Leonore Tiefer

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Leonore Tiefer
ResidenceNew York City
Alma materB.A. University of California, Berkeley (1965),

Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (1969),

Postdoctoral Respecialization in Clinical Psychology, New York University (1988)
Scientific career
FieldsSexology, Clinical Psychology, Women and Gender

Leonore Tiefer is an educator, researcher, therapist, and activist specializing in sexuality, and is acknowledged as one of the foremost public critics of disease mongering as it applies to sexual life and problems.[1] Since 1999, Tiefer has condemned the push for “Pink Viagra” by pharmaceutical companies.[2] In doing so, she uniquely paired activism with research and scholarship to create the New View Campaign,[3] which organized against the harmful medicalization of women's sexuality, including female sexual dysfunction, and female genital cosmetic surgery.

In conjunction with her anti-medicalization scholarship and activism, Tiefer has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chicago Tribune, The National Post, Slate, Reuters, Wired, The Atlantic, and more. She has appeared on CBS, NBC, National Public Radio, CBC and many other electronic media. Her book reviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement, Women’s Review of Books, and Psychology Today, and her coauthored op-eds and have been published in the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian.

Tiefer is well known as a public speaker, having been invited to keynote conferences in London, Paris, Osaka, Istanbul, Kolkata, Ljubljana, Auckland and more. She has given provocative grand rounds in psychiatry, urology, and obstetrics & gynecology at medical centers, universities, and public audiences. In 2003, she was a platform speaker at the Chautauqua Institution.[4]

She is the author of several books including Human Sexuality: Feelings and Functions (1979). Her book Sex is Not a Natural Act and Other Essays is now in its 2nd edition (2004). Tiefer also has a private psychotherapy and sex therapy practice in Manhattan.

Education and career[edit]

Beginning with an Experimental Psychology Ph.D. on hormones and hamsters at the University of California, Berkeley in 1969, Tiefer went on to hold an academic position in physiological psychology at Colorado State University from 1969-1977. Responding to the challenge of the feminist movement, she left Colorado and returned to her home state of New York, where her career in New York City sexology included positions at Downstate Medical Center (1977-1983), Beth Israel Medical Center (1983-1988), and Montefiore Medical Center (1988-1996) where she was employed in the urology department and co-directed the Sex and Gender Clinic. She completed an American Psychological Association (APA)-approved postdoctoral respecialization in clinical psychology at New York University in 1988 with a focus on sex and gender problems. While at Montefiore, she held an appointment with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Tiefer was also a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine from 1981-2017.

Tiefer has held professional offices within both sexological and feminist organizations. From 1983-1986 she was the National Coordinator of the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP). She later chronicled the history of that group from 1969-2009.[5] She was elected President of the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR) in 1993, and also served as the IASR representative at the first International Consultation on Erectile Dysfunction in 1999. From 2001-2002, Tiefer was on the Board of Directors of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH), then called the Female Sexual Function Forum. She has reviewed small grants for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and in 1992, she was an invited speaker at the only National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Conference ever held on a sexual topic: impotence. Tiefer was also Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Coalition Against Censorship during the 1990s-2000s.

Tiefer has held a variety of editorial positions with professional psychology and sexology journals. She has been the Book Review Editor for Women & Therapy, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, and Journal of Sex Education & Therapy, and was the Associate Editor for the Journal of Sex Research from 1992-1996. She has been a consulting editor for various journals since 1975 including Psychology of Women Quarterly (1976-1985) and Archives of Sexual Behavior (1988-2010). She continues this work today for Sexualities and Annual Review of Sex Research.

Popular writings[edit]

Beginning with a 1976 essay in Redbook, Tiefer has dabbled in popular news and magazine writing. Most notably, she wrote a weekly column in the New York Daily News from 1980-1981, some sections of which are reprinted in the first edition of her book Sex is Not a Natural Act and Other Essays.

Tiefer authored monthly sex advice columns in Playgirl Advisor (1976-1977) and Playgirl (1977). Her writing also appeared in Prime Time Magazine (1981), and she was profiled in Ms. Magazine in 1999. In 1994, Tiefer and Carol Tavris wrote a humorous column for the New York Times Book Review that was reprinted in the L.A. Times.

Feminist activism[edit]

Academic activism[edit]

In 1972, while working at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Tiefer co-founded the local National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter and the CSU Commission on the Status of Women (CSUCSW).[6] The CSUCSW invited Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine editors to speak at the university on the “myths of feminism” in 1973,[7] and later that same year, Tiefer helped form the CSU Faculty Women's Caucus.[8] The following year, Tiefer taught an experimental course called “Human Sexuality,” the first on that topic at the university, which was taught from a “non-sexist point of view.”[9]

Anti-Rape activism[edit]

After returning to New York City in 1977, Tiefer became active in the anti-rape movement, which had begun in the 1970s with speakouts, publications, and community organizing by groups such as New York Women Against Rape.[10] The movement largely focused on "…law enforcement behavior and legal changes, hospital practices and counseling, self-defense and community education.”[11] The New York City Mayor's Task Force on Rape was established in 1973, and opened four borough-wide rape crisis centers in 1977 (the group later changed its name to the New York City Advisory Task Force on Rape in 1980). Tiefer joined the group in 1977, and was co-chair from 1980-1982. Tiefer also joined the Psychiatry Department at Downstate Medical Center (DMC) in 1977 and became part of the Rape Crisis Elective for Medical Students. This service has now evolved into a program out of the DMC Emergency Medicine Department.[12]

Activism on DSM Diagnoses[edit]

As part of her activities as National Coordinator of the Association for Women in Psychology (1983-1986), Tiefer co-organized a demonstration at the 1985 meeting of the American Psychiatric Association to protest the addition of "anti-feminist" diagnoses such as "paraphilic rape disorder" and “self-defeating personality disorder” to the DSM-III-R.[13][14] This focus on norms continued with her work on Female Sexual Dysfunction nomenclature.

