Female Viagra: What will Lady Prelox do for us?

When I first heard the name Lady Prelox, I hoped she was the new, raunchy character on Downton. Lifting her skirts and getting her bum out in the name of jazz, committing all sorts of unspeakable acts with tweedy gentlemen, enveloped in a silver Sobranie haze. “Let us touch your garter, Lady Prelox!” the crowds would call out, moaning in ecstasy because just being in her presence would reduce the most buttoned up, starchy sister to a wiggling, giggling, jiggling pleasure seeker.

Sadly, Lady Prelox is not a sexy posh made up olden days lady. Lady Prelox is a new herbal supplement about to go on sale at Holland and Barrett that is being touted as “the female Viagra”. We can finally control our female boners! Let us be raised up! We can make sure the sexy train stops at our womanly station according to a strict timetable, and we will never again experience a sex signalling failure or sex replacement bus service.

According to the manufacturers, it will encourage blood flow to the reproductive organs, boosting libido and increasing arousal, because it contains a French pine bark extract, pycnogenol. What's that you say, sexy pill makers? You're actually giving us wood?!

Enough women reported “significant improvements in their sex lives” during the testing stages for shops to be allowed to sell it at £37.95 for a month's supply. That's about the same as my gym. I'd probably prioritise getting sexy over going to the gym, but then, I tend to prioritise contemplating the state of my overdraft and cleaning the toilet bowl over the gym too.

The trouble is that desire is complex. Gynaecologist Andy Heeps told the Teelgraph “Female sexual dysfunction is a complex area. There's no single cause and so there's no single magic bullet.” For men and women, not being willing, and/or able to get it on is rarely just about the presence or absence of horny chemicals. We're all bloody stressed, and stress is the most deadly enemy of sexytime. You might be able to pop a pill that makes you physically want it, but not one that will stop you from, mid coitus, thinking “Oh no! I meant to cancel Amazon Prime and I have lost my fifty quid!”

At least, when it comes to men, you can spot the physical signs of arousal or otherwise, and be able to visibly measure the effects of pharmaceuticals. We think of women and sexuality differently because everything is hidden. We have “tender, precious flowers that must be caressed into a state of bloom” – a lot of the dafter euphemisms for the fanny focus on the area as a place of magic and mystery. Somewhere the Beatles might drive a bus through. This sucks. Of course I have penis envy! Penises are a heck of a lot more straightforward.

I suspect the effectiveness of Lady Prelox is slightly psychological. If you're taking a pill to boost your libido, you're going out of your way to think about sex – which is the best place to start if you're planning to have more of it.  The trouble is that we're still total teenagers when we talk dirty. We will be upfront about sex with our pals, but only if we're having loads and loads. We can boast about bonking but we're unlikely to speak out if you're having problems. And millions of men and women aren't having penetrative sex following a traumatic event, an illness, or something even more serious. At the risk of sounding like a big hippy, we need to be much more open and holistic, and discuss our sex lives as an important part of our health. A sexy pill for women is a start, but I worry the discussion isn't going to evolve beyond “Wa-hey, I found something a bit rude when I went to buy milk thistle.” And in the event that one partner has a higher sex drive than the other, and starts pressuring their person to take the pills, everything will become a little bit dark and sad.

Also, I like the unpredictability of my sex drive. It's like living with a giant, difficult cat that eats everything in sight and won't be domesticated. Very occasionally it will disappear for a few days, and I'll worry and call for it and leave out milk. Then it comes back and won't leave me alone when I'm trying to read a newspaper. The presence of horny pills leads perilously close to the path of scheduled sex, which is the death of intimacy. 

I hope that Lady Prelox will make us start having big, honest conversations about whether we feel like we're getting laid enough, and whether it makes us happy. But I worry that it's going to make everyone feel sexuality is deceptively simple. The Pill revolutionised women's lives, but I'm not sure that this one will.

Twitter: @NotRollergirl