What if the "Female Viagra" Isn't Medicine At All?

Everything You Need To Know About Oral Sex - Lead
Photo: nd3000/Getty Images

Maybe kinky folks who like a little electric stimulation in their sex lives are on to something: a new pilot study out of the University of Michigan has found that applying an electric current to your ankle might boost sex drive in women.

That may sound like little more than a titillating theory, but researchers had reason to believe it would work: ankle electrodes, applied near the tibular nerve, had been studied in women with overactive bladders — and those women anecdotally reported that the treatments increased their sexual arousal, explains Priyanka Gupta, M.D., an assistant professor of urology at the University of Michigan and one of the study’s co-authors. “That’s what prompted our interest,” she tells InStyle.

Fifty Shades of Grey Apartment - LEAD
Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

And so far, the theory is continuing to look promising. In the experiment, nine women received a current on their ankle for 30 minutes at a time over 12 sessions. Eight of the nine said their arousal, orgasm, and vaginal lubrication improved. “Our hypothesis is that, by sending a constant vibration to that nerve, we can override the ‘abnormal’ signals,” like a lack of desire, Gupta says. “Basically, we can help normalize the signals going to the pelvic organs.”

OK, but let’s back up: why does a nerve in your ankle affect your genitals at all? And how did they come up with the idea to get electricity involved? Gupta says it’s because the tibular nerve runs all the way up to your spine, controlling your bladder and your bowels. And the idea to shock it actually came from acupuncture. “For years, acupuncturists have used the tibular nerve as a pressure point to treat the bladder,” she explains. “[We thought] if we provided an electric stimulation to that nerve, we might be able to reduce an overactive bladder.” And, it worked!

And we’re probably a ways off from anyone being able to try it at home. “I think this is interesting but very, very preliminary,” says Irwin Goldstein, M.D., the director of San Diego Sexual Medicine. Gupta agrees. “There’s a very limited understanding of female sexual disorders — there’s still a lot to be learned about what causes them. This is a beginning exploration,” she explains. And while she thinks we’re still a few years away from women with FSD being able to try this at home, the possibility does exist.

“There’s a lot of interest in therapy for overactive bladder, and they’re in the process of trying to be make it be doable at home. If we’re able to prove and continue to do this, we’d be starting with women who have [diagnosed FSD], but this does tell us there can be options for them that are not medication.” Dare we say, this option sounds a little bit … sexy?

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles