The Medicalization of Female Sexuality

executive summary
Recently, there's been a lot of talk about the supposed disorder, Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). But is it really real, or just a ploy to sell more pills and make more money?'s doctors take a look at the facts and investigate the medicalization of female sexuality.

hot facts
Is FSD real? Here's our opinion.

Is Female Sexuality Being Medicalized?

Is Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) real?

Of course FSD is real! After all, doctors prescribe pills for it, don’t they? So then it must be real!

Not necessarily true, as I found out recently while attending a conference in Vancouver BC, called “The Medicalization of Sex”.

There, top researchers in the field of sexuality came together to discuss how sexuality research is often done by researchers who are given incentives by pharmaceutical companies – and the research is often taken out of context, in order to fit a certain outcome. The general consensus at the conference was that women's sexuality is far too complex to be fixed with one pill, or with a hormone regimen.

During the past 10 years, we have seen several new sexual ‘disorders’ pop up in the media in the area of female sexuality, including that of FSD. These are openly discussed in TV Ads, on Oprah and by your family doctor as truisms. Each one is then conveniently paired with some ‘cure’ or other -- usually in pill form – that promises better and stronger orgasms, and sexual desire that you can turn on or off like a faucet.

But, are these so-called ‘disorders’ indeed the real thing, or are they merely a manufactured marketing ploy to get women to buy some (pink) pill or other?

After all, what is so wrong with pharmaceutical companies pouring money into female sexual research and treatment, you might well ask. One big concern voiced among the sexuality researchers was that the last thing a woman needs in her stressful daily life is to be given a diagnosis of a trumped-up disorder.

Hearing that you are sexually "less than …" is a terrible blow to her confidence. And then having new pills foisted upon you – which, at the least do nothing, or at the most cause serious drug side-effects – is totally unnecessary.

As sexologists, we know that few sexual problems are caused by physical issues. Most sexual problems that women encounter are due to stress, to ignorance, and to relationship problems (a partner who doesn't understand, or who has little skill).

Such problems can often be resolved with education, counseling or stress-relief. Women who are given all the hype of a ‘panacea’ (cure-all) may ignore the real problem and jump to the easy solution.

Select voices argued that getting a diagnosis and research money is opening up a much-needed dialogue about women's sexual needs.

One of the highlights of the conference was a talk given by Leonore Tiefer, Ph.D, who single-handedly has challenged the medical influence of sexuality with the New View Campaign.

We came away convinced that, while we would all like to fix our sexual issues with one little pill, it is not a viable reality. And in many cases the ‘cure’ can be more detrimental to the woman than her problem was to begin with.