In Orgasm Inc., the narrator was asked to create a sexually stimulating/erotic video to use during the clinical testing of a new drug (a cream) to remedy Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). She spent nine years documenting the industry’s attempts to get FDA approval for this and similar drugs. What she found was alarming.
When Liz Canner began a new assignment, editing a stack of porn films into a “highlight reel” for a pharmaceutical company, she found the inspiration for a new project. This project entailed starting a documentary on “female sexual dysfunction” and the business that has sprung up behind it. “Female sexual dysfunction” can be defined as a woman’s lack of desire for sexual contact and/or her inability to have an orgasm. We have seen this often with Viagra treating male incompetence, yet to see something like this for women is an uncommon thing. However, a number of pharmaceutical firms are beginning to work to formulate a similar drug for women. But is “female sexual dysfunction” a real medical condition? Research has determined that 70 percent of women don’t regularly reach orgasm through intercourse all caused by a number of different reasons… Are drug companies trying to convince women they need treatment for a condition that truly doesn’t actually exist? And why does our society today feel like we can fix everything that is not considered a normality?
What constitutes “normal” anyhow? To me, this entails the forgoing of judgments and discriminations that often come with the concept of sexual subjectivity. Women and men of all sexual orientations should be able to express themselves in a way to their pleasing without the potential scrutiny. Owning your sexuality is something one can only do on their own, and expressing it should be something all people should feel comfortable with. Being able to express your sexuality without labels should be the “norm”. Culturally, there should be no shame in who you are and what feels good. Nowadays there is a false notion that every problem can be fixed. Medical and pharmaceutical establishments claim that there are natural and normal levels of sexual feelings, physical arousal, and orgasm… but who are they to tell us such things? While sexuality is such a gray area, why is it that when it comes to medical practices—it suddenly becomes black and white? On the basis of these claims, terms such as “disorders” and “dysfunctions” are used to describe our sexual feelings and responses when they differ from these norms. The problem with this is that the connotation that comes from the word “disorders” or the word “dysfunctions” is one that implies shame. We should be ashamed to have such problems, right?
According to Tiefer’s Formula, sex equals intercourse. And in order to enjoy vaginal penetrative sex, one must first have the desire for intercourse, then genital arousal, followed by a timely orgasm. The key word to that last phrase: timely. If sexual intercourse doesn’t follow this format, we are programmed to believe we should be ashamed of that. One of the biggest issues in societies’ today is the discourses of “shame” versus the discourses of “morality”. As a result of this, as we saw in Orgasm INC., women have admitted to often times faking orgasms just so they won’t seem abnormal and so they can follow the expectation that is supposed to occur during sexual intercourse. One woman in the documentary went as far as to having a surgery to fix not being able to have orgasms, yet she felt as if she had to hide it to prevent judgment. Another common misconception is that “women should be able to orgasm from vaginal penetration”. There is a shame that comes along with not being able to do this. This is the expectation and because of this we must be fixed. Is there not such a heteronormative implication within that statement that was said in the documentary? And what kind of orgasm is the “right” kind? Another woman in the film boldly stated that she can have an orgasm, but it’s not the “normal” kind. Who determines whether something is right or normal… it is unfair for women to believe they must orgasm a certain way during sex. This demonstrates perfectly the messed up world we live in.
So where does the false perception of orgasms derive from? I would have to say pornography nowadays is a huge contributor to how men and women perceive orgasms and what they should be like.
One morning CNN decided to focus on the effects pornography was beginning to have on society and the sexuality of men and women. A guest star Gail Dines gave her input on the situation. Dines answered that her concern was the “level of brutality and cruelness, in pornography’s affecting the way that men think about women, and it’s affecting the way they think about themselves and the way they construct ideas about sexuality. Because the more men view pornography, the more they begin to think like the pornographic world.”
This is dangerous because this is exactly where false perceptions come from. When one thinks all sexual encounters should be like the ones viewed in pornographic films, this gives a false representation of the realities of sex and specifically orgasms. Pornography is not “normal” and sex should not be compared to what’s seen in it.
Not Every “Disorder” is Created Equal
HSDD, Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder; FSD, Female Sexual Disorder – how many acronyms do we need before we understand that maybe the problem isn’t with women, but something large enough to leave 43% of women with this “disorder?” In our society, there is always a one-stop-shop, a little pill, cream, or treatment that will fix any disorder. But what if this “disorder” isn’t a disorder to begin with?