The Skeptical Pervert Episode 2: Aphrodisiacs

Aphrodisiacs! What are they? Are they real? Is there, in fact, something you can take to make you horny? In this episode, we explore aphrodisiacs, the mythology around them, the scientific evidence (spoiler: every food or supplement that’s been tested in double-blind studies has failed), and the new class of melanocortin-agonist aphrodisiac drugs.

In this episode, we discuss aphrodisiacs and our own experience with bremelanotide, the first aphrodisiac to pass double-blind clinical trials. Transcript below.

Franklin: Hello! Welcome to Skeptical Perverts, a podcast where we talk about 2 of our favorite things – logic and sex! These two things don’t normally go together, especially in our society that’s hostile to sex (and, frankly, to logic and reason and science as well), so we want to do something about that. I’m your host and part-time mad scientist, Franklin Veaux.

Joreth: Hi! I’m your co-host and Renaissance cat, Joreth! I’ve spent a number of years in several different schools studying a bunch of different subjects, one of which was human sexuality and relationships. I’m kinky, solo polyamorous, on the ace spectrum, chicana, feminist, my gender identity is “tomboy”, and my pronouns are she/her but I use masculine titles.

Eunice: And I’m Eunice, your friendly neighbourhood queer, kinky, grey-ace cis woman and polyam community organiser, bringing the East Asian British viewpoint and a touch of genteel bewilderment!

Franklin: Before we get started, you should know this podcast is probably not safe for work, unless you have a really interesting job. You should probably also be over 18 to listen. We talk frankly about human sexuality from an evidence-based perspective. In this, our first episode, we’re going to turn a skeptical eye to…aphrodisiacs!

Eunice: So firstly, what exactly is an aphrodisiac? 

Franklin:  An aphrodisiac, named unsurprisingly for the Greek goddess Aphrodite, is anything a person can take to cause sexual arousal. People have been looking for the perfect aphrodisiac for a long time. Lots of superstitions have grown up around things to make people horny, from powdered rhinoceros horn to oysters to squashed bugs. Often, if it looked like genitals, the ancients figured it worked on genitals. But until recently, none of them have worked.

Joreth: Years ago, Penn & Teller did an episode on their show Bullshit! on aphrodisiacs that I highly recommend, and they covered a lot that we’re going to mention here. One of the reasons why we want to start with aphrodisiacs, though, is because all 3 of us have personal, first-hand experience with them that we wanted to share. However, this leads us to the first thing that we need to, as the title of our podcast says – be skeptical of! 

Eunice: Wait, how exactly are we defining ‘skeptical’, here?

Joreth: Well, the word “skeptic” comes from the Greek word “skeptikoi” meaning “seekers” or “inquirers”. It’s not about doubting or debunking anything, it’s more of a toolkit or a way of looking at the world. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are cynical, it doesn’t mean that you’re a doubter, it means that you are open to inquiry and that you inquire rationally about all of the things that you’re talking about.

Eunice: Absolutely, and I want to make it clear that this is why we look for scientific studies. It’s not that personal experience means nothing, but the plural of anecdote is not data – evidence isn’t only a bunch of first hand experiences. Not even ours! You really need good, solid studies with a decent methodology and lots of subjects – preferably double blind studies, they’re the gold standard, right?

Joreth: Yes! The whole reason the three of us decided to try the aphrodisiacs that we did is because there is scientific data behind them, but, because we *do* have first-hand experience with one of them, we can bring that experience into this episode to share with the listeners! If we had only our experiences alone, that would not be good enough to reach our conclusions. Anecdotes are not data, but they can be good for *illustrating* the data.

Franklin: So first, a little history. From the dawn of time until about 1962, every aphrodisiac ever invented by humanity…didn’t work, except as placebo. Of all the various potions and pills people invented to make themselves horny, all of them, without exception, failed double blind tests.

