(VIDEO) Mid-Life Sexual Mojo: The Zestra/Viagra Double Standard

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Lately,  there seem to be a lot of discussion about mid-life sexual dysfunction –- specifically women’s sexual dysfunction, which I naturally find far more interesting than talk about ED and the ubiquitous print and broadcast advertising campaign behind Cialis and Viagra.  An article that appeared yesterday in the New York Times, about a (futile) effort to promote a female-aphrodisiac in TV advertisements capped them all.

Apparently, some research has concluded that  Zestra Essential Arousal Oils has proven to help some women who, shall we say… have lost their sexual mojo.  The makers of this product have produced a two-minute TV commercial for Zestra, in which 40- and 50-something women use racy words like  sex and arousal in expressing their desire for the sex life they once enjoyed in their younger days.  Watch it here because, unfortunately, it will likely never see the light of day due to the squeamish (male?) executives at the TV networks, cable stations, radio stations and even Facebook and WebMD.

Despite commercials flooding the airwaves about ED remedies like Cialis, whose voice-over script refers to "an erection lasting more than four hours," any mention of female sexual pleasure is clearly verboten.  According to the New York Times article, even Facebook, with its growing population of mid-life women, pulled ad an that read, "Zestra Essential Arousal Oils –  Try Zestra for Free," saying that, "Facebook did not allow advertisements that contain or promote adult content including sexual terms/and or images."  It’s hard to believe that this double-standard still prevails -– even on cable and the Internet.

I think  the commercial would achieve for women what Cialis and Viagra commercials have for men: they’ve learned that they’re not alone and it’s an acceptable topic to discuss with your physician.

Low sexual desire in the second half of life was also the cover story of the August issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter, which takes a more buttoned up approach to explaining the reasons for a libido that wilts with age.  For women, they explain, the culprits are decreased estrogen production, urinary or genital tract changes as well as changes in our body shape and size, which affects how desirable we feel.  The National Women’s Health Resource Center also published “Fast Facts” about Sex and Intimacy after Menopause, which offers a more detailed explanation.  But for a really good medical explanation about low libido in mid-life I asked Rebecca Hulem, a personal menopause coach, why a lot of mid-life women lose their desire for sex:

The loss of sexual desire in mid-life women involves several factors. The first and foremost is the drop in two hormones: estrogen and testosterone. Testosterone is the “hormone of desire” and is produced in equal parts by the ovary during ovulation, and the adrenal glands. When ovulation stops during menopause 50% of our testosterone production automatically is gone, leaving the adrenal glands to provide the other 50%. When you lose half of your testosterone production it makes a big impact. This is why the majority of women who have transitioned through menopause complain that they never really think about having sex anymore. If their partners “initiate” love making and they can wrap their mind around having sex many can still enjoy it. But the “initiation” from the woman is usually gone and as you can imagine this can have a big impact on the relationship.

The second hormone estrogen plays a huge part in the “mechanics” of sexual intimacy. Estrogen affects every aspect of the vagina. Estrogen keeps the vaginal tissue healthy and elastic. It provides the lubrication necessary for comfort and pleasure with intercourse. It helps to provide adequate blood flow and circulation to the clitoris and vaginal tissue thus allowing for adequate arousal and orgasms. Without adequate estrogen the vagina eventually will lose its elasticity, the tissue becomes thin and easily irritated by clothing, soaps and ,of course, intercourse. A woman may then experience a dry, itchy, burning feeling in and around the vaginal tissue. This sets up a painful cycle. If there is not adequate lubrication, intercourse and foreplay is painful. If intercourse is painful naturally a woman wants to avoid it. Most women feel embarrassed to discuss this with their partners or their health care providers. The relationship is then compromised. The man feels rejected and thinks it is him.

So, what do you think about the Zestra Commercial? Would seeing it air on TV make you uncomfortable? Please comment below to share your opinions.

Update: There’s now a petition to end the double standard in advertising.  It will target network executives at Turner Broadcasting Network, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

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