Liz Canner presents quite an interesting perspective in her documentary, Orgasm Inc. (available on Netflix) in February 2011. She dives into the science of the female orgasm and analyzes attempts from the pharmaceutical industry to quell so called female sexual dysfunction as she is hired for a drug trial for this “medicine.”
Apparently, this is a brand new, huge, billion-dollar industry. Viagra for women?
According to studies from healthywomen magazine, 43% of women suffer from sexual dysfunction. This “dysfunction” includes the lack of desire and pleasure during sexual encounters, among other “symptoms”. After a simple survey from the 90’s was run, the industry hopped on board, no questions asked, even Oprah (shame on you, Oprah). According to Liz, this survey indicated that much of the “dysfunction” was perfectly normal, though this statistic was conveniently underplayed.
This new field of medicine, Viagra for women, is becoming an increasingly popular subject of research. Vivus, a top competitor to patent a successful product, is testing a cream that was originally designed to treat erectile dysfunction. Not only does this ignores the complexities of the female body, but also assumes male erections and functionally the same as female orgasms… Sorry world, but that’s just untrue. Needless to say, clinical trials are not going so hot with male dominated companies spear heading this mission to battle over FDA approval. Big surprise there!
This raises a very important question: What is this “dysfunction” and why are we just starting to hear about this now?
According to Susan Bennett, a Harvard Professor and physician, believes that society puts too much pressure on women to orgasm during sex. The female body is unique and doesn’t work like male ejaculation. Not participating in a mutual orgasm is not a disease that you need a pill to fix; it’s a part of normal behavior and aging. She also believes its wrong to pressure women to take a pill (or cream, ect) to induce an orgasm society says they should have. I AGREE.
The failure to orgasm is stigmatized yet is not a disease because there is nothing “organically wrong with these women,” according to Ray Moynihan, of the British Medical Journal. He pointed out that female sexual dysfunction is one of the freshest examples of corporate sponsored development of disease in current day society, all the documentation of this “disorder” is sponsored by corporate medical companies, without concrete answers or factual evidence that there is anything wrong with these women being stigmatized. Once the word of this “disease” came out the market and stocks skyrocketed, so now these companies now have a vested interest in creating this magical orgasm product…
Some companies are currently testing such radical procedures, like spinal adjustments with embedded electrodes, which stimulate climax. I don’t know about you, but that sounds terrifyingly unnecessary.
This societal obsession that having an orgasm is normal behavior and not having an orgasm is abnormal behavior, facilitates the commodification of the female body, according to Moynihan. The female body effectively becomes a site of external propaganda, rather than genuine personhood.
Funnily enough, in clinical studies, placebos with the supplement of porn were proven successful.
This market seems to be a clear extension of fictional disease produced by pharmaceutical companies.
When we live in a world where 1 in 6 women will be sexually abused in their life and 80% of women have body issues, are we seriously suggesting that the solution is a pill? Cream? Or electrodes?
Not only are these unnecessary treatments, they bring unnecessary health risks. Companies have even tried to add estrogen doses with testosterone patches, confounding clinical trials and possibly increasing chronic cancers for the potentiality for sexual “normalcy.”
Thankfully, so far the FDA has shot down these appeals from many pharmaceutical companies. But, much of the drug industry is still searching and battling for the first spot on this market. Unfortunately, the UN legalized the patch mentioned above.
I feel its incredibly important, as feminist advocates, to stand in solidarity against these masculine norms of the female body endorsed by the drug industry.