American TV talk show medical entertainers--such as Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, and The Doctors--are the people’s health and medical experts of the 21st century. The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times have both made recognition of this, using the appointment of “America’s Doctor” for Dr. Mehmet Oz, the host of The Dr. Oz Show (Bruni, 2010; Tsouderos, 2010). Dr. Phil McGraw, the host of Dr. Phil, while not pursued with a similarly grandiose title, is still nonetheless widely regarded as a mainstream expert on relationships and personal psychological struggles. Though these medical entertainers are met with a fair amount of public criticism, they are still considered culturally definitive figures on health, medicine, and relationships. Their invitations to and appearances on outside network programs, in addition to their contributions to media publications,  suggest that their expertise has been established in America’s media entertainment industry.

 

 The content of their programs are frequently based on popular medical- and health concerns. Often times, segments and entire episodes provide final verdicts on health and medical concerns as a means to clarify the plethora of contradictory medical and health information puzzling their viewers. More distinct, however,  is the female demographic base of these programs, which provides insight into the potential rationale for the topics covered. Thus, although TV talk show medical entertainers are considered the mainstream experts on medical and health issues that affect Americans, they are specifically the experts on concerns that affect women. According to Quantcast, a company that analyzes audience statistics for media companies, the majority of Dr. Oz’s audience are women between the ages of 25 and 34, without dependent children and without a college education. These women are also measured as being less affluent, and predominantly of African American ethnoracial background (Quantcast.com, 2012). The majority of Dr. Phil’s viewers are middle income earners and college graduates, but share other similar demographic characteristics with the The Dr. Oz Show’s audience.

 

 Media entertainment’s use of companies, such as Quantcast, provide a valuable resource for engaging with and providing for their audience. The field of audience analysis places companies like Quantcast under its umbrella. Audience analysis broadly consists of assessing the demographic base and interests of a project’s audience in order to determine the most engaging and appropriate content for its viewers. However, the substantive field of audience analysis  encompasses a very detailed and complex range, consisting of various evaluations for understanding temporal audience interests,  TV-watching behaviors (“the ‘flow’ of an audience over time between channels and content types”), and so on (McQuail, 1997). The field is also concerned with structural analyses as compared  to individual-level analyses--or what McQuail considers autonomy-based analyses. Thus, understanding the demographic base for TV medical entertainment may illuminate hypothesized rationales as to program content.

 

 Bypassing assumptions as to what motivates viewers to tune in to these programs, understanding the reach and influence of these medical entertainers is salient. The popularity of these medical entertainers has been a process through working within the entertainment industry. Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz previously were correspondents on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Dr. Andrew Ordon, co-host of The Doctors, was a  regular guest on The Dr. Phil Show. Jillian Michaels, who is a recent addition to The Doctors, rose to celebrity health entertainment status as a TV personality on The Biggest Loser. Interestingly, Michaels is the only medical entertainer on these three shows without certified training in the medical field. In all, the combination of their popular reception, previous medical entertainment history, and viewer-base support, make these medical entertainers particularly attractive observational units in understanding how healthy female sexuality is framed in mainstream American culture. Their framing is the subject of interest for this study.

 

 In this paper, I first give an overview of who TV talk show entertainers are and what makes them considered as a legitimate source for understanding how social institutions influence the public’s perception of healthy female sexuality. Second, I provide an overview of the differences between studying female sexuality from both a medicalization and healthicization standpoint. The latter has seldom been utilized, thus lending toward the suggestion that healthicization may be an important applicable framework for understanding contemporary discourses on female sexuality. Third, I outline the research methodology utilized for this study followed by the study’s findings.

 

 Though this study should not wrongfully be mistaken for anything beyond exploratory, the findings do suggest that understanding the phenomenon from a healthicization standpoint provides meaningful insight into the processes that aid in shaping the public’s perception of healthy female sexuality. An analysis into the framing of female sexuality from this standpoint also suggests that its reach is beyond solely medical. Making the distinction between health and medicine in regards to sexuality--as I will extrapolate--is important in regards to further understanding the complexities of this phenomenon, especially the consequences of approach. As I show, the interventions put forth by medical entertainers and their expert guests are predominantly behavioral. This is a stark contrast to study findings that apply the medicalization framework, which show that intervention--or method for intervention--is often medical. Thus, the distinction between medicalization and healthicization not only has implications for

conceptualizing research, but also for illuminating the differences in approaches to intervention.

