Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Huey Lewis, your order is ready.

There's been a lot of buzz lately about PT-141, an inhalable aphrodisiac. PT-141 works on the brain, improving libido and producing an immediate desire for sex, instead of stimulating blood flow as Viagra does. It currently is in Phase III trials and might be on the market in three years, assuming it's approved by the FDA.

Some people are already itching to try it out for themselves. But not everyone is excited by the prospect of a drug that might "usher in the age of McNookie: quick, easy couplings low on emotional nutrition." But aren't we essentially already there? PT-141 just makes divorcing sex from the mind and heart available to everyone, not just some women and more men. (Through judicious use of PT-141, could one condition herself to separate lust and love? Should one, if only to prevent the misunderstandings that flow from the common confusion of the two?)

Rather than fretting about whether or not this is going bring us closer to Erica Jong territory, I'm concerned about how easily administrable such a drug might be. Manipulation in romance is already rampant: will the crowd that now crows that all's fair in love and war soon be proffering roses soaked in PT-141 to their desired conquests? If there is some way to give someone a dose on the sly, what of the inevitable aftermath when someone finds out that their desire to have sex (and thus their consent) stemmed not from her own mind but from the sidelong puff of a seducer's syringe? Tampering with the authenticity of desire seems like a potentially dangerous game. Hopefully slipping someone a psychological mickey will remain impossible for the near future.

(UPDATE: Geoffrey passes along this link, which describes inhalable hormone sprays that cause people to become more trusting. Oxytocin and Pt-141 would be the perfect one-two punch for an aspiring Don Juan.)

All this puts me in mind of this long-ago discussion of consent to sexual activity in the presence of some form of fraud, and of course to the recurring debates about sexual conduct and intoxication.
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