Dubious pink pills and dodgy infidelity websites: this week has been a showcase of the things spouses reach for so they can avoid talking to each other about the sex they'd actually like to be having together.
On Tuesday, the FDA approved flibanserin, dubbed "the female Viagra" to boost women's desire. Sprout Pharmaceuticals will release the drug, marketed as "Addyi," in October in the United States – this despite its paltry efficacy (0.7 more "sexually satisfying events" a month than a placebo) and troubling side effects like low blood pressure and fainting. Unlike with Viagra, women will have to take the drug daily and refrain from drinking while on it.
A tidal wave of sex researchers and educators expressed their dismay on Twitter following the FDA's approval of Addyi. The big problem, they argued, is that the drug medicalizes a problem that isn't there: women's desire isn't by nature spontaneous and out of the blue; instead, we respond to pleasure in low stress and highly affectionate environments – something no pill will offer.
Still, plenty of women welcomed the thought of a magic pill that fixes sexless marriages. Even more men envisioned an army of randy women to contend with (take a second look at those efficacy rates, bros, and keep dreaming).
Also on Tuesday, hackers released the private data of 32 million cheaters using the Toronto-based dating website Ashley Madison. The dump included names, street and email addresses, payment transactions and sexual fantasies, including "erotic tickling" and "bubble baths for two."
So why is it so much easier for people to divulge to a rando rather than a spouse that (clichéd as it is) they'd like to be greeted at the front door in lingerie from time to time? Why is it seemingly easier to pop a serious drug than to talk to your husband about what turns you on?
Talking about sex – even good sex – is still a daunting prospect for many North American husbands and wives. With a dearth of quality sexual education here, openly and honestly discussing sex remains a no-fly zone in most spousal conversations, this as porn downloads and Ashley Madison membership numbers are staggering.
Today, the best sex therapists are encouraging their patients in long-term committed unions to speak in very practical terms about what it is they actually want in bed: Bad sex leads to no sex, they point out, so find out what you find pleasurable and convey that.
Esther Perel, therapist and author of Mating in Captivity, a pivotal book on domesticity and sexual desire, is challenging her patients in online workshops with questions like what they'd like to experience sexually and what inhibitions and blocks hold them back. In an interview with the Globe last year, Perel urged couples to start "making efforts, stretching."
Easy? No. But surely better than low blood pressure, or your penchant for cuddly bubble baths with strangers being known the world over.