Female Orgasms for Fun and Profit (But Mostly Profit)

02/09/2011 4:00 AM |

Orgasm, Inc.

Directed by Liz Canner

From the title, you expect Orgasm Inc. to posit a long-awaited solution to the belief that men achieve more sexual pleasure overall than women, and that female pleasure is generally deemphasized in modern culture. Surely director Liz Canner, in her debut feature documentary, could bring to light an amazing new sex toy, or sexual position, or mind trick, to help women gain the upper hand in this regard.

Yet Orgasm Inc. is instead a bracing attack on the very concept of Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD), as it has come to be known by the scientists, sexual therapists and medical device developers looking for quick-fix solutions. But how many women actually benefit from the drugs, creams and machines engineered by medical giants and start-up technology groups alike? Wouldn’t most women, Canner and her more skeptical subjects seem to be asking, reach that zenith through less stress, more sleep, more love at home?

Canner achieved her answer over nine years of filming, starting as a chronicler of Vivus’s unsuccessful launch of a Viagra equivalent for women and ending with footage of the FDA rejecting the testosterone patch Intrinsa last year. In between, she proves her muckraking mettle, provoking a marketer for a cosmetic genital surgery company to admit her disdain for such mutilation; revealing sex expert Laura Berman to be a shill for Viagra; and exposing outright the lies of Orgasmatron creator Dr. Stuart Meloy, who admitted the inefficacies of his product to Canner only to tell a much more successful story to Fox News days later. Watching Meloy pull the Orgasmatron wire out of a middle-aged women’s spine will haunt you for days—it looks like the Alien incubation scene in reverse.

Mostly, though, Orgasm Inc. is lighthearted in tone. Canner abandons numbing talking head interviews, favoring wry camera tricks such as filming one subject disgustedly watching another’s disingenuous TV interview. But at times Canner seems too hesitant to determine a better solution for women unable to achieve orgasm. FSD is certainly a spurious conceit worthy of ridicule—but such women may appreciate more comprehensive conclusions than “Seek a therapist” or “grin and bear it—not everyone was meant to have an orgasm!”

Opens February 11