Orgasm, Inc.

*spoiler alert*  Stop reading now and scroll down to *end spoilers* if you plan to see the film A L’aventure and would rather not read about the its, um, climactic scene.

This past weekend, my fiancé and I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon watching A L’aventure On Demand. The film, an Official Selection at several fall festivals last year, is billed as an “erotic drama”, written and directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau (“Secret Things”), who has been called “notorious” as a filmmaker and praised for his “fearless exploration of female sexuality.”

Frankly, I wasn’t terribly impressed by this tale of a sexually dissatisfied woman who pursues sexual experimentation, including via hypnosis.  The main character, Sandrine, and two other women (Mina and Sophie) decide to pursue the ultimate ecstasy, spiritual as well as sexual, by being hypnotized by a male psychiatrist, Greg, whose ethics are questionable at best.  For Greg, the pursuit of truth triumphs morality.  Never mind that he’s slept with both Sandrine and Sophie. Still, he does hesitate when the three women ask him to hypnotize them. Eventually, however, he agrees and of course all manner of back-arching, writhing fun ensues. 

For one of the women, Mina, the hypnosis takes her back to a mysterious experience from her childhood involving nuns who practice mysticism.  By film’s end, Mina has The Ultimate Orgasm–complete with levitation, the unleashing of “negative forces” (gusty winds that leave the room in disarray), and of course the resultant selective mutism and desire to join a convent.  Are you surprised that Greg has also become Mina’s lover?

*end spoilers*

For a different take on orgasm and female “dissatisfaction”, there’s Orgasm, Inc., a documentary film which is premiering at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in May.  Orgasm, Inc. takes “a humorous and sobering look inside “big pharma” and the marketing campaigns that are literally and figuratively reshaping our everyday lives around health, illness, desire and that ultimate moment: orgasm.”  The film is the culmination of director-producer Liz Canner’s “eight year odyssey following cadre of drug companies as they race to be the first to win FDA approval of their pill, cream, patch or nose spray. The promised result: orgasm and ‘normal’ sexual function for women. Ultimately, the film concludes that the key to women’s sexual satisfaction is to change not just our sex lives but also our society.” [emphasis mine]

“After editing porn to be used in research conducted by the drug company Vivus–which was racing against Big Pharma firms to develop a Viagra equivalent for women–[Canner] set out to dissect the corporate commoditization of perfectly normal sexual problems. Along the way, Canner encounters a sex shop owner who crashes pharmaceutical conferences to educate the doctors who attend, a vintage vibrator collector who provides insight into the history of female ‘hysteria,’ an orgasmatron, and a man whose monkeys have taught him to pay more attention to women. Upbeat, engaging, enlightening, and provocative, Orgasm, Inc. will change the way you think about sex.”

Now that’s une aventure that I look forward to seeing.

(Hat tip to my dear friend Faith Adiele for the heads up about Orgasm, Inc..)

by Deesha Philyaw
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10 Comments Have Been Posted

hi, thanks for your post. I

hi, thanks for your post.
I don't expect you to publish this comment, but i wanted to say that jean-claude brisseau is a dickwad. Male filmaker making movies about female sexuality? that has male gaze written all over it. gross.

Check this out:

Hi, Anonymous *spoiler alert*

Thanks for the link to the VV article. Indeed the character of Greg is a voyeur...until he decides to join in the hypnosis-induced festivities. Initially, he resists Sandrine's advances (while under hypnosis), but because he wants to follow Mina on the journey to where her mystical orgasms take her (I'm paraphrasing), he "gives in" to his urges ultimately. Perhaps his initial resistance is supposed to diminish the male gaze effect somewhat, but it didn't in my estimation.

Btw, why'd you think your comment wouldn't be published?

Hello, Thanks for your

Thanks for your reply! (I didn't know if you would publish such insightful commentary as "that guy is a dickwad.")
I guess I was thinking more of Jean-Claude Brisseau, writer and director, as the perpetrator of the male gaze. I haven't seen L'aventure, nor did I finish Exterminating Angels but it did seem that having a male writer and director using a camera/prosthetic eye to examine "sexed-up chicks" and "straight-male sexual phobia" (VV article) says a lot more about Jean-Claude Brisseau's pleasure and less about women. I'm not sure I see any reason he should be praised for his "fearless exploration of female sexuality."

Anon, I agree with you

I haven't seen any of Jean-Claude Brisseau's other films, but in A L'aventure, I believe the character of Greg was the "male gaze" personified. I don't know why Variety praised Brisseau for fearless exploration of female sexuality"; I certainly don't agree with that assessment, based on A L'aventure.

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I'm intrigued by the picture with this post. Where is the Antique Vibrator Museum? Is it open for public visits?

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Thanks for your great

Thanks for your great article! It was spoken enough about woman orgasm, but I wonder if one of you have ever seen that mysterious orgasmotron that is supposed to treat the female "hysteria"? Here I've got something for those who haven't. Meet the fabulous ORGASMOTRON!
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The Movie "Orgasm Inc."

I'm a 62 yr old male, so not sure if I'm allowed here, BUT! I just wanted to comment on the movie. It is showing for 1 week only here in Burlington VT and I read about it in our weekly "alternative" newspaper (how sad that "mainstream" media these days provide so little of interest or relevance to us, but that's another post), and decided to take it in. Am I glad I did! Superbly well done, it lacks the over-arching "gravitas" of films that take themselves too seriously; it's funny without lowering itself to hokey or kitschy, and it's highly informative - I had no idea!
As I watched (and learned) I was struck by the fact that it relates quite well to the whole "health care" debate going on nationally now, and illuminates quite starkly how broken the health care system in this country is. Over and above that, the depiction of a pharmaceutical industry rabidly trying to "create" a womens' illness which will, of course, need to be treated with drugs was quite dismaying! You want "objectification" of women? The drug companies can supply it spades.
I sincerely hope this movie gets a wider distribution. If so, do not miss an opportunity to see it.

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