I was raised Southern Baptist in the Deep South. Sex was something you didn’t talk about. As a woman, you certainly didn’t talk about wanting or enjoying it. I was taught that sex was about procreation, not recreation.
I met my husband, Ben, in 2005. We had both previously been married, and we approached our relationship with an open dialogue about what we would do differently and what we thought was important. There were no inhibitions, and our relationship was sexually charged.
Then around 2008, it felt like something was missing. Before, I’d been an active initiator—flirty, playful, and frisky. But now, there was a lack of oomph and interest. I found myself trying to be asleep before he came to bed and avoiding those intimate times.
It wasn’t that when we were together, things weren’t great, because they were. I don’t have an arousal problem, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy sex or that I don’t orgasm. From my neck down, my body responds perfectly. What’s missing is the lack of desire to start. I became an obligatory participant instead of an initiator.
My doctor told me to buy a vibrator, which didn’t help, and that what I was experiencing was a natural part of aging. I began to worry, and unknown to me, Ben started to worry, too. A few months later, I was in the doctor’s office again and saw a flier about hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Reading the symptoms, it felt like a light bulb was going off. Part of me was elated: I’m not just getting old. Another part of me was terrified: What if this can’t be fixed?
After a thorough evaluation, I was diagnosed with HSDD, and I decided to be part of the trial for Flibanserin, which has been dubbed the “female Viagra.” That description isn’t right: What I have isn’t a functional problem. Viagra sends blood flow down to the penis so that it gets erect. You can send blood flow to my vagina all day long and that’s not going to make me want to have sex. My problem is that my brain doesn’t feel desire.
About two weeks into the trial, I was texting Ben in the middle of the day when I realized that I wanted to have sex. I had a flutter, and I don’t mean in my heart. So I texted him, “I think this is working.” I was back to my normal self.
Part of my hesitation about the drug was the stigma attached to it. Would I become a sex kitten? Would I want this all the time? Would I want to jump the bones of any man I saw? But instead, it was like filling back up a half-empty glass of water. It brought me back to where I was. Before long, I was the one suggesting we skip dessert and go back home to bed.
The quality of our sex during the trial was much different. I was taught that for sex, men need a place, and women need a reason. But what I found was that Ben responded differently to me when he knew I wanted him. It turned him on in a different way, and watching his reaction turned me on, too.
We were also finally talking openly about sex. I think this intimacy saved our relationship. That’s why I’m so passionate about this pill and have testified about it before the FDA. There are so many couples that don’t talk about sex and don’t realize what’s wrong. They think that once they’re 50, they’re done. I’m 52. I don’t want to think that I’m done wanting to have sex.
I was on the trial for eight months, and after the FDA canceled the trial, my desire went away. I’ve tried other things. I read 50 Shades of Grey at least 12 times, and incorporated the fun, frisky stuff from that. I even tried testosterone, but I found that it worked much better in the workout room than the bedroom, and I was concerned about the side effects that I was experiencing.
Some people have told me that all I need is a bar of chocolate, or a glass of wine, or a beach in Tahiti, or a new partner. I get that. For a large number of women, that might be the case, and they are likely not HSDD patients. I’ve tried talking to therapists, and I think that can work for many people, too. But I’ve talked about it until I was blue in the face, and for me, all of those solutions are simply temporary fixes.
There are lots of products to help women get aroused and lubricated. This is the one thing that’s missing. I know this pill worked for me. It’s currently under review by FDA, and I hope that it’s approved. I want to want my husband again.