Because I write sex columns and articles for various magazines and newspapers, I end up receiving press releases for various sex books, products and services that, as a research scientist and sex educator at Indiana University, I would normally not receive. Occasionally the press releases are for products that I can appreciate and feel will benefit people, such as a recent release I received for Hanne Blank’s updated book “Big, Big Love”.
More often, these releases are for products and services that I don’t feel will be helpful to people and, occasionally, may even be harmful to people or – at the very least – include factually inaccurate or suspicious information.
I’m not always sure how to respond. I often wonder, for example, if it’s better to ignore the “not so great” (or potentially dangerous) products/services in hopes that – if ignored long enough and by most people – they will simply go away? Or should I challenge them more openly?
Today’s example that pushed me over the edge was a press release for something called the “O-Shot” (and as you can say, it bothered me enough that I wanted to respond to it publicly). Here are some thoughts/red flags:
1. The headline says “O-Shot May Improve Female Sexual Response” in big bold letters.
Note the use of the word “may”. In other words, it hasn’t been tested and shown, scientifically, to improve female sexual response. Also, “female sexual response” is very vague indeed. Do they mean arousal? Orgasm? Desire? They’re not specific in the headline and I take this as a red flag.
2. Another red flag? Sex scientists I know don’t recognize anything called the “O-Spot”.
That’s right: they seem to have made up the term. Or, as they say in the release, they injected (Eeks!) stuff – what they say are “growth factors derived from a woman’s own blood” into “the upper wall of the vagina and the clitoris”. They claim to have also injected the so-called G Spot area without effect. As such, they write:
“This area of responsiveness is distinct enough from the ill-defined ‘G-Spot’ that we felt it deserved its own name. The name we chose is the ‘O-Spotâ„¢’ (“Orgasm Spotâ„¢’) and we have termed the procedure involving the injection of growth factors into this area the ‘O-Shotâ„¢’ (Orgasm Shotâ„¢).”
ANOTHER red flag, right? It seems that they are trying to create a (trademarked) product and a (trademarked) name for the area of a woman’s vagina. Do we really need to be trademarking a name for the area of a woman’s vagina? Are you kidding me?
3. Their focus is then described as being about helping women to have “vaginal orgasms.”
The use of the term “vaginal orgasm” is contested territory in sex research, with significant disagreement on a variety of levels. Let me say for the time being: this is yet another red flag.
4. Later in the release, they claim that about 40% of women experience sexual dysfunction.
My response: Whenever you see this figure being touted, be VERY cautious and ask if someone is trying to sell you something. The 40% figure is *extremely* problematic in sex research and has often been cited by people like Laura Berman (another problematic media personality in the field of sex; see this article in the LA Times about her and her sister, Jennifer Berman, or watch Orgasm Inc or read a previous post about labia puff procedure). Think of it this way: if 40% of women experience something – almost HALF of women in American – does that sound like a dysfunction to you? Or a common experience? If you would like to learn more about the problematic nature of the 40% figure, see for example this article or this one.
5. Their statements are premature.
In the press release, it is noted “because it has not been yet been studied in a comprehensive way, all women should undergo this procedure only as part of a clinical research trial.” If the data are so premature, why are they issuing a press release that touts the supposed benefits and outcomes and only later on, kind of sneaks in the information quietly that it hasn’t really been tested well, etc.
If you are a journalist writing about this procedure or another sexual health topic, please know that I would be happy to speak with you about the scientific aspects of sexual health research and I would also be happy to refer you to colleagues who have expertise in various aspects of sexuality research.
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