Female Sexuality: Dangerous or Simply Misclassified?

Nov 24, 2010 • Health, News


Any one of us could probably name at least one male sex aid, but what do we know about female sex aids? Not a whole lot. It doesn’t mean there are no female sex aids out there or in development.

In 2004, Procter & Gamble introduced Intrinsa, a testosterone patch that would have been used to give female libido a boost; unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration rejected it because they were unsure of long-term effects of testosterone on women.

Flibanerin was rejected by the FDA over the summer because the side-effects out-weighed the benefits. BioSante Pharmaceuticals has a testosterone gel in development called LibiGel that they will be submitting to the FDA next year, but nothing is certain.

And then there’s Zestra, a combination of botanical oils and extracts said to increase sensitivity when applied to the genital region.

Getting past the FDA can be something of a major hurdle for these products, but Semprae Laboratories got Zestra around it by developing the sex aid as a cosmetic, which, under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, can be manufactured and marketed without government approval.

Brilliant. Except for one thing. Few networks want to advertise the product. Per the SFGate, which first reported on the story:

In an apparent double standard, many networks and some websites have declined the company’s ads; a few will air them during the daytime, and others only after midnight. There is no nudity, sex, or mention of body parts, unlike ads for men’s products referring to “erections lasting more than four hours.”

“The most frequent answer we get is, ‘We don’t advertise your category,’ ” [co-founder Rachel Braun] Scherl said. “To which we say, ‘What is the category? Because if it’s sexual enjoyment, you clearly cover that category. If it’s female enjoyment, you clearly don’t.’ And when you ask for information as to what we would need to change so they would clear the ad for broadcast, they give you very little direction. … And yet they have no problem showing ads for Viagra and other men’s drugs. Why?”

Is the cosmetic loophole creating a problem for Zestra? Or is it that we, as SFGate seems to suggest, are uncomfortable with the idea of female sexuality?

“When you see naked women bounding around in any music video or open a magazine and see ads for cars or cosmetics, half-naked women are everywhere,” says Laura Grindstaff, an associate professor of sociology at UC Davis. “That is not women’s sexuality. What you see is completely bound up and constructed by male ideas of what women’s sexuality ought to be. An ad like Zestra’s, with no men in it, about women’s pleasure for the sake of pleasure, is threatening, I guess.”

Rita Melendez, an associate professor of sexuality studies at San Francisco State University adds: “If they really can’t run these ads, it’s telling women they are not — or should not be — in control of their desire, or that there is something shameful about their sexual desire, and that has huge implications for their ability to control pregnancy, partner abuse and sexual health.”