What’s Really Going On With Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)?
Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is a big topic right now. Here is an example of a program on it from the Royal Society of Medicine in England.
But FSD programs are everywhere. It’s almost enough to convince one that FSD is of epidemic proportions, but that actually isn’t the case. What’s going on? There are two points I’d like to make:
1. The level of female sexual dysfunction is probably lower now than ever before as women take charge of their sexuality. Most middle-class marriages before 1970 were marked by a colossal loss of interest on both sides. Men then had the options of porn and prostitutes. But women had neither option, and stewed for decades in sexual misery. This is “FSD” through the ceiling, except that nobody made that diagnosis at that time. The psychoanalysts, who then were in the saddle in psychiatry, called it “hysteria.” The typical “hysterical” woman was massively unsatisfied sexually. Many repressed this surging, unsatisfied desire through religion. But the unsatisfied desire was still there.
This picture has steadily improved since then. Partly, it’s a result of zooming divorce rates. Couples experiencing sexual burnout in the 1970s and after have tended to divorce. The woman is on the Meat Market again, and hopefully, this time will find a sexually more congenial partner. This movement of women towards sexual emancipation in the 1970s was called “Women’s Lib.” Today, we refer to it as empowerment. The basic principle: In the sexual domain, women have as much of a right to sexual gratification as men. It makes sense a priori to think that there would be less FSD today.
2. But attention to FSD is skyrocketing today and has climbed steadily in the last decade. The new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of psychiatry, the fifth edition of which was released in 2013 (DSM-5), goes on for pages about “female orgasmic disorder” and “female sexual interest/arousal disorder.” This is almost as much ink as the entire Manual received in earlier days. So it would be fair to say that FSD is very much on the medical radar today.
And probably on women’s radar, too. Women’s consumption of porn has been soaring, and it is no longer women who want to see what hubby likes in bed. It is women who are getting off in private. We live in an era that is very oriented towards sensuality — in our bodies, and in what we eat and drink, in how much foreplay we have in bed. Sex can be (but often is not) a very sensual experience, and women who are not feeling this may be said to have FSD.
Follow the Money Trail
But there’s one more point. It’s that we need to follow the money trail. Viagra was a real eye-opener for the pharmaceutical industry: the amount of money that could be made from promoting “erectile dysfunction” and “male sexual disorder” (or “MSD,” if you will) was enormous. Since then, the search for a female Viagra has been intense. Disorders are discovered (or manufactured) like erectile dysfunction, and then relentlessly promoted until they are front and centre in the minds of both doctors and patients. “Childhood depression” and “childhood bipolar disorder” are good examples of this.
This kind of relentless Pharma promotion is now happening with FSD. If you google “medications for female sexual dysfunction,” you’ll get almost twelve million hits. If you can convince women that they’re suffering from “FSD” (rather than from a failure of desire), and if you can convince doctors this is a real medical disorder, you’ll make a lot of money.
So the real question is not why is there so much FSD — which really is a non-disease — but why is there so much failed desire? There are a lot of answers to this question.