 

 In any case, the findings from this study suggest that healthy female sexuality  is often discussed in conjunction with beauty, body image, and coital frequency. In particular, aging, weight loss and management, and coital frequency. These findings may have implications for gender normativity by coalescing beauty, body, health, and sexuality as issues believed to be of  concern to contemporary American adult women. Lastly, I close this paper with a discussion of the implications of this research, and the need for further empirical studies into the topic of female sexual health.  The next section is an overview of why TV talk show medical entertainers are ideal for this study.

 

TV Talk Show Medical Entertainers

 

 

 TV talk show medical entertainers have a national base of fans. Their joint combination of celebrity TV personality in addition to medical doctor provides a unique dimension to their authoritative quality, as they are mainstream American icons in addition to trained professional experts. This combination also provides substantial weight to how their perspectives on health and medicine are received by the public. It could be argued that the medical advice and suggestions provided by them and their expert guests can be received by viewers as medical- and health truths: outlines for how to assess the normativity of one’s health and actions toward health. Substantive sociological literature on expert power has been elaborated elsewhere (see: Crozier, 1964; Foucault, 1980; Morrall, 2009). The more accessible these experts are, the greater chance the information they provide will be distributed to those who tune in. In this case, these medical entertainers are available almost daily via cable television. If accessing their websites, the information they provide is available any time--day or night.

 

  However, it may be a misguided assumption to suggest one is inclined to tune into these programs in order to solely seek advice or comfort on a medical or health issue. The entertainment value of these programs is salient, as it seeks to provide medical and health advice in an engaging, interesting, and attentive fashion. It could be argued that it additionally seeks to provide this information in such a way that is pleasurable and/or delightful at times. In creating this health and medical entertainment accessibility, medical entertainers are able to provide a platform that aids individuals in understanding where they rank along a health spectrum (psychologically, physically, interactionally), while also allowing them to assess their lifestyle behaviors, and whether it aids in promoting their deviation (or lack thereof) along this spectrum. In this sense, TV medical entertainment provides a platform for establishing normativity in an entertaining fashion.

 

 In any case, there may be indications of how viewers internalize these medical entertainers’ advice and perspectives, such as by observing the viewmanship of the audience and at-home viewers. Commentary provided by the audience, the continuation of the shows’ topics on Internet forums provided by the shows’ websites, and the preparedness of viewers and audience members to arrive at the show with their questions, suggests that these programs are beyond entertainment value. In addition, viewers being part of the programs as guests seeking advice or narrating their previous medical and/or health experiences provides insight into the relationship between the hosts and their guests. Through these viewers-as-guests segments and/or full episodes (such is common with Dr. Phil), hosts can act as sympathizers to individuals diagnosed with illness, disease, health or relationship concerns, while also act as authoritative figures in managing these concerns. The host is able to relay his or her humanity, while also his or her’s ability. Additionally, as the host situates him or herself away from the viewer-turned-guest, he or she signals to the audience that they are not afflicted by these ailments--merely free of these lay issues; absent of that which affects the majority of society. Their medical and health divinity aids in promoting their perspectives as legitimate due to their lack of representing their own medical, health, and relationship issues.

 

 Additionally, because the hosts are traditionally trained medical doctors or psychologists, their power to inform the topics provided in their programs makes their advice particularly attractive. Fundamentally legitimating their claims is their professional training in the medical field, regardless of their time as practicing physicians and/ or psychologists. However, their careers as actors are arguably just as noteworthy as their professional training. Dr. Travis Stork, the primary host of the The Doctors, originally appeared on The Bachelor in 2006, a reality television dating game show. It is noted that he earned his M.D. from The University of Virginia in 2003, according to People.com. Thus, it could be argued that his career has been focused on both the medical- and entertainment industries not long after his graduation from medical school.

