The ugly things people say about FSD

12/08/2009 at 9:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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Big Honking Warning: The following is a collection of some of the most hurtful & harmful comments responding to articles & blog posts about female sexual dysfunction I have found within the last few weeks. Nothing here is supportive or helpful, and so if you personally struggle with any type of sexual problem, I suggest bypassing this post entirely.

I have already written at length about some of the troubling claims & statements I find when I read news articles & blog posts about female sexual dysfunction. Often when the articles are published online (which is where I usually find them,) there will be a section at the end for logged in users & guests to post comments about the article in question & get into new discussions.

Very often, comment sections are land mines. This is not just a phenomenon limited to discussions about sexual dysfunction, of course. If you have had internet access for any length of time, chances are you already know what I’m talking about. You might read a perfectly well-reasoned and sensitively worded article (or not) about a political event, a movie, a local celebrity, a medical condition, etc. Finally there will be a comments section, a place where interested parties can theoretically share their own thoughts. Different forums have different comment moderation policies, ranging from zero moderation to (theoretically) safe space, with variation inbetween.

Sometimes there will be something of value to take away from the comments section, especially if an article is intended to be supportive. Someone with personal experience in the matter at hand may point out flaws in an author’s language, or offer resources to more information on the topic at hand. Other times, comments are less than helpful. The comments that stand out the most  though, are often the worst, most hurful ones. They are the unavoidable, spotted-too-late Ice Bergs (“Right ahead!”) floating among a sea of free speech.

I have bumped into several of these Ice Bergs, which scrape along my armor, and will likely continue to bump into them, although not willingly and certainly not on purpose. I just kind of find these things.

When it comes to counter-productive comments about FSD, it is my personal belief that attitudes which deny the existence of FSD and which contribute to a mystique about women’s sexual health foster this type of egregious commentary… and of course, at least a little bit of misogyny.

My own comments come after each quote.

As a man who knows some things about women, (I read jezebel!) I can say with 100% certainty that the cause of FSD if such a thing exists, is almost always the incompetence or disinterest of the male partner. [He reads Jezebel, and Jezebel is representative of women, therefore he knows about women! Actually no, Jezebel does not represent me, so you know nothing about this woman. According to this guy, FSD (which probably isn't even real,) is all the male partner's fault, because obviously he isn't "Doin' it right." This also means that singles & lesbians never need to worry about FSD, because they have no male partner.]

“Listless Vagina Syndrome” =”Unskilled BedPartneritis” and/or
“Excess Housework Disorder”
[Who is the Inflamed Bed Partner? (The -itis prefix indicates inflammation.) Is it the FSD patient herself, or her partner? Well as a matter of fact I did have inflammation in my vulvar vestibule, so I guess that in and of itself makes me a bad Bed Partner. According to this comment, the proper treatment was to do less household chores.]

My vagina is listless. She just sits around the house all day long in her pajamas, listening to the Smiths and drinking peach schnapps straight from the bottle. It’s kind of disturbing, to tell the truth. [Playing into Harding's made-up term "Listless vagina syndrome," which must be the exact polar opposite of what restless genital syndrome really is, haha isn't that funny. I didn't think it was funny.]

Maybe this isn’t the ladies’ fault. Maybe it’s dudes’ fault for not being sexy enough. [This comment reflects heteronormativity, encourages body image insecurity by the partner, and is clear partner-blaming. Would you ever say something like to the partner of a cis male experiencing erectile dysfunction? "Maybe he could get it up if his sex partner was hotter." That would not go over well if used on me...]

I can “lick” this disease;-) [Oral sex from this person cures all FSD, which is appearantly now a contagious "Disease" rather than a "syndrome" or "disorder." To this commenter's credit though, the author of the article linked to here also called FSD a "Disease."]

Women who can’t always have vaginal orgasms keep trying as hard and as fast as they possibly can. This gives the man a 99% chance of finishing first, which in Darwinian terms is optimal for procreation. It’s not personal. It’s not sexist. It’s genetic. 100,000 generations of your ancestors got it right. A male orgasm is a score for a potential baby. A female orgasm is just a teaser to keep the woman constantly interested. [Evolutionary psychology to justify general assumptions & sexism (yes it is.) Also, this person somehow knows exactly how all 100,000 generations have had sex - the "Right" way, at that, so by extension there must also be a "wrong" way I wonder where this commenter gets that 99% statistic of orgasming first? Wait, actually now that I think about it - what does ejaculation have to do with FSD anyway? What we were talking about again?]

