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by Liz Canner (Director)
First Run Features, 2011
Review by Christian Perring on Sep 4th 2012

Orgasm Inc.

Liz Canner's low-budget documentary takes a skeptical look at the medicalization of the difficulty many women have in achieving orgasm, and the attempt of a pharmaceutical company to create a product that would solve the problem.  Canner does surprisingly candid interviews with representatives of the drug company where they become tongue-tied when asked what evidence there was that the condition is a real medical disorder.  Against them, the film shows Australian health journalist Ray Moynihan and NYU psychiatrist Leonore Tiefer talk eloquently how it is normal for women to have difficulty getting to orgasm in intercourse without direct clitoral stimulation.  They also show how close the links are between the pharmaceutical industry and those arguing that female sexual dysfunction is a disease.  They tie their criticisms of the medicalization of women's sexual problems with the wider issues in the modern world of people taking pills for every problem, and big corporations making profits by pushing to redefine what are essentially social problems into medical problems, so that they can promise a solution for them.  Yet these treatments have side effects and risks, while social approaches have fewer risks and don't locate the problem in particular individuals.  So the documentary takes a very dim view of these movements to medicalize life problems.  When it comes to women's orgasms, the film interviews women who leaned to be happier without medical approaches, through asserting themselves, educating themselves, changing their expectations, and talking with their partners more openly. 

It's very easy to be sympathetic to the point of view of the documentary, which has humor, common sense, and righteousness on its side.  These days most people feel some unease about the power of Big Pharma and it is clear that drug companies are marketing drugs for all sorts of problems that could be treated in other ways.  The climax of the film is an FDA meeting where experts debate whether to approve the use of a new testosterone patch for women, Intrinsa, manufactured by Proctor and Gamble.  Whatever the result of that hearing, Canner shows that the search for the "female Viagra" is going to continue so long as profits are on the horizon. 

 

 © 2012 Christian Perring        

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York