Some people are mistakenly calling it the female Viagra. The truth is a bit more disturbing. This week the BBC reported on a new patch for those among the one million UK women who experience early menopause due to the surgical removal of their ovaries. One distressing result of this premature menopause, which causes decreased testosterone production, can be reduced sexual interest. The patch, called Intrinsa, slow-releases testosterone as a means of pepping up desire. It will be available through the National Health Service (NHS), Britain’s sensible if under-funded socialized health provision for all residents. It's being used in other European countries, although the FDA has not yet approved it here.
I have just got to digress immediately. Call me kooky, but the fact that slapped me upside my consciousness in all this is not that the drug companies are treating this symptom in women who have undergone hysterectomies. No, it is the appalling number of women who have undergone this operation in the first place.
I know less about medicine and medications than most people, but I can count. Let’s look at the numbers. Let's assume that out of a population of 60 million, about 30 million Brits are women. Of those, only 19 million are between 16 and 65. I remind you that a million UK women have had their ovaries removed. Can you imagine one out of 19 men having their balls fall to the knife? What’s wrong with this picture? Why hasn’t medicine found better solutions for “heavy bleeding and pelvic pain” than amputation?
I don’t claim to understand why radical surgery is the favored treatment procedure. At least having “created” the problem, the medical establishment has found in this patch a solution that, thankfully, provided 74% of the 500 women in the test group with an “increase in satisfying sex.” Unfortunately they have not given us the dirty details of what constitutes satisfaction, but hey, I’m a huge fan of satisfaction. The doctor cited in the piece did concede that there are a complex set of possible barriers to wanting sex (he mentioned children being around) – far more than a hormonal patch can cope with.
It's great that the tested women feel the patch has elevated their appetites – and I wish all women lust and passion – but I feel like they’ve got us coming and going: cutting us and then patching us. Viagra and its cousins have been such massive money-spinners that naturally there is an effort to pathologize women’s sexuality, so they can slip us some expensive hormones.
What to do about this lack of desire?
One: value women’s innards more and commit resources to finding less horrendous solutions to bleeding and pelvic pain than removal.
Two: look at the physical and psychological complexities of living without key organs – as is done when limbs are lost – to ensure that the women still feel whole.
Three: begin a Sexual Improvement Campaign that places huge anatomical posters of the clitoris in sports bars and that makes strong vibrators available free in every home.
That’s all bound to heat up the numbers of women reporting satisfaction – with or without cutting and patching.