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Jewish World Review May 25, 2000/ 20 Iyar, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports


The opposite of sex --
CONCERNING THE NEW INTEREST in the mysteries of female desire, one can only say, well, it's about time.

Researchers have begun to notice, probably thanks to the number of women among them, that what works for the microwave doesn't work for the crockpot. Freud's exhausted question of "What do women want?" has been replaced by "What turns women on?" Viagra Man wants to know.

Newsweek even features women's sexuality on its cover this week. Wherein we meet Ellen, a 45-year-old college professor in rural Maryland whose interest in sex is on a par with Abbess Hildegard of Bingen's. It just ain't there. At least not with her husband, and no one's mystified here.

Marriage with children is, for most people, the antidote to sexual desire. But let's press on, for this is serious stuff. Who cares about national security or export tariffs or trade in the Pacific Rim when American women are failing to achieve orgasm?

Apparently, Ellen is not an isolated case. According to Newsweek, four in 10 American women are sexually dissatisfied, a figure projected to grow as 41 million baby boomer women cross over into menopause.

Now there's a stimulating image: 41 million over-50, orgasm-deprived women sounds like a market niche to me. Indeed, Newsweek predicts that by 2008, the market for women's sex treatments may hit $1.7 billion.

Of course, no one wants to suggest that losing interest in sex may be a normal response when childbearing is no longer a biological imperative. On Planet Orgasm, to be uninterested in sex is to play chess with Dr. Death. What's the point in living if you can't get no satisfaction?

Thus, Ellen and others are trying to reignite that old spark. First Ellen tried a sex therapist, then a gynecologist and a urologist before settling on six little pills that were supposed to direct traffic in the circulation department. Apparently, the thinking is not enough blood, not enough arousal, not enough orgasms.

And you thought it was about love.

The pills didn't work for Ellen. Nor did other arousal-inducing paraphernalia and techniques work for another woman featured in Newsweek, whose bizarrely comical treatment for unsatisfactory sex seems more like a vignette from "Pink Flamingos" than a medical protocol.

When this 54-year-old unnamed woman sought treatment at the Women's Sexual Health Clinic in Boston, doctors prescribed the following: a pair of 3-D glasses (I'm not kidding), a vibrator and an erotic videotape. Other implements that deserve to remain mysteries were used to measure the woman's sexual response to these stimuli.

It should also be mentioned that the woman was both a recent visitor to menopause and had undergone a mastectomy. Now I'm no expert, but I'd have to guess that having a mastectomy and experiencing menopause all at once would not bring the words, "Oh Yes!" immediately to one's lips.

On the other hand, some well-placed tenderness - flowers, backrubs, compliments, indefinite take-out - might just put a gleam back in the dear girl's eye. But then, such implies the need for male participation, and men, notably, were absent from this particular discussion. Could we be missing something?

Our poor patient, it turned out, profited not at all from her fauxsexual experience. Which fact underscores the absolute lack of mystery here: Women's desire has less to do with blood flow than stimulation. If blood flow is a response to stimulation, then the source of stimulation is most likely what's lacking. (See husband.) Besides, a pair of 3-D glasses, a skin flick and a vibrator are more apt to be a guy's idea of stimulation, not a woman's. Perhaps therein lies the problem.

While you're pondering that, gentlemen, lean over, grab the garbage can and walk it outside. To the woman standing by the sink, that's called foreplay.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
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03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
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03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
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06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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