 

 Similarly, Dr. Phil’s career has been abundant with entertainment and entrepreneurial experience. As the creator of The Doctors and the host of The Dr. Phil Show, his entertainment career began with appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show during the late 1990s. Though he has been a practicing psychologist just short of the late 1970s, his career as an entrepreneur and entertainer is extraordinary. Some of his most noteworthy early entrepreneurialism was co-founding a trial consulting firm, Courtroom Sciences, Inc. (CSI), which became a highly profitable enterprise. After gaining attention by Oprah Winfrey, he was then able to market himself as a self-help expert, creating his own television show, marketing his own products (including the weight loss supplements, “Shape Up!”), creating spin-off television shows, and aiding his family’s entertainment entrepreneurialism.

 

 In sum, the rudimentary aim of these shows is to provide medical and health information in an entertaining fashion. The hosts of these shows are perceived as legitimate figures, while also possessing alluring charismatic personality traits that attract and maintain a popular fan following. Thus, examining TV medical entertainment’s framing of healthy female sexuality can be informed from a normative, while also educative standpoint. These entertainment personalities are part of the social institutions of both media and culture, which aid in promoting ideas surrounding normative behavior, including healthy sexuality. In order to conceptualize how healthy female sexuality is framed by talk show medical entertainers, Conrad’s healthicization will be utilized. The following section is an overview of this conceptual framework in juxtaposition to medicalization. Providing this comparison suggests that conceptual approach has implications for how medical and health phenomena is framed.

 

Medicalization and Healthicization: Conceptual Distinctions

 

 Conrad’s medicalization construct is often utilized as a conceptual framework in the medical sociology literature on female sexuality (see: Bancroft, 2002; Hartley, 2006; Hartley & Tiefer, 2003; Teifer, 2000). The general critique by many of these scholars is that female sexuality has manifested a normative stance through the processes of medicalization. According to these critics, medical concerns regarding women’s sexuality (i.e., arousal ability, climax potential, frequency, and desire) have been posited to possess ideal types. Women who do not fall within the acceptable ideal range are perceived to be suffering from a medical condition because of this standardization of the female sexual experience. Some of these conditions have been named the following: hypoactive sexual desire disorder, sexual aversion disorder, sexual arousal disorder, orgasmic disorder, dyspareunia, vaginismus, and noncoital sexual pain. All of these conditions fall within the category of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). As stated in the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia and supported by the National Institute of Health (NIH), FSD encompasses a “reduction in sex drive, a strong dislike of sexual activity, difficulty becoming aroused, inability to achieve orgasm, or pain with sexual activity or intercourse” (PubMed Health, 2010). However, as Basson (2004) and others maintain, FSD is difficult to define, thus also difficult to conceptualize. Thus, because of the ambiguity surrounding female sexuality in relation to the models utilized to understand sexuality in general, it is difficult to diagnose and subsequently treat.

 

 Regardless of the discourse surrounding FSD within the medical community, social scientists and related critics maintain that the discursive nature of female sexuality within the medical community aids in promoting female sexual normativity, thus relinquishing a move toward understanding female sexual plurality (Teifer, 2010). Evidence of this standpoint is suggested to exist in the treatment for FSD, which at some included off-label usage of male sexual enhancement- and dysfunction medication for women, and the overall goal to find a drug exclusively marketed for FSD (Fishman, 2004). Though there is still much to be explored in the medicalization of female sexuality, medicine has also expanded its definitional territory into the closely related terrain of health. Thus, the healthicization of female sexuality ought to be considered when examining the normalization of female sexuality.

 

 Though health and medicine are often times used interchangeably, the two terms are remarkably distinct; and thus have distinguishable differences in their material outcomes. Conrad suggests that the key to understanding the process of medicalization begins with definition:

 

The key to medicalization is definition. That is, a problem is defined in medical terms, described using medical language, understood through the adoption of a medical framework, or ‘treated’ with a medical intervention (Conrad, 2007, p. 5).

