Interesting posts, weekend of 5/30/10

05/30/2010 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Dear internet, beautiful weather this weekend. Even as I write there are many little critters & birds frolicking outside. I was working in the garden yesterday even though I hate gardening. I watched the series finale of Lost. What’s up with that show? I never watched it before, and here’s what I noticed: A bunch of cheap-looking sets with styrofoam props and lots of close-ups of people from the chest up. All those close ups made the scenes very disorienting to me. I couldn’t judge the distances between people and their relative locations or what was going on. The flash-sidesways bits didn’t help. And then it was over and I was like, “So it was basically a live-action version of Wolf’s Rain? Which the producers dragged on for six seasons instead of one or two?” Because I watched too many cartoons. It probably wasn’t a live-action version of Wolf’s Rain, but that was my first impression…

Don’t forget, I’m also on Twitter now. I think I’m starting to get the hang of Twitter now.

Did you all get to see the quasi-guest post with heavy contribution from Ms. Sexability this week? My plan right now is to do at least one more post in the same theme, a quasi-guest post with e-mail help from a BDSM blogger. If you don’t like the direction the blog has taken lately by talking about such a topic, don’t worry – My plan is for the post week of June 7  to return to academia & statistics. Sooner or later though I’d like to round out the BDSM stuff by talking about The Topping Book and topping while living with FSD. (Too bad I probably won’t have any more experience by then though! Well, actually, maybe… we’ll see.)

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction. Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sexual health and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive. For this reason, Guest Posters requesting to remain anonymous will also be taken seriously.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Comments made by new e-mail addresses here are auto-screened before going live, so if you want to stay anon use an e-mail address that you haven’t used here before.

Now then, on with the weekly blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

FDA considers endorsement of drug that some call a Viagra for women – Kind of a weird article from Washington Post about Flibanserin, which is the antidepressant-turned-possible-libido-booster. It’s weird because it’s got a lot of people talking about women but not much talking to women. Especially women with FSD. There’s like two short paragraphs with quotes by a woman who is clearly distressed by her level of sexual interest, surrounded by a bunch of quotes by professors and big pharma reps & people who probably have no idea what it’s like to live with that kind of distress. This article takes an anti-medication/anti-big pharma slant, so naturally Dr. Tiefer makes an appearance on page 2. Via Regina Lynn, whom I get the impression sees the potential for good from this medication. Regina’s post is short, but I think I know why she picked the picture of the unicorn and the narwhale :3 Ask and ye may receive an explanation.
Feministing covered this as well but I wasn’t that impressed with the post. Skip the comments, because some of the comments are even worse.

Good News – [Trigger warning] The American Academy of Pediatrics has redacted their recent statement on FGC in the US. Previously, the organization released an article which was read as supporting FGC. The idea was something like, offer this ritual nick in order to satisfy the need to go through a ritual. The AAP’s actions in rescinding the statement are more in line with their stance against any and all forms of FGC. Echidne covered this as well and the reason why a ritual nick may not have been enough anyway. Female Genital Cutting (FGC) And The American Academy of Pediatrics

Good Vibrations and the Clitoris Saving Alien Cult – Flora showed me this. It’s a really good summary and follow up to what’s been happening with Clitoraid, GoodVibes, sex-positive feminism, and white privilege.

Also related to sex toy retailer scandals, EdenFantasies has been called out for unethical linking practices. Although EdenFantasies offered link exchanges with several websites and blogs, they set up their links in such a way with JavaScript so as to not improve the linked-to sites Google page rank. Edenfantasys’s unethical technology is a self-referential black hole. Britni put together a blog link roundup of some other sites that are covering this story, and some more coverage herself.

There is going to be an anti-pornography conference in a few weeks by Stop Porn Culture. In response to this, Violet Blue is putting together a pro-porn response, Our Porn Our Selves. I wonder if she was aware that there is already a [somewhat NSFW] Blog of Pro Porn Activism?

Speaking of pornography, are you, or is someone you know, a person who likes web comics and porn by women for women? If so, you may be interested in Filthy Figments, [NSFW] which is set to go live in a few days. Here’s a Tumblr post by one of the contributors talking about it.

Ask Professor Foxy: How Do I Get Past His Not Cumming? – Something a little bit different – advice on a sexual relationship in which a man is having difficulty orgasming during partnered sexual activity.

The Carnival of Kinky Feminists – No post in particular; a new blog which will be having a kink-related carnival in a few days.

UK airs first-ever TV ad for abortion services – and the ad is embedded in the post.

When Teen Pregnancy Is No Accident – [Trigger warning] A lot of feminist blogs have been covering this article – it’s about reproductive coercion, a form of abuse. That’s when a relationship, a man forces his partner to become pregnant. Usually you hear the opposite narrative (ad nauseum), that women deliberately become pregnant to trap their partners into the relationship, but it doesn’t always work that way. Tihs article addresses that often cited as happening to a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend story. (I’ve yet to hear that story happening to someone I know directly.)