Eunice: And before we go any further, a double blind study is one where neither the participants nor the researcher knows who gets the placebo and who gets the real deal. 

Joreth: Yep! If a test subject in a study knows what they’re getting, that knowledge can influence the outcome. It’s not quite “mind over matter”, it’s more like “I want to be a good research participant, so I’ll massage my responses to what the researcher wants to hear” – and that’s mostly subconscious, not deliberate. So then, if the researcher knows what the recipient is getting, they could accidentally taint the results by giving away clues that let the recipient know what they’re getting. Then, the only way to get untainted responses is for nobody to know who gets what and then just see what happens without anyone’s subconsciousness influencing their reporting of the subjective results.

Eunice: So we mentioned placebos before – does anyone want to give a quick overview of how placebos and the placebo effect works?

Joreth: There are some pretty big misconceptions about what the placebo effect is. Most people think it’s a kind of form of “mind over matter”, meaning that if you think a medicine will work, then it will actually fix you. But that’s not what the placebo effect does. The placebo effect is “the psychological manipulation of subjective experiences on non-specific symptoms”. So, put simply, it means that nothing about the body actually changes – if you broke your leg, the leg is still broken. You just don’t mind the pain quite so much.

Franklin: Y’know, I hear morphine does that too. Although morphine actually works. For some people, anyway – apparently I’m weird and it didn’t work for me. When I burned my foot, it just made me violently sick.

Joreth: Yeah, it’s usually a little more effective than that for most people. So a placebo is a subjective experience, but the objective problem is still objectively a problem. In a 2001 meta analysis of clinical trials with placebo groups and no treatment groups, they found no evidence for a placebo effect on objectively measured outcome, and a possible small benefit in studies with continuous subjective outcomes like pain. In a 2004 and 2007 follow up analysis, they found similar results plus increased evidence of bias in smaller trials that calls into question the apparent placebo effect on subjective outcomes.

[insert P&T clip re: placebo effect of aphrodisiacs]?

Eunice: So when it comes to aphrodisiacs, the placebo effect means that just because you subjectively think you’re getting aroused by, say, ingesting ground up tiger penises (can I say, eww, and also those tigers could make way better use of those penises, just saying), it doesn’t mean that you will actually become aroused by any physiological metric, right?

Joreth: Correct.  You’re *thinking* about sex and thinking about getting aroused (which is why you snorted dried animal schlong in the first place, or whatever), so you start getting aroused because you’re thinking about sex and getting aroused, but the powdered cat dong isn’t what’s doing it for you.

Eunice: So anyway, back to Franklin’s quickfire history of aphrodisiacs, before we get sidetracked again. We are super good at this keeping on track thing, aren’t we? 

Franklin: Well, people have been looking for aphrodisiacs for a long time. Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote that people ate lizard skins as aphrodisiacs in ancient Rome and Greece. There are a lot of foods that are supposedly aphrodisiacs – raw oysters, for instance, which are actually kind of disgusting, 

Eunice: Hey, I dispute that! Citation needed.

Franklin: Strawberries, chocolate, figs, garlic of all things (I can’t imagine, y’know, being turned on and then having garlic breath, but, whatever), 

Eunice: Have you seen the amount of garlic I eat? It’s never stopped you.

Joreth: So I’ve definitely heard of the oysters, strawberries and chocolate. I’ve also heard of green M&Ms, and ground up insects from South America, y’know, like Spanish Fly?

Eunice: Wasn’t that an irritation thing? And that caused inflammation and swelling on the way out of the body, which led to erections? Doesn’t sound pleasant but maybe peeing blood in the emergency room is your idea of romance, which, no judgement.

Franklin: The pangolin, a type of anteater, is being hunted to extinction for traditional Chinese aphrodisiacs, which are made from pangolin fetuses–I swear I am not making this up. And rhinoceros horn is considered to be a magic aphrodisiac and a cure-all by a lot of people, and it’s one of the reasons why black rhinoceros, rhinoceri? black rhinoceros are ending up extinct!

