regarding the flibanserin arguments

[ blanket trigger warning for anyone who has experienced sexual coercion ]

This whole mess… I thought I was numb to it by now, the idea of people supporting efforts to “fix” us.

If you’re not up to speed, you can find info on flibanserin here and here.

And it’s horrifying to read about, but I was emotionally compartmentalizing it well enough… up until I saw people — ordinary internet kids, not the drug’s marketers — brushing aside that 1) it’s not safe 2) it doesn’t work 3) this probably isn’t something you could make an effective medication for anyway & 4) all the explanations of how it would be used to hurt women, with comments like “okay well maybe don’t support THIS pill but you shouldn’t oppose the CONCEPT of medication for sexual desire because even if YOU wouldn’t want to take it, some women might want to!

And it’s one of those things that doesn’t just make me angry but is just… utterly baffling to me, because one of the most basic things I was always taught was that pleasure/fun isn’t a moral override.  It doesn’t have moral value.  If something hurts people, someone saying “well I like it though” doesn’t make it okay.

Honestly, this junk reminds me of how any criticism of the beauty industry is at risk of being derailed with “but remember some women like make-up and traditionally-feminine things!” as if that has any relevance as a rebuttal.  It’s the exact same crap.

So you know what?

Even if some women were to be like “yeah, I want a pill for that!” (hypothetically in absence of any societal pressure to want such a thing), (and ignoring that female sexual desire is probably too complex wrt the factors influencing it for anyone to just make a working pill for, and that there are better options), I would hope that the desire for sexual satisfaction wouldn’t be more important to them than protecting the mental health and physical safety of other women.

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26 responses to “regarding the flibanserin arguments

  • demiandproud

    What it reminds me of, a lot, is being told for the first time that no, most blind people don’t want to see and no, many people with autism don’t want to be cured. They want to remain as they are, but live the lives everyone can, that they have a right to, and thus accommodation should be made at all times.

    I had to think about that for a bit, but then it made so much sense, that most people would wish to BE WHO THEY ARE, and not be ‘cured’, but simply wished for society to stop disabling them by only catering to the average person.

    Being on the asexual spectrum, it’s made it so much more logical. Why the hell would I want another sexuality? I just want to understand and live a happy life with my own, because it’s part of who I am.

    …and how the hell is there an unsafe drug out on the market?

    Also, yeah. It’s like saying “I like cooking” totally makes “you belong in the kitchen” a valid argument. Yes, it puts you in the kitchen. Physically. For about half an hour a day! Not in the proverbial place of servitude for the rest of your life.

    • Coyote

      It’s not on the market yet, I don’t think, but it’s been rejected by the FDA twice and they’re still trying a third time to get it through.

    • Tristifere

      I’m currently trying to figure out the European situation, but it’s really hard to understand how this stuff works. They can get drugs approved on a European and on a national level. I can’t find it in the Dutch approved-drugs databank (on the website of cbg-meb), but it does have a “waiver” status on European level (see the website of the EMEA). What that last part means, not a clue. Too much jargon for me. Though I don’t think it’s approved for use on the European market as I can’t find it in the Dutch databank of approved drugs (perhaps some in-between fase?).

      • demiandproud

        Yeah, been reading through the news coverage and can’t really find anything either, other than that it’s described as “viagra for women” and that a whole bunch of Dutch and Belgian sexologists actually petitioned the FDA overseas not to approve it, that’s how concerned they were.

        Oh, favourite quote though: “Take a glass of wine, it’s more effective than this drug.” So you don’t need a prescription, a good bottle o’ red to share on a date will do :)

  • Aqua

    Aside from it not being safe or effective, one of my concerns about it is the possibility of women being coerced by their partners into taking it, because low sexual desire is still so often assumed to be a problem regardless of the cause, or whether it causes distress or not. Even if it’s not effective, that message is still clear.

  • luvtheheaven

    I think when people say “okay well maybe don’t support THIS pill but you shouldn’t oppose the CONCEPT of medication for sexual desire because even if YOU wouldn’t want to take it, some women might want to!”

    They aren’t really brushing off that it’s not effective and/or dangerous in the sense of how it affects your body when you take it and how it interacts with other drugs like birth control and alcohol, that’s what they mean by the “okay so not THIS pill” part of the statement…

    …but they didn’t even hear/understand the issue of any drug of this proposed nature hurting women.

    It’s a complex issue to try to talk about because there are so many hypotheticals and different types of potential people out there who we’re talking about all at once.

