Everyone knows the pharmaceutical companies are lining their overflowing pockets with the Western culture's desire for a quick fix. But do you know they’re also creating the diseases for which they are developing the drugs; hence, the birth of FSD – Female Sexual Dysfunction.
Forty-three per cent of women suffer from FSD. It sounds like a pretty staggering figure until you find out it was derived from a questionnaire asking if you have ever experienced any of the following common problems, respond yes or no – every yes contributes to the percentage. Documentarian Liz Canner began her journey when the drug company Vivus asked her to edit together pornography to be used during clinical trials of their Viagra-equivalent for women – these are conducted even though it’s continually said increased blood flow has not been proven to promote orgasm in women. It’s therefore not surprising when none of the pharma firms can prove their product is significantly more effective than a placebo. Nonetheless, the race to FDA approval is amusingly displayed in an animated footrace by various pills and creams.
Canner rigorously and wittily dissects the corporate commoditization of perfectly normal sexual problems, which are usually more successfully treated through non-pharmaceutical solutions. It’s abhorrent to see a woman convinced she has a disease so desperate to repair her deficiency she undergoes a procedure that carries the risk of paralysis; in turn, it’s uplifting to see the same woman content without a quick fix at the end of the film. Along the way, Canner also encounters a sex shop owner who crashes pharmaceutical conferences to educate the attending doctors, a vintage vibrator collector who provides insight into the history of female "hysteria," the orgasmatron, and a man whose monkeys have taught him to pay more attention to women.
Audiences also experience mix feelings when it becomes apparent the women advancing these products do not even believe in their validity; the only woman to stay on script is the highly-compensated Dr. Laura Berman, who recommends off-label prescriptions to treat women’s “sexual dysfunction.”
For more from Hot Docs, click here.