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If you have an email address, you've heard of the major libido-boosting drugs aimed at men: Viagra, Cialis and more all come crashing against your spam filter on a daily basis. What about women, though?

The fairly easy availability of Viagra has highlighted an equally pressing problem: low sexual desire in women. While you can hardly escape from suggestions that you might like to take Viagra, if you're a woman, options for improving sexual desire are more limited.

How Widespread Is The Problem?

Well, in 2006 a German study found that four years into a relationship, less than half of 30-year-old women wanted regular sex. And after 20 years, the study found that same number had fallen to just 20 percent.

By contrast, men's sexual appetites remained the same however long they had been in a relationship.

This figure held steady at between 60 percent and 80 percent. The researchers attributed the difference to evolutionary differences in male and female physiology and psychology, though the real cause or causes isn't known and could well be social. 

There Are Two Big Problems In The Area Of The 'Hunt For Pink Viagra'

These are the nature of female sexual dysfunction, and the nature of female sexual desire - but the close financial links between researchers in the field and pharmaceutical companies seems to suggest that the medicalization of low female libido, currently known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, or HSDD) might be a question of profit for some.

In the case of female sexual dysfunction, there's always going to be the question of whether this is a complaint by women that their sexual desires aren't functioning as they wish, or whether the complaint is coming from men who see lack of female desire as a condition to be medicated, treating women's sexualities as their reproductive and mental lives were treated in the nineteenth century.

The evidence does suggest that a lot of the impetus is coming from women themselves.

A low sex drive is the most common complaint made by women about sexual matters, with between 30 percent and 40 percent of complaints having to do with this, according to Sandra Lieblum, PhD, director for the Center for Sexual and Relationship Health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey. 

The other problem is female sexual desire itself. Viagra is essentially a drug for filling the penis with blood, but that's not always going to cut it for women. In the case of many men who find Viagra helpful, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, while others suffer from performance anxiety, a paradoxical condition that means men are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction because they are afraid that they will. Meanwhile male lack of enjoyment of sex is referred to under different terms, as a symptom of anhedonia (failure to find pleasure in normally enjoyable activities). In other words, male sexual dysfunction is divided between a physical side and a psychological side, while female sexual dysfunction isn't.

Female sexual desire is widely seen as being more complex than male sexuality.

As Bella Ellwood-Claytonwrites in the Huffington Post, many women see their sexual desire as complex and essentially located in the brain, involved with 'how we feel, our mood, the context' - less to do with physical desire than men's sexuality.

If that's true, how do researchers rise to the challenge of a medication that can work on both erectile tissue, and the brain?
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