Category Archives: Female Sexual Dysfunction

Why Capitalism is Good For Your Genitals

Adam Smith

There's a joke about the invisible hand of the market in here somewhere, but I'm too lazy to find it.

Whether or not you believe that Female Sexual Dysfunction is a real condition, or one invented by pharmaceutical companies to manufacture a disease and reap the benefits, it is undeniable that many women have trouble reliably achieving orgasm during intercourse. And some women can’t even have orgasms from masturbation, while others think masturbation is wrong, so they don’t even try. Something needs to be done about women’s orgasm deficit, and a commercial solution appears to be the only workable way. While non-profits are doing their best to improve women’s sex lives by promoting sex-positive lifestyles , they are underfunded and too obscure to make a real change in the functioning of vaginas across Americas. Universities tend to shy away from this type of research, because politically it’s safer to study sexual diseases than it is to study sexual pleasure. Consequently, there’s no wing of the University of Chicago Medical School dedicated to studying the clitoris, nor do doctors specialize in the field of bringing women sexual pleasure.  Academia is usually conservative and bureaucratic, and simply studying the history of sex toys raises eyebrows, let alone studying sexual pleasure. Although, research universities have done some work on women’s sexual pleasure—discovering in a study that heterosexual women are indiscriminate in their appreciation of pornography, getting  turned on by straight sex, gay sex, and monkey sex alike—it’s unlikely that any breakthrough discoveries about the female orgasm will occur there.

That’s why the cure for women’s sexual problems has been most strongly pursued by commercial interests: from the patent-medicine companies of the 19th and early 20th century that promoted cocaine-filled concoctions to solve female troubles to the pharmaceutical industry and sex-toy companies of the 21st century.  Obviously this system is imperfect, but it’s all we’ve got, so we should heartily support it. That’s why glum feminists like Leonore Tiefer really bother me. She created something called the New View Campaign that rails against drug companies who try to improve women’s sex lives. Its slogan is “Sex for our pleasure or their profit?” I don’t think it’s an either/or question, nor are the two diametrically opposed, but Tiefer clearly believes otherwise. She argues that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Disorders (DSM) has been defining Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) in a reductionist way, reducing women’s sexuality to their vaginas, while ignoring the psychological aspects of female arousal and the wide variety of ways that women experience sexual pleasure. Of course their approach is reductionist, because the only way to diagnose a disorder is to have some sort of criteria for it. But she believes that it is this approach that has led drug companies to attempt to capitalize off of FSD by focusing on a narrow goal of increasing physical arousal, a practice that she finds upsetting. She proposes instead that we should:

“resituate women’s sexuality within the political domain rather than the health-and-treatment domain. We believe that addressing issues of political equality, women’s emancipation and entitlement, sex education and health care access will lead to the prevention of many sexual problems.”

While I think that this is an admirable goal and would probably lead to improvements in third-world countries where women lack basic human rights, I don’t think this is the solution to sexual problems in the United States. In America, the only way a woman can obtain orgasms through a political route is if she receives cunnilingus from Bill Clinton.

The sex toy industry has been driven by profit, and it has brought pleasure to millions of women (and men) worldwide. A physician may have invented the vibrator, but it only became a widely available product, produced on a massive scale, because companies and investors believed they could make money from it. Advertising and marketing played a large role in the success of the vibrator in the early 20th century, so it should come as no surprise that commercial interests are leading the charge to discover a cure for women’s sexual problems in the 21st . There’s nothing morally wrong with accruing cash from powerful orgasm machines.  If we had been forced to wait for a large research university to develop and market a commercial sex-toy, we’d still be masturbating with Indonesian bottle gourds.

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Female Sexual Dysfunction, Part One

Does this woman have a sexual disorder? Not even her doctor knows for sure.

Last night I watched an interesting documentary called Orgasm Inc. that traces the development of two female sexual dysfunction drugs: Alista, a topical testosterone cream, and Intrinsa, a testosterone patch that was rejected by the FDA. Both failed because they couldn’t satisfactorily improve women’s sex drives or orgasmic capabilities. The film focuses on the invention of the disease Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD), which director Wendy Ettinger argues is a disorder created by the pharmaceutical industry to sell unnecessary drugs.

The women’s equivalent of erectile dysfunction (ED), FSD is a vaguely defined disease, characterized by “persistent, recurrent problems with sexual response or desire,” according to the Mayo Clinic.  The DSM IV divides FSD into nine separate conditions, some characterized by physical symptoms, and others that are purely psychological. To illustrate the inability of the medical establishment to fully grasp female sexuality, here is a list of the symptoms that supposedly present themselves in cases of  Subjective Sexual Arousal disorder, a subset of FSD:

“absent or diminished feelings of sexual arousal from any type of sexual stimulation; however, vaginal lubrication or other signs of physical response occur.”

In other words, even if a woman’s vagina is saying yes, her brain might be saying no. And the brain overrules the vagina, unlike in the male system where the penis is king. That’s why Viagra doesn’t work as well for women. All most men need is an erection and they’re ready to go. Determining women’s sexual arousal is much more difficult.  Some women need a romantic setting and a loving partner to achieve an orgasm, while others just require a bottle of 99 Bananas and a clitoral erection.

To further complicate the definition of Female Sexual Dysfunction, even if you have all the symptoms, you do not necessarily have FSD unless “these problems are making you distressed or straining your relationship with your partner.” Not only has the medical establishment been unable to sufficiently define FSD, but also they have not come to a consensus on how to treat it, or determined how many people are afflicted. Researchers have variously estimated that anywhere from 10 to 46 percent of women suffer from some form of the condition.

Female Sexual Dysfunction is nothing new. In fact women’s sexual problems have consistently been a great source of concern in Western culture, especially since the mid-1800s. The only thing that has changed is the name. One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, we called these diseases neurasthenia, hysteria, and frigidity. In the 21st century, drug companies have re-branded these syndromes as Female Sexual Dysfunction.

To date, drug companies have failed in curing this affliction, but I believe that if women take FSD into their own hands, they can solve it once and for all. The solution? Simply creating a detailed list of sexual instructions for current and future partners. These should be tacked to the bed or a motion sensor should be set up that begins playing a recording of them once the sexual partner has entered the bedroom.

A hypothetical example is given below:

“Welcome new sexual partner. In order to sexually arouse [insert your name] or bring her to orgasm, you must first perform a 22 minute full-body massage while discussing the history of erotic art in America. Then, place your tongue at a 45-degree angle to her clitoris, while massaging her upper thigh with your right hand, and inserting the index and middle fingers of your left hand into the vaginal canal. Do this for nine minutes. Try to ignore the cramping in your head, neck, and hands.

Side note: if you plan on engaging in sexual activity with her in the future, prepare for it by taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug thirty minutes before commencing sexual activity.

If none of these techniques work, download pornography to her laptop, balance the computer on her stomach and continue performing cunnilingus for the duration of the erotic film. If these approaches continue to be unsuccessful, remove the laptop, take a five-minute break and introduce your own methods into the mix. If all else fails, extricate your face from her vulva, make your way to the kitchen, and locate the bag of Pretzel M&M’s that is stored in the cabinet to the right of the sink. Bring these into the bedroom. You may share them with her, but you are only allowed to eat two of them.”

Coming Soon: In Part II of this blog post, I’ll be detailing some other medical treatments for FSD, including clitoral pumps. I’ll also argue why capitalism is good for women’s sex lives.

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