Are Advertisers Biased Against Women's Sex Drive?

Selling Sex To Women
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For men, problems in the bedroom are now part of an open conversation. Dozens of TV and radio channels offer advice on treating erectile dysfunction and talk about "erections lasting longer than four hours." But advertisers seem squeamish over airing an ad for a female sexual arousal equivalent.

The market for erectile dysfunction drugs is estimated to rake in more than $3 billion a year in the United States. The makers of the "big three" -- Viagra, Cialis and Levitra -- spent over $300 million in advertising alone in 2008, according to Forbes.com. Levitra and Cialis have even scored Super Bowl ad space.

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company that makes Viagra, boasted on its website that nine of the little blue pills are dispensed every second -- nearly 300 million tablets a year.

"Ads for Viagra and the drugs like it are on during dinnertime, during primetime television, and nobody blinks an eye," said Lauren Berman, sex therapist and author of "The Book of Love." "We just accept that it's okay to talk about men needed and wanting sexual pleasure and sexual function."

So why is it when it comes to what women want, advertisers clam up? According to the American Medical Association, 43 percent of women suffer from sexual dysfunction verses the 31 percent of men that do. Given this, it would seem that there would been an even larger market for products helping women.

"Not by a long shot," said Rachel Braun Scherl.

Braun Scherl is the co-founder and president of Semprae Laboratories located in Saddle Brook, N.J. The company makes Zestra, a female arousal product designed to work with a women's body for those struggling in the bedroom.

"It's a patented blend of botanical oils and extracts that is topically applied and what it basically does is it increases sensitivity to touch, so a woman feels deep, pleasurable sensations," Braun explained. "She feels them more strongly. She feels them sooner, deeper. She feels it more intensely."

Other oil-based female and male arousal products have made it into the advertising world. Ky Intense commercials showcase shooting geysers and blaring horns. Yet, Zestra commercials are nowhere to be found.

Advertisers Balk at Female Sexual Arousal Ads

Female sexual dysfunction is much more complicated than in males, making it more difficult to remedy. For most men, a simple increase in blood flow to the genitals is all that is needed. Viagra, for example, manipulates enzymes in the artery walls of the penis to create greater blood flow.

But for women, there can be multiple problem areas associated with pain, discomfort, desire, arousal and satisfaction. Berman explained how women tap into arousal much more emotionally than men do.

"Women are much more complex than men. We experience our sexuality in a different context," Berman said. "Men are much better at putting the blinders on. Once they get the blood flowing to their genitals, they can forget about everything else on their mind in most cases."

Zestra Struggles to Get Ads On-Air and the Internet

Sold over-the-counter, Zestra has all the makings to become a household name as much as Viagra.

Semprae manufacturers tested almost 300 women in two placebo-controlled clinical trials, and the results from the first trial, which were published in the Sept. 2003 issue of the Journal of Sex and Marital States, showed it was 70 percent effective. In 2006, Business Week reported the product was the leading seller in women's intimacy products.

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