Tag Archives: FDA

Sex-Linked Links

Debbie says:

Last time I set out to do a links round-up, I wound up with a themed post on penises. This time, I’m finding a set of themed links on human sexuality. One day, we’ll have a real wide-ranging links round-up … but not today.


Diane Kelly at Throb shares an interesting insight into why more babies are boys than girls … and why what we’ve always believed about that is wrong.

For nearly two centuries, experts have assumed that the skew came from a higher rate of male conceptions. In an article at Nautilus, David Steinsaltz, J. W. Stubblefield, and J. E. Zuckerman explain that an early, 19th-century guess that more males were conceived to compensate for greater losses in utero–the so-called “fragile male” hypothesis–snowballed into a rarely-questioned “truth. …

In fact, new methods of looking at the sex ratio during development have shown that … X and Y sperm are equally likely to fertilize any given egg. The skew comes instead from differences in survival rates during embryonic development. There’s a complex shift in miscarriage ratios over time, from more males to more females at different moments in gestation. In the end, more female embryos are lost to miscarriage, skewing the birth ratio slightly to males.

I will forbear from making jokes about the “fragile male” hypothesis. Really I will.


In other news, the FDA has approved Addyi, a libido-enhancing drug for women. This sounds like good news, but Sarah Boseley at The Guardian is viewing it with alarm, and I think she makes sense.

[Cynthia] Graham, [professor in sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton] and other critics believe the FDA was pressured and half-shamed into approving Addyi (generic name flibanserin) by a campaign headed by a vocal group called Even the Score, which pitched the absence of drugs to help women with low libido as a gender inequality issue. It describes itself as a campaign for women’s sexual health equality which was “created to serve as a voice for American women who believe that it’s time to level the playing field when it comes to the treatment of women’s sexual dysfunction”. On the front page of its website now runs a banner saying “Thank you, FDA”. Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which owns Addyi, is one of the funders, as is Trimel, another company in the same field.

Nothing makes me more nervous than “grassroots” political groups which turn out to be funded by corporations with a financial interest in their activism. And learning that Addyi is “only moderately effective, should not be taken with alcohol, and has potentially serious side-effects” doesn’t calm my nerves.  I also appreciate the comments by Dr. Petra Boynton, an extremely smart and sensible analyst of sexual issues, who said:

“People have a perception that everybody else is having fantastic sex all the time with exotic positions.” There is, Boynton said, “anxiety brought about by misinformation about sex”, which is perpetuated by the media and especially men’s and women’s magazines. “The cultural wallpaper is telling you that to keep someone and be desirable and not left alone, which is a huge fear, you must be having and providing frequent sex.”


In a related vein, Mona Chalabi at 538 is talking about “the gender orgasm gap” from her point of view as a data analyst:

In 2009, the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) asked 1,931 U.S. adults ages 18 to 59 about their most recent sexual experience. The topline findings show that men are more likely to orgasm than women — 91 percent of men said they climaxed during their last sexual encounter, compared with 64 percent of women.

But there seems to be a perception gap, too — at least among men. Eighty-five percent of men said their partners in that recent sexual encounter had reached climax, far higher than the percentage of women who said they orgasmed. That can’t simply be explained away by saying that the men were referring to different sexual partners. Most of these sexual encounters were heterosexual — 92 percent of men and 98 percent of women said their last sexual encounter was with someone of the opposite sex. So it seems like some of those men were wrong when they said their partners had orgasmed — either their egos are causing them to overestimate, or some of those women are faking it.

Nothing surprising here (and it’s six-year-old data); nonetheless, 538 is always refreshing because of its focus on data. Chalabi has a lot more to say about which sexual acts, done with whom (including alone), etc.  And who can resist a chart about what acts lead to orgasm entitled “How Come?”


Finally, Liz Prato at Hippocampus has a rich, nuanced article about female masseuses, male clients, and erections.

Massage school was the first to teach me that there were two types of erections: hostile and benign. My instructors taught me how to deal with each erectile happenstance, ranging from saying nothing at all, to having a clinical discussion with the engorged client about what’s appropriate behavior during a massage. I was confident that, by the time I graduated from massage school, I would have no problems dealing with erections, hostile or otherwise. After all, I’d seen a few in my private life without eliciting trauma, and (thought) I had a clear concept of professional boundaries. This would be no big deal.

My first encounter with a hostile erection popped up a lot sooner than I expected. … My school was a blond brick office building with bleached linoleum floors and industrial-grade carpet (in other words, not a bordello), and my student uniform was khaki pants and a green polo shirt (not a mini skirt and knee-high fuck me boots). My client was in his mid-twenties, with dark hair and a cheesy mustache. The massage began with him lying on his stomach, so if there was an erection, I didn’t see it. Sure, he moaned and groaned a little, but, Hey, some people are expressive, I reasoned. But when he turned over, there it was, pitching a tent under the thin white sheet.

Okay, ignore it, was my tactic. I figured bringing attention to the erection was always the wrong way to go, and just massaged his shoulders. That’s when his moaning turning into loud groaning. “Oh, God, oh, yes! It feels so good!”

