Orgasm Inc.: B.C. professors address medicalization of female sexual dysfunction

Are you a woman who has been prescribed medicine by a physician in order to enjoy sex?

Or are you a woman who has been told that you are suffering from sexual dysfunction disorder?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, how would you feel if you were told that the identification of the disorder and its treatments might be motivated more by profit than by research?

That's what the documentary Orgasm Inc. considers, in its examination of what role drug companies had in identifying and treating the medical disease known as female sexual dysfunction.

Filmmaker Liz Canner was originally hired to edit erotic videos for a pharmaceutical company that was testing a new drug. But she wound up documenting, over a period of nine years, how the medical industry has attempted to change our understanding of illness, desire, and orgasm. What she presents (which includes cases such as a woman who had an electrodes attached to her spine to help her attain orgasm, as well as a look at the vaginal rejuvenation industry) is simultaneously hilarious, jaw-dropping, and disturbing.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria will participate in a panel discussion at a free screening of the film held tonight (February 9) at 7 p.m. at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts's Royal Bank Cinema at UBC (6265 Crescent Road). (To reserve a seat, email orgasmincscreening@gmail.com.)

The panel, moderated by Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Dr. Joy Johnson, will include:

  • UBC School of Population and Public Health Dr. Jeannie Shoveller;
  • UBC Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology assistant professor Lori Brotto;
  • UVic Women's Studies assistant professor Thea Cacchioni (who was an expert witness for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on proposed drugs to treat "hypo-active sexual desire disorder" in women).

"Approximately 30 per cent of women experience sexual difficulties that are distressing," Brotto stated in a news release. "Despite the fact that there are no Health Canada–approved medications, physicians’ “off-label” prescribing practices are a huge problem given the unknown, long-term impact of these unregulated drugs."

Here's a trailer for the film:

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.

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