Clits Get Their Marketing Day in the Sun

Julie Roberts having wild, intensely orgasmic sex with Adam Sandler. Something I definitely don't care to see, but might come to theaters near you should their production companies nail rights to a Nerve.com article. In "Genie in a Bottle: The Sex Drink That's Rocking Little Rock," the Nerve author shares her discovery of a soft drink that promises to fire your libido. No, it's not Pepsi, but cobalt blue Niagara -- the female answer to Viagra.

The press has lapped up the story of this Swedish "aphrodisiac energy drink," which fizzled in Europe, yet has been flying off America's Bible Belt shelves into the homes of genteel ladies out to "pleeease their men." The Niagara frenzy taps into the market's latest goldmine: female sexual desire. Ever since Pfizer struck the mother lode with pharmaceutically inspired erections, biotech execs are falling over themselves for a cream, or pill, to likewise inspire women.

Until Viagra became the billion-dollar-a-year cure for impotence, who knew that the fairer sex too needed fixing? Studies now find that nearly half of all women, young and old, have experienced FSD. If you don't know about FSD, you soon will; if you're a woman, you'll probably get it if you don't already have it. Female Sexual Dysfunction, which can mean anything short of achieving tidal wave orgasms, has become science's pet sexual disorder. Forget the sexual revolution. The chemical revolution has arrived to help us all -- man and woman -- reach our pleasure potential.

Leading the charge in female sexual healing are the young blond Berman sisters, one a sex therapist, the other a urologist. Featured on Oprah, the FSD media darlings moved to L.A. from Boston, founding both a sexual medicine clinic at UCLA and the Network for Excellence in Women's Sexual Health. Their NewShe website logo is a silhouetted lady leaping as toward a finish line, back arched, arms stretched in a V, head thrown back in victory.

Used to be a woman could never be rich enough or thin enough. Now let's pile on orgasmic enough. Quality Paperback Book Club recently featured "The Multi-Orgasmic Couple" as "The Joy of Sex for a new generation stimulating hope for the undersexed and the champion amorist." Yeah, I want to be a champion. But forget about education and healthy relationships, give me Dr. K's Dream Cream "orgasm enhancer." Or soon there'll be a miracle pill to pop just like the diet pills that let me forget about exercise and healthy food and eat all the chocolate death I want while watching television.

In fact the Amazon.com page for the Bermans' "For Women Only" lists a diet book among those bought by customers who made "The Guide to Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction" a bestseller. Although the mind-body sex doctors claim not to endorse any product, they mention the EROS-CTD clitoral pump during their many interviews. An ad for the FDA-approved treatment lies next to their ecstatic logo lady: "As Seen on National Television!" The clumsy-looking gadget increases blood flow to the genitals for just under $400. So does a $100 suction pump from your local sex toy store. As does a $10 vibrator. Or manual stimulation, otherwise know as masturbation.

And wow, your sweetie's mouth too can do the clitoral engorgement trick.

But doctors are unlikely to prescribe oral sex or better communication with your partner for arousal complaints. No, women who take their sexual troubles to the Connecticut Surgical Group, modeled after the Bermans' Boston Sexual Health Clinic, won't hear "masturbation" during hormone analysis. Instead the bandwagon docs call it "sensate-focus therapy" because, you know, "masturbation is a negative word."

Just ask former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders. Today's chastity movement, which sanctions only pro-creative marital sex, pushes honest sex education out of school, church and home. Dare to speak out on sex for pleasure and risk being called a sicko, or get fired. Girls still carry the burden of expressing their sexuality and being labeled a slut, skank or ho'. Body image is measured against the Britney and Playboy version of sexy.

Of course legitimate medical conditions exist that obscure pleasure. But as sexologist Leonore Tiefer says, given that not enough in society has changed regarding women's sexual comfort and entitlement, "it's unlikely that there is a nationwide epidemic of clitoral bloodflow problems."
I appreciate that female sexual desire is getting so much attention. At one time too much desire was diagnosed as a disease, called nymphomania, and could land you in a sanitarium or home for wayward girls. Just two years ago we learned that the clitoris is twice as big as previously thought. I'm all for research into female anatomy and sexuality. But enough of objectifying female sexuality to sell products, and medicalizing it to do the same without truly giving women permission to be sexual for the sake of pleasure alone.

Dr. Laura Berman, the therapy half of the FSD sisterhood, says women are tired of hearing that her sexual problem is all in her head.

Dr. Tiefer says, "I'm tired of Laura Berman telling women what they are tired of. Listen up, Laura, women are tired of hearing that their husband forgot which part of their anatomy likes to be sucked, which day is their mother's birthday and which kid has to go to the dentist next week. It's all connected. And when the science embraces women's real life and real sexual circumstances, I'll embrace the science. Otherwise, it's just marketing by another name."

Lara Riscol is writing "Ten Sex Myths That Screw America," a book she began while completing a master's degree in contemporary issues and public policy at the University of Denver. Write to her at sexaware@home.com.

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