The Female Hard-On

The Lower East Side chicks from Toys in Babeland hosted a big bash a few weeks ago at the feisty dyke club Meow Mix to celebrate the National Masturbate-a-Thon. That's right—instead of walking or running, participants gathered pledges and collected cash for each minute they spent pleasuring themselves. All proceeds from this jack- and jill-off fest and the finish-line party went to From Our Streets With Dignity (FROST'D), a nonprofit that provides health and social services to one of the hardest-working and most overlooked groups of women—sex workers on New York City's streets. As a Toys in Babeland consultant, I had the honor as mistress of ceremonies to welcome local performers, who each did their part to applaud all the folks who "came for a cause."

The evening's festivities culminated with the Fraggle Rock House Band's tribute to songs about self-loving, and I found myself on the dance floor sandwiched between slices of sexy, sweaty, horny girls. As the band belted out a Joan Jett song ("Do you wanna touch? Yeah! Do you wanna touch? Yeah! Do you wanna touch me there? Where?") girls were bumping and grinding with gusto. Strangers rubbed their drenched bodies up against mine, fingers stroked my flesh from every direction. It was a wild, wild night.

Although I was riding the high that came with the knowledge (and firsthand experience) that sex in the city is thriving, my spirits were slightly dampened when I picked up the recent Newsweek with the "Science of Women's Sexuality" cover. Next to a photo of a woman in the throes of passion are the words "Searching for the Female Viagra: Is It a Mind or Body Problem?" Fueled by the success of Viagra in treating male sexual dysfunction, scientists have turned to the sexual problems of women. But what promised to be an informative article turned out to be a muddled mess that reinforced just how little scientists know about women and sex. I found it especially telling that the report was written by a man.

The bad news is that in the most recent study of the effects of the super blue pill on women, Viagra was no more successful than a placebo in women with a wide variety of sexual dysfunction symptoms. We've given all the men supercharged erections, but haven't had any luck when it comes to women's erotic woes. I am tempted to say: Who needs Viagra when we've got Meow Mix? But the truth is that 40 percent of American women experience some form of sexual dysfunction. It's actually a bigger problem than it is for men (30 percent suffer from some form of dysfunction), and yet all the money and research has focused on the boys. In part, this is typical of a misogynist industry that has always geared research toward males. But there is another reason that the fairer sex has again gotten the short end of the stick: Men's sexual problems (including erectile dysfunction) just seem much easier to solve than the complex, layered issues surrounding women's sexual dysfunction.

Concerned that medication I was taking was diminishing my libido, I queried my doctor about it. He asked if I could still get turned on and come, to which I replied yes, but I was worried that my sex drive had nearly disappeared. "If you can achieve orgasm, then there is no sexual dysfunction." Gee thanks, doc. I tried to explain that if Tom Cruise walked in with his flight jacket from Top Gun, a freshly shaved asshole, and a raging hard-on, I just wouldn't feel anything. Even if Nicole Kidman joined him—with a huge strap-on between her legs, nipples perked up like mini-torpedoes, and a double-ended vibrator with unlimited juice—still nothing. Now, if neither member of this supercouple—nor both—can get my juices flowing, well, something's wrong. Isn't it? According to this doctor (and plenty of others), no.

The doctor's dismissal of my problem is symptomatic of a medical industry that not only is clueless about women's sexual dysfunction, but barely knows what's going on with female sexual function. The truth is, there are many different forms of female sexual dysfunction. Some women have little or no desire to have sex. Others have trouble getting aroused or can't get turned on at all. Others cannot achieve orgasm, and others experience pain during sex. Some women have a combination of these symptoms. For me, while on this medication, after we got into it and I had my tongue on Tom's butthole and Nic's slim fingers in my pussy, I'd get into the groove and shoot my load. I'd just have trouble getting revved up in the first place.

On the subject of the Big O, the Newsweek article gets even more infuriating. Pondering the evolutionary benefits of the female orgasm, a pull quote teases—"One possible theory: orgasms in women have no function and are just a developmental vestige, like male nipples." First of all, why are we wasting time, money, and column width on debating the importance or necessity of the female orgasm? It's just more misogynist bullshit, if you ask me. (And on the subject of male nipples, try telling all the men who appreciate having theirs tweaked and squeezed and clamped that they have no function.)

To understand why some of us have an easy time of it and others don't, we first have to understand sex and girls: female sexual anatomy (folks still can't agree on how big or far-reaching the clitoris is); desire and the experience of arousal and pleasure; the complexities of the female orgasm; plus, the emotional and psychological aspects of sex and how they play a role in arousal and satisfaction. You see, we don't even have the 411 on this stuff, so how can we expect to figure out how to fix the leak when we don't know how the plumbing works in the first place?

I will say it again—we need more research, folks. There are promising options on the table beyond Viagra: other drugs that work for men being tested on women, several creams designed to increase blood flow to the vagina and clitoris, a testosterone patch that seems to increase sex drive but has problematic side effects. The most interesting little item in the Newsweek article was a new, recently FDA-approved device called EROS-CTD, designed to pump blood to the clitoris. Reminiscent of a penis pump, which gets blood flowing and pumps up a man's erection, the EROS-CTD is basically a clit pump. It reminds me of a butch dyke I know in San Francisco, sex educator Karlyn Lotney, a/k/a Fairy Butch. Fairy Butch has an innovative technique for clit pumping in which she employs a penis pump to make her clit (temporarily) the size of two short fingers—her own female hard-on. Whoops, there I go: describing female arousal in men's terms, but the truth is that the tissue is the same, and we do get hard-ons, too. I'm going straight to my HMO in hopes of securing a prescription for this expensive, doctor-approved sex toy. Then I'm gonna take her out for a spin. I'll try to come up with another word for my big clit while I'm at it.

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