Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is this fair? Ads for female equivalent of Viagra can't run on TV

This weekend when my husband and I were in Napa, I came across an article in the San Francisco Chronicle describing a sexual double standard that made me mad.

According to the Chronicle, two women have developed a botanical topical oil called Zestra, designed to help women "heighten their sexual intimacy." Semprae Labs co-founders Rachel Braun Scherl, 45, and  Mary Jaensch, 58 - both married mothers - developed the product in response to research that tens of millions of American women have sexual difficulty and no way to treat it.

Zestra is an all natural product targeted to women who just aren't feeling it like they used to. One Zestra ad (see below) says the oil will "help you feel the way you used to when sexual arousal just happened naturally - without doing anything, without thinking about it, without trying not to think about anything else."

Um, I'm not admitting to anything here, but does that include not thinking about picking up the dry cleaning or worrying that my kid needs a ride home from the mall? Tell me more.

Unfortunately, most women have never heard of Zestra's benefits, because many network and cable TV stations won't run the ads.

We're no stranger to products to help men's problems in the bedroom. Ads for Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra are everywhere. The ads clearly communicate that men deserve lifelong sexual gratification and the complications that come with age require medical treatment. The commercials, with images of couples dancing romantically or sharing hilltop baths, also imply that a man's ability to sustain erection will not only bring great satisfaction to him, but to his appreciative partner as well.

But when it comes to promoting a product designed to help a woman achieve more pleasure, the TV stations refused. From the Chronicle article:
Laura Grindstaff, an associate professor of sociology at UC Davis, said many cultures are uncomfortable with the idea of female sexuality outside reproduction and motherhood.
"When you see naked women bounding around in any music video or open a magazine and see ads for cars or cosmetics, half-naked women are everywhere," Grindstaff said. "That is not women's sexuality. What you see is completely bound up and constructed by male ideas of what women's sexuality ought to be. An ad like Zestra's, with no men in it, about women's pleasure for the sake of pleasure, is threatening."
Maybe that's what the stupid TV execs think, but when I researched my article "What Men Really Want," I learned that most men would love for their women partners to feel sexier and more aroused. So maybe banning Zestra ads from television is unfair to both men and women.

If you're interested in what the flap is all about, check out this Zestra commercial.

Intriguing, no? The product is available online at or at places like Wal-Mart and K-Mart. I haven't tried it (yet), so I'm not endorsing it. I just think women and men should have equal opportunity when it comes to good sex.

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