Is There a Gender Double Standard When It Comes to Sexual Medications?

Women argue that the pharmaceutical industry has developed a wide array of medications to help men overcome their most common forms of sexual dysfunction but has done little to help women. Addyi is a step in the right direction, but more such drugs hopefully will emerge in the coming years.

Reproductive health is a tricky topic when it comes to medications and medical technology. Throw in politics and you have a recipe for a complex disaster somewhat akin to a slow-motion train wreck. The train is on fire and about to go off the edge of cliff while spectators argue over whether the fire is hot enough or the cliff is high enough.

When it crashes, then spectators will stand around and argue over whose fault it is. There’s no doubt that sex has been, and will continue to be, something that requires more than a high-level overview in life. Sexual interactions are typically very personal, are not discussed much outside of personal relationships, and are considered to be taboo in many parts of American society and the world.

First Came Birth Control

It’s important to understand sex, first and foremost, as a matter of reproduction. Regardless of your views on religion, creation, or politics, everyone can agree that reproduction is a direct result of a sperm implanting itself into an egg. When people have unprotected sex, there is the possibility that another life will be created. As such, the idea of birth control has existed as long as humanity has existed. Early condoms were made of sheep intestines, and contraceptives were often made from plant materials to cover the cervix.

In the 1960s, pharmaceutical birth control pills were developed, allowing women (and men) to have sexual intercourse with a much lower risk of pregnancy. These medications have developed and evolved, and today, they are easily obtainable at a very low cost. In fact, in some regions, there is no cost at all to obtain birth control pills through the local Department of Social Services Office.

Erectile Dysfunction Goes Prime Time

Erectile dysfunction medications took the spotlight beginning in the late 1990s.

For the next three decades, birth control medications dominated the sexual health landscape, but in 1998, Viagra hit the mainstream. Viagra is a medication that helps men with erectile dysfunction issues, and it began to see airtime on major television networks across the country soon after its introduction. This then brought male sexual health issues into the forefront. Erectile dysfunction is a condition that inhibits men from achieving an erection, but it really isn’t a dysfunction in most cases.

As men age, testosterone levels drop, and this leads to fewer erections or a lack of sexual desire that reduces the interest in achieving an erection. So, it’s not a dysfunction in the medical sense, since it’s a common symptom that occurs due to a natural process.

As the World Turns

Lately, a controversy has been brewing over the fact that men can receive medications like Viagra delivered to their door, yet legislation and court battles in recent years have made birth control a political football. At the heart of this controversy is whether employers are required to pay for reproductive services under the Affordable Care Act. Some employers, such as Hobby Lobby, have stated that they do not wish to participate in the program’s mandate for reproductive services, including birth control. They base their stand on religious grounds.

Is This a Double Standard?

In the case of Hobby Lobby, as a private employer, it can come across as a double standard at first. Although Hobby Lobby does not want to cover contraceptives, according to the Huffington Post in June of 2014, the company still allows healthcare coverages for Viagra and penis pumps. It needs to be noted that, while this may seem hypocritical, Hobby Lobby is a private corporation that no one is required to work for.

Essentially, if you disagree with Hobby Lobby’s views, you can protest, but you are not forced to work there. Hobby Lobby was involved in a Supreme Court case in 2014 (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) in which justices ruled that the company had the right to refuse paying for certain medical coverages that went against the owners’ religious beliefs. Once again, like it or not, the Supreme Court ruled on the matter and found that a private for-profit corporation could be exempt from certain mandates of the ACA based on religious grounds.

Where’s the Female Viagra?

Aside from the controversial topic of fairness in insurance and employer coverage for sexual health medications, we need to consider that, up until recently, there’s been no reliable female equivalent to Viagra. In women, the primary form of sexual dysfunction is a lack of sexual desire, known medically as hypoactive sexual desire disorder. When Viagra and similar medications were given to females in clinical trials, no significant improvement in their symptoms of sexual dysfunction were observed.

As a result, women have largely felt left out when it comes to quick solutions to sexual issues. Just like with men, as women age, they experience changes in their libido, and often these changes mean a lessening of desire for sex. Even if older women do desire sexual intimacy, their bodies may not respond in kind. This often then leads to frustration and trouble in relationships.

Women Want Sex Too

Look, although the issue is pulled back and forth in popular media, women want sex too. Just because they process things differently from men, and just because they are sexualized in the media, they are still human and they still want to enjoy intimacy. How this happens, however, is a different story.

For the most part, men are visual in their sexuality. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more cerebral in addition to being visual. This is the reason why you see guys who are not appreciably attractive with women who are beautiful. When it comes to sexuality, women tend to favor personality traits over looks, while men tend to go for looks over personality. This certainly is not always the case, but it does ring true in the vast majority of cases.

Keep in mind that, as a woman, there will be times in life when you simply won’t desire sex. These times can include after childbirth, especially while breastfeeding, and during menopause. Women who are stressed or who are overweight may also experience a loss in sexual desire. To add to this, pregnant women in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy may also have a diminished sex drive.

Addyi to the Rescue?

In August of 2015, flibanserin, under the brand name Addyi, was given the green light by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder in premenopausal women. Addyi is often referred to as “female Viagra,” although it works on brain chemistry and not on blood flow as Viagra does with men.

Essentially, Addyi works with various chemicals in the brain to increase sexual desire in women as opposed to Viagra, which stimulates vascular activity. Addyi, as with all other medications, is not without health risks, so patients seeking the medication need to have in-depth conversations with their physicians to discuss possible side effects and overall health in general. Sadly, Addyi has not made as significant a difference in the sex lives of women as was originally hoped.

Communication between couples is key. 

Women who are having a hard time with libido concerns should take the time to talk to their partners in order to get things back on track. In many cases, communication channels become limited or shut down entirely as a couple ages, and this can lead to anxiety and depression. In such situations, libido can easily drop or disappear entirely, both for men and for women, but especially for women.

Men need to understand that the female sex drive is based on a variety of factors, including mental state, stress levels, communication, intimacy, romantic involvement, physical attraction, perception of self, and more. This means that, even with medication, there needs to be a very clear line of communication between each other in order for a female to get in the mood.

What Does the Future Hold?

Since the sexual revolution that occurred in the 1960s, it’s likely that more research and more prescription medications for sexual health issues will hit the market. Although there are currently a number of drugs available for men, women can expect to also receive options. Medical scientists have already demonstrated that they are working on things as evidenced by the creation of Addyi, and once this prescription becomes widely known, it only makes business sense for others to come on the market.

Keep in mind that competition is what drives innovation, so it should not be long before another drug researcher and manufacturer decides to put together a more efficient medication to assist females in achieving intimacy.

Your Doctor is Your Friend

If you’re a female experiencing sexual health concerns, the first place you need to turn is to your physician. It might feel awkward, but your physician can evaluate your symptoms and offer medical advice to assist you in overcoming issues. In some cases, medications might be helpful, while in others, therapeutic techniques might be the right answer.

Regardless, seek help from a qualified medical professional to avoid getting upset or letting relationship woes get blown out of proportion. Relationships, especially marriages, require a great deal of understanding. After all, you’re both human. Even if men have things like Viagra and women don’t, or they only have it recently, you need to focus on what brought you together in the first place: love for one another.

If you’ve found this article helpful and would like to see more of the same, particularly information relevant to sexual health and function, follow’s blog on a regular basis.

Andrew Rusnak is an author who writes on topics that include sexual health and pharmaceutical technology.

Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+