Friday, February 26th, 2010
The pharmaceutical industry is attempting to convince the public that a variety of normal conditions affecting the majority of women should be classified as “female sexual dysfunction” and treated with drugs.
The medical establishment has a long history of treating the female body as sexually dysfunctional, from when Hippocrates first attributed “hysteria” to a wandering uterus. According to JoAnn Wypijewski, former senior editor of The Nation, this perspective fell out of favor with the sexual revolution of the 1970s but has since re-emerged.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
“Today the cultural air is thick with sex, but the rhetoric of freedom and rights largely serves a commodified notion of sexual satisfaction,” Wypijewski said. “The politics has dropped out, and without politics we’re all just … potential patients.”
A 2005 article in the medical journal BMJ noted the emergence of drugs intended to treat “female sexual dysfunction.” In spite of skepticism from the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical industry has pressed ahead, insisting that conditions such as an inability to regularly achieve orgasm through intercourse alone, low levels of sexual desire, and sexual dissatisfaction are medical disorders in need of treatment.
All these conditions are normal for women at various points throughout their lives. Yet proponents of the label “female sexual dysfunction” claim that anywhere from 43 percent to 70 percent of women are actually ill; Oprah has called it as an “epidemic.”
The cure, according to the pharmaceutical industry, is testosterone treatment or other drugs. Meanwhile, Wypijewski notes that rates of “vaginal rejuvenation” (tightening) among middle-aged women and “laser labiaplasty” (reshaping of the labia) among younger women continue to rise. A doctor in North Carolina even offers to implant an electrode in women’s spinal columns to help them achieve orgasm during sex.
“Female sexual dysfunction, it turns out, was wholly created by drug companies,” Wypijewski said. “The more obstinate question is … whether a resistant politics can grow up to say … ‘We want out’ of the profit system and … out of a medical model that elevates a doctor over … a more sensual ease with oneself and others.”