Challenging the Medicalization of Sex




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History of the New View Campaign

The rapid incursion of pharmaceutical industry influence into sex research and professional education in the 1990s provoked our "New View" campaign in 2000. Our goal was to expose the deceptions and consequences of industry involvement in sex research, professional sex education, and sexual treatments, and to generate conceptual and practical alternatives to the prevailing medical model of sexuality.

The centerpiece of the campaign has been the "New View" MANIFESTO. In summer, 2000, Leonore Tiefer, Ph.D. convened a group of feminist social scientists and clinicians to write the manifesto and plan an academic and public campaign to follow it up. Many of the pieces on our PRESS page are the result of our publicity efforts. Many people signed on to our campaign as endorsers.

Our first CONFERENCE occurred in San Francisco on March 9, 2002. It featured Thomas Bodenheimer, MD, Carol Tavris, PhD and Judy Norsigian (of Our Bodies, Ourselves), and was an intellectual, political and networking success. Our first book, "A New View of Women's Sexual Problems," edited by Ellyn Kaschak and Leonore Tiefer, was published on March 1, 2002.

In 2003, we put together a TEACHING MANUAL for the New View. It contains 12 classroom and workshop activities that allow participants to think about women's sexual problems in a variety of ways. The Manifesto is also reprinted in the manual as are some press pieces.

One of our major activities has been to monitor the drug industry's activities in regards to new drugs for women's sexuality. On December 2, 2004, members of the New View Campaign participated in a historic hearing of the FDA’s Reproductive Health Drugs Committee that voted against the first drug for "female sexual dysfunction." In preparation for this event, the Campaign produced factsheets and statements which can all be found on our FDA HEARING ON INTRINSA page. Because our side won, the Campaign was featured in much of the PRESS coverage in December, 2004.

The New View Campaign convened a SECOND CONFERENCE in July, 2005 in Montreal. Its theme was “Women and the New Sexual Politics: Profits vs. Pleasures.” Author Barbara Ehrenreich and physician Susan Bennett set the tone for the conference by presenting sociopolitical and medical contexts for the current state of women’s sexual health. Many plenary talks, papers, and workshops were presented along with a new hilarious insider film about the pharmaceutical industry called “Side Effects.” You can read a summary of the conference here.

The conference made it clear that the New View perspective and goals had become important to activists, educators, and social scientists who care about women’s sexual well-being. To foster continued communication and action, the New View Campaign launched a listserv in August of 2005. Ultimately, there were about 300 members on the list. Members shared resources and ideas for implementing New View work into various settings.
In 2005 we decided to expand our activities to include on-line Continuing Education. Our first course, "The "New View" Approach to Women's Sexual Problems" is still available through MEDSCAPE. A second course, titled "The "New View" Approach to Men's Sexual Problems" is also available on MEDSCAPE. They are free and anyone may read them and benefit.

In 2008 we began to develop New View courses for mental health professionals that were available through the Zur Institute for several years.

We edited a special issue of Feminism and Psychology devoted to the New View in November, 2008.

On November 17, 2008, the Campaign held its first street demonstration, to protest the growth of female genital cosmetic surgery. See photos here (Link to NEW 2008 FGCS Street Demo gallery) and read the background and resources on this subject here. Several New View campaign members reported on this event at 2009 conferences in Rhode Island (AWP), Leeds, UK (Cosmetic Cultures), and Lausanne, Switzerland (ISCHP). Expanding our analysis from medicalization and the pharmaceutical industry to include female genital cosmetic surgery attracted additional theorists and activists to our work.

In October, 2009 we organized a two-day weekend gallery event in Brooklyn called "Vulvagraphics" to celebrate the role of art in activism on behalf of women's sexualities. You can see the art, read the final report, and link to resource and background material on the Vulvagraphics webpage HERE.

In 2009 Liz Canner’s documentary “Orgasm, Inc.: The strange science of sexual pleasure” was completed and received strong reviews when it was released commercially in 2010 and 2011. It continues to be widely shown in educational settings and can be streamed online. There is an educator study guide available. Liz Canner followed, participated in, and photographed the Campaign for years. The film has excellent footage of the FDA Intrinsa hearing of 2004 and has given the New View Campaign positive publicity with many new audiences. Many reviews of the film are available online - e.g., this one from Newsweek and this one from Variety.

