Orgasm Inc. - The SSL Review
Orgasm Inc. has been on my list of things to watch for well over a year. It was released in 2009, but I just saw it. Of course, due to the obvious discussion of female sexual release, it certainly warranted an SSL review.
So, first off, I really appreciate many of the points this movie makes, and I would certainly recommend for people to see it. However, with much love, I have some misgivings which I will discuss later, but first, here's a little overview.
The filmmaker of this movie was hired to edit together porn clips for a company that was trying to create the first "female Viagra." As she was working for them, she asked if she could also make a doc about their journey to create this drug. They agreed, and it began an 8 year investigation into the business of female sexual dysfunction.
She talks to people representing companies that are trying to create the cure for female sexual dysfunction and to those who say they have done so. She also talks to people who believe that this surge to "cure" female sexual dysfunction is a bunch of bullshit. The filmmaker shows us that the public may have been duped into thinking that normal aspects of sexuality are actually sexual dysfunction . She shows us how drug companies and other interested parties have worked hard to make sure that female sexual dysfunction is deemed a medical problem and that it is something women think they can use a pill to fix - largely as a means to sell us a cure to a made-up disease.
One woman she talks with describes how there were years when her children were young that sex was just the last thing on her mind. All day she was being touched and tugged on by children or pulled in different directions. At night she just wanted space and rest - sex was way back on the priority list. This woman's lack of interest in sex, the movie tells us, is understandable and normal, but the drug companies would have us think that she is malfunctioning and needs a medical intervention. I think this is an important point. I absolutely agree that normal changes in sexual appetite throughout a person's life - particularly for females who are often disproportionately burdened with responsibilities that overshadow sexual needs - are too often mistaken for sexual malfunction.
The movie also follows an older woman, in a seemingly caring long-term relationship, who is in search of a way to fix her sexual dysfunction. We watch her as she goes to a man who has created the Orgasmatron. That's right, folks... it's called the Orgasmatron - it's real and people like ABC news have done stories on it. This dude implants a box touching particular nerves in the spine. The patient pushes a button, and boom - she's got an orgasm. Well actually she didn't. It just made her leg move around. This, unsurprisingly, did not get FDA approval. The risks that go along with surgery near the spine are, well, let's just say a bit too high for a device that doesn't even give a gal an orgasm. This movie makes the point several times, when discussing different medical options for female sexual dysfunction, that the risks outweigh the benefits...which in every case was somewhere between none and unknown. However, there was a much more interesting and exciting point made by this woman's story.
What we find out is that she can orgasm. She just can't orgasm from intercourse. The filmmaker lets us know through voice-over that it is ridiculous that this orgasming woman thinks she is abnormal, and we see the woman displaying a giddy change of heart. We see her sort of sing-yelling, as if on a mountain-top, that she is normal. This point deserves so much more than this movie gave it.
The movie seemed to focus mostly on the "Big Pharma's trying to create a money making malady out of every aspect of our normal lives! Even our sexuality isn't safe!" line of thinking. Yeah there's validity to that kind of general focus on the medicalization of everything, but I feel like it just missed the point on a lot of the particular issues that surround the medicalization of female orgasm in particular. Plus, I think in all its gumption to point out that drug companies are making up medical problems, it brushed over the fact that there really is a problem. Only 1/3 (if even that much) of women orgasm regularly with their partner. You may argue that it's not a problem - it's just the way things are. However if you also think that woman are as physically capable of orgasm as men are and that almost all men are orgasming regularly with their partners...then yes, I think there is a problem.
The movie is right on track when it tells us that women do not need a pill to solve the problem, but it moves quickly off track when it insinuates that there simply is not a problem. It gently touches on what this problem actually is when we see that a woman able to orgasm in "other ways" thinks she is completely broken simply because she can't get off from intercourse. There is clearly a problem with what our society deems are acceptable ways for women to orgasm, but this movie never really delved into our cultural understanding of sex and what it has to do with the so-called medical problem of female sexual dysfunction. Unfortunately, I felt let down by this movie. I believe it skimmed over the hard questions in favor of the more well-traveled path of hating on Big Pharma.
Yes, it was true and fun to point out how cosmetic vulva surgery is a bullshit way to become more orgasmic (in a great bit of doc work - we see that even the spokesperson for theses surgeries knew that). It's great to point out that people are trying to make a buck off telling women that our junk isn't working right. It's even fantastic to see old-fashioned vibrators, but it didn't get to the heart of the issue. We, as a society, don't understand how women orgasm, and we, as a society, create an epidemic of sexually disfunctioning females simply because we expect women to orgasm in a way that actually does not make women orgasm. The stimulation of the vagina by the penis is not a way (and there are pretty good studies on this) to cause orgasm.This was never said outright - just quickly insinuated, and i think it deserved more.
P.S. Viagra and drugs like it do not cause orgasm in men.Yet, when speaking about the race to create the first "female Viagra," the movie insinuates at least sometimes that it is meant to cure women of not being able to orgasm. There is an incredibly large difference between getting blood to the genitals, as Viagra does, and causing an orgasm. Yet, that glaring problem in the way companies are viewing a "female Viagra" is never directly addressed and really should have been. Then again, maybe the goal of these drugs and the companies making them were misrepresented by the film. Either way, this should have been addressed clearly in the film.
Although this movie was not everything I could have ever wanted in a doc about the medicalization of female sexual dysfunction, it did have some important point, and was generally progressive. I give it 4 out of 5 vulvas.
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