As I type this I can see the people lining up for my flight to Newark via Paris. Yes it is that time of year again, time to float off to the US and A. In the days leading up to my departure, I had the chance to see several documentaries at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. For whatever reason, my person theme this year was the internet-spam-inspiring world of so-called sexual disfunction.
I use the term “so-called” because 20 years ago this condition did not exist. So of course neither did the now famous blue pills and their descendants. This fact was one of the main points underlined in both Michael Schaap’s hilarious and informative film “The Erectionman” (aka The Viagraman in the Netherlands) and Liz Canner’s Orgasm Inc.
Michael’s film focuses on the male universe as it relates to the erection. I’m sure some people squirm at the topic, but it is no secret that since the dawn of time human behavior and human history has been highly influenced by that all-important phenomenon. Indeed during this film Michael takes us back in time to how different civilizations related to erections and generally the occurrence of impotence. Eventually it brings us to the present where even the word impotence is now taboo. Replaced by the pharmaceutal industry and doctors affiliated with the industry, by the term erectile disfunction. Why the new term? For both marketing and regulatory purposes. The marketing part should be obvious, there is plenty of embarassment connected with the term impotence, so if you make a more scientific name there will be more willingness to come forward.
The regulatory function of inventing a new condition is the most interesting aspect of both of these films. In the case of erectile disfunction, in order to market their famous blue pill Pfizer and other pill makers needed it to be approved by the FDA. However the FDA will only approve the drug if it treats an actual condition. Enter the multipronged communications and marketing strategy by the big drug companies. With their legions of doctors and funny ads that make people believe that there is a condition involving men’s erections that plagues society and can be cured with help from their pills.
Liz Canner completes the equation of this manufactured industry, by looking at the development of female viagra. She again looks at what companies are doing in their quest to develop a drug that will enable women to have orgasms who have until then been unable. The name of the new condition in order to justify the development of the drug – Female Sexual Disfuction (FSD).
Surprisingly at the conclusion of the film we learn that female viagra, known specifically as Intrinsa, got rejected by the FDA in the US. Yet somehow the drug has been approved by the European Union, though it has only been used in some very specific and extraordinary circumstances.
Perhaps my favorite conclusion that in many ways applies to both films was put forth by Michael as he lamented something like “.. at some point I realize I’m entirely dependent on commercial entities in order to have pleasure… “