Is female sexual dysfunction a myth?

Tonight I’m off to the Institute of Psychiatry to attend one of the Maudsley Debates on a rather fascinating topic. The ‘Love is a Drug’ debate asks, “Is female sexual dysfunction disorder a work of fiction dreamt up by ‘Big Pharma’ or an under-recognised and under-treated condition that has been side-lined by clinicians for too long?” You’d think that a medical topic such as this could be proved or disproved with evidence without the need for debate, but lack of sexual desire is not as easy to pinpoint in women as it is in men. Desire is a complex emotional thing and is not exactly what drugs like Viagra set out to fix but, whereas there is a physical reaction that can be prompted in men which will enable intercourse to become far more likely, there is no equivalent for women. So, why try to fix it with pills? I am clearly over-simplifying here and there is much I don’t know on the subject, so I am looking forward to hearing what tonight’s expert panel have to say on the matter. The blurb says:

Debate around the condition has not abated – it has become a flashpoint for arguments relating to ‘medicalisation’, inappropriate prescribing and the trustworthiness of published medical evidence and research methodologies. It has also been the subject of argument within feminist literature and the wider history of sexual health and functioning.

The debate will address whether female sexual dysfunction is simply ‘drug marketing merging with medical science in a fascinating way’ or actually a condition with a ‘need for the assessment and treatment of women along the lines of men being assessed and treated for erectile dysfunction’.

I doubt I can be entirely impartial in this though as two of my top (intellectual) Twitter crushes are speaking for the side of ‘myth’ – Dr Petra Boynton and Dr Ben Goldacre. Having written about female sexual dysfunction already for BitchBuzz, I have already come to some of my own conclusions but it will be interesting to hear the other side of the argument too.

In other news… last week’s BitchBuzz column from me on women who have relationships with younger men seems to have generated rather a lot of interest. There are quite a few comments on the article itself plus I have received many tweets, Facebook comments and even a text message about it. Who knew that age differences were such a big talking point?

Image via Ajay Suresh‘s Flickr photostream.

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