Prato goes on to discuss the relationship between massage and sexuality, between touch and sexuality, and the complexities this entails. She looks at the issues with directness and compassion:

I used to have a forty-something client named Tom who saw me weekly. He was referred by a psychotherapist who treats sex addicts. It’s not as creepy as it sounds. I’ve worked with several recovering sex addicts, and they’re no more interested in a Happy Ending than anyone else who lies on my table. These folks have a pretty good idea of where to go for sex and don’t want to waste my time and theirs if that’s what they’re looking for. What they are looking for is touch that’s not a futile attempt to mask their emotional pain. See, for them, sex isn’t about pleasure, and it sure as hell isn’t about intimacy. It’s usually about trying to cover up some horrible wound inside of them, but that’s like trying to douse a flame with kerosene. All it does is create a firestorm of emptiness and shame. When they come to me they want touch that isn’t sexual. They want intimacy with boundaries. They want – and they get – no self-hatred.

When I lay my hands against their skin, it might very well be the first time that touch hasn’t been manipulative or degrading. So they come back. Each time I touch them, they relax a bit more. They feel a little more pleasure. They get a little less scared. It reminds me of how we all walk around carrying fear and self-doubt and weeping wounds, and we’re just doing the best we can to dance around all that pain. I wish I didn’t need to be reminded of that, but I’m so glad I am.

Read the rest; Prato is a fascinating writer.

Thanks to oursin for the Addyi link; the others are from my regular reading

FDA: Breast Implants and Sperm Donors

Laurie says:

I’ve had my attention drawn recently to two important and very different body issues that involve the power and influence of the FDA. Their malign influence can certainly be blamed in part on the Bush administration. Mostly it seems like business as usual – commerce over health, the devaluation of women’s bodies and homophobia.

I received an email from Beth Katz at Our Bodies, Ourselves asking me to draw attention to this article “Are Breast Implants Absolutely Safe” in the Huffington Post.   The article includes very good information and personal stories on some of the serious risks of implants.

Carol Ciancutti-Leyva, director of the documentary “Absolutely Safe,” is the daughter of a cancer survivor. Her mother’s journey, from a double mastectomy to silicone implants in the early 70s – which resulted in chronic illness, formed the impetus for the film.

…The documentary came out in 2007, after a ten-year struggle for funding. It is currently being booked for screenings on college campuses and is being used in classrooms devoted to women’s studies, bioethics, and public policy.

Currently, Ciancutti-Leyva is working to create strategic partnerships to mobilize an “Informed Consent” campaign about the use of breast implant devices. Her model for legislation is a New York State Law (State of New York – Article 24-E, Section 2499w New York State law) that required the state’s Department of Health to publish a booklet that must be received by every woman considering a hysterectomy. It succinctly outlines risks, complications, alternative treatments, and recuperation expectations. Presently, the FDA has a guide on breast implants, but it is not legally mandated that prospective patients receive it. The “FDA Breast Implant Consumer Handbook” was published in 2004. Ciancutti-Leyva told me that the information reads as “a cautionary tale.”

…..Without question, future conversations about breast implants will have to do more than just scrutinize the medical uncertainties. The need for informed consent was addressed as far back as 2000, in an editorial appearing in the Fall issue of The Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association. Written by Nancy Neveloff Dubler, LLB and Anna Schissel, JD, it was entitled “Women, Breasts, and the Failure of Informed Consent.” The authors examined whether “informed consent for breast augmentation is too fragile a reed to withstand the storm of commerce.” Norrigan sees part of the push for “informed consent” starting with outreach to legislators and policy makers.

And Kurt Siegel pointed me to Libby Post at the Seattle Gay News for this post on the FDA and gay sperm donors.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s soon-to-be-implemented guidelines about anonymous sperm donors present a reproductive-rights issue for both Gay men and Lesbians. When a government can’t directly stop undesirable people from reproducing, it simply makes it more difficult for them – in this case, by instituting a policy that is more politically motivated than it is rooted in science.

…Indeed, there were on record only a few cases of HIV transmission through infected donor sperm. (And today, there is no recorded increase of such transmission.) Happily, activists were successful at staving off the discriminatory change, but under Bush, the FDA began revisiting the idea in earnest.

…Let’s face it – the underlying premise of the FDA guidelines is that Gay men should not father children, although the agency doesn’t come right out and say that. It conveniently circumvents the charges of anti-Gay discrimination by noting that the guidelines don’t have the force of law, and that the agency’s official regulations – which do carry legal force – never use the words Gay or homosexual. Yet, as one sperm-bank director admitted to Gay blogger Michael Petrelis, “A lot of clinics will use the guidelines as an intimidation document and refuse Gay donors.” …

What’s more, the new guidelines also have a direct impact on Lesbian reproductive choice. Many Lesbian couples prefer Gay sperm donors. Indeed, they may have chosen a sperm bank where donors agree to have their identity revealed at some point in the future – usually when the child comes of age – and want that donor to be family in more ways than one.

Of course, the new FDA guidelines for sperm donors may seem benign compared to egregious examples from the women’s reproductive-rights movement. But the Lesbian and Gay community shouldn’t fool itself into complacency. The guidelines are ultimately all about who is and isn’t fit to parent – who is, in effect, mommy material, a phrase I coined a few years back. Now the FDA is poised to include Gay men – based on their sexual identity, not on the realities of their sexual behavior – under the rubric of those who aren’t daddy material.

Both of these posts are well worth reading.  Check them out!