by Bat Sheva Marcus

The Talmud and “Female Viagra”

pillsThere are passages from the Talmud which are incredibly sex positive. And while admittedly there are some which are less so, I like to focus on those which support sexual activity within a marriage as a critical component of a healthy relationship. In a passage in Ketubot, the tractate which deals with issues pertaining to marriage, it is clear that the rabbis would not, or could not, conceive of a sexless marriage, to the extent that if a vow to abstain from sex lasted more than a week or two, the partners needed to either absolve the vow or divorce.  What I’d like to think is that those passages support  the idea that sex is not just about what happens in the bedroom between two people, but rather it is a powerful glue that, in the best of circumstances, shapes the relationship adding an element of intimacy, shared secrets, fun and enjoyment.

And ultimately, if you can ignore the recent rather vituperative discourse on the development of a drug to boost sexual desire in women, that should be the focus of our discussion.

Flibanserin, or Addyi, the first female sexual dysfunction drug to be approved by the FDA, shouldn’t be compared to Viagra, (although it constantly is) because it doesn’t work anything like Viagra. Viagra brings blood to the genitals. Flibanserin works in the neurotransmitters of the brain. If successful it will raise Dopamine levels, or allow pleasurable impulses to transmit more easily in the brain. Drug trials have shown those women who take the drug are more receptive to sexual stimulation and have more satisfying sexual activities. I like to think of it as helping you feel your sexual hunger.

A woman for whom sex has become a chore, something she neither looks forward to, nor thinks about during her daily life, may go along with her partner and have sex because she thinks she should, but doing so is neither very appealing nor very satisfying. And while what happens in the bedroom may be passable, the effects of her disinterest begin to be felt outside the bedroom. The playfulness may be gone. The kiss goodbye in the morning may become rote. The feeling of “you and me” together in this may start to erode. In the end, the feeling of being “wanted” by your partner is what is so very powerful and necessary in a sexual relationship. When the “wanting” is gone, sex can never be the same.

So a drug that can help a woman “want” as she navigates the complexity of her life, a drug that supports her effort to find the enjoyment in sex again is not a small thing. It’s a big thing. Because the Talmud may have had this right, it’s not just about what happens in the bedroom.  Sex is about the entire relationship.

© 2011 Lilith Magazine