I think there would be no problem with women’s desire if they were sure they or their partner were sterile. Solve this problem for people and you will never want for wealth. [Uh I think this commenter was saying something about contraception then tied it back into desire somehow? I have no idea what the "Problem" referred to here is, fertility? Infertility? This also ignores desire or ability to respond sexually which may change as an individual ages or takes medication that contributes to low libido.]

If women never ate wedding cake there would be no need for Viagra for women [Sorry, can't figure out how to link to this exact comment; it's the second one down as of 12/7/09. I can't figure out if this commenter is referring to women who eat cake at their own wedding, at another person's wedding, or if it's just yet another fat-phobic comment in general.]

What people are saying about vulvodynia specifically (NOBODY WITH VULVODYNIA READ THIS PART):

So you can’t fulfill your prime genetic directive? Be thankful. There are enough human beings on this planet. There are also enough sexual activities to totally bliss you out, even if you don’t choose intercourse. [Human population growth means some of us don't get to have the sex we want even if we don't want kids. Also, forgets that vulvodynia can leak out into areas besides sex and childbirth.]

Sorry for your pain, an shit….but why is this “News”?  …what’s the precise percentage of the world’s population who have to deal with this?….compared to rampant unchecked political corruption, genocide, slave labour, the concerted and systematic rip-off of the middle-class by the monied overlords, the systematic destruction, and abridgement of civil liberties, Two fucking limited Mid-Eastern “World Wars”,…etc., etc., etc.!
WHO FUCKING CARES ABOUT SORE PUSSIES!!!???
[Obvious troll, obvious misogyny, "Look over there!" distraction technique to minimize the real pain that some women go through. Why even comment at all?]

i disagree with the article the doctors are just out to get money you dont need to go and see them it will go away all on its own. So dont be scammed by them i wasnt and i am still going strong i had that pain but i started eating healthy and washing down there keeping that area clean that is the main reason that most women get diseases is because they dont cleanse themselves down there. So here is a lesson for all keep it clean and eat healthy and you wont have any problems. That is how i beat the pain no doctor is going to stick something up me that has been who knows where! [Where do I even begin?! This could be another troll. There are women with vulvodynia who have it for decades, so there's a very good chance that it will not go away on its own without treatment. Vulvodynia is not a "disease," it's more like a syndrome - a collection of overlapping symptoms, and it's not contagious. Overzealous cleaning (ex. with soap in & around the vaginal area) can throw the pH balance off & just make infections worse. I certainly don't have any food triggers and even those who do eat very healthy can still struggle with vulvar pain. Vulvodynia sometimes arises as a result of injury as well, so to say "Eat right and bathe" forgets about injuries & nerve damage. Finally, the last line seems to advice against ob-gyn visits in general. The speculuum used at an appointment may have been inside of vaginas, but it will be sterile.]

What people are saying about vaginismus: (SKIP THIS PART IF YOU HAVE VAGINISMUS):

having a painful first experience is understandable. not being able to get it in….well that implies either a physical deformity or the 2 partners being complete idiots…
2 virgins usually have awkward or bad sex, but this is ridiculous….false question or really stupid person. or go to the doctor immediately cause something’s majorly wrong!
[This person has never heard of vaginsmus or chronic pelvic floor tension, therefore, vaginismus & pelvic floor dysfunction do not exist. Except not really.]

One last interesting note relates to what is NOT being said in the comments section of some articles, or rather, what is censored.

A few months ago, 20/20 ran a television special covering vulvovaginal pain. The actual condition being discussed was “Vulvodynia,” but for some reason that word was never spoken aloud during the program. A supplement article posted at ABC’s website allowed comments. Or, didn’t allow comments, as the case may be. If you will click here to go to a discussion page and glance through the comments section, you will find many words censored out, replaced by “####.” Three or four # signs replaced use of the word “Vagina” and “vulva” in some instances. This is very … contradictory, for a news article that’s about vulvovaginal pain. Why would you censor the word “Vagina?”

Seriously, how is this helping anyone?

I don’t know why I make myself slog through these comments. I think I need to step away from the computer for awhile and not slog for a few days. It is draining.

Buried amongst the crap piles, I do often see positive, supportive, and even helpful comments attached to articles. The problem is that the only way to reach them, is encounter destructive comments like these.

