monthly column from author/activist
Carol Queen

The Royal Treatment

Big Business in Clit-Land

These days, everyone's racing to be the first to develop a drug that works on recalcitrant clits the way Viagra works on sleepy penises -- but don't they remember that Sleeping Beauty was awakened by nothing more than a kiss? Kisses work on clits, too, Mr. Science -- but too few clits must be getting kissed in America today, because for the past year or so there's been a steady stream of news stories about female sexual dysfunction and the new science that will awaken Beauty from her sleep.

Pills a-plenty are in the works, including Viagra For Girls (as I once quipped -- turns out Pfizer is serious about it, but the new pill won't be called Viagra and won't be blue, either, 'cause that's a boy color). The sensibly gender-free people among us may well wonder why they can't just market a pill called Viagra for people who could use a little boost to their genital blood flow -- but we can't just have everyone believe male and female genitals work in roughly the same way, now can we? Even though they do. Um, if cocks and cunts (never mind cocks and clits) aren't opposites, that Mars and Venus guy would go bankrupt. No, we need something new for women, something more... ah...womanly.

Then there's the Eros device, which is essentially a clitoral pump. That's new, right? To hear Oprah talk, it's the biggest advance since the electric toaster. And your doctor can prescribe you one, but if your insurance company won't pick up the tab (and they probably won't), it'll set you back a few hundred bucks. About the same as the penis pump, which men who can't tolerate Viagra are still being prescribed by their docs -- and which you can also acquire, at a substantial discount, at fine sex stores everywhere. You can get an attachment that works on the clit, too! (Note: Talk to your doc before you use it -- it is contraindicated for people with certain physical conditions.) Wide-eyed, Mr. Science (and Ms. Science, who just got hired to help with the promo on this new item) assures us that the Eros and devices like it "help bring blood to the genitals"! Yes! It's called "engorgement," boys and girls, and is rather fundamental to physiological sexual arousal. At last! Something that will engorge the genitals of actual women!

I haven't been so excited since I bought my first toaster. There's only one point I think we ought to add, on the off chance you can't afford a Scientific Engorgement Device.

Clit-kissing works. Also licking and, for some, sucking, but lick or kiss it first. Stroking works, especially with lube. Using a vibrator works. Masturbating by hand, using the shower massager, even watching erotic videos -- all will help engorge the clitoris and its neighbors. And if you need a scrip for that, my friend, I'll just write "Rx" on one of my deposit slips and tear it off with a flourish. Just Do It.

Say, "Thank you, Doctor!"

I love having a doctorate. It makes playing doctor feel so... real.

The Newest Entry in the "Tingle The Clit" Sweepstakes

Recently a new company unveiled a product for which, like clit-kisses, you do not need a prescription. On at least one website selling it, it was touted as the "female Viagra." Okay, so refer back to paragraphs One and Two, where we considered that perhaps females do not need a separate product. And don't go shouting this news to Pfizer, who would doubtless have the newcomers for lunch, much as they recently put the kibosh on US sales of a Swedish love drink called "Niagara." Sigh -- another touchy, touchy, touchy corporate giant. Hey, Pfizer people -- Niagara is a waterfall! You stole your name from it!! Geez, these behemoths.

Anyway, this female product is called Viacrème. Perhaps you've heard of it. It wouldn't be a surprise, because they are marketing the bejesus out of the stuff. I've been asking around among my colleagues (sure, I tried it myself first -- more about that in a minute). "They won't stop calling me," said one. "Multi-level marketing," said another. "Like a pyramid scheme." Hey, works for Tupperware and Amway. But everyone needs laundry soap; does everyone need a "clear, viscous compound" that promotes female orgasm?

I suppose you're surprised that I, of all people, would ask a question like that. But what does this product do that, for instance, clit-kissing doesn't?

