Female Viagra

Female frigidity, to call the inability to reach orgasm by its proper name, has a long history. Two thousand years ago the great Roman poet Ovid noted it existence. Here is what he has to say about it:

Let the woman feel the act of love to her marrow,

Let the performance bring equal delight to the two.

Coax and flatter and tease, with inarticulate murmurs,

And if nature, alas! denies you the final sensation

Cry out as if you had come, do your best to pretend.

Really, I pity the girl whose place, let us say, cannot give her

Pleasure it gives to the man, pleasure she ought to enjoy.

So, if you have to pretend, be sure the pretense is effective,

Do your best to convince, prove it by rolling your eyes,

Prove by your motions, your moans, your sighs, what a pleasure it gives you.

Ah, what a shame! That part has its own intimate designs.

 

410djHsphPL._AA300_I am not a physician and cannot speak about the causes of the problem (although, in my experience, physicians, even in their own field, often spout at least as much nonsense as anyone else). As I read the most recent news about preliminary FDA approval of a female “passion pill,” though, I thought it worthwhile to remind readers of what Simone de Beauvoir had to say about the matter. For those of you who have forgotten, de Beauvoir (1908-1986) was a French writer and is widely considered the mother of modern feminism.

First, a little history. Like many other feminists from Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) and Betty Friedan (1921-2006) down, de Beauvoir grew up in a middle-class family whose male head found it hard to provide. Consequently he became the object of his wife’s resentment and complaints. Determined never to be in her mother’s position, the dutiful daughter, as she later called herself, decided to stand on her own economic feet. Meaning to become a teacher, she directed her studies toward that end.

In 1929 she met Jean-Paul Sartre, then a student and later a famous intellectual. She fell in love and wished to marry him as the only man she considered worthy of her. He, however, did not think he could be faithful and was honest enough to tell her so. That led to the famous pact under which each of them was free to do as he or she pleased, as long as they told one another everything. If she could not have him entirely for herself, at any rate she could share his adventures.

From this point on de Beauvoir was forced to keep up with her soulmate’s petites camerades. She would have been inhuman if she had not resented the arrangement. In her first novel, She Came to Stay, the main character, based on herself, ends up by murdering her competitor. Though de Beauvoir had several affairs, she was unable to find love with others. Approaching her fortieth birthday, she had still not discovered the true joy of sex. From what we know about her it seems that, like so many others in her position, on occasion she faked it. No wonder that, over time, she and Sartre lost their sexual interest in each other.

In the end, de Beauvoir was rescued by an American writer, Nelson Algren. She met him while touring the United States in 1947. Perhaps being far from home, and the sense of freedom such a tour can bring, helped. For several years they kept up a relationship. In The Mandarins, which was produced not long after her affair with him ended and which is autobiographical in all but name, she wrote: “His desire transformed me. I who for a long time had been without taste, without form, again possessed breasts, a belly, a sex, flesh; I was as nourishing as bread, as fragrant as earth. It was so miraculous that I didn’t think of measuring my time or my pleasure; I know only that before we fell asleep I could hear the gentle chirpings of dawn.”

Now that she was no longer handicapped by her personal problem, de Beauvoir found the courage to write about the essence of womanhood. The result was The Second Sex (1949), a best-seller that shook the world. In it she delved into the topic of frigidity. I quote:

״Resentment is the most common cause of feminine frigidity; in bed the woman punishes the man for all the wrongs she feels she has endured, by offering him an insulting coldness. There is often an aggressive inferiority complex apparent in her attitudes… She is thus revenged at once upon him and upon herself if he has humiliated her by neglect, if he has made her jealous, if he was slow in declaring his intentions, if he took her as a mistress while she wanted marriage. The grievance can flare up suddenly and set off this reaction even in a liaison that began happily… Frigidity… would appear to be a punishment that woman imposes as much upon herself as upon her partner; wounded in her vanity, she feels resentment against him and against herself, and she denies herself pleasure.״

Many men, de Beauvoir continued, suffer “torment” from their wives’ failure to be sexually responsive. And what starts from an inability to climax, she noted, might easily result in women refusing to have any sex at all. Meanwhile “many married women find amusement in confiding to one another the ‘tricks’ they use in simulating a pleasure that they deny feeling in reality; and they laugh cruelly at the conceited simplicity of their dupes. Such confidences may often represent still more play-acting, for the boundary between frigidity and the will to frigidity is an uncertain one.” “In any case,” the oracle of feminism concluded, “they consider themselves to lack sex feeling and thus they satisfy their resentment.”

To expand a little, frigidity—or “female sexual dysfunction” as it is often called today—has nothing to do with physiology. Millennia of attempts to discover its medical origins have failed and continue to do so. Neither anatomical problems (such as “too great” a distance between the clitoris and the vagina, as many early-twentieth century physicians thought) nor imperfect hormonal balances provided the answer to the riddle. It is, as the saying goes, all in the head. A head which, in too many cases, had been turned by all kinds of tales women tell themselves and each other about the deeds and misdeeds of those terrible creatures known as men.

Such being the case, I wish the women who take the new pills the best of good luck. And those who manufacture and sell them, fat profits. But I bet anyone that, as far into the future as anyone can look, the problem will remain exactly as it is.