Joreth: A lot of people who know me *now* might not believe this, but I’m actually just a tree-hugging California hippie at heart. When I learned how many of my alternative supplements I was taking were actually directly causing the extinction of wild animals and destroying the natural ecology of Asia, Africa, and South America, I was pretty pissed off!  And they didn’t even work! I hate being suckered.

Eunice: Yup. But then, humans have a looong history of being suckered, so you’re not alone. So, what about non-food aphrodisiacs?

Franklin: Well, there’s a common aphrodisiac that’s the pheromone perfume which is made from pig saliva – you see this shit all over the internet. Pheromones are hormones that influence behaviour outside the body, so yes, they are actually real things. A lot of animals, mostly insects, use pheromones for everything from scent trails to mating, and so there are some folks that think that anything that works on bees and rabbits must work on people too. It’s not totally clear to me why we think that pig pheromones would work on humans. I haven’t heard of very many cases of pig farmers, I don’t know, being driven mad by lust for barnyard animals or something, but I suppose people have all kinds of kinks.

Eunice: Well, there’s a reason that human flesh was called ‘long pig’. We have a lot of physiological similarities, after all. We taste pretty similar to pork (apparently). We could even do transplants on humans with organs taken from pigs, if we wanted.

Franklin: So Penn & Teller actually did a really really clever experiment a few years back where they wanted to evaluate whether or not pig pheromone cologne actually caused heightened sexual response in humans and it was really well set up. They used a couple of identical twins and one of them was given a pheromone spray and one of them wasn’t.

Joreth: I love this episode. Now, I don’t always agree with Penn & Teller, but what I do love about them and their show, is that they’re just a couple of guys who ask questions. That’s pretty much the definition of skepticism. They don’t rule things out automatically, they ask if it’s true, and they form their opinions based on the evidence. 

And that’s another trait of skepticism – when the evidence comes in, you accept it. You don’t keep asking questions for the sake of being contrary or to keep pushing until you can prove the conclusion you want to be true. The whole “I’m just asking questions to settle issues with scientific consensus” is not skepticism, it’s denialism.

Eunice: Yeah, we’ve been seeing a lot of that recently.

Joreth: Anyway, in episode 6 of season 1, Sex Sex Sex, Penn and Teller get to aphrodisiacs about 17 and a half minutes into it, starting with food [insert P&T clip]. 

So this is a great example of Confirmation Bias. Even though she says that she doesn’t believe they existed, she used her own observations in a way that does not eliminate personal bias to form her conclusions. Eye witness anecdotes are notoriously awful for accurately evaluating reality.

Eunice: And we’re no different! We’re using our experiences as personal examples to illustrate the things we see in the research, not suggesting that our experiences are more accurate than the studies that are out there, even if we had different results than the subjects of those studies did. There could be a thousand things we’re missing, due to confirmation bias like Joreth mentioned before, or other confounding factors. 

Joreth: Yeah, so right after that bit, about 20 minutes into the episode, we see the pheromone test. [insert P&T clip about the twins test] 

Franklin: And there it is, Mr. Confounding Factor!

Joreth: So apparently it’s a good thing to get sloppy seconds?

Franklin: Well, your kink is OK, I’m down with that.

Joreth: I’m betting that the women in the test were just primed because of the first dude, so the second dude seemed to get hotter now that they were all bothered by the first dude. The pheromone cologne had nothing to do with it. 

Franklin: And yet this stuff still sells like crazy. I see it all over the internet from like $8 a bottle up to hundreds of dollars a bottle! And what’s really interesting about that is there is this MIT researcher named Dan Ariely and he actually did an experiment that showed that more expensive placebos had a bigger purported effect than cheap placebos. So I wonder if that means that hundred dollar pig drool brings more ladies to the yard than $8 pig drool does?

