Orgasm Inc. / Now that Big Pharmacy is the third most profitable US business, right after oil and communications, the newest campaign, according to Elizabeth Canner’s documentary Orgasm Inc., is the treatment of what is labeled, sometimes creatively, Female Sexual Dysfunction–another gold mine after the distribution of Viagra and its fellow drugs. The search for a “female Viagra” is on and has been in full swing for at least a decade and a half, but it does not stop with a pill. Researchers have also developed sexual surgery, a device called an Orgasmatron, hormone treatments and “medical” patches.
The film contains interviews with women discussing their orgasms, takes a historical look at companies trying to evolve new pills, gives more interviews with non-medical and medical authorities, adapts older treatments (Viagra, testosterone, estrogen) in limited amounts, examines fact-based statistical studies and concludes with an eye-opening Federal Drug Administration (FDA) hearing, during which experts vote on whether to approve a new treatment developed by Procter & Gamble, which started a $100 million ad campaign before approval.
Choosing not to risk the benefits due to potentially harmful side-effects, the FDA has turned down many treatments and devices; and independent medical authorities (those not employed by drug companies) have testified as to the possible dangers of “premature” drugs. Another argument that surfaces is that the term “Female Sexual Dysfunction” might be, in many cases, an “invented” disorder, since in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan signed a bill allowing the advertisment of prescription drugs and services–after which the revenue skyrocketed, reaching upwards of a billion dollars.
Sexuality-experts, some trained, began to bloom in the US, particularly on television. Some bona-fide doctors were paid as much as $75,000 a day by pharmaceutical companies to “discuss” new treatments for alleged sexual dysfunctions. Many doctors established “sexual treatment centers” and “vaginal surgery centers” throughout the US. The commoditization of such treatments was complicated by similarly named over-the-counter products. Practitioners of vaginal surgery often tightened and re-shaped the vagina, and some operations insinuated a wire along the spine, which could then be activated by a remote control device.
“There are legitimate sexual grievances out there, as well as skillful practitioners,” says one doctor, “but there is also exploitation and fear-mongering. People need more information and need to think critically about what they hear and wish for. There’s good work being done and there’s…Well…A lot of exploitation.”
Remember that $100 million Procter & Gamble ad campaign? Well, the FDA turned down the application. This time. A little later however, the European Union okayed it.
Canner’s documentary, as thorough as 80 minutes allows, seems a fair and efficient treatment of her subject. She’ll be adding to it as time goes by. Stay tuned.