I care about the female orgasm. Really.
I care a lot. Some might say I'm obsessed with the female orgasm. I contemplate the female orgasm often, sometimes for hours at a time. Not to be, well, cocky but you might say I've spent my entire life working on the female orgasm.
Okay, I'll stop.
Filmmaker Liz Canner took a job editing erotic videos for a drug trial for a pharmaceutical company, Vivus, which hoped to be the first company to market what will be, in essence, a female "Viagra," a drug to treat a "new" disease called FSD, Female Sexual Dysfunction that company reported 43% of women to experience.
The problem? There is no "disease" called FSD, at least not according to the healthcare industry or, for that matter, contemporary psychiatry. Initially, Liz gains permission to film the company for her own documentary exploring science and pleasure. As her project develops, Canner begins to suspect that her employer, along with many other companies, might simply be attempting to exploit and potentially endanger the health of women in search of billions in profits.
is a well-researched, entertaining yet troubling documentary that goes inside the medical community and explores the marketing campaigns that are reshaping contemporary healthcare and medical practice that is more concerned with profits than the person.
Canner clearly does take sides on the issue, yet she does a nice job of building a foundation upon which to base her argument that orgasm problems are not specifically organic, rendering a female "Viagra" pointless. Orgasm, Inc.
doesn't, however, minimize female sexual health issues at all. In one of the film's most poignant and effective scenarios, Canner interviews Charletta, a 60ish female who laments her inability to simultaneously orgasm with her husband to such a degree that she agrees to an experimental device called, seriously, an "orgasmatron."
Needless to say, epic fail.
What's not an epic fail is the journey that Charletta travels in the film, a journey that includes self-discovery and a growth of self-acceptance. By removing the mask of "disease," Canner is directly helping to empower women by encouraging true self-exploration, self-understanding, self-acceptance and healing. Canner's research uncovered that the 43% figure used by Vivus actually referred to a wider ranging study that included a wide variety of sexual problems, anxieties and concerns and, most definitely, was not intended to serve as definition of a "sexual disease," a disease essentially created by pharmaceutical companies to justify their research and products.
presents a multi-layered perspective on female sexual health, exploring not only the questionable actions of pharmaceutical companies but also the role the government has to play, specifically during a nicely documented segment involving FDA hearings for the drug Flibanserin. Testimony by the likes of Leonore Tiefer, a clinical associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, helps to support Canner's clear assertion that the search for an FSD drug is really nothing but a money game.
also speaks out vehemently against a newer trend towards cosmetic vaginal procedures that essentially create "designer vaginas," which Canner and Susan Bennett, a Harvard Medical School professor, regard simply as another form of genital mutilation.
opens February 11th in New York City and March 25th in Los Angeles after being picked up by First Run Features for a limited arthouse run before its inevitable wider DVD release. A must-see for those with a deep interest in women's issues and the world that attempts to exploit them, Orgasm, Inc.
is an insightful and entertaining doc from veteran filmmaker Elizabeth Canner.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
*"Viagra" is a registered trademark of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.