 

Once something is defined as medical, the discourse surrounding the problem can then be discussed in medical terminology (i.e., the current debate surrounding the definition of FSD). The material outcomes can manifest in the production of medical frameworks and/or treatment of the problem. Fishman’s 2004 work on the commodification of FSD provides support for how a non-medical condition becomes medical, and thus considered for treatment. It follows that treatment isn’t a necessary outcome of medicalization, but rather aids into developing a discourse, and further constituting the problem as medical.

 

 Healthicization is a less developed conceptual framework, but the logic similarly follows. The distinction between medicalization and healthicization is imperative, and particularly noteworthy when examining the differences in how female sexuality is framed in terms of medicine and health. Healthicization refers to the process by which lifestyle and behavioral causes are the problems, and thus manipulation or complete alteration of them are also the solutions (Conrad, 1992). Medicalization views medical intervention as the method for alleviation, if not sometimes leaving the problem to a medical framework without treatment. The emergence of searching for treatments for FSD is one indication of the former, as previously mentioned.  Healthicization seeks behavioral and lifestyle interventions instead of medical treatment. Similar to medicalization, one material outcome of healthicizing a problem is to conjure a discursive framework. This means that once something is defined as a health concern, further analysis, interpretation, and general discourse surrounding the issue has the potential to develop.

 

 In attempting to understanding the conceptual differences between medicalization and healthicization, Conrad (1992) makes the following two distinctions:

 

Medicalization proposes biomedical causes and interventions; healthicization proposes lifestyle and behavioral causes and interventions. One turns the moral into the medical, the other turns health into the moral (Conrad, 1992, p. 223).

 

The above distinction solidifies the former proposition that a main difference between medicalization and healthicization is in the material outcomes. Conrad also states that an additional dissimilarity between the two involves morality. For medicalization, an individual’s actions are considered out of the realm of their control once medicalized, with the exception of one caveat: they do not seek treatment for their illness or disease. What is originally perceived as immoral behavior is then recognized as medical if the individual is diagnosed. For healthicization, the moral dimension precedes the outcome. In this regard, the actions on part of the individual that have caused their current state of “bad” health. Those who are considered to be unhealthy must have made the wrong lifestyle choices and/or deviated from “good” health promoting behaviors.

 

The distinction between the medicalization and healthicization frameworks is nuanced, but important. Because this study seeks to examine how healthy female sexuality is framed, healthicization is more applicable. TV talk show medical entertainers cannot provide interventional help to their viewers, but they can make suggestions for how women ought to seek interventional treatments for their sexual concerns. These interventions are often behavioral, which is expected if utilizing the healthicization framework. Medicalization would maintain that healthy female sexuality would require prescription drugs or medical treatment in order to alleviate the perceived dysfunction--often being considered within the realm of ‘illness’. Though there is research concerning the medicalization of female sexuality, there is little research into the process of the healthicization of female sexuality. In order to better understand the processes that occur to healthicize women’s sexuality, I conducted an exploratory content analysis. The next section is an overview of the study.

 

Methods

 

 Content analysis is the “systematic, objective, quantitative analysis of message characteristics” (Neuendorf, 2002). Some of the methods within content analysis include the careful observation of human interactions; the portrayal of characters in television, movie, theater, and fiction and non-fiction literature; the usage of words in the news and media; the usage of words in political and public speeches; and much more. The utilization of content analysis for this study focused on the careful observation of archival content of past episodes as well as online articles provided by the website. I also included questions asked by users on the website. In addition, some of the search results yielded special content for the website users, such as Dr. Oz’s “One Minute to Better Health.” This content was also used in this study. The intent of this analysis is to understanding how TV talk show medical entertainers frame healthy female sexuality. These websites provided the best source for collecting this information, as they archived past episodes and created a web-based community for users to interact with the show’s host(s) and staff.