Joreth: Hey, pig drool is natural, so natural things are good right? That’s how the Appeal to Nature Fallacy says it works anyway – give up all processed and man-made stuff and stick to organic and “natural” foods?

Franklin: Of course, arsenic, cocaine, and botulism are also natural, on the other hand computers, sanitation, eye glasses, and ibuprofen are all artificial and guess which ones I would rather be exposed to? There are people, speaking of cocaine, who do think that cocaine is an aphrodisiac?  Same for amphetamines, alcohol, and those things can actually have an effect on your sexual performance, of course, cocaine and amphetamines are both stimulants so they jack up your nervous system until it’s about ready to fall out of your body, and alcohol can reduce inhibition, but they’re technically not aphrodisiacs.

Eunice: So, are there actually any real aphrodisiacs?

Franklin: Well, moving closer to present day, 1962 was a good-news, bad-news year. The good news: scientists finally discovered an aphrodisiac that worked. The bad news: it only worked in rats. The aphrodisiac, α-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone, or α-MSH, works on melanocortin receptors in the body and brain. α-MSH was originally investigated as a sunless tanning agent. The idea was to stimulate the process in the body that causes the skin to darken when it’s exposed to ultraviolet light. When given to rats, it had the unexpected side effect of making them horny.

Joreth: Ooh, I wouldn’t mind a good sunless tanning agent! I am a California girl, after all! I do like my tan, but I don’t so much like skin cancer!

Franklin: Right? The marketing possibilities are endless. Anyway, fast forward to 2005, when a researcher named Mac Hadley injected himself with a peptide similar to α-MSH and ended up with an eight-hour erection.

Eunice: Can I just say, 8 hours sounds super uncomfortable, and I don’t even have external genitalia. 

Franklin: Right? Development of melanocortin-receptor drugs for sunless tanning met with mediocre success, but in 2006, a small pharmaceutical company called Palatin Technologies started exploring the idea of α-MSH-like drugs as aphrodisiacs. They developed a drug called PT-141, or bremelanotide, which became the world’s first aphrodisiac to pass double-blind studies in humans. 

Joreth: Yeah, it started out as a nasal spray, which is kind of a weird idea if you think about it: “here, put this up your nose, it’ll get you hot!” 

Eunice: Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing people have tried…

Franklin: In 2007, the FDA shut down clinical trials, officially because they were worried about PT-141 increasing blood pressure, anecdotally because the Bush White House didn’t like the idea of an aphrodisiac drug.

Eunice: Eh, Republicans. They’re so repressed. And I’m saying that as a Brit, with a political ruling class who practically wank over Maggie Thatcher every night.

Franklin: As a result, weirdly, bremelanotide is the first true aphrodisiac to be discovered, but not the first to be approved. Flibanserin, sold under the brand name Addyi, is a serotonin agonist approved to treat hypoactive sexual disorder in 2015, albeit with a long list of warnings and drug interaction precautions and two failed previous attempts at approval in 2010 and 2013. It has not been a market success, as it works on only about 10% of people who take it.

Eunice: So what’s the difference between the two? I assume they work in different ways? 

Franklin: Bremelanotide and flibanserin work in completely different ways. Flibanserin is a serotonin agonist; biochemically, it works much the way hallucinogens like psilocybin and LSD, some antipsychotics, and some antidepressants work, just on different receptors in the brain. 

Bremelanotide, on the other hand, is a melanocortin receptor agonist. It stimulates expression of melanin, the pigment in skin that causes tanning, but weirdly also seems to stimulate dopamine in the medial preoptic area, which is involved in the sexual behaviour of a number of animals, though the exact mechanism by which this happens isn’t well understood.

Joreth: Yeah, so in 2014, Palatin Technologies started new clinical trials for bremelanotide, only this time with an injectable version, and it got approved to treat “female hyposexuality disorder” just a couple of years ago in 2019!

Eunice: Or more formally known as either Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in women or Sexual Aversion Disorder. Can you hear me grinding my teeth right now?

