Orgasm, Inc. (review)

What do women want? Victorian primness and Freudian misogyny that once saw women as frigid children suffering from penis envy has morphed into a pharmaceutical diagnosis of “female sexual dysfunction,” or FSD, as a way to explain why women can’t be just like men when it comes to sex. This hilarious first documentary feature from award-winning filmmaker Liz Canner won’t be startling to any woman who understands how her body works, knows what she wants in bed, and isn’t afraid to ask for it — or to any man who is curious about and generous with his female partners — but those of us worldly and wise about human sexuality will be angry to see laid so, er, bare, the medicalization of our culture’s unwillingness to meet women on their own terms. Can’t have an orgasm from plain-vanilla missionary-position intercourse? There are drugs for that! Maybe: they don’t work any better than placebos. So far there are no drugs to deal with the body-image issues that inhibit many women; the unequal division of labor in the home and with child care, which causes resentment between husbands and wives; or with the fact that everyone is overworked, stressed out, and just too exhausted for sex… though Canner does broach them here. She also introduces us to Ray Moynihan, editor of The British Medical Journal, who complains about “the corporate sponsored creation of disease” (which is, of course, not a problem solely concerning “FSD”); Carol Queen, who founded and curates the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum in San Francisco and relates stories of customers seeking her help who don’t know where their clitorises are (which must be one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard); doctors both pro and anti the new vaginal cosmetic surgeries that are purported to “cure” FSD; and other players in the ongoing attempts to make big bucks off women’s unhappiness in the bedroom. What’s “normal” for women’s sexual experience is not what we see in movies — not just porn, but in those preposterous Hollywood sex scenes in which a couple of quick thrusts has a woman screaming orgasmically — and this may be the first movie to acknowledge that.

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