New documentary showcases attempts to profit off myths about female sexual pleasure

Large pill with the words Orgasm Inc written over. Tag line: The strange science of female pleasure

Orgasm Inc is a documentary that exposes big pharma’s attempts to profit off of myths about female sexual pleasure.

It’s shocking and incredible the blatant way that pharmaceutical companies are involved in the creation of medical problems that they can then solve with their new drugs and tools.

That’s right: for-profit pharmaceutical companies CREATE medical disorders for the sole purpose of creating a new market for their new drug.

This film focuses on “female sexual dysfunction” and big pharma’s attempts at creating drugs to solve it.

Now I’m not saying that there aren’t women out there who have legitimate medical concerns that affect their sexual functioning. They do.

But what I am saying is that the classification of these kinds of disorders, which are complex in nature, seriously vague, and extremely affected by society’s ideas about female sexual pleasure, is creating a shitstorm for women.

For example, in the documentary, the filmmaker follows one woman who decided to enroll in a clinical trial for a new device called the “Orgasmatron.” (Note: This article about the device tells a very different story than the documentary did.) This clinical trial is pretty invasive–she has to have a mechanism that provides electricity surgically installed into her body, with a wire running up along her spinal cord. She remains light-hearted about the whole thing, including laughing as she shows us what the mechanism did for her after the fact. She turns on the remote (similar the remote one might have on a vibrator like this one) and her leg begins to shake violently, as she laughs.

The Orgasmatron did nothing for her sexual pleasure, and was removed within a few weeks.

After watching her go through all of this, we discover this shocking revelation. Why did she think she suffered from female sexual dysfunction? Because she could not orgasm from just vaginal penetration alone.

Sit with that a minute.

A perfectly healthy woman who was able to orgasm regularly with clitoral stimulation participated in a clinical trial that involved surgically implanting an electric mechanism into her body because she believed not being able to orgasm from simply vaginal penetration was abnormal.

WTF. I can safely say that MOST women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. Why aren’t we being taught this??

This is only one example of many in the film that illustrates how the medical industrial complex is invested in convincing millions of women that their sexual responses are abnormal so that they will go out and purchase whatever pills, cremes and surgeries these companies can come up with.

What women don’t need is technologies that are motivated by profit rather than science. What we do need is this:

  • Comprehensive sex education that teaches us about safety AND pleasure
  • Feminist sex shops where people can learn about the tools out there (no prescription required) to help us achieve sexual pleasure
  • To debunk all the heteronormative myths about what “normal” sexual functioning and desire look-like.

Check out the film if you can. The trailer is available here, and the list of screenings here.

Pharmaceutical companies should not be in charge of telling us what female sexual pleasure/functioning should be.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted February 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I can’t help but think it has something to do with men being clueless. Men have orgasm when they penetrate. Why wouldn’t women? It’s as if we’re automatically supposed to have orgasm just because he does, with no thought about how we actually achieve orgasm and that it might be different than the way men do.

    • Posted February 10, 2011 at 1:20 am | Permalink

      If you think about it, most women do orgasm in a similar way to men; cis women and men have different anatomy, but it developed from the same model. The external part of clitoris is the equivalent to the external penis in importance to orgasm, so men and women do sort of gain the most pleasure from an equivalent spot.

      Demanding women be able to orgasm from g-spot stimulation alone is like demanding men be able to orgasm from prostate stimulation alone. Some men and women can do it, and great for them, but it isn’t the norm.

      Of course a lot of people would like to think men and women are complete opposites and so women are failures if they don’t derive most of their pleasure from receiving penetration, while men are weirdos if they do. The romanticised notions of men being naturally dominant and penetrative and women naturally submissive and penetrated *, and everyone enjoying these roles, marginalizes those who get off in different ways, not to mention the gender variant and those who enjoy the power roles they aren’t “supposed” to.

      *not that I’m saying being penetrated/penetrating is inherently sub/dom, it’s just that the mainstream does portray it that way.

      • Posted February 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        “Demanding women be able to orgasm from g-spot stimulation alone is like demanding men be able to orgasm from prostate stimulation alone.”

        Thank you for this analogy. This makes a lot of sense!

  2. Posted February 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Big Pharma has been known to invent diseases so that useless procedures and medications can be sold to “cure” them. In the Twenties, the Listerine company invented the condition “halitosis” as a means to sell mouthwash. But I also hasten to acknowledge that sometimes we can take cynicism too far. Recall, if you will, the recent controversy about mothers who refused to get their children vaccinated for completely avoidable childhood diseases, fearing that doing so would cause autism.

    This situation is an example of how an industry manipulates women. But I don’t want us to take a knee-jerk tact and assume that all of medicine is automatically suspect because of it.

  3. Posted February 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I am really interested in viewing this film. My dissertation topic is on female sexual dysfunction/dissatisfaction. I have spent four years now looking at literature on this subject, and I all I can say is that I remain on the fence in regards to its existence. In many ways FSD seems like a made up topic to sell drugs to women, which I gather is the premise of the film. At the same time many, many women are not happy with their sex lives. Sometime, there are physical problems that impact sexual functioning, but most of the research has not found that FSD is associated with advancing age or health problems.

    I believe that much of women’s problems are rooted not in individual issues but in social inequalities that favor men. You mentioned that this woman had the orgasmtron put in because she couldn’t come from intercourse. That is a good example of what I’m talking about. The expectation that we women have to come the “right” way.

  4. Posted February 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Sorry pharma, but the main reason women can’t orgasm these days is because they are unable to relax. They are to stressed and unable to fully let go enjoy the pleasure.

    The pharmaceutical companies saw how Viagra made millions. They are exploiting human desires, what people need and want, and what they could easily sell to make a buck.

    Everyone loves sex, what woman wouldn’t love to have an orgasm every day? so its about time someone stepped in and tried to manipulate millions out of the people in this country who are so convinced everything can be “cured” with a pill.

    Words to the wise for pharmaceutical companies (even though they are probably already aware) modern medicine makes most things worse!

    If you want to orgasm, be vocal with your partner on what feels best for you, girl on top, clitoris and penetration, vibrating, etc. its all about feeling comfortable and relaxing.

  5. Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    This documentary is an insult to every single woman with FSD. Yet another attempt by the patriarchy to discount women’s health issues and claim that its “all in our head.”

  6. Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I watched a documentary on some women trying to solve the problem of the non-orgasm. One surgeon found that he could stimulate orgasms in women by placing the electrode thing on their back.

    It was interested to see the women’s reactions. The device allowed one lady to get orgasms, but it didn’t work on the other two. It was interesting though–the two it didn’t work on had really negative attitudes whereas the one who got the orgasm with the device seemed not as defeated.

    On a completely different topic, I really hate when people are all, “but most women can orgasm by clit stimulation”—I can’t actually. All I need is the right pressure, friction and stimulation in my vagina and I’m good to go. Everybody is different.

  7. Posted February 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been with several guys sexually who have pulled my hand away from my clitoris telling me to stop and to just let them do it. And by “let them do it,” they meant let their penis do all the work. Like touching myself was bad. I felt very ashamed. I’m glad that I now know that what I did wasn’t wrong, but I totally understand where the woman from the article was coming from.

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