FTC Compliance Disclaimer: Other than a complementary copy of the movie Orgasm, Inc. for purposes of this review and tonight’s online chat, no compensation was given to me. No one provided any personal pleasure devices, erotic videos, medical samples, tubes of lubes with the little vibrating fingertip thingy, or large sums of cash in small unmarked bills. No one made any contributions to my reelection campaign, and I don’t have a "leadership PAC" like most members of Congress do, so no one made any contributions to it to help me get around campaign spending laws (see Chambliss, Saxby). Also, no one offered to hire any of my relatives or my ex-lovers (see Ensign, John and Sanford, Mark) in exchange for this chat tonight. In other words, I got nothing except a nice shiny DVD to watch. Nada. Zip. Nothing.

Movie Night Disclaimer: This film and our salon tonight deals with frank discussion about sexuality. Should this bother you, you may not wish to participate. All comments are moderated; vulgarity and ad hominen remarks will not be tolerated. Kindly respect sexuality as a lovely thing and act accordingly. Thank you.

 A dozen years ago I was the first person to write about "laser vaginal rejuvenation for the enhancement of sexual gratification"    and in that decade plus, ob/gyn Dr. David Matlock has built an empire making women think their vaginas are too big, too thin, too "wrong." Matlock’s sale rep is just one of the many characters in Liz Canner’s fascinating and delightful documentary Orgasm, Inc. who are busy marketing intimate worries to women.

 Along with giving us a smart look at women’s sexual responses, Orgasm Inc. explores the uncomfortable relationship between drug manufacturers and consumers by focusing on "female sexual dysfunction,"a disease creating by the need to boost profits. Women’s sexual desire and response is not as easy to track as men’s–guys either have an erection or they don’t. Developing drugs for male sexual enhancement was basically a matter of figuring out how to increase blood flow to the penis so that when the mood hit men could raise the Titanic.

But women–ah, the mystery! It’s more than blood flow as the scientists at Vivus, a drug company where Canner takes a job editing porn for clinical trials, learn. It’s more than the Orgasmatron, an electrode implanted in the spine which doesn’t help Charletta achieve orgasm during sex with her husband, though during the making of the film this lovely woman learns that since she can achieve orgasms outside of marital sex, she’s "normal." Charletta reveals that her religious upbringing may have played a huge part in her lack responsiveness. Yes, sexuality has a huge psychological component!

And for women, feeling aroused is more than just increasing testosterone, which is the goal of Instrinsa, a testosterone patch. A group of concerned women doctors lobby the FDA against the patch, which is not approved in the US, though it is eventually in the EU–and one FDA commissioner jokes that the results of the placebo were so good maybe that should be marketed instead.

Meanwhile the mega-marketing Berman sisters are busy pushing Viagra as a sexual aid for women, even though the "pink pill" a girlie version of the manly man drug has failed to win FDA approval.  Canner takes us on a tour of the Berman Center where we meet Dr Berman and learn about the center’s methods for testing female sexual responsiveness. And see Viagra touted as a tool for bringing about the Big O. Turns out the media-savvy Berman sisters–I just saw Dr Jennifer on Oprah a few weeks ago–were paid up to $75,000 per day by pharmaceutical companies to promote diseases on news programs around the country. Wow, so much for disclosure and medical ethics.

But there are those in the medical and pop culture fields who recognize that orgasms are more that just pills and probes.  Kim Airs, the founder of Grand Opening a sexuality boutique for women takes her collections of vibrators to a medical conference on female sexual dysfunction to help give doctors a clue about women’s sexuality. Other doctors rail against disease mongering and marketing fears of abnormality to women, when in fact there is no "normal" no baseline when it comes to women’s sexual response. 

And wow, even Nancy Reagan makes an appearance! Seems while Nancy was busy touting just saying No to Drugs, her darling Ronnie signed legislation to allow direct marketing of prescription drugs to consumers. Yes we have Ronald Reagan to thank for bringing us Valtrex, Cymbalta, Prozac, Procrit and Cialis during dinner. The USA makes up 5% of the world’s population but it accounts for 42% of the world’s spending on prescription drugs. Now that’s sick!

 Drug companies have a vested interest in keeping America sick and in helping doctors "discover" off label use of current drugs to increase sales. And once a disease is "discovered" and declared fer realz, then drug companies can create drugs to treat it. Welcome to one reason for the high cost of health care.

Dr. David Matlock started out as an ob/gyn who wanted to move out of dealing with insurance companies so he re-branded  incontinence surgery as a sexual enhancement. Now he’s injecting collagen into G-spots and resculpting labia to his ideal of beauty. WTF?

Thank goddess for Liz Canner who began working at sex drug company Vivus and brings us along as she uncovers the drugs, gadgets and gizmos, the snake oils and surgeries. Orgasm Inc. is one of the best documentaries on both sex and the medical field ever, witty, clever, informative and timely.

Our genitals and our spirits thank you!

Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.