    There are the asexual women who know they wouldn’t ever want to use this drug.

    There are the women who don’t know about asexuality and might identify on the asexual spectrum if only education on that sexual orientation was more widespread, and this drug might hurt them in ways that are difficult for people to appreciate if they don’t already intimately understand the dynamics of being an asexual woman who doesn’t know the word for it.

    Then there are non-asexual women who have a lower sex drive than their partners but who still have a sex drive and who probably (often) don’t wish they had a higher sex drive. A drug with this goal being in existence could also hurt them in a number of ways.

    There are probably a few other types of women out there… but the most obvious last hypothetical is non-asexual women who are desperate for something to help them have a higher sex drive.

    When people say, “you shouldn’t oppose the CONCEPT of medication for sexual desire”, they aren’t necessarily saying they don’t care about all of the other ways it might hurt women. They’re saying “What about those [last set of hypothetical] women? Don’t you want to help them?”. To be charitable, some people expressing this sentiment may just want to find a way to not hurt anyone, and they think people going without sex they want, or not having the sex drive they want, is hurting some people. After all, it is very pervasive to not think of sex as something simply “Fun” and “pleasurable”. No, people in the general population tend to think of it as a “need”, a requirement for a healthy life, etc. It takes a lot for someone to knock the importance of sex down a few pegs.

    I just… I don’t think people are necessarily as callous and uncaring about all the ways it might hurt people as maybe you think they are. To me, I think a lot of people just aren’t even “Getting” the arguments because people don’t understand the dynamics of abusive relationships, of sexual coercion, of living in a society that assumes asexuality doesn’t exist and assumes everyone wants sex… And at least these people I’ve come across aren’t LITERALLY saying “It doesn’t matter who it hurts, it’s worth it for the people it helps” (although I’m not naive enough to think no one would ever be that horrible to say something like that).

    I don’t know. I hope you won’t bite my head off here for playing Devil’s Advocate. I’m just… not sure I see this in the same light as you, I guess, and I decided I wanted to comment… :P

    • Coyote

      I’ll try to avoid any biting off of heads.

      “To be charitable, some people expressing this sentiment may just want to find a way to not hurt anyone, and they think people going without sex they want, or not having the sex drive they want, is hurting some people.”

      See, I don’t see that as a benign opinion.

      “I don’t think people are necessarily as callous and uncaring about all the ways it might hurt people as maybe you think they are.”

      Nah, I know they’re just being careless. Doesn’t make it less wrong.

  • Siggy

    Your moral philosophy about pleasure/fun doesn’t really make sense to me. And perhaps more to the point, how is that any different from arguments against employers paying for birth control in health insurance? The argument goes that birth control only allows women to have sex for pleasure and thus it does not deserve public funding.

    The typical political strategy against this is to showcase women who need birth control purely for health reasons, but I find it ridiculous that we should have to resort to such strategies.

    • Coyote

      Mmmph I knew I should have clarified more. Sorry about that.

      It’s not that pleasure is bad, or that enjoying something makes it bad, or that it’s wrong to do anything just for the sake of enjoying yourself. It’s that fun can’t serve as moral compensation, i.e. in terms of moral cost/benefit analysis, fun has no weight in either direction. Does that make sense?

      • luvtheheaven

        Well, personally I would disagree with the idea of it having no weight. Perhaps a low weight, depending on what we’re talking about, but not none…

        I’d definitely think pleasure/fun is a “benefit” in a cost/benefit analysis… :P

        • Calum P Cameron

          Coy did specify MORAL cost/benefit analysis. “Fun” is a different type of benefit to “moral”. And personally I would say that in most contexts one should only look at the analysis of fun vs boring AFTER the proposed course of action has already passed the analysis of moral vs immoral. So if something seems to be doing more harm than good from a moral point of view – like, it’s causing more suffering than it’s relieving – then one should generally file that under “bad idea”, and how fun it is shouldn’t come into it.

          It’s like, the Joker (of DC comics fame) finds it fun to kill people, but that doesn’t make the “fun” murders committed by the Joker less immoral than murders committed with no fun involved. I think that’s closer to what was meant by “can’t serve as moral compensation in terms of moral cost/benefit analysis”.

          (As an aside, I have no idea why I keep resorting to comic-book analogies when it comes to moral debate…)

          • luvtheheaven

            That is definitely a fair way of looking at it. I wasn’t really paying close enough attention and didn’t realize the way fun shouldn’t play into if something is moral vs. immoral is what was being discussed… :P

      • Siggy

        It sounds like you’re making a distinction between moral cost/benefit analysis and plain old cost/benefit analysis.

