This Valentine’s Day week, the Gene Siskel Film Center is talking about sex, baby. More specifically, the purported lack of satisfying sex in the lives of nearly 43% of American women, according to a statistic used to classify a new “disease” being diagnosed as Female Sexual Dysfunction. It was this statistic and this newly named disease that inspired independent filmmaker Liz Canner to document the pharmaceutical industry’s mad rush to invent a female equivalent of Viagra and get it approved by the FDA first. (None of the medications for FSD have been approved by the FDA, but most are available worldwide over the Internet.) Canner’s journey through the world of pharmaceuticals begins when she is asked to direct erotic films for a pharmaceutical company called Vivus, who would then show the video footage to their patients to determine their level of arousal, and ultimately, their level or diagnosis of FSD.
Orgasm Inc. runs through Thursday, February 17th at Gene Siskel.
Canner’s documentary reveals a billion-dollar industry that profits from the sexual misconceptions and misdiagnoses of women who feel there must be something wrong with their body. The storytelling in Orgasm Inc. can be a little goofy at times, with computer animations of medications racing to a finish line, animated dollar bills with Reagan’s face on them, and trite montages of flowers meant to illustrate vaginas, but Canner excelled in representing the opposition to the drug companies, even when it came from the employees of the drug companies themselves. Orgasm Inc. follows on the heels of 2007’s Sicko, Michael Moore’s documentary about corruption in the American health care system, but whereas the subjects in Sicko weren’t being provided the proper health care they needed, the subjects in Orgasm Inc. were perhaps being treated with too much unnecessary health care. (And it’s not cheap health care, either. A session at some of the doctors’ offices where patients were diagnosed with FSD can cost up to $1500, and none of it’s covered by insurance.) Canner is no Michael Moore, but her film does reveal an entire facet of corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, which will certainly make me think twice the next time my doctor writes me any kind of prescription, or makes any kind of diagnosis.