"Sexual anorexia - have you heard of it?" Glamour coyly asks us this month. In the world of Glamour we all want sex, all the time – and if we don't, we should do it anyway as it makes men happy and validates our existence as women. It's not a world in which women might have a 'preoccupation with the avoidance of sex,' as this problem is described by sexual health expert Dr. Patrick J Carnes. 'Like self-starvation with food or compulsive dieting or hoarding with money, deprivation with sex can make one feel powerful and defended against all hurts,' he explains.
When a 'disorder' is defined and given a name, as is now the case with 'sexual anorexia,' the hope is that this recognition will bring help to those who suffer from the symptoms. Often these symptoms sound like difficulties we all experience at some time, just magnified to debilitating proportions. According to counselor Dr. Doug Weiss sexual anorexics in a relationship will withhold sex and be unwilling to their share feelings. According to Dr. Carnes, the avoidance of sex is seen as a way of solving all of life's problems.
Thing is, once a disorder is diagnosed, what's more likely to happen is that all kinds of people will be tagged as sufferers - from those who choose to be celibate right down to those who just don't feel like having sex all the time. If we work from the norm presented to us by Glamour as to how often we are meant to be having sex, or thinking about sex, or preparing for having sex – well, we could all be classed as sexual anorexics.
Where there's a disorder there has to be a cure. Unfortunately it's less and less likely to be of the talking kind, and more likely to come with an expensive prescription. At the end of last year the drug Flibanserin – otherwise known as the Female Viagra – was all over the news. It was described as a treatment for women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder, that is – 'a distressing lack of sexual desire.' (No word here as to what constitutes 'distressing,' of course.) The women tested on Flibanserin reported a doubling in their number of 'sexually satisfying events.'
Some news reports, including one from our favorite Fox SexPert, have described the effect of the drug, creepily, as 'decreasing inhibitions.' Low libido is painted as more of a problem for women than erectile dysfunction in men (because men want to have sex all the time, obviously). But, how is low libido defined? If this treatment is primarily for those who are 'distressed' by their low libido, this distress might due on their impaired quality of life but it could also be a result of pressure within their relationships. I have to admit, after reading some Glamours and Cosmopolitans, I began to feel quite distressed about my apparent abnormal level of sexual desire. It looks to me like if I don't want to do it in the office bathroom on my lunchbreak, I'm all wrong.
If and when Flibanserin is out on the market, it is possible that – as was the way with the progression of Viagra – this drug will go from a treatment for a severe problem to a treatment for everyone who just wants to be, or feels they should be, ready and willing at all times. We might easily get to the point when it is thought that if there's a pill available that you can pop to make you want sex all the time, then why wouldn't every woman take it, at least sometimes? And if you don't want to, what's wrong with you?