Liz Canner’s informative, amusing, expertly crafted and well-laureled docu “Orgasm Inc.” seizes the perfect platform from which to launch a common-sense attack on Big Pharma’s shameless corporatization of health, as firms try to capitalize on women’s efforts to achieve the Big O. Demonstrating infinite ingenuity in inventing new diseases to be cured, pharmaceutical enterprises trotted out everything from designer vaginas to electronic “orgasmatrons” surgically wired to the spine. This must-see expose entertains as it horrifies and should enjoy a healthy bigscreen and smallscreen life after its opening today.
After Viagra proved a runaway bonanza, drug companies decided to come up with a female variation on erectile inability: They lumped together every conceivable femme-related sexual problem, from pure relationship issues to surgical removal of reproductive organs, under the umbrella of “female sexual dysfunction,” and raced each other to formulate a one-fix-fits-all cure. Canner, having accepted a job editing erotic videos used in pharmaceutical trials, found herself in ideal position to track this phenomenon. Given permission to film at work, she was granted amazingly candid interviews by doctors, salespeople, researchers and CEOs involved in the development of new drugs to fight FSD.
The fact that early tests were not encouraging did not stop the industry from pitching the disease. Canner provides a briskly edited cornucopia of clips illustrating how the airways were immediately flooded with reports of a devastating affliction that supposedly is shared by 43% of all women. Specialists, many corporately subsidized, sprang up overnight on newscasts and talkshows to fan fear and predict hope on the pharmaceutical horizon.
Scads of potential cure-alls are rushed into trials and proposed to the FDA, as Canner whimsically depicts the competition as an animated race in which cartoon ointments, pills and patches — all rendered with shapely female gams — sprint across a bedspread to reach the finish line.
Canner makes clear that failure to reach orgasm is generally attributable to a slew of factors, few of them physiological. Thus, at regular intervals throughout the docu, Canner monitors the misadventures of Charletta, an intelligent, middle-aged woman who could not experience an orgasm vaginally. Charletta permits doctors to surgically implant “orgasmatron” electrodes, which merely make a leg twitch uncontrollably. Not until being informed that the majority of women require clitoral stimulation to climax does Charletta finally pronounce herself “cured” — of the ignorance that caused her such anxiety.
Canner ascribes much of the FDA’s disinclination to rubber-stamp these early entries, many similarly riddled with risky side effects, to the work of several concerned health professionals, chief among them Leonore Tiefer, whose well-researched, well-supported appearances at hearings have thus far stemmed the orgasmic tide.
The pic identifies other unnecessary procedures targeting FSD that have proliferated. Various cosmetic surgical trimmings, designed to “neaten” the labia, seem to grant developed countries a sanction for aestheticized genital mutilation. Canner, viewing the results on a computer, spontaneously exclaims, “They want to look like little girls!”
Making no attempt at cold objectivity — but thoroughly documenting her case over a nine-year period — Canner has fashioned a wry, often impassioned denunciation of corporate fear-mongering for profit.