In 2010 we had a second opportunity to speak before the FDA’s Reproductive Health Drugs Committee when it considered a second drug for "female sexual dysfunction.” We again prepared fact sheets, resource information, and public statements. In addition we prepared a bibliography of published “counter-narratives,” publications that challenged the industry-funded story about the drug. We also generated an online petition signed by close to 1,000 people that we displayed at the hearing. All of this is available on our FDA HEARING ON FLIBANSERIN webpage. As with Intrinsa in 2004, the drug was not approved because of safety reasons, and you can see press coverage of our work on our 2010 press page, including a front-page story that appeared in the New York Times.

In 2010 we also held our third conference, called “Framing the Vulva: Genital cosmetic surgery and genital diversity.” This was a one-day conference at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas organized to challenge the cosmetogynecology industry convention being held the same weekend at a fancy Las Vegas hotel. We called ours a “counter-conference.” You can view the final report and see the videos and conference projects on our FRAMING THE VULVA webpage.

In 2011, the Campaign designed three different activities collectively called “Vulvanomics” to further challenge the female genital cosmetic surgery industry. You can see them all on the VULVANOMICS webpage HERE. They include an online petition, study guide, resource list, one-day “Flash Activism” event of community-based photography of surgeon’s offices, and a 9-minute spoof-infomercial, “Dr. Vajayjay! Privatize those Privates” which thousands of people have watched on YouTube.

In 2011 we also held our fourth conference, “The Medicalization of Sex,” in Vancouver, Canada. Thea Cacchioni, a sociologist and women’s studies professor who had joined the Campaign at the flibanserin hearing in 2010, was the main organizer. The conference was 2½ days long, co-sponsored with Simon Fraser University, and you can see the program, final report, and photos HERE.

In 2012, partly based on the Vancouver conference, Thea Cacchioni and Leonore Tiefer co-edited the 3rd special journal issue devoted to the work of the New View Campaign, the July-August issue (v. 49, no. 4) of The Journal of Sex Research. You can see the Table of Contents online HERE.

In 2013 the Campaign joined forces with the global anti-corporate public health movement. Leonore Tiefer, together with consumer advocate Kim Witczak, co-organized an independent, grassroots international conference called “Selling Sickness: People before Profits.” See the blog, complete program, speakers, uploaded presentations, call to action, and other features HERE.

In 2014 the Campaign made its 3rd visit to the FDA for a 2-day meeting in October on Female Sexual Dysfunction. A Pharma-funded PR campaign called “Even the Score” had been hard at work for the entire year unethically pressuring the FDA to approve flibanserin, the drug that had been voted down in 2010, and the New View responded with letters to congress and the FDA as well as fact sheets and other documents. There was a great deal of press coverage of the FDA event especially because of the unprecedented role of the “patient” group “Even the Score.” We circulated a petition to challenge “Even the Score’s” tactics. Together with Washington-based feminist nonprofits PharmedOut and the National Women’s Health Network, we coordinated a team to go to the FDA in Maryland for testimony and publicity to challenge the scientific and medical legitimacy of the meeting.

In 2015, presumably as a result of the political “Even the Score” pressure, the FDA held another Advisory Committee hearing to assess flibanserin, and the New View again coordinated a group to appear, testify, circulate information, and speak to the press. Once again, you can follow the story via the huge amounts of press coverage. The Advisory Committee voted on June 4 to support approval of the drug, despite a great deal of ambivalence because of the side effects, especially with any concurrent use of alcohol. We launched a “Throw Away that Pink Pill” song and a Twitter #noboozewithflib sticker campaign to raise awareness of these dangerous side efffects. Nevertheless, on August 18, the FDA approved flibanserin, now called Addyi, along with “Risk Evaluation and Mitigation” limitations for patients and providers.

The startup company that was responsible for the successful approval campaign sold Addyi the day after approval to a large pharmaceutical company, Valeant, for the huge sum of $1B. But the drug sold poorly, and Valeant had legal troubles, and so in late 2017, Valeant gave the drug back to the startup. The story illuminates much about the contemporary landscape of pharmaceutical industry operations.

In October, 2016, the New View held its fifth and final conference in Bloomington, Indiana, called “Critique-Resist-Transform: Feminist Scholar Activism and the New View Campaign.” The conference WEBSITE includes the complete program, uploaded presentations, photos, and a 15-minute video about the Capstone Conference and the entire campaign.

In 2017, this website was frozen as an archive of the New View Campaign.