Joreth: Yeeeaaaahhhh…. So let’s talk about this for a minute. Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, or HSDD is where someone has no libido, basically, and Sexual Aversion Disorder is where someone has an active distaste for sex and sexual activity. Both are listed as a *pathology* by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, or NCBI and the National Institutes of Health – which more or less means that if you have no libido or a dislike for sex, then there is something *wrong* with you and you are broken. Rather than, y’know, lack of desire merely being part of the vast diversity that is the human sexual experience.

Eunice: I swear, if I keep gritting my teeth this way, I’m gonna need to go back to the dentist. Anyway, for anyone out there who is experiencing this situation in their own life: firstly, this is not an issue that makes you broken. Or weird. Or unable to be loved or in relationships or any of that…rubbish. And secondly, it doesn’t only affect women, or even only people with vulvas. 

Franklin: Plus have you noticed that women are considered pathological if they’re too horny or not horny enough?

Eunice: Welcome to the female experience of society?

Joreth: To be fair, the International Society for Sexual Medicine actually says the words “Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is a troublesome condition in which women lose interest in sex.” and “HSDD is chronic and causes great distress for both women and their partners. A woman may not know why she’s lost her sex drive. Her partner might become frustrated and worry about the fate of the relationship”. It’s important to note that “distress” is considered an important criteria for a “disorder” diagnosis. If someone is not distressed by something, then even if they have that thing, it’s generally not diagnosed as a disorder. 

Eunice: Yeah, but distress is such a socially determined thing, right? Cos ‘I’m distressed because society tells me I’m broken for not wanting sex’ isn’t treated any differently from ‘I’m really frustrated because I love connecting with my partners through intimate sexual activity and I’m not getting any’.

Joreth: Exactly. Notice that “her partner might become frustrated…” is part of the description. Although I am someone who cares about my partners’ happiness and satisfaction, my partner being frustrated about my libido has always been a much bigger problem for me than my lack of libido was itself. According to the diagnosis, if I’m distressed over my partners being frustrated with my lack of desire, then that makes it pathological.  MY pathology, MY disorder. 

I think it might be better to treat it as a social issue that my partners can get so upset at MY lack of sex drive, that their upset interferes with or inhibits my life to such a degree that doctors are willing to pathologize my stress at my partners being upset about what’s going on with MY body.

If my partners in the past had put less pressure on the success of our relationship resting on my willingness to have sex, then my lack of libido at various times wouldn’t have bothered me much at all. 

Franklin: And what’s weird about that is Palatin Technologies originally sought FDA approval for bremelanotide for men, since it gives you an erection in addition to making you horny. They wanted to market it as a competitor for Viagra. But the FDA approved it as a drug to treat low libido in women

Eunice: Huh…now I’m wondering how they would approach a situation where someone has only lost the taste for PIV (or penis in vagina) sex, but they’re otherwise up for other types of sex. Cos I gotta say, as a bisexual woman….I have so many other options. In other words, dudes: up your game! With other people, I mean. I’m kinda ok with taking a moratorium on new cishet guys for a bit. Oh! I’m wondering if there’s another episode in that. Maybe like, 3 episodes.

Franklin: Going back to aphrodisiacs, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Viagra is not an aphrodisiac. A lot of folks don’t really understand the difference between aphrodisiacs and anti-ED drugs. Bremelanotide is not like Viagra. Viagra doesn’t make you horny.

Viagra works on the walls of blood vessels. It was originally intended to be an antianginal drug, not a penis pill. It interferes with an enzyme in the body that regulates muscle tone in the walls of blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure and also, as it turns out, allows blood to flow into the penis more easily, causing an erection. But it isn’t, and never was intended to be, a libido-enhancing pill.

Eunice: So Franklin, what actually happened when you took PT-141, and how was that different to when you tried Viagra?

