The New View Manifesto
A New View of Women's Sexual Problems
by The Working Group on A New View of Women's Sexual Problems. [ 1 ]
Introduction: Beyond the medical model of sexuality
recent years, publicity about new treatments for men's
erection problems has focused attention on women's sexuality
and provoked a competitive commercial hunt for "the female Viagra." But
women's sexual problems differ from men's in basic ways
which are not being examined or addressed. We believe that
a fundamental barrier to understanding women's sexuality
is the medical classification scheme in current use, developed by the
American Psychiatric Association (APA) for its Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Disorders (DSM) in 1980, and revised in 1987 and 1994. [ 2 ]
It divides (both men's and) women's sexual problems into four categories
of sexual "dysfunction":
sexual desire disorders, sexual arousal disorders, orgasmic
disorders, and sexual pain disorders.
In recent decades, the shortcomings of the framework, as it applies
to women, have been amply documented. [ 4 ]
The three most serious distortions produced by a framework that reduces
sexual problems to disorders of physiological function, comparable to
breathing or digestive disorders, are:
Because there are no magic bullets for the socio-cultural, political, psychological, social or relational bases of women's sexual problems, pharmaceutical companies are supporting research and public relations programs focused on fixing the body, especially the genitals. The infusion of industry funding into sex research and the incessant media publicity about "breakthrough" treatments have put physical problems in the spotlight and isolated them from broader contexts. Factors that are far more often sources of women's sexual complaints--relational and cultural conflicts, for example, or sexual ignorance or fear--are downplayed and dismissed. Lumped into the catchall category of "psychogenic causes," such factors go unstudied and unaddressed. Women with these problems are being excluded from clinical trials on new drugs, and yet, if current marketing patterns with men are indicative, such drugs will be aggressively advertised for all women's sexual dissatisfactions.
A corrective approach is desperately needed. We propose a new and more useful classification of women's sexual problems, one that gives appropriate priority to individual distress and inhibition arising within a broader framework of cultural and relational factors. We challenge the cultural assumptions embedded in the DSM and the reductionist research and marketing program of the pharmaceutical industry. We call for research and services driven not by commercial interests, but by women's own needs and sexual realities.