Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quit pouting and put out

I'm a little late to the party on this, but Susie Bright recently wrote an essay on a percieved universal decline in male libido and where it might be coming from. It's a premise that makes me start to roll my eyes to begin with - where's the actual data that shows this disturbing trend? - but her conclusion absolutely drove me nuts.
My chief indictment at present, the one we can prove, is Pharmaceutical Abuse. Many of America's favorite medicines depress the libido, and ironically, the most notorious ones are used to treat depression. Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and all the rest have made a lot of people feel "happy" at the expense of feeling horny.

Desire, along with sadness, anger, and other deep feelings, don't feel so pressing anymore with the new mood levelers. Men and women who got rid of their depression have told me that they miss their sex drive, but they find their new contentment to be enough compensation.

What saddens me is that a person would have to choose between their sexual passion and their will to live— we used to think of those emotions as being part of the same joie de vivre.

And what infuriates me is that young people are being treated with this crap as if their libidos were expendable.

As someone who has been through the zoloft libido drop, I get very annoyed when I see this sort of thing. It saddens Bright that a person has to choose between their libido and their will to live? It's also sad that people get cancer and have to choose between chemo and dying. What's the point here? Why is it so hard to believe that people are happy with their lives when they say they are? Why is it so hard to believe that there are women and men who would trade 10% of their libido to treat their mental illness?

What I see converging here are two things that drive me nuts: the dismissal of mental illness and the sex-positive tendency to demand perpetual sexiness. Here Bright is distraught at the idea that a young man might prefer a hamburger to a roll in the hay, and doesn't for a second consider that people suffering from depression have to make a hard decision. The way I looked at it when I started taking antidepressants was that I could either not take the pills and deal with a medium-to-severe amount of suckiness in my life all the time or take them and deal with somewhat less fantastic sex in the amount of time I normally devoted to it. (And honestly, depression is not the sexiest thing in the world, either.)

I was raked over the coals when I suggested that sex-positivity can wander into the territory of a mandatory lust contest, but Bright is making exactly that detour here. Along the way, she's decided to belittle the seriousness of depression.
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