In addition to common ingredients found in many personal lubricants, Viacrème contains two special additions: menthol and l-arginine -- menthol like, you know, mint. I see my SM- savvy readers beginning to grin: Yep, mint on the clit can be pretty, um, refreshing. It provides a sort of "icy-hot" sensation not unrelated to that frisky '70s fad, the Binaca Blast. (Haven't tried it? You can probably do it with curiously strong peppermints, too: Suck on one, then give your partner head. Wheee!) Kama Sutra makes an edible product with menthol in it, and those savvy pervs who've been smiling all this time know that you can also use that green gel toothpaste the same way. Wouldn't recommend you get it into vagina or anus -- mint can really irritate. Don't use mint oil -- it's hard to get it off when you're tired of tingling and burning. But Viacreme doesn't have a ton of menthol; when I used it as directed, the tingly sensation went away after a few minutes.

Then there's the l-arginine. According to the brochure it's "the basic building block of the Nitric Oxide Pathway" -- if this is Greek to you, it's an amino acid associated with blood flow. So far so good! Blood flow is what we like. Menthol gets the clit to tingle, so she thinks, "Heyyy! Something's really going on down there!" Then the l-arginine helps bring blood to the area -- theoretically, at least. Viacreme has been tested, website and brochure assure us -- but not in that FDA-like, long pesky expensive way. Okay, the blood is flowing -- and frankly, it'd be flowing whether or not the l-arginine was present, because Viacrème's instructions suggest you apply the gel to the underside of your clit and commence to rub. Now, you could do this with any lubricious substance and get increased blood flow to the area, if there is any blood in the area at all. I myself have occasionally had to make do with spit -- it works okay, though if I want it to have that minty tingle, I have to break out the Altoids first. Results will vary, says the brochure -- just keep rubbing!

Yes, this is all fine advice. True, I'd like the stuff better if it didn't cost roughly fifteen times more than my favorite sex lube, with which I can also rub my clit until desired results are achieved. But that's not even my big concern.

"L-arginine is associated with herpes outbreaks," said one of my colleagues. "If you have the herpes virus you're not supposed to eat foods that contain l-arginine." Oh, really? I did a little research: many purveyors of l-arginine supplements warn customers of this possible link. I wondered for a nanosecond about the good sense of applying a possibly herpes-provoking agent on a part of the body where many women have contracted herpes. Hmmmm. What was the last statistic I read? Roughly 30% of all Americans are herpes carriers, some who've never suffered an outbreak so they don't even know they've got it. Now, would I want to suggest to someone that she might like to use this product, when any possibility exists that she might provoke active herpes?

Nope. Especially when she could spend all day stroking her clit with a regular lube, and get a passably similar result. If she wants that mentholated tingle, hey, the toothpaste is right in the bathroom. So I emailed one of the company's Mr. Science guys. What about this herpes thing? I asked. Well, there's no proof that l-arginine used topically will do that, he said. Yep, and no proof it won't, either. Anyway, he said, it's on the skin. It won't soak in enough to do any harm. That's not what the brochure implies, but hey, I don't have my white lab coat on right now. Let's just get busy and commission some tests, eh?

Maybe after they make their second twenty million.

Kiss My Clit!

That's what Betty Dodson says when other people would say "Kiss my ass," and who can argue? It's really what I want to say when stuff like this new focus on female sexual dysfunction comes down the pike. On the one hand, it's true that many women have arousal difficulties, among other sexual problems -- though where the Viacrème folk came up with their statistic that "over 46% of the women in America experience little or no sexual satisfaction from clitoral orgasm" is anybody's guess, and especially bizarre because their product supposedly promotes clitoral orgasm. And with as much money that's gone over Niagara Falls selling men those little blue pills, it makes sense -- and is only right -- that someone would think, "I wonder if there's something we could be doing for women?" (Put another way, perhaps someone over at Mr. Science Central is just as irony-prone as I am, and said, "We'd better get something for the old gals whose husbands are staggering home with the first hard-ons they've had in years! Those women are gonna need a damn jump-start!")

On the other hand, Mr. Science just never, ever tries to explain that most women who have arousal and orgasm issues today could solve them through masturbation, toy use, relaxation and sensate focus, and more clitoral attention from their partners -- and/or cutting out the booze, cigarettes, and antidepressants, all of which are just as associated with sexual dysfunction in women as they are in men.

Or do you really think it's true that an American woman with orgasm issues is more likely to come rubbing her clit with something that costs five or ten bucks per milliliter than she is doing herself with spit? Maybe Cyndi Lauper was right and money does change everything.