligation on the woman to consider her partner’s needs. A few years ago when I published research on desire in The Sex Diaries, howls of protest greeted my suggestion that women might sometimes ‘just do it’ since new Canadian research had shown desire can kick in once lovemaking commences, leading to sexual pleasure for women. “Bettina Arndt – Rape Cheerleader!” shrieked one blogger, ignoring the fact I’d always said men too must ‘just do it’ if they are the ones rejecting their partners.

The crazy thing is women do so much to please their partners. They cook lavish three-course meals and spend hours searching shopping centres for his favourite Y-fronts when a ten minute bonk every so often would make their man a lot happier than a lot of the things they do for him. It’s not as if making love is such a big ask – it’s not like cleaning an oven. A female doctor wrote to me saying she tells her female patients, “It’s not root canal therapy!”

There’s a lesson here for young men choosing a long term partner. They shouldn’t just go for the sexiest chick hoping the tap won’t ever turn off. As Daniel Bergner explains, there’s solid evidence is that whilst most couples in new relationships start off with equal lust for each other, after a few years female drive often goes into a dive, leaving male desire far higher. A man would be far better off finding a woman who sees it as part of her responsibility to keep sex on the agenda, maybe even one who wouldn’t baulk at sometimes popping a little pink pill. The truly lucky man is blessed with a sexually generous woman, one who believes in taking one for the team.




11 Responses to One for the team

  1. Emily June 1, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    I agree Bettina. A harmonious sex life is one of the foundations that make up a happy relationship, however some of us females do need to attempt for the sake of a relationship to break down the barrier that’s preventing us from having sex with our partners, whether it’s self esteem issues, a busy mind, or the other one million tasks of the day and ‘Just do it’ as Nike so aptly put it. I would like to add though that I’m increasingly hearing through the female grapevine that women’s partners are not interested in sex. What is the root of this?

    • Bettina June 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      I have written about men with low desire in both my recent books, and also in my last blog about the juicy tomatoes. There are men who never have much interest in sex but others who lose interest, for a wide range of reasons. And there’s a big difference in women’s libido between mating in captivity and mating in the wild – often women who are dating report their libido is far higher than that of many men they meet. But in long-term relationships, women are the ones who are far more likely to go off sex.

  2. tom2013 June 2, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    I can wedding vows changing……..”in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live. And after I turn 50, a handjob at least once a week……”

  3. Elaine George June 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Whilst many men have a robust sex drive not ALL men want sex 24/7. There is evidence that indicates that approximately 15% of men want sex every 3 weeks or less.
    This means that for one in every 6-7 couples, the female probably wants sex more frequently than her partner.
    Regards, Elaine George, Sexology Australia Director

    • Bettina June 2, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      Yes, Elaine. That is right and I have written about this in both my books.. and in my recent blog on the Juicy Tomatoes.

  4. George June 30, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    My wife is going through menopause and also has fibroids so sex is painful for her and as a result her libido is gone. She is not interested in HRT. I have to give her credit because when it comes to sex she is very accomodating but unfortunately Sex is now just an act without passion or emotion so very sad and at times depressing. I dont know if other men are experiencing this and whether new drugs will help? I don’t know if I’m in denial but I live in hope that one day a miracle will happen………

    • Bettina July 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

      George, Unfortunately miracles are in short supply when it comes to low desire. The point I was making in that recent article was that unless women are interested in trying to do something about their low libido they aren’t going to be interested in popping a pill. But you are very lucky to have a sexually generous wife, even if the passion isn’t there. I hope you tell her how much you appreciate this gift she gives you, which really is an act of love, particularly when she has no libido and intercourse is painful for her. I also wonder if you try to make love to her in other ways, i.e. touching or oral sex? Even if she says she is not interested in any sexual activity for herself, maybe she would enjoy some sort of massage or touching such as a neck rub or foot massage. If you give her pleasure through this sort of touch, maybe one thing might sometimes lead to another. Many men make the mistake of putting too much emphasis on intercourse when, particularly for older women, other means of making love might prove far more acceptable to their partners.

  5. george July 4, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Hi Bettina,
    Thanks for your reply (its nice to have an avenue to discuss this as I find that most of my friends are hesitant to go into details – maybe I’m fooling myself into believing that everyone goes through this)
    Yes we do try various techniques to help and I appreciate her “looking after me” but without the passion and desire it often just feels like consensual masturbation. I cant get away from feeling that part of my life is now “lost” almost as if I am grieving a lost relative. Is this feeling extreme?

  6. Bettina July 4, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Yes, I do understand why you are mourning that loss. Feeling wanted is a very powerful aspect of what we all seek from a loving relationship. You should read the third chapter of The Sex Diaries where my male diarists so eloquently wrote about their grief in this situation. See this quote, from a man who acknowledges he sometimes ‘gropes” his wife, even though he knows she doesn’t like it:.

    Sydney man Clive is forty-eight and has been married for twenty-two years in a stable, happy relationship. ‘We still love each other very much. The only real issue is sex’, he says, explaining that his wife is only interested in sex every week or two, whereas he would love it twice a day. ‘On the face of it, it appears we have the perfect marriage. Maybe I hide my unhappiness too well.’
    Clive is a self-confessed groper:

    Oh, yes. I admit to it. A caress of the bottom, the arm, her hair, her breast (caress rather than squeeze), her back. Sometimes I’ll caress the outside of her pubic bone. Sometimes at night over recent years I’ve even taking to sliding my hand into her panties while she is asleep and just touching her pubic hair. My fingers can just feel it and she knows that is as far as it will go if she stirs a bit. We both know it won’t lead to anything.
    I try hard to not exceed allowable limits. To sense her mood. I wonder whether us men are sometimes the more sensitive sex. We seem to have a lot of practice at it. Grope too much and you’ll be ‘off sex’. So you must do it carefully. It’s almost like being a young man and trying to work out how far your girlfriend will let you go before the shutters come down, she crosses her legs and says NO.
    I know that a caress won’t get me any sex. So it’s more like, ‘I love you, I’m desperate for you. Just touching you is a connection from me to you. I’m still here. I still adore you. Hullo! Where has she gone, this lover I married?’

  7. John November 17, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    At 73, the ‘Big M’ has kept me sane, and out of gaol, for over 20 years. A 100% supportive wife helps a lot.

  8. Helen April 21, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    Thank god I am divorced!!!