About Thea Cacchioni
SFU Ruth Wynn Woodward Endowed Chair, 2010-2011
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Gender Studies at the University of Victoria. I live on unceded Lekwungen territory with my partner and 4-year-old. My work examines the medicalization of sex, gender, and sexuality, broadly, as well as through specific diagnoses such as Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
My research on FSD examines the pathologization of ‘low’ desire, arousal, and orgasm, and the occurrence of sexual pain, in the context of the race to find a sexual pharmaceutical drug for women. As documented in my book Big Pharma, Women and the Labour of Love, this research led me to twice testify at the US Federal Drug Administration against an ineffective desire drug with several harmful side-effects, hyped in the media as a ‘pink Viagra.’
My current research is focused on an examination of PCOS as the medicalization of digression from celebrated feminine standards. I explore the stigma attached to PCOS symptoms such as fat, face and body hair, acne, and infertility and highlight queer and non-binary understandings and experiences of PCOS, not typically accounted for in medical frameworks.
Both of these qualitative, interview-based studies expose the reciprocal relationship between heteronormativity and medicalization, the labour many women still go through to attain medically endorsed, socially celebrated (primarily white) ideals of femininity, and the remarkably different paths people take when rejecting the rules of heterosex. They also demonstrate the ways in which race and class shape experiences of heterosexual success, failure, and transgression.