Friday, November 18, 2005

Medicine: Hey baby, take a sniff

The aphrodisiac pill. And, apparently, it works on women as well as men. As if Long Island Iced Tea didn't already have that distinction.

Right now it has one of those stupid drug names: PT-141. And PT probably doesn't even stand for something cool like "penile tumescer" or something like that. And it works on melanocortan receptors. In fact, the drug's effects were discovered while working on a tanning pill, but nobody could notice if they were getting tanned or not, because they were all running to the bedroom.

This discovery falls somewhere between parlor trick and Nobel prize winner.

For the science nerds and skeptics among us (and you know that's you), here's a decent Wikipedia article on the drug and some of its pharmacologics.

And even better, here's a PDF-file FAQ from the manufacturer. Not for the consumer, mind you, but for us nerds who follow stage 2 clinical trials, this is exactly what we want to see.

And here's some lame sex psychobabble voodoo crap from the manufacturer himself:

"Sexuality isn't just a physical thing," Katz said. "In many cases, there are some underlying emotional or psychological issues, and this shouldn't be used as a Band-aid. It's something that might mask relationship problems and shouldn't be used as a shortcut."
Now, when I say this is psychobabble, I don't mean he isn't absolutely correct. Of course he is. But he's terribly simplifying the equation and being pretty dishonest about sexuality itself.

Most people, at least married people, want to be sexual. But just because they want to be sexual, doesn't mean that their bodies are going to comply in the 21st century. Lives are busy, and stresses are high. And a lack of sexual desire is probably one strong component of the 'underlying emotional and psychological issues' in a lot of otherwise healthy couples, if you allow that all couples are going to have some of these underlying issues. It's pretty hard to have a fully functioning relationship in the context of asexuality.

So PT-141 might be an abused Band-Aid? Well sure, maybe. But let's not forget this scenario:

Partner A and B have a healthy relationship, but life has been getting more stressful because, ya know, people have jobs and car payments and kids and crap like that.

Partner A starts to resent partner B because partner B is too busy and worn out to have any sexual desire. Partner A stops being as loving and supporting a partner because Partner A is really sick about the raw deal he's getting in the sex department, where Partner A's desire has not been as fully diminished by the stresses of life, seeing as this is obviously an individualized response.

Partner B recognizes the problem, feels bad about it, and wishes that there were 28 hours in the day, so there'd be time to do all the things people have to do and still have a little time to do what they want to do. Partner B feels guilty. Partner B can't turn to Partner A, who is the normal source of support.

Partner A and Partner B don't feel as close, and the relationship deteriorates. And all because our physiology was designed for the 21st century BCE, and not for the 21st century CE.

Sometimes, low sexual desire is someone's fault. And sometimes, it sure as hell isn't. Some people just don't have such strong wires between their head and their crotch as others. As all disease seems to be, its an issue of a vulnerable population exposed to environmental stressor which results in varying responses, some of which are deemed pathologic when quality of life is lowered due to the response.

Low sexual desire is not simply the product of dysfunctional relationships, although it can be.

With the exception of pedophiles whose sexual desires require the exploitation of innocense, people should be pretty free to be whatever they want to be sexually. And while the past hundred years of progressive movements have placed emphasis on demystifying the promiscuous, we shouldn't forget that the opposite end of the spectrum exists as well, often to the chagrin of the individual who would like to have greater desire. And sometimes not.

Asexuality is perfectly fine, if the partner agrees. If not, conflict ensues. Most low-desire people do not have the luxury of falling in love with other low-desire people.

And a stressor (an often unanticipated one, given our society's artificial emphasis on limiting sexual activity before commitment) is borne.

If we continue to ignore individual differences of sexual desire, we disservice individuals who could live more fulfilled lives through appropriate therapies.

So PT-141? Bring it on. But name it something better than that. And make the bottle pretty, so its presence on the night-stand beside the Astroglide doesn't feel so pharmy.


J Hearne said...

Good post. I tend to agree with your estimation of the rise of "marital problems" for couples.

I especially like your last paragraph.

It's all in the name and the bottle. I don't care what it does as long as it sounds good coming out of my mouth and it has a cool design on the bottle.

kevin s said...

PT-109 was John F. Kennedy's topedo boat during the Second World War.