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Angel, K. (2013). Commentary on Spurgas's “Interest, Arousal, and Shifting Diagnoses of Female Sexual Dysfunction”. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 14(3):206-216.

(2013). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 14(3):206-216

Commentary on Spurgas's “Interest, Arousal, and Shifting Diagnoses of Female Sexual Dysfunction” Related Papers

Katherine Angel

I begin by reflecting on the methodological concerns raised by Spurgas (this issue) in relation to scientific research into female desire. I then consider the longer historical, discursive conditions underpinning the contemporary focus in the psychiatric field on female desire specifically. I discuss the resonances between the contemporary accounts Spurgas discusses and earlier 20th-century accounts of female sexual difficulties, noting also a convergence between recent psychiatric and pharmaceutical discourse about desire and feminist critiques of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). I suggest there is cause for concern in the way critics of the DSM have reframed sexual problems as understandable and adaptive responses to stressful life situations as this hovers close to a troublesome reinscription of women as less desirous than men. I relate these concerns to the fraught politics of psychoanalysis and feminism and urge the importance of elaborating critiques of psychiatry, which can remain compassionate and inclusive about individual sexual suffering.

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