The cover story in the Sunday New York Times Magazine this week reports on “the pharmaceutical quest to give women a better sex life.” An excerpt from Daniel Bergner’s new book What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, the article made me sad and annoyed. It tells women who have been married for 15 years and aren’t interested in having sex with their husbands “There May Be a Pill for That.” That’s the refrain of the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry, which is fervently trying to find a chemical compound that they can market to women that will become the financial bonanza Viagra became in treating erectile dysfunction for men. I’m all for anything that results in people having better sex, but in my experience focusing on mechanics rather than pleasure tends to create anxiety and frustration more than satisfaction. Clearly, keeping a sexual spark alive in any long relationship challenges everybody, and what a grotesque misunderstanding of how intimacy works to think that a magic pill can create desire where no desire exists.
Luckily, there are other smart people out there working in this field. I’ve known about Nicole Daedone and her One Taste centers for a few years. I only just now watched her 2011 TED Talk, which impressed me tremendously and moved me to tears a few times. (TED Talks do that to people, like Barbara Walters interviews and the Readers Write section of The Sun magazine.) She contests the diagnosis that is getting hyped in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of “hypoactive female sexual desire disorder” — she prefers to call it “pleasure deficit disorder.” And she’s devised a simple 15-minute sexuality practice to treat it. She makes a case for the notion that “turned-on women (and those who dare to stroke us) will change the world.”
Pamela Madsen is a prolific blogger, teacher, and pleasure activist whose writings and retreats guide women through the journey to sexual awakening that she herself describes in her book Shameless.
And this week on the website Oh Joy Sex Toy, cartoonist Erika Moen writes a paean to Babeland, the women’s sex-toy emporium, which helped correct the horrible misinformation about sex she learned from her mother and taught her to respect and enjoy her own body.
Those are just a couple of examples of how women have been thinking about, talking about, researching and practicing simple ways of expanding female sexual pleasure. Check them out, let me know what you think, and tell me about other pioneers doing exceptional work in this arena.