Ever since the invention of Viagra, pharmaceutical companies have been looking for an analogous drug to improve sexual functioning in women.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved Flibanserin, which was hailed by the media as the “pink Viagra” and thought to be a major step forward for female sexual empowerment.

But does this drug even help? Do women really want or need a little pink pill?

A rising wave of academics warn that drug companies and medical professionals have worked to describe sexual functioning in medical terms so that they can profit from selling a pharmaceutical cure. This pattern of the medicalization of sexuality began decades ago.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s was spurred by advances in oral contraceptives, making sex about pleasure instead of reproduction. “The Pill” allowed women the ability to exercise their sexual freedom and tied sexuality with pharmaceutical companies.

Urologists, looking for a way to expand their limited clientele, began defining erectile dysfunction as a medical condition. Before then, erectile dysfunction was a taboo subject and thought of as a personal problem. By the time Viagra was invented in the 1990s, men had a diagnostic label for their problem and a convenient pharmaceutical cure. Pharmaceutical companies reaped the profits, making billions of dollars from selling Viagra.

Seeking to continue to profit from sexual pharmaceuticals, drug companies began searching for a sexual enhancement drug for women. In order to sell the drug, they began creating a market of women with female sexual dysfunction. Physicians with financial ties to pharmaceutical companies worked to define FSD as a medical condition, legitimizing the need for a drug as a solution. Big Pharma, researchers and physicians present sexual dysfunction as resulting from poor blood flow or hormonal imbalances — a biological issue rather than a psychosocial problem.

Pharmaceutical companies figured a Viagra-like drug that increased blood flow would improve sexual functioning in women too.

It didn’t.

When they failed to find a physiological cure, drug companies redefined the problem and began looking for a drug that increased women’s desire instead of their physical response. They claimed 10 percent of women suffered from hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

In essence, drug companies and medical professionals have worked to define sexual dysfunction as a medical issue; they are disease mongering in order to create a market to sell a pharmaceutical cure.

In the face of opposition, they have pointed to feminist rhetoric and branded sexual enhancement drugs as a women’s rights issue. They launched campaigns proclaiming women have a right to sexual empowerment — if men have a little blue pill, women should have a little pink one. They drummed up support in mainstream media, inciting anger by accusing the FDA of gender bias.

 But despite the effort and money funneled into research, a safe and effective female sexual enhancement drug has not been found. The effects of Flibanserin are barely different from a placebo. Additionally, the pill must be taken every day, cannot be mixed with alcohol and causes an array of unsexy side effects.

Still, after multiple rejections and resubmissions, Flibanserin was approved by the FDA last August. Since then, the drug has been prescribed less than 4,000 times, the sales force behind the drug was fired and replaced and the stock of the company that owns the drug has fallen 85 percent.

Flibanserin was a flop.

Women are not clamouring for a pink Viagra. They don’t need a drug that alters their brain chemistry to make them feel desire.

Instead, they need a more sex positive society. Our hypersexualized culture constantly objectifies women while decrying female sexuality as immoral and slutty.

Female sexual dysfunction does not stem from solely biological problems. It stems from social and psychological issues. Rather than a medicalized cure, women need a solution that addresses these psychosocial factors.

Women need accessible contraceptives, better sex education, less sexual violence, partners who are equally invested in their pleasure and less sexual objectification in society.

A little pink pill will not provide a magic cure for female sexual dysfunction.

Teresa Turco ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in psychology and economics.