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Title page for ETD etd-03272017-111854

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Moreau, Molly Elizabeth
Author's Email Address molly.e.moreau@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-03272017-111854
Title The Medicalization of Female Sexual Desire Disorder: Restricting Sexual Normalcy Under the Guise of Equality and Empowerment
Degree Master of Arts
Department Medicine, Health, and Society
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kenneth MacLeish Committee Chair
Gabriel Mendes Committee Member
  • hypoactive sexual desire disorder
  • Flibanserin
  • female sexual desire disorder
  • Addyi
  • low female libido
  • female sexual desire
  • medicalization
Date of Defense 2017-03-02
Availability unrestricted
This thesis illuminates the ways that medicalization of female sexual desire disorder lends authority to and is legitimized by heteronormative, patriarchal sexual norms. The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Flibanserin, a drug intended to treat this disorder, solidifies low libido’s classification as a medical dysfunction. Through a review of relevant biomedical literature and semi-structured interviews with ten women who have low libido, I demonstrate that this disorder’s medicalization strips women of their subjectivity and disregards the contextual factors that influence sexual desire and attitudes toward sex. This thesis relies upon social constructionist approaches to conceptualize sexuality, underscoring the biomedical approach’s failure to account for the complex sociocultural expectations that shape understandings of sexual normalcy. The first section of this thesis employs feminist critiques to problematize conventional understandings of female sexuality and to reveal that female sexual desire disorder represents an additional attempt to exert social control over women’s bodies. The second section analyzes interviews with a nurse practitioner working for a women’s sexual health clinic and the manager of an adult entertainment store to exemplify medicalized and non-medicalized treatments of low libido. The third and final section examines interview data from ten women with low libido, revealing that their low libido-induced distress stems from their self-perceived inability to meet the sociocultural expectations required for successful romantic relationships. Ultimately, I argue medicalization legitimizes the idea that women’s sexualities—and not the narrow constructions of normalcy with which they must attempt to align themselves—exist as the primary issue necessitating alteration.
  Filename       Size       Approximate Download Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds) 
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  Moreau.pdf 328.93 Kb 00:01:31 00:00:46 00:00:41 00:00:20 00:00:01

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