why I signed this important petition the second it landed it my inbox

On Monday begins a two-day FDA workshop on the medicalization of women’s sexual health.

As a part of that, an important petition is being circulated by the New View Campaign in response to the misleading “Even the Score” campaign (which I blogged about here) because the drug company funded campaign suggests that approving a pharmaceutical treatment for women’s sexual difficulties should be a greater priority for the FDA than protecting American women from unsafe, ineffective drugs.

If you’re like “activism, blah blah, I know, but can you tell me how to fix my sex life?“the answer is: Yes! Effective nonpharmaceutical treatments for low desire exist! As a beginning, allow my to point you to my series of three posts about things that have been shown to be effective:

(Also there’s also my book, Come as You Are, which will be out in March and has already saved one marriage and re-enlived another, according to my beta readers.)

 

But for more specific info about the “Even the Score” campaign, and especially if you’re on the fence or if you’ve been persuaded by the pharmaceutical industry’s point of view about an “unmet medical need,“here are some articles:

 

And I would add to that list my post about the three mistakes pro-medicalization feminists make when thinking about drugs for women’s sexual dysfunction.

 

But really what I want to share with you is this, the letter I wrote the FDA about why the “Even the Score” campaign disturbs me. It’s why I signed that petition as soon as I saw it, and it’s why I hope you will too:

Dear FDA,

I am writing to register my concern about the “Even the Score” campaign and other misleading efforts to distort women’s understanding of their own sexual health. I believe that such efforts are an attempt to advance the cause of the pharmaceutical industry, under the mask of promoting women’s health and autonomy.

I agree with the “Even the Score” campaign, that women “have the right to make informed choices about their sexual health.” Indeed, no reasonable person could disagree.

But it is not possible for women to make those “informed choices” based on information distributed by anyone with a financial interest in what choices women make, particularly because those biased messages are coming at women in a cultural context where they have extremely limited access to accurate, impartial, comprehensive information about their own sexual health – where, moreover, they are often told wrong information.

And education works. A growing body of research shows the effectiveness and potential of psychoeducational interventions,[1]{#_ednref1} bibliotherapy,[2]{#_ednref2} and other non-pharmaceutical treatments[3]{#_ednref3} to improve women’s satisfaction around sexual desire meaningfully and safely. Furthermore, in my experience as an educator, simply providing the information a woman requires in order to make an informed choice may all the “treatment” she needs in order to feel more sexually satisfied and “normal.”

As such, the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in keeping women ignorant about their bodies and about safe, effective non-pharmaceutical treatments; it is in their interest that women should believe they are sexually broken and that only medical intervention can make them “normal.”

I want women to have more. When women are struggling with their sexual functioning, I want them to have access to safe, effective treatments, and I want them to be able to make informed choices, which necessarily includes awareness of all their various treatment options – including the possibility that they don’t require medical treatment after all.

To that end, the FDA must maintain evidence-based standards in their approval process, with independent testing for safety and efficacy, bearing in mind the real world in which the drug will be prescribed and taken.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.


[1]{#_edn1} Brotto, Lori A., and Rosemary Basson. “Group mindfulness-based therapy significantly improves sexual desire in women.“ *Behaviour research and therapy*57 (2014): 43-54.

Munns, Rosemary A., Anne M. Weber-Main, Margaret A. Lowe, and Nancy C. Raymond. “Application of the sexual health model in the long-term treatment of hypoactive sexual desire and female orgasmic disorder.“ *Archives of sexual behavior* 40, no. 2 (2011): 469-478.

[2]{#_edn2} Mintz, Laurie B., Alexandra M. Balzer, Xinting Zhao, and Hannah E. Bush. “Bibliotherapy for low sexual desire: evidence for effectiveness.“ *Journal of counseling psychology* 59, no. 3 (2012): 471.

[3]{#_edn3} Brotto, Lori A., and J. T. Woo. “Cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based therapy for low sexual desire.“ *Treating sexual desire disorders: A clinical casebook* (2010): 149-164.

Veerman, L. J. “The desired desire for sexual desire A first exploration of the effect of an online cognitive-behavioral treatment program for women with low sexual desire.” (2012).

Mize, Sara J.S., and Alex Iantaffi. “The Place of Mindfulness in a Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Intervention to Improve Women’s Sexual Health.” Sexual and Relationship Therapy 28, no. 1 (2013): 63-76. doi: 10.108014681994.2013.770144.