[WARNING: This talk contains mature content]
Sarah Barmak – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT
Would you take a pill every day if it could save your sex life?
That question was on the minds of thousands of women recently when a new drug called Flibanserin went on the market. It was approved to treat a condition that doesn’t get much press but affects about 1 in 10 women. It’s called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
It means women don’t feel as much sexual desire as they want to. So they wish they felt a stirring for their spouses or a new date. They want to want to have sex, but they don’t.
Unfortunately, the new drug had drawbacks. First, in order to take it, you had to give up drinking alcohol. So say goodbye to that big glass of wine to help get you in the mood.
It also carried a risk of side effects: dizziness, tiredness, even nausea. Not very sexy.
And on top of all that, the drug only kind of worked. It guaranteed just one more sexually “satisfying event” per month over placebo. Still, women asked their doctors for it.
In our culture, we tend to see sex as something that’s more important to men than it is to women. But that’s not true.
What is true is that women often feel more shame in talking about it. Over half of women quietly suffer from some kind of sexual dysfunction. We’ve been hearing more about the orgasm gap. It’s kind of like the wage gap but stickier.
Straight women tend to reach climax less than 60% of the time they have sex. Men reach climax 90% of the time they have sex. To address these issues, women have been sold flawed medication, testosterone creams, even untested genital injections.
The thing is, female sexuality can’t be fixed with a pill. That’s because it’s not broken. It’s misunderstood.
Our culture has had a skewed and medically incorrect picture of female sexuality going back centuries. If over half of women have some kind of sexual problem, maybe our idea of sexuality doesn’t work for women. Maybe we don’t need a female Viagra. We need a clearer understanding of how women actually work.
I’m a journalist, and I recently wrote a book about how our understanding of female sexuality is evolving. So, sexuality itself was defined back when men dominated science.
Male scientists tended to see the female body through their own skewed lens. They could’ve just asked women about their experience. Instead, they probed the female body like it was a foreign landscape.
Even today, we debate the existence of female ejaculation and the G-spot like we’re talking about aliens or UFOs: “Are they really out there?”
All of this goes double for LGBTQI women’s sexuality, which has been hated and erased in specific ways. Ignorance about the female body goes back centuries. It goes back to the beginning of modern medicine.
Cast your mind back to the 16th century, a time of scientific revolution in Europe. Men of ideas were challenging old dogmas. They were building telescopes to gaze up at the stars. We were making progress sometimes.
You see, the fathers of anatomy — and I say “fathers” because, let’s face it, they were all dudes — were poking about between women’s legs and trying to classify what they saw. They weren’t quite sure what to do with the clitoris. It didn’t appear to have anything to do with making babies.