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Sex, Drugs, and Women’s Desire

Anna Nowogrodzki

Is low sexual desire in women a medical, physiological problem in the brain? Or is it a sociocultural, interpersonal issue?

Low desire is the most common sexual dysfunction in women. Pharmaceuticals are being developed to treat it, most notably Flibanserin, owned by Sprout Pharmaceuticals. Sometimes inaccurately referred to as “female Viagra,” Flibanserin actually treats an entirely different problem. Viagra allows men to get an erection, meaning that it treats physical arousal problems. Flibanserin, and other drugs for low sexual desire in women, act on the brain. Women with low desire don’t have a problem with physical arousal or with orgasm, but with desiring sex before it starts. Most women with low sexual desire disorder have partners with higher desire than they do. So is low desire a medical, physiological problem in the brain? Or is it a sociocultural, interpersonal issue? Some experts think that the majority of women with what has been called a “disorder” of low sexual desire have no abnormal physiological problem, but instead are living in a sociocultural and medical system that encourages them to think of themselves as broken, and may be best treated with non-pharmaceutical methods. Other experts think that low desire is a physiological problem and drugs are important to treat it. Cultural shame around communicating about sex, undervaluing of women’s sexuality compared to men’s, and unrealistic sexual expectations all feed into and complicate the issue.


Anna Nowogrodzki
Written by
Anna Nowogrodzki

Anna Nowogrodzki spent her childhood amid the black raspberries, creeks, and cornfields of central New York. Though in seventh grade she made a future business card that read “Anna Nowogrodzki, botanist,” she always found the written word as captivating as the natural world. At Dartmouth College, she majored in being out in the woods (Environmental and Evolutionary Biology) and minored in curling up with a good book (English). Post-college, she found purpose in tracking southern pine beetles in the field, editing elementary school science textbooks, studying flower development genes at the New York Botanical Garden, teaching gardening to children in the Bronx, and searching for disease resistance in grapevines at Cornell. In science writing, she is thrilled to have found a field where her inability to shut up about science is actually an asset. Her current interests include agriculture, ecology, plants, why misinformation persists, flawed systems, and how to affect change. She firmly believes in singing with people, goat cheese, mental health advocacy, Excel spreadsheets, and expansive views.

Thesis: Sex, Drugs, and Women's Desire

Anna Nowogrodzki Written by Anna Nowogrodzki