 

Sampling and Analysis Plan

 

 Because of the popularity of mainstream medical entertainers, their authority as health and medicine experts, their audience reach, and the potential for their ideas to gain popular traction, focusing on how they framed healthy female sexuality was of interest. I chose three medical entertainers as the focus of this study: Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and the hosts of The Doctors.  The study was an exploratory content analysis, where I focused on archival data on the websites for these shows: doctoroz.com, drphil.com, thedoctorstv.com. Analysis derived from these websites as opposed to the watching these shows during  airing of shows on network television provided several benefits. First, I was able to have access to archival data. Second, the content of the shows have tremendous variation. If I were to watch the programs as they aired on network cable, I would not have been able to have as large of pool of sampling. Third, analysis derived from the websites allowed for the inclusion of other results yielded through the website search tools. For instance, being able to include Dr. Oz’s “One Minute to Better Health,” which is exclusive to his website. Because the nature of audience interaction is imperative to understanding the reflexivity of program selection, I did not limit my data exclusively to previous episodes. In fact, much of the searches yielded interesting information provided by viewers of the television shows, such as questions for the hosts and other community members.

 

 I explored the content of the websites for five days between November 26, 2012 and December 1, 2012. I searched the same keywords multiple times, and on two different computers to ensure that any potential search engine algorithms did not interfere with the yielded search results.

 

 My sampling method was based on searching for the following terms:

 

“Health sex beauty”

“Healthy sex”

“Female sexuality”

Healthy female sexuality”

 

The rationale for choosing these search terms was due in part by a previous exploration of how female sexuality was framed in women’s interest magazine publications, such as Glamour, Redbook, Vogue, Women’s Health, and Cosmopolitan. Often times, sex was presented in conjunction with beauty and health. Thus, the search term “health sex beauty” was interested in yielding results concerned with whether sex was discussed in light of beauty, in addition to health.

 

  From these search results, I was able to yield seven episodes from Dr. Oz’s website, four episodes from The Doctors’ website, and zero from Dr. Phil’s. I hypothesize that this may be due to the characteristics of Dr. Phil’s search tools. It would be remarkably unusual for Dr. Phil not to have any content based on healthy female sexuality on his website provided his background in sex and relationship advice. Thus, future attempts to analyze the content on Dr. Phil’s website would need to consider the search terms, in addition to the information Dr. Phil makes available on his website. Nonetheless, for all three websites I did not limit what kind of search results I was attempting to yield (i.e., only searching for episodes or information in the online forums). Thus, the episodes were also displayed in addition to related website content. From this I was able to yield four articles from Dr. Oz’s website, two articles from The Doctors, and zero for Dr. Phil’s.

 

 The search results also yielded questions asked by website users. These were displayed in abundance throughout the websites. It was difficult to determine what content to utilize, as entering the websites’ forums would quickly change the nature of the study. Thus, I chose to limit questions to those that were displayed in congruence with related content. The rationale for this method was to avoid entering the websites’ forums. Thus, one set of questions was asked on Dr. Oz’s website and was included in the analysis because it was displayed with a related article. It should be noted that there were multiple related questions within this set. For The Doctors and Dr. Phil, exploration into the website forums was necessary to retrieve this information, thus I didn’t explore website user questions on these websites. The questions that were included in the analysis appeared to be displayed as advertisements for users interested in further exploring the subject of the article, which is distinct from questions asked by users in the forums and displayed in the search results.

 

 Overall, Dr. Oz’s website yielded the most usable data. This could be due to several factors; however, assumptions cannot be made to determine why the majority of data was yielded from this website. The Dr. Oz website could be more user-friendly and interactive than Dr. Phil’s and The Doctors. One might also hypothesize that The Dr. Oz Show discusses healthy female sexuality more than the other two programs. The reasons why his website yielded more results is beyond the scope of this study. The next section outlines the study’s findings.

 

Results

 

 The findings of this study suggest that there is an overall trend for TV medical entertainment programs to frame healthy female sexuality in the context of beauty, body image (particularly weight), health, and coital frequency. Some of the search results on Dr. Oz’s website yielded articles, archival data from previous episodes, and questions from users surrounding aging in relation to sex. In this section, I categorize the results into three categories: aging, weight loss and management, and coital frequency.

