Challenging the Medicalization of Sex




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Report of the first New View Conference March 9, 2002

The New "Female Sexual Dysfunction": Promises, Prescriptions, and Profits

UCSF Conference Center , San Francisco

Our first conference was a political, intellectual, and networking success. About 140 participants arrived from as far away as England , Indonesia , and all over the USA , and included students and health activists as well as clinicians and social scientists.

The lectures and workshops during our one jam-packed day focused on two topics:

  • how the global pharmaceutical industry is building a market for sexuality drugs through biased science and public relations;
  • the limitations of a medical model of women's sexual problems and how the "new view" provides a critique and alternative.

Plenary highlights included:

  • Physician and health policy analyst Thomas Bodenheimer on biases in clinical trials due to pharmaceutical industry influence.
  • Activist Judy Norsigian on the current state of direct-to-consumer advertisements.
  • New View founder Leonore Tiefer's history of the "fsd" diagnosis as it emerged from urologists' success as "penis doctors" in the 1980s.
  • Urologist Tamara Bavendam on how the measurements currently used in "women's sexual health" clinics lacked standardization and baseline norms.
  • Women's studies scholar Maureen McHugh on how narrow ideas of "sexuality" and "sexiness" created by for-profit interests come to feel "natural" through cultural repetition.
  • Social psychologist Carol Tavris's concluding talk on Americans' vulnerability to pseudoscience

Workshop topics included:

  • Incorporating the “New View” into academic psychology
  • Adolescent girls’ sexualities
  • Assessment dilemmas regarding low sexual desire
  • Global views of women’s sexual health

The conference was cosponsored by Association for Women in Psychology, Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, UCSF Center for Gender Equality, SFSU Sexuality Studies Program, UCSF Center for Lesbian Health, Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Seattle Institute for Sex Therapy, Education and Research, American Psychological Association Committee on Women in Psychology, and National Women's Health Network. We are grateful for their support.

Second Conference, 2005 | top