    • Calum P Cameron

      Surely the difference is that birth control doesn’t harm anyone and advocating its existence doesn’t usually have an adverse effect on anyone’s physical, psychological or emotional health?

      And we don’t live in a culture that automatically shames people for wanting to get pregnant in quite the same way that we live in a culture that automatically shames people for wanting to avoid having more sex? (I mean, I’m not a woman, so I could be way off the mark with that one, and I know that there is some degree to which people DO get shamed for being “irresponsible” enough to not use birth control, but… even before this story cropped up, I encountered people who expected others to give a cast-iron justification for why they weren’t seeking medical aid to enhance their sex drives – even in cases where those others having little to no sex was exactly what they felt was best for themselves – while I’ve never met anyone who got equally concerned every time they heard about someone trying for a baby).

      And because a lack of birth control actually makes certain things (mainly sex) more dangerous, whereas a lack of pills to increase sex drive doesn’t make anything more dangerous, it just makes certain things (mainly sex) less commonly desired? And you can’t really compare an advocacy movement that’s all about making things LESS dangerous to one whose main effect is to make things MORE dangerous?

      Birth control doesn’t really have a major downside, so far as I can tell – unless you count “it gives white Christian moral guardians something to shout about”, but plenty of us here in White Christendom would find some other crap to shout about anyway in its absence, so you might as well just ignore that side of the equation.

      I’m sure people would be more ok with being supportive of some hypothetical concept that would make it easier for people to have sex WITHOUT there being any major downside or risk of hurting anyone, but that’s not what we observe here, so far as I can tell.

      • Siggy

        Yeah I’m not going to play devil’s advocate. I think birth control should be covered by health insurance not merely because it is harmless, but because sexual health matters. I completely disagree with the idea that sexual health is less of a priority because it’s only for fun and pleasure.

        • Calum P Cameron

          Fair enough.

          Personally, I don’t think “I don’t feel like having sex much” should be viewed as a sexual health issue. I think the narrative that low sex drives are unhealthy and high sex drives are healthy is not only harmful but also just plain wrong. Even if it WERE a sexual health issue, I don’t personally think sexual health should be viewed as MORE of a priority than mental health or non-sexual physical health, so I absolutely do think it makes a difference whether something is harmless or not.

        • Calum P Cameron

          I mean, I know our host hates food analogies but…

          I really enjoy the act of eating spaghetti carbonara. But I went through a period when I was having an allergic reaction to the stuff every time I ate it without taking a little antihistamine pill first. So I was literally using pills I got for free from the NHS in order to safely perform an act which I found pleasurable even though it was unnecessary. I am glad I was able to do that, and I would support other people having the right to do that. So I get the logic behind the importance of birth control.

          But if someone brought out a pill that would increase my drive to consume carbonara – not make it more safe or easier but just increase the frequency of my wanting it – and at the same time the very existence of this pill posed a threat to the mental or physical health of a significant percentage of the planet’s population in some way, or it had some other huge built-in drawback that was actually a serious moral “this is hurting people” issue rather than just an issue of pleasure or lack thereof… I personally would not be able to in good conscience support the production of such a product, and I would not view it as a necessity that the NHS provide people with such a product, and I would not view it as comparable to the antihistamines that harmlessly allowed me to eat carbonara safely whenever I wanted to.

          As far as I am concerned, these are two different issues. One seems to me like a PART of healthcare, and the other seems more like, if anything, a THREAT to it.

      • Coyote

        “And we don’t live in a culture that automatically shames people for wanting to get pregnant”

        ummm hmmm hrhmm hmm, well… that depends on who you are.

        For instance, consider: attitudes toward Black women having kids.

        I know you meant in general/across the board, but it seemed worth pointing out.

        • Calum P Cameron

          Yeah, that is a fair point. I didn’t actually think of the racial element, although I realised as I was typing it that it’s a lot less true for poor people, which was partially why I added that rambling aside. But I think the idea I was trying to get at still has validity, in that, as you say, one of them is a lot more “across the board” than the other.

  • epochryphal

    tiny comment on the comments — arghhhhh “women” as a coherent category here

  • What Will Be the Actual Impact of Flibanserin? | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

    […] For those of you who haven’t been following the asexual blogosphere’s commentary on the recently approved flibanserin, you can read this, this, this, and this. […]

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