Franklin: Now, PT-141 doesn’t work for everyone – only about 25% of users in clinical trials reported a noticeable effect on libido – but Bremelanotide, as it turns out, works really well on me. I tried some bremelanotide from a custom peptide supply house as a nasal spray first, which didn’t do anything at all. Then I tried it as an injectable, and man, it worked like gangbusters.

At first, I didn’t think it’d work. Half an hour after I took it, nothing. An hour after I took it, nada. I was like, oh well, guess I’m not one of the folks it works on. And then, wham! It started with my face and hands feeling hot. Then I got a monster hard-on out of nowhere. And then it hit like a truck. We’re not talking ordinary garden-variety sexual arousal here, we’re talking horniness that would make a bishop kick a hole in a cinder-block wall. There was nothing subtle about it. In fact, the far-future science fiction erotic novels I’ve written with Eunice, starting with The Brazen Altar, have a drug called the Blessing of Fire that is a powerful aphrodisiac, and the descriptions of what it feels like in the novel comes from my experience with bremelanotide.

Viagra, on the other hand, gives me a hardon that doesn’t go away, and decreases my refractory period, but it doesn’t get me hot.

Joreth: Eunice, you took it too, didn’t you? What happened to you?

Eunice: Before I go into any detail, I should caveat that I took what we later found out was a super low dose. About a 5th of the normal dose, in fact. Via nasal spray too, which like Franklin found, is typically less likely to be successful. And what I experienced was…drumroll please…absolutely nothing. I’m still rather annoyed by that, it would have been really interesting for me to experience an arousal that didn’t take me, like, an hour to crank into life for the first time in rather a lot of years. But yeah, nothing happened. Absolute zilch. And that sucked. What about you, Joreth?

Joreth: I consider myself on the asexual spectrum. I have what’s called a Responsive Libido, which we’ll cover more in-depth in another episode. But the short explanation is that my body doesn’t generally feel sexual arousal spontaneously. Usually sexual stuff has to start happening and then my brain goes “oh, that’s right, we like this! OK body, fire up the engines!” It has taken me most of my adult life to figure all the peculiarities of how my libido works and how to make it work for me.

So when Franklin told me there was this drug currently in Phase 3 clinical trials that I could obtain that seemed to jump-start arousal, I was pretty excited at the idea of having deliberate control over my libido. My body rests in an “off” state by default, and then it takes me forever to get ramped up. If I could take a drug, say, when I know I’m having a date with my partner who I enjoy connecting with through sexual activity, and that drug could make me aroused in time for the sexyfuntimes? Hell yeah, I wanted to try it!

Eunice: Yeah, as someone who has also been functionally grey-asexual for…oh, a bunch of years (and 2020 has definitely not helped with that), I was really excited by the possibility of being able to control when my body felt arousal, and with whom. I’m not distressed by not having sex. I’m distressed by not having control over when my body wants sex. Or, well, doesn’t want, to be more accurate.

Joreth: Yeah, unlike the descriptions of pathological sex disorders, I’m not distressed by not being interested in sex. I’m distressed at not being able to *choose* when I have a physiological response to sex, and I’d like the option to be able to “switch it on” at will.

Eunice: It’s a matter of agency, right? Getting to control your bodily responses, the way that people with penises can control their erections with Viagra – and don’t think we didn’t notice how much sooner Viagra was commercially available than anything for women!

Joreth: Yep, women’s arousal and excitement is pathological in part because our partners are distressed by it, but our arousal is also not really *necessary* for sex, whereas, apparently, a hard penis is, so that’s the drug we got first. End sarcasm.

Eunice: I gotta say, I get a feeling that for certain types of people, the lack of female arousal during sex was a feature, not a bug…

Joreth: That’s probably also true. It’s an interesting dichotomy to live under – if we don’t feel arousal, it’s distressing for our partners, but if we do feel arousal, especially if we don’t have a socially sanctioned partner, that’s also a problem.

