The Medicalization of Desire

The medicalization of desire refers to the tendency of the medical industry to attempt to use science in order to explain what sex should look like. The medicalization of desire and sex has created a barrier to sexual intercourse. By developing a scientific view on how sex should play out, the medical industry has created a society in which individuals feel as though sexual experiences that do not fall neatly into these definitions are abnormal. These individuals then seek medical help for a problem that might not really be a problem. The documentary Orgasm, Inc. discusses the medicalization of desire by exploring Female Sexual Dysfunction through the eyes of the entities responsible for its development.

The documentary film Orgasm, Inc. addresses the concept of the medicalization of desire by focusing its lens on the condition Female Sexual Dysfunction. The documentary explores the development of Female Sexual Dysfunction and the subsequent race to develop a drug to treat this “disease”. The film introduces the argument that the pharmaceutical industry and the medical field have together manufactured a sexual disorder. The purpose of this development, according to the film, was to create a market for the drugs and treatments that will address it. The film advances the argument that perfectly healthy women are being made to feel as though they are diseased and in some way abnormal. The reality of the situation, however, is that they fully functional and without defect.

Understanding the medicalization of desire is crucial in our understanding of the politics of sex. The ease with which the medical field turned sex and sexuality into something to be discussed and understood in terms of science is illustrative of how deep and widespread societies grip on our sexual lives and perceived sexual well-being is.

Both Orgasm, Inc. and the reading Anal Sex: Phallic and Other Meanings from our “intimacies” unit in that they both explore the ways in which society has been allowed to creep into bedrooms all over America. It has done this by formulating definitions for what is normal and acceptable sexually. Any behavior outside of these meticulously formulated definitions is divergent and immediately has a stigma attached to it. Anal sex has long been considered a sexual perversion for its non-adherence to socially constructed guidelines for intercourse. The medical field even maintains that participation in such a sexual act is indicative of a developmental perversion. In the same manner that medicine decided that anal sex needed a scientific explanation, it contrived that a woman’s inability to have an orgasm through intercourse alone needed a scientific, medically backed explanation. It was successful in that goal. It is now a widely accepted social standard that the only kind of acceptable orgasm is one achieved exclusively through intercourse and that any woman who cannot achieve an orgasm in this fashion has some sort of disease or defect, namely: Female Sexual Dysfunction.

20 signs that you might be a hoodrat:

  1. When meeting a new man, your first instinct is to ask him “Do you have a job?”, as opposed to “What do you do?”

    2. You actually frame those club pics with the airbrushed backgrounds

    3. You consider Red Lobster biscuits a delicacy

    4. Your grandmother knows who Keyshia Cole is

    5. You find it charming when men turn on “I Can Tell” by the 504 Boyz around you.

    6. You brag about having a credit card

    7. Your man bought you a Katt Williams DVD and a bottle of Hennessy for Valentine’s Day

    8. Your kids call you by your first name

    9. You’re 33 years old and still allow men to give you promise rings

    10. You beat a chick’s a** on graduation day. Your mother was your accomplice. (Shoutout to the Class of ’05)

    11. You walk so hard that your head waggles

    12. You feed Hawaiian Punch and ribs to your 3 month old baby

    13. Your “modeling shoots” take place in some nigga’s den

    14. You carry your purse on the inside of your wrist

    15. You think women who exercise are bougie

    16. You think it’s cute that you don’t know how to pronounce certain words

    17. You thought Baby Boy had a fairytale ending

    18. You think it’s your 6 year-old’s responsibility to wake himself up for school

    19. You quote The Player’s Club for wisdom

    20. You’ve ever started a sentence with “Unh uh, unh uh”

There is a list circulating the internet. It is entitled “Twenty signs that you might be a hood rat”. This list takes behaviors that are considered normal in some cultures and develops them into “symptoms” with the “diagnosis” being hood rat. This list speaks to the same issue that the development of Female Sexual Dysfunction speaks to. It speaks to the idea that society is unquestioningly allowed to take behaviors that they deem socially unsatisfactory and transform them into a problem that requires attention. The “Twenty signs that you might be a hood rat” has effectively diagnosed virtually 75% of the African American community with the affliction of “hood rat”. This example is significantly less extreme than the phenomenon of nearly half of all women being diagnosed as sexually dysfunctional, but it makes the same point. 41% of all women are said to be dysfunctional. Can something really be considered a dysfunction when such a large percentage of the population is inflicted by it? 39% of all Americans have an O+ blood type. Do all of these individuals have a dysfunction as well?

It is, frankly, appalling that the medical field pharmaceutical industry have been allowed to get away with such a large scale deception of the world’s female population. Furthermore, it is disturbing to think that the social conditions were present for so many women to unquestioningly accept the idea that they were diseased and/or dysfunctional sexually.

All of this together raises major concerns about the state that our society is currently in. It begs the question, what social conditions and norms have allowed such a large scale deception to emerge, persist, and develop among women in America? It also makes one wonder what other diseases and disorders the pharmaceutical industry has manufactured in an effort to create a market for drugs and treatments that consumers do not necessarily need.


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