Prostitution in Bangladesh

The Guardian posted a really fantastic piece of journalism today, though I should perhaps use that word warningly. It’s, I think, looking at the political economy of prostitution – how the role of pharmacies, prostitutes, contraceptives, relationships, poverty, trade, love, drivers, gender, sadness and security are all tangled up together and implicate each other, told through the stories of women and men working and using a legal brothel. Brilliant, sensitive, and avoids sentimentalism. Definitely take a look at the accompanying video.

Hating Big Pharma and Flibanserin

Christine Ottery, in the Guardian’s pinnacle of participatory media, Comment is Free, published a short piece today reviewing the recent arrival of Flibanserin, a new drug on the sexual-cure-all market. You’ve probably read the hype, but try this if you haven’t.

Anyway, this is what I said on CIF and as I’ve been soaking quietly in the corner of the Bathhouse recently, I thought I’d post it here too. Probably read Ottery’s original piece of writing first for some background.

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I’m really pleased to see this article has been written. There is huge need for discussion and debate on this.

We are, as is suggested, in a newer era of the medicalisation of sexuality/womens’ bodies, another chapter in the relationship between medicine and personhood. We see medicine, with its lab coated authority and magic pill-stocked pharmacy, as deciding what is appropriate and normal for a person to experience, and as the largest and strongest stakeholder in defining just how people should live. In this particular episode, we learn about the statistical parameters which define a woman’s ‘normal’ sexuality. We learn that 43% of women ‘suffer’ from Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. We learn that a branded drug can return us to our ‘natural’, ‘normal’ state where nothing can come between us and our ability to orgasm.

I find it disgusting that profit is to be made by exploiting sexual insecurity and sexual identity, and kid yourselves not, this is exactly what is going on here.

Why is it abnormal for a woman (or man) to experience a lack of libido? The interference of stress in one’s desire to have sex? A loss of confidence in sexual identity? Why is it normal to refrain from confronting the aggressive marketisation of sexuality, the exhaustion of the daily commute, the sexist bullying at work, the lads mags and women-focused lifestyle magazines, the thousand small mundane ways in which women are consistently sold the idea of a healthy sexual lifestyle, when it is made in such narrow and profitable parameters, and instead accept that there must be something fundamentally wrong if you find you’re feeling just a little turned off. That there must be some biological/psychological/genetic reason why you’re sexually ‘underperforming’ and can’t be moved to experiment with that triumph of heterosexual bed-standards, More!’s latest Position Of The Month. Dig out your wallet and pop a pill. Embrace the sole responsibility for your own body, mind and heart wanting to say ‘no, I don’t feel like it’ sometimes. Because according to Boehringer Ingelheim, that just doesn’t constitute a normal way of feeling about sex.

What a devastating diagnosis.

How dare it be a community of pharmacological experts and company managers and business associates and shareholders, earning thousands from a branded lifestyle drug, who get to define the parameters of what a woman understands to be a ‘normal’ sexuality and sexual identity?

We should not accept this aggressively belittling remedy. If a woman doesn’t feel like having sex, she should never have to feel the obligation to take a drug to ‘solve’ it. There is no fundamental problem in a woman not being turned on. There is no failure. There is no ‘thing’ wrong with her to be solved. All women and men have complex relationships with themselves and others, assume multiple identities amongst all the people in their lives, and will all experience a lack of libido at varing moments. Boehringer Ingelheim and all the godparents of Flibanserin should be held to account for contributing to the demeaning market in standards for sexual identity.