Pub date July 20, 2010

Dear Readers:

This week’s letter of greatest interest, a well-composed rant against my supposed blind devotion to Western medicine, ignorance of same, and lack of understanding of the holistic approach to complaints such as hyposexual desire disorder, is really, really long. Here is one of the good parts:

I am an ayurvedic practitioner (traditional Indian medicine) and am obliged to look at things holistically (meaning from the perspective of the WHOLE person, not just their vaginas.) From this perspective, "HSDD" is just a name given to the complaint of low libido that could be caused by anything from poor diet to bad relationship to hormonal imbalance to stressful work-life and everywhere in between. Drugs don’t cure these things, they just give temporary "help" that you pay for in side-effects, cardiac risks, and possible worsening of the condition over time. Take away the drug, and you still have the problem. There is a cure for HSDD. It’s called education, lifestyle, diet and emotional healing, not your beloved Flibanserin.

If you want to empower women, don’t push drugs; push health, self-acceptance, and self-love.

OK, hang on there. We misunderstand each other. Keep in mind that Flibanserin doesn’t work, hence is not beloved by me or anyone else. But what’s really important to restate is this: Female desire turns out to be rather complicated and often dependant on prerequisite (feeling desired in return, fr’instance) that there just isn’t going to be a pill for. Ever.

My ayurvedic friend is completely correct when she says that many physical and emotional stressors can affect a woman’s libido, few if any of which can be addressed by a simple rearrangement of neurotransmitters. BUT. If you truly believe in a holistic approach to sexual health, you have to add those neurotransmitters to the equation — because if they are not skipping merrily across the synapses the way they are supposed to, no amount of yoga and yogurt is going to make sex happen. That’s where a drug like Flibanserin (if it worked) could be useful.

Western medicine may often overlook the importance of well-being, self-acceptance, love, and fresh vegetables in its pursuit of mechanistic fixes for poorly understood problems. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, although it surely does have its limits — Prozac isn’t going to "make" you happy if your life sucks. If you’re lucky, it may allow you to get out of your own way enough to begin to address some of the suckage.

I am more than happy to concede that a more holistic approach would vastly improve Western medicine. Let’s have one! And while we’re at it, let’s have an end to misogyny and sexual double standards and the "second shift."

I do not expect a one-size-fits-all drug to fit all. But I do think a brain-chemistry drug could have a salutary effect on brain chemistry. And while I would expect an approach like yours to be more effective than any Flibberwhatsis for complaints of the soul, I am taking my infected toe to Dr. Western, MD. Ayurveda may be ancient and time-tested, but so is gangrene.


Got a question? Email Andrea at andrea@mail.altsexcolumn.com