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. How Does Phallocentrism Influence Understandings Of Male And Female Sexual Dysfunction?

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Since there have been dramatic improvement of biotechnology and biomedical inventions in modern history, the medical technological treatment in relation to the issues of sexuality, sexual function, and sexual health have been also developed by various clinical and scientific organisation (Lau, Kim, & Tsui, 2005). According to Wood, Koch, and Mansfield (2006), although the sexual issues have been considered as fundamental, innate, and universal phenomenon for both females and males in biomedical paradigm, the phallocentric cultural frame have influenced the different understanding of the concept of sexuality based on men’s sexuality. Since there has been longer history of research on men’s sexual response and behaviour as the norm of human sexuality, it has been often argued that the current society perceives the understanding of the sexual issues by heavily focusing on men’s sexuality (Irvin, 1990). In this essay, it will be discussed how the sexual dysfunctioning can be perceived differently based on the culturally embedded gender basis. The essay will start from the exploration of the traditional, fundamental, and socio-cultural understanding of human bodies, to the consideration of the phallocentric perception of current biomedical interventions to treat sexual dysfunctioning.

In traditional western culture, there have been different culturally embodied narratives to understand individuals’ bodies, based on the biological differences of different sexes (Potts, 2000). However, although the anatomical differences of reproductive systems initiated the differentiation of human bodies into either male or female, it is actually the phallocentric cultural constructions that create further distinctions by embedding the culturally sexualised conceptualisations to the body (Bray, 2001). According to Grosz (1994), the major body component that critically distinguishes the differences between the sexes into two mutually exclusive categories is the presence of the phallus. In this phenomenon, the penis is not understood by its simple biological functioning capacities such as urination or insemination, but a socially recognised symbolic representation of any forms of human sexuality.

According to Lacan (1977), the phallus is an important symbolic component which signifies the superiority of the male body in many patriarchal societies. In the male hierarchy society, the possession of phallus represents the various privileged social domains such as power, authority, and the controllability of one’s internal and external matters (Lacan, 1977). Thus, in this phenomenon, although, both penis and vagina are parallel human reproductive organs with similar functioning principles, the potential social status are assigned to the people based on the presence of single sex’s organ, the penis. According to Grosz (1990), the penis itself is not a crucial material to derive the cultural predominance, but its erectile function is. Since the penis’s major erectile function is penetration, the phallus can be interpreted as an important facility which enables men to perform its dominant mastery power with masculinity values during the sexual activities (Grosz, 1990). In consequence, the capacity of the healthy erectile functioning is a critical value for men to be rewarded to retain the culturally sex biased privileges.

In contrast to the understanding of male bodies, female bodies are often regarded as an incompetent property in the male dominant society (Potts, 2000). According to Potts (2000), the interpretation of female body as incompetent entity is derived from the phallocentric conceptualisation of the biological aspect of female body. Since the phallocentric society’s fundamental main concern is the presence of the male sexual organ, the absence of penis can be perceived as the physical deficiency which dissatisfies to complete ideal human value. Gosz (1990) believed that the physical deficiency of female body allows the penetrative function of penis as a “completor”, in order to complete its absence. Thus, the phallus is now considered as a core component which controls the sexual identities of men as well as women. According to Nicolson (1993), the dissatisfied sexual activity suggests the male’s unsuccessful sexual performance, which in turn threatens the identity and the social adequacy of males. Then, the phallocentric understanding of female sexuality may create women to be responsible for themselves to the dissatisfied sexual activity by attributing the psychologically constructed female sexual dysfunctions such as sexual desire disorders, sexual arousal disorder, orgasmic disorder, and sexual pain disorder (Nicolson, 1993). In consequence, the cultural concern of female sexual disorder is that women are responsible for their own dysunctioning as a disorder which are often originated from the psychological factors, whereas the male’s sexual disorder is concerned as a biological defect (Nicolson & Burr, 2003).

In the modern western society, mass media is an important aspect which constructs the cultural authority and legitimacy from the reciprocal communication with the current public consensus (Nelkin, 1987). Since the modern society’s cultural value is intensely focused on the profitable biotechnologies and techniques, the mass media often tends to interpret the subjective sexual issues as an objective matters that are directly related to the medical factors to determine individual’s health status (Tiefer, 1994). According to Tiefer (1994), the mass media strengthens the phallocentric heterosexual centralised ideologies and the performances of the sexual issues by providing the experts’ references from the various fields with the suggestion of the expected normalised biological functioning during the sexual behaviour. Thus, in this phenomenon, the mess media enforces the public to percept the diversity of the sexual behaviours and the individual’s various sexual functioning capacities based on its biological condition, by categorising the deviations as a part of medical disorder which requires the treatments to remain their physical well-being.

Tifer (1994) found an example to demonstrate how mass media confers the cultural authority and legitimacy in the current society. In his article, he discusses that the medicalised media takes a different account to understand sexual dysfunctions based on the sex differences. For example, in the New York Times, there are some health articles about men’s sexuality, which uses the medicalised approaches to understand the men’s sexual dysfunctioning. The media presents the medical



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