Franklin: Of course, for some of us, when we do feel aroused we are distressed by our partners, often vigorously and for extended periods of time. I won’t mention any names… *ahem* Eunice *ahem* Joreth *ahem*.

Eunice: ‘Distressed’ is a very strange way of saying ‘screaming in pleasure’.

Franklin: Sure. Pleasure. We’ll go with that.

Joreth: So, having control over my own libido as a way of taking some control over my agency is important to me. I determined the lowest dose and highest dose from the various studies and embarked on a “scientific experiment” of my own. First I tried the nasal spray at the lowest dose and not only did I feel no arousal, I felt a prohibitive amount of pain from the spray – I have never been able to tolerate nasal sprays.

So I immediately switched to the subcutaneous injections at the lowest dose, and no response. I continued to up the dose in regular increments, with no response, until I reached the highest tested dose, when I finally got a reaction! It made me so violently ill for 24 hours that I couldn’t even ooze off the couch and crawl into the bathroom to vomit and I had to set a pot on the floor next to me so I could vomit off the side of the couch.

Eunice: Bloody hell, that sounds awful!

Joreth: Yeah, it was as bad as the worst flu or cramps I’ve ever had (and I have endometriosis – which is another episode we should do sometime), but it both started and ended as if someone threw a switch – bam! I was sick and then nearly exactly 24 hours and I was suddenly immediately better. I did, however, get an awesome tan on the days that I took the too-low doses! I’m thinking I may get some more and work on my tan deliberately!

Eunice: Well I guess that’s….something? Doesn’t sound worth the vomiting, I’ll be honest.

Joreth: True, I’ll have to stick to the lower doses. I didn’t get a tan on the day I was sick, but mainly because I didn’t see daylight for an entire day. It’s interesting how it affects different people in different ways.

Franklin:  The FDA report on the clinical trials does suggest that nausea is more common if you take more than 8 doses in a single month, but that severe nausea often goes away over time if you keep using it. And some anecdotal reports suggest that regular use may lead people who initially don’t have a response to eventually start responding with consistent doses.

Joreth: After all of this, I’m quite disappointed that it didn’t work for me. I was really looking forward to having some control over my libido. But, since I’m already interested in going back on the drug at the lower doses for its tanning properties, maybe I’ll see what happens if I use it consistently at a lower dose?

Eunice: Yeah, same – disappointed, but since I got a super low dose before, I’d be up for trying again, over a longer period of time, and seeing if I can ramp up the effects to ‘ooh look something’s happening’ rather than ‘hey is this thing even on?’.

Joreth:  But perhaps after the pandemic gets under control so that maybe we might actually have some partners around to use this thing with?  Y’know, in case it works?

Franklin: So, after looking at the studies and trying it ourselves, here are some questions we are left with…

  • PT-141 is only modestly effective, working in about 25% of people to create arousal in FDA double-blind studies (though it works on about 80% of men as an ED drug). Addyi works in about 10% of people who try it. Are there possible aphrodisiacs that are more effective?
  • What’s the difference between people who respond to PT-141 and people who don’t?
  • Will effective aphrodisiacs lead to people generally pathologizing asexuality? Will people feel pressured to take them to keep their relationships?
  • Could aphrodisiacs become date rape drugs?

So if you happen to have come across studies we missed that answer any of these questions, we’d love to hear from you! Send links to studies, feedback, comments or suggestions for future episodes to And if you know someone else who might enjoy this podcast, why not share the love, by giving us a review on iTunes or Stitcher or your podcatcher of choice.  You can also visit, where you can check out the show notes for links to the transcript and the studies we’re drawing from.  And don’t forget to become a patron of the show by joining our patreon, which is linked on the website.

Joreth: Thanks for hanging out with us for Episode 1 of The Skeptical Pervert! We’ll be back next month with episode 2: sex vs kink. 

Eunice: Remember to be perverted with your skepticism, not skeptical about your perverts! 

Franklin: I don’t even know what that means!

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