“Women are programmed for monogamy” goes the conventional understanding we’ve clung to since Victorian times. After all, they have a finite number of eggs, which means the pressure to secure a viable mate and reproduce is more pressing for them than for men, who produce limitless sperm over the course of a lifetime. It’s a tidy package that, ostensibly, helps maintain societal order and respectability. Let men do a bit of wandering and experimenting – because “boys will be boys,” after all – but women will always maintain the hearth and the family unit. Well, hold on to your wives because new research is painting a very different picture of women’s sexuality.
The story begins with a young, broken-hearted Dutch university student, Adriaan Tuiten. Adriaan had been in love with the same girl since he was 13-years-old, and then in their mid-20’s she unexpectedly broke up with him. Fast-forward thirty-plus years, Tuiten is now the primary inventor and researcher behind the new female sex drugs Librido and Libridos. That experience of losing the woman he loved sparked a lifetime fascination – dare we say obsession? – with women’s sexuality and romantic inclinations. “I was shocked. I was suffering,” Tuiten told the New York Times reporter. “I’m a little bit — not insane. But. There became a need for me to understand my personal life in this way.”
And what has he come to understand? For one, women are no more “programmed” for monogamy than men are. If anything, research suggests that sexual desire drops over the course of a long-term relationship more often for women than it does for men. Menopause and other hormonal changes may be the culprit, as well as the effects of antidepressant medication (which millions of American women are on), but as we all know, sexual desire entails more than just physiology. What’s at the heart of sexual desire and intimacy is still a mystery.
The extended New York Times article addresses many facets of this new perspective on women’s sexuality: Maybe women are just bored. Maybe love, intimacy, and desire are all separate categories that become threatened when mixed. Maybe society teaches men to be unbridled sexually, whereas women are encouraged to contain their desire – the effects of which create real neural responses to mirror these learned beliefs.
Either way, Librido – which is designed to address both the physiological and emotional/psychological issues of desire – is up for F.D.A. approval. Research trials have shown significant rates of success, and for some this may seem like the answer to a lifelong struggle with sex drive. Ultimately, though, we don’t really know what causes desire, what makes people fall in love, what sustains long-term intimacy, or any of the other nuances of romantic love. It still seems fairly archaic to assume something inherently different between women’s and men’s sexuality – but hey, everyone has to figure that out for themselves.
What do you think of this new research on women’s sex drive? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image credit: Dennis Brekke