 

Aging

 

 This topic was concerned with reversing the signs of aging from a beauty perspective.  One question was asked by a user, “How does sex affect aging?” Another user asked, “How does a satisfying sex life affect aging?” The Doctors’ website yielded a segment on aging and sex secrets, which was a special feature for a Valentine’s Day episode. The segment includes a pink=-themed set with pink heart animations. The background animation reads, “Valentine’s Day Health Secrets.” Dr. Stork, The Doctors’ main host, is wearing a pink shirt and exclaims, “Am I feeling love in the air?” The audience--predominantly all women--exclaim cheers of enthusiasm. The segment shows an elderly sex expert, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Throughout her guest appearance, the theme of her contribution regards sexual arousal. The search results did not yield any information regarding aging from a medical standpoint, such as linking healthy female sexuality to diseases or illnesses; however, the episode included women receiving facials while eating chocolate and discussing sexuality.

 

Weight loss and management

 

 The most striking search results were in relation to weight loss and management, and general body image. Archival data from the Dr. Oz show yielded a segment on “calorie-burning sex positions”. In this segment, Dr. Oz and an expert guest discuss different ways women can burn calories based on the sex position. The following is advice from this segment:

 

Sex has tons of health benefits, including burning calories. 30 minutes of high intensity sex can burn up to 150 calories. But there are certain sex positions that are more beneficial than others if you’re doing it for weight loss... Don’t try to lay on your back. Try more acrobatic positions...

 

In this segment, Dr. Oz and his expert guest describe different sex positions beneficial to inducing calorie expenditure. Another episode featured an author of a book based on a diet for looking attractive while naked. Another diet-related plan involved a four-week dietary plan to boost a woman’s ability to orgasm.

 

 The search results also yielded articles from Dr. Oz’s websites. One piece of interesting advice derived from what the website titles, “Dr. Oz’s Top 10 Daily Essentials.” Keywords within this article were striking:

 

You already know that a healthy sex life with your partner helps you stay bonded and also provides a good work out. Now a new study shows that sex is also good for your brain, leading to improved interconnections in the brain and stress reduction...

 

Particularly noteworthy is the language in the preliminary glimpse of this article. The author who writes for The Dr. Oz website (name unknown) mentions that a healthy sex life provides a good workout, and that sex is also good for cognition. According to these findings, sex is seem as health promoting. Further search results yielded information on kissing and calorie-burning. This content came from the The Doctors’ Valentine’s episode on anti-aging and sex.

 

Coital Frequency

 

 Though the search results did not yield explicit results in terms of coital frequency, one

episode was particularly unique in that it captured the discussion of normative coital frequency in connection to relationship advice; whether the audience member asking the question was “normal” in terms of how often she engaged in sex with her partner; and that the host--Dr. Oz--briefs the audience on answering whether she is normal compared to other women regarding how often she has sex with her partner. Thus, not only is the audience member inquiring about where she ranks on the spectrum of normative coital frequency in relation to other women, the host is also offering his advice explicitly in relation to whether she is normal compared to other women. Lastly, the element of relationship advice is also an important theme to consider. Dr. Oz introduces the woman’s question with the following: “Now is the question everyone wants to know when it comes to sex: Am I normal in bed?” [....] So we’re going to reveal whether they are normal or not.” She proceeded to ask her question, followed by other audience members.

 

 The search results also yielded a video of Dr. Oz providing information on sex titled, “One Minute to Better Health: Get Into the Mood”. This segment included advice on one keeping open lines of communication with her partner in addition to planning ahead for a sexual encounter. The segment was predominantly concerned with relationship building and intimacy between two individuals engaged in a sexual relationship.

 

Benefits and Limitations

 

 Though this study was exploratory, it provokes further interest into how healthy female sexuality is framed. However, it is not generalizable. Most of the data was yielded from Dr. Oz’s website. Very little data was yielded from The Doctors’ website, and none from Dr. Phil’s. This could have been due to my search terms. Additionally, this study did not take into consideration the potential differences in how these websites were constructed. As previously mentioned, I cannot make assumptions on why Dr. Oz’s website yielded more data than Dr. Phil and The Doctors, but it could be due to website construction, how user-friendly the website search tools were, or the difference in how much healthy female sexuality is discussed on each of these programs. There could also be other explanations.

