I recently reviewed a film called Orgasm, Inc.: The Strange Science Of Female Pleasure whic I reviewed for the site RH Reality Check. The topics discussed are ones that I believe need to be ocurring in as many spaces as possible, hence a semi-cross posting here at VL.
The film synopsis as listed on the website reads:
In the shocking and hilarious documentary ORGASM INC., filmmaker Liz Canner takes a job editing erotic videos for a drug trial for a pharmaceutical company. Her employer is developing what they hope will be the first Viagra drug for women that wins FDA approval to treat a new disease: Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). Liz gains permission to film the company for her own documentary. Initially, she plans to create a movie about science and pleasure but she soon begins to suspect that her employer, along with a cadre of other medical companies, might be trying to take advantage of women (and potentially endanger their health) in pursuit of billion dollar profits. ORGASM INC. is a powerful look inside the medical industry and the marketing campaigns that are literally and figuratively reshaping our everyday lives around health, illness, desire — and that ultimate moment: orgasm.
Check out the film trailer below
This film is shocking to say the least! I shared:
Canner’s original goals of creating a film about science and pleasure led her to the creation of this film: the medicalization of pleasure. What I found interesting, although sadly I was not surprised (until later) was that many doctors, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies see the big “prize” in women’s sexual health being billions of dollars, NOT women experiencing or increasing sexual pleasure. In the film, Canner shares her thought process with viewers and we discover with her how the “medical profession is attempting to change the meaning of health, illness, desire and orgasm.”
If that quote doesn’t frighten you I don’t know what will!
I also shared a few things that stood out to me and some questions that came up as I read which include:
-The Reagan Administration deregulated the direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies. This allowed companies to advertise on television and other forms of media. Currently only the US and New Zealand have direct advertising.
-Dr. Laura Berman (whom you see on television such as Oprah and Dr. Oz) has ties to pharmaceutical companies. The Berman twins led FSD discourse and medicalization. Dr. Laura was the principal investigator for “female Viagra,” which she continues to promote through off label use (which is illegal) even though Pfizer called off the trials, as part of a “comprehensive care plan.”
-Dr. Laura is NOT the only one with such investments and interests.
How does this “profit over pleasure” and medicalizing pleasure work (if at all) in a sex-positive space?
There was so much this film led me to think about such as:
-What does it mean when the sexuality information we are receiving is by people who have investments in creating a profit with and for large pharmaceuticals? How does this goal for profit impact education, care, and resources that are offered? Why are people surprised when historically oppressed communities still voice a resistance to Western physicians?
-When people discuss “comprehensive sexuality education” what do they really mean? Because when I discuss it I’m not just talking about sharing options in contraception, birth control, consent, etc. but I also include race, class, national origin, dis/ability, immigration status, and the criminalization of certain communities. Who decides what “comprehensive” means and includes/excludes?
-Why is the U.S. sexuality and sexual health field so racially White, able-bodied, English-speaking, doctorate degree having, and older…still?! All of the experts presented represented these identities and I found that discouraging as a person of Color who has been in the field for over a decade. The people of Color we do see in the film are rare, one Asian woman speaks about her orgasm at the beginning of the film for less than 30 seconds, and a Southeast Asian woman speaks about her history of sexual assault and abuse. We are professionals and experts and our ideas and perspectives matter regardless if you are “ready” for us.
-Why not mention the big elephant in the room: that FSD is focused on people whose sex assigned at birth is female and does not include transgender people or people who identify as intersex? How do we continue to “Other” and medicalize bodies that do not conform to what medical professionals have classified as “normal”?
-How does a disability framework complicate, challenge, or affirm the medicalization of sexual dysfunctions?
-What about working class and working poor people? Is sexual dysfunction just a illness of the middle and elite class who may have health insurance to cover such medications, procedures, access to entering into a trial, or the time to seek out specialized care?