Activism on Sex Research and Women[edit]

Tiefer co-founded the World Research Network on the Sexuality of Women & Girls (WRNSWG) in 1991.[15] She edited its newsletter from 1991-1999, and organized 4 of the 5 WRNSWG conferences, which were timed to precede the annual International Academy of Sex Research meetings in Provincetown (1995), Amsterdam (1996), Baton Rouge (1997), and New York City (1999).[16] Other notable feminists involved with WRNSWG include Dutch sexologist Ellen Laan.

New View Campaign[edit]

Tiefer started the New View Campaign in 2000 as an educational project to create a new model of women's sexual health.[17] According to the campaign's website, “Our goal was to expose the deceptions and consequences of industry involvement in sex research, professional sex education, and sexual treatments, and to generate conceptual and practical alternatives to the prevailing medical model of sexuality.”[3] The campaign began with a collaboratively written and vetted manifesto that has been translated in 8 languages and published in many sexology textbooks.[18] In 2001, Tiefer co-edited a feminist sexology collection, A New View of Women's Sexual Problems,[19] which grew out of the campaign. She also co-authored and self-published a classroom and workshop teaching manual in 2003, which is available on the New View Campaign website.[20] The New View Campaign has held 5 scholar-activist conferences, testified before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), provided fact sheets and briefings for media, and generated articles and chapters that are influencing the way students and professionals are taught about human sexuality. Tiefer used her experience as a clinical psychologist, sexologist, and feminist activist to critique, resist, and transform medical models of sexual health and dysfunction. Her successful intergenerational campaign used tactics both old and new: manifestos, scholarly publications, classroom curricula, op-eds, protests, testimony, lobbying, conferences, art shows, websites, Facebook, Twitter, online petitions, listservs, and interactive blogs.

For years, the New View Campaign challenged FDA approval of Intrinsa (2004) and Flibanserin (2010, 2015) for women's hypoactive sexual desire and female sexual dysfunction. With petition work, mainstream interviews and debates, public actions, and presentations at FDA hearings, Tiefer and the New View Campaign challenged the highly deceptive pharmaceutical public relations campaigns in 2004, 2010, and 2015 that pressured the FDA to approve Flibanserin.[21] This effort spanned twelve years, from 2003 to 2015.

In 2008, the New View Campaign expanded its work to examine female genital cosmetic surgery, a growing aspect of the medicalization of women's sexual lives. At the same time, Tiefer expanded her activism from focusing exclusively on the medicalization of sex to a larger perspective on overtreatment and overdiagnosis. In doing so, she co-organized the successful conference “Selling Sickness: People Before Profits,” in 2013 in Washington, D.C.[22]

In October, 2016, Tiefer concluded the New View Campaign with a final Capstone Conference in Bloomington, Indiana, the home of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. A video about the conference was uploaded in 2017.[23]


  1. ^ Moynihan, Ray; Henry, David (2006-04-11). "The Fight against Disease Mongering: Generating Knowledge for Action". PLOS Medicine. 3 (4): e191. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030191. PMC 1434508. PMID 16597180.
  2. ^ TIEFER, LEONORE; TAVRIS, CAROL (1999-10-20). "Viagra for Women Is the Wrong Rx". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  3. ^ a b "NEW VIEW CAMPAIGN :: W E L C O M E". newviewcampaign.org. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  4. ^ "Chautauqua Institution". online.chq.org. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  5. ^ "Herstory - Association for Women in Psychology". www.awpsych.org. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  6. ^ Ecblad, Bob (October 24, 1972). "CSW presents constitution, forms task force groups". CSU Collegian.
  7. ^ Sheek, Dana (April 27, 1973). "MS. Editors Discuss Myths of Feminism". Loveland Reporter Herald.
  8. ^ "Faculty Women's Caucus formed; officers elected". Fort Collins Coloradoan. September 25, 1973.
  9. ^ Salisbury, Sharon (February 15, 1974). "Human Sexuality". CSU Collegian.
  10. ^ "New York Women Against Rape. Records of New York Women Against Rape, 1971-1984". oasis.lib.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  11. ^ Matthews, N. A. (1994). Confronting rape: The feminist anti-rape movement and the state. London: Routledge. p. 15.
  12. ^ "Department of Emergency Medicine | Patient Services | Rape Crisis Center". www.downstate.edu. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  13. ^ "New Psychiatric Syndromes Spur Protest". New York Times. November 19, 1985.
  14. ^ Goleman, Daniel. "NEW PSYCHIATRIC SYNDROMES SPUR PROTEST". Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  15. ^ McCormick, Naomi (1994). Sexual Salvation: Affirming Women's Sexual Rights and Pleasures. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. p. 230.
  16. ^ "Past Conferences". IASR. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  17. ^ "The vagina dialogues". Salon. 2000-10-26. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  18. ^ "New View Campaign - Manifesto". www.newviewcampaign.org. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  19. ^ "A New View of Women's Sexual Problems - Leonore Tiefer". www.leonoretiefer.com. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  20. ^ "New View Campaign - Books". newviewcampaign.org. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  21. ^ "New View Campaign - In The Press". newviewcampaign.org. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  22. ^ "Selling Sickness 2013 | PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS". sellingsickness.com. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  23. ^ New View Campaign (2017-09-11), New View Campaign Capstone Video, retrieved 2018-06-01

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