 

  In addition to the data yielded on these websites and the study not being generalizable, the limit of this study in only examining three medical entertainers is problematic. There are other popular medical and health experts worth exploring on this topic, especially Dr. Laura Berman, who is considered a leading sex and love expert. The data was also highly fragmented and difficult to contextualize due to the search engine results yielding information relating back to the episodes, online forums, and material provided as additional information for the website users.

 

 However, granted that there were sufficient limitations, there were also some beneficial insights gained from exploring how healthy female sexuality is framed by talk show medical entertainers. Utilizing the search function on these websites allows for an array of information regarding healthy female sexuality to be displayed. If the analysis included forum discussion, more information may have aided in understanding how viewers internalize the content of the show. In addition, searching female sexuality in relation to health suggests that this contextualization is distinct from medicalization, thus lending support to the contrast between medicalization and healthicization. This distinction may aid in future research conceptualizing female sexuality from a healthicization standpoint, with the potential to further understand behavioral interventions for promoting “healthy” female sexuality.

 

Summary and Implications

 

 This study explored the framing of healthy female sexuality by TV talk show medical entertainers. To aid in understanding how social institutions shape the public’s perception of medical- and health phenomena, TV talk show entertainers are beneficial observational units because they are part of both media- and cultural institutions. They are also considered the medical- and health experts of America. (As previously mentioned, Dr. Oz has been titled “America’s Doctor” by several leading American news- and cultural commentary sources.) Studying their framing provides an interesting analysis of the reflexivity between hosts, program producers and writers, and viewers. The participation of the viewers, audience, and users of the TV show websites can be considered viewmanship because of their contribution to the program by way of their engagement. Viewer involvement plays a substantive role in conceptualizing how information provided by these programs are not conducted in a top-down authoritative manner, but rather through reflexive interaction via participatory involvement and display of topical interest.

 

 In attempting to understand the framing of healthy female sexuality, I implemented Conrad’s healthicization as a conceptual framework. Utilizing this framework aids in understanding how female sexuality can also be framed from a health standpoint, which is distinct from a medical standpoint. Supporting this idea, this paper contrasted the medicalization of female sexuality with the potential usage of the healthicization of female sexuality in order to distinguish the conceptual differences in how both frameworks approach the problem. In order to further understand how healthy female sexuality is framed, I conducted an exploratory content analysis of the websites of three prominent talk show health- and medicine experts: Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil. and The Doctors.

 

 The findings from the content analysis suggest that healthy female sexuality is framed in the context of beauty and coital frequency, which may have implications for conjoining the perceived interests of contemporary American women. Further examination of why these topics are discussed in harmony with one another ought to be explored in future research. I hypothesize that health normativity often overlaps with other social institutions, such as gender normativity. In this case, there may be implications for further exploring this topic. Future research may also be interested in exploring the reflexivity process further. How and why do certain topics become more substantive than others? How do the producers and writers of these programs decide the material for the upcoming season? In addition, content analysis of these website forums could be beneficial in aiding in understanding how viewers potentially internalize the information provided via these programs.

 

 Though this study was exploratory and is not generalizable, it aids in providing a conceptual distinction between medicalization and healthicization. However, though this distinction is important to recognize, the trend toward normatizing female sexuality holds constant across both areas of medicine and health. The concern for the growing interest in normative female sexuality is a cause for concern for those who advocate for a better understanding of female sexual plurality. Not all women experience sexuality similarly, and it shouldn’t follow that their experiences are deviant due to where their experiences fall along a sexual-experience spectrum. This study aids in providing preliminary abstraction for framing future research on how women’s sexuality is discussed in the context of sexual health normativity. Further research must be conducted in this area in order to investigate the phenomenon from an empirical standpoint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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