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  1. this isn’t the worst i’ve read on the subject (sadly). i read a couple of “dear annie”-type advice columns. one of them published a few letters this past year, of women who didn’t want to have sex with their husbands, or didn’t feel desire, or were too tired to have sex, etc, and their husbands had left them/cheated. the editors of the column one day published a couple of the responses they had received from their readers… damn, i wanted to kill myself. it kinda confirmed that, for most people out there, if you don’t/can’t have sex, then you’re worthless, especially in a relationship. that was both really depressing & proved to me that i was kinda right to be pessimistic about my future relationships.

    on another topic, i might be interested in doing a guest-post at some point. i don’t know what i’d talk about yet, but you can count me in as a maybe.

    • I believe it. I saw a “Dear Abby” column a few years ago, someone had written in concerned about vulvovaginal pain and the way I remember Abby’s response is “Suck it up and go to the gyno to get your pap smear.” She didn’t actually say that of course, but that was the effect.

      I don’t like to read a lot of agony columns, partly because I’m afraid I’ll come across attitudes like you’re describing. I still haven’t found the advice columnist I like :/
      Actually Professor Foxy at Feministing is pretty okay & so far I like Greta Christensen at BlowFish Blog too, when she writes at all. But a lot of advice authors… when they’re not far out there or “In your face” they’re… still not always too great.

  2. You hafta read that comment stuff though, (yeah, you also have to step away) I research a lot of prostitution issues stuff and it is brutal beyond belief, ugh, I can’t even begin to describe it. Draining for sure.

    But if it’s an issue you are wanting to spread awareness about you need to know what you’re up against – whether it’s people’s fix-able ignorance, or learning the ways people will tease and torment the those who suffer from or care about the issue.

  3. Oh, right, misogyny– I’d actually almost forgotten about that as a rationale for why people would refuse to believe in the existence of FSD. (Didn’t read most of the comments, as you’re right, they are very much not what I need to see, but I skimmed enough to get the gist.) I mean, I assume it to be omnipresent in the medical profession to some degree, but I’d been spending a lot of time thinking about why some feminists who are otherwise savvy about sexual issues and even disability issues seem to go apeshit when FSD is mentioned. But yeah, I suppose there are probably a number of men out there– probably the same kind who think their magical penis can convert lesbians– who are confident that they’re just so awesome as lovers that no woman could possibly experience any kind of pain or discomfort in bed with them. Even if it’s because there is something physically wrong with her body, I guess all these guys figure they can perform miraculous healings or something.

    Heck, I’ve run into people in my own life, both male and female, who seemed to want to hang onto the notion that there was something psychological in my FSD, that once I hit some critical point where I just “trusted them” and “relaxed,” they wouldn’t have to ask permission to do certain things that had caused me pain in the past. Sadly, this is not how it works. More of that positive-thinking-will-fix-it glurge, I guess– somehow, few people ever seem to realize how much suffering that can cause a person, the idea that the reason they aren’t “better” is because they haven’t been positive enough, haven’t trusted and loved enough.

    BTW, I’m still working on my guest post about heteronormativity and FSD– I haven’t forgotten about it; I’ve just been getting various nasty stresses thrown my way by life, and finding it hard to focus. I also keep finding, every time I think I can do a final draft of it, that there’s something I can fit in that I hadn’t thought of earlier.

  4. [...] 3. The ugly things people say about FSD – [potentially triggering] A popular post in terms of traffic. I collected several of the most egregious comments I saw posted on other websites & posts discussing female sexual dysfunction. I still believe that attitudes which claim FSD isn’t real, isn’t valid, contribute to these kinds of statements. Unfortunately the view that FSD is a fake “Disease” invented solely by Big Pharma is a surprisngly popular & enduring view, so I know I’m going to run into this kind of thing again eventually. [...]

  5. [...] when you ignore consequences of joking around about FSD, even within a feminist context, you might just get this shit. You get a bunch of partner-blaming, bullying, condescending comments, denial of real medical [...]

  6. [...] some sex & gender theories state is an invented falsehood and from which I believe stem some very ugly statements about FSD and the women who live with it. Can anyone then trust me, take me at my word, at face [...]

  7. [...] women who have it, and how to address it. I hate writing these posts so much. Feeling masochistic? Click here to visit part [...]

  8. [...] (and unfortunately warped) in feminist arguments against sexual medicine. And let me show you, it can get real ugly real fast. Leaving sexual pain as a sexual dysfunction might lend medical and social [...]

  9. [...] used at the individual level to invalidate women’s experiences with sexual problems – to jeer, to crack jokes, to partner-blame. I fear that a woman who identifies as having sexual dysfunction won’t be able to talk about [...]


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