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Scent-sational sex?

What's the lowdown on the new nasal spray for supercharging a woman's sex life? And how do you broach the subject of S&M with a partner? Sexploration answers your queries.
Duane Hoffmann / MSNBC
/ Source: Special to MSNBC

What's the lowdown on the new nasal spray for supercharging a woman's sex life? And how do you broach the subject of S&M with a partner? Sexploration answers your queries. Have an intimate question? To e-mail us, click here.

Q: I've heard about a new inhaled drug that works wonders for a woman's sex life. Where can I get it?

A: An experimental drug called PT-141 has been getting some buzz lately. But it's not commercially available, and it has not been proven to be a wonder drug for women, at least not yet.

Related drugs called melanocortin agonists have been written about for years and have been studied for male erectile dysfunction since the 1990s. It all started by accident, sort of, when researchers at the University of Arizona were experimenting with a natural body chemical that stimulates tanning. Legend has it that one took the compound and did, in fact, develop a tan, but also wound up with a very powerful erection.

Go figure. The brain is a complicated place.

Anyway, Palatin Technologies of New Jersey knew a good thing when they saw it. They developed PT-141 as a nasal spray that quickly affects brain chemistry so fun can be had by all.

According to Palatin CEO Carl Spana, the company is much further along in studying PT-141 as a treatment for impotence than as a treatment for women. Spana figures he’s about three years away from applying to the Food and Drug Administration for approval to treat men.

But work in women has shown some promise. “We started last year and the first study we did looked at PT-141 in premenopausal women with female sexual dysfunction and loss of desire," he says. "In that study, there were significant effects on both arousal and desire and based on that we are about to embark on an at-home study on females.”

The first study was tiny, with just 18 women. More will be included this time around and Palatin will measure “change in arousal, desire, and quantity of encounters.”

Data from lab animals was pretty convincing. In female rats, PT-141 “stimulated solicitational behaviors,” which is lab speak for “made horny girl rats.”

Still, rats are not people, and as Proctor and Gamble discovered in its attempt to get the FDA to approve a testosterone patch for female sexual dysfunction, there will be regulatory hurdles. The FDA will want to be very careful about approving a drug that affects the brain for a non-serious (unless you have it) condition like lack of sexual desire. At best, if all goes well, look for PT-141 in about four or five years.

Q: I'm a female who's into some "alternate" sexual acts, i.e. S&M. I'm wondering what would be a good way of introducing this idea to a potential partner who may not be interested in that kind of activity.

A: First, you need to know if he’s interested, or even curious.

You could try “Darn! I wanted to wear my thigh-high vinyl boots tonight but they’re scuffed” and see if he offers to polish them with his tongue. Or you could pick a moment and have an honest discussion about your preferences: why you like S&M, what you like to do and why you want to do these things with him.

Ask him not to judge until he’s tried some light S&M, and you, in turn, promise not to judge him if he doesn’t like it.

Then start slow and easy. Save the Japanese rope torture for later. If you’re a submissive, try asking him to hold you down during sex then move on from there. If you’re dominant, hold him down. Go step by step, which could be frustrating, I know, but after all this is S&M.

Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. He is a contributing editor at Glamour and the author of "Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion" (Basic Books).