How Many Straws? – Something my mom would appreciate.

Man Reported Police Sexual Assault Against His Girlfriend, Now Faces Deportation – [Trigger warning] Marcus Jackson did the right thing, and for that, he now faces punishment.

“No es crimen pasional—es asesinato, or, It’s not a crime of passion—it’s murder” [Trigger warning] – About violence against women and the legal system in Bolivia. Activists are urging the legal system recognize the term “Femicide” in part due to the victim-blaming and lenient sentences currently given to murderers of women.

Really, Urban Outfitters? – Shit shirt.
Your Daily Entertainment – It is entertaining.
What Tami Said can save you $8: My review of “Sex and the City 2″ – Delivers what it promises.

Some more follow up on recent stories:

Out Iranian lesbian Kiana Firouz denied asylum by UK - Unfortunately Kiana Firouz’s application for asylum was not rejected. You can still sign a petition to support having that rejection overturned.

Send your support to Sr. McBride in Arizona – Sister McBride was on the team that approved a woman’s abortion at a Catholic hospital. For this, though the procedure likely saved the patient’s life, McBride was excommunicated.

Malawi: Breaking news – Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga pardoned – Follow up, a couple in Malawi (incorrectly identified as gay in spite of the fact that Tiwonge identifies as a woman) has been pardoned & released. However, they are still in danger.

Some blog carnival news:

A disability blog carnival is up at Barriers, Bridges, and Books. Disability Blog Carnival: Tell The Story! (With Additions!) Via Anna.

Dave Hinsburger’s blog will be hosting a carnival for June, theme is “Pride.”

I’m sure there’s more…

Feedback reconciling BDSM and painful sex

05/25/2010 at 6:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Last week, I wrote up a post about my impressions of The New Bottoming Book, a beginner bottom’s guide to BDSM. I’m becoming interested in BDSM, but I still have questions about it. I’m particularly apprehensive about pain – since I have a history of sexual pain to begin with, I need some help understanding the difference between incorporating pain into sex play vs. painful sex.

So I decided to ask for help!

My interest in BDSM is new, but it’s not coming from out of the blue – I’ve been thinking about it for awhile. A few months ago, I contacted Ms. Sexability from the eponymous blog, SexAbility [NSFW.] Then I got sidetracked for like 5 months, which is terrible on my part I know… Ms. Sexability and her co-contributors have been blogging for several years now about sex and sexuality, BDSM, queerness, and disability. I had been reading her blog for a few months when I started thinking about BDSM, and she was kind enough to take the time to help me out with some tricky questions.

We corresponded, though it took awhile longer before I felt ready to start talking about this topic here. With a scaffolding of understanding provided by The Bottoming Book though, I think now is a good time.

I wrote up an e-mail to Ms. Sexability: [The link and non-italic parts may be triggering:]

What’s on my mind is, one of my blogger-friends posted a link to one of those “What kind of person are you?” quizzes, and the topic of interest for this particular quiz was what kind of BDSM (if any) you are into…

This is the quiz.

I was struggling with some of the questions about pain though. Since I have experienced unwanted sexual pain, when the quiz asked things like, I enjoy the idea that my partner wants to inflict pain on me. I like being threatened with pain. After sex, I enjoy seeing the evidence of the pain I experienced during sex… I was really struggling with those questions. I’m sure the author means wanted pain & wanted marks, but all I could do was flashback to the dyspareunia… I couldn’t get around it. It’s not a trigger, per se; all my sexual experiences have been consensual, but I hear the word “Pain” in the context of sex and, bam, I’m right back at the ring of fire.

I’m interested in both topping & bottoming. But I feel like, if I can’t get around the memories of sexual pain, I won’t make as good of a bottom as I’d like to be. Or as good of a top, if my partner wants to inflict pain on him… I’m likely to go too easy on him. Rationally speaking, I know BDSM isn’t a contest and I’m not going to be compared to anyone else. And I know that if I’m not into pain at all, it shouldn’t be a problem – I can talk to my partner about that & he’ll honor whatever I want.

To boil it down, how do I reconcile a history of sexual pain with the painful aspects of BDSM?

Any ideas?

To which she responded (e-mail response is being used with permission:)

Well, I’m no expert on this topic, because I’m actually into D/s and Bondage more then into SM, and generally do sensation play, and use SM techniques like flogging, waxing, beating with nerf bat etc. for physiotherapy reasons and as a form of pain management, but I’ll give you my ideas and instincts anyways, for what they are worth.

Since I have a chronic pain condition, I find I have a real problem with the “are you into pain,” question, because I’m always replying, “Uh…what do you mean by pain?”  There are many types of pain similiar to there being many types of touch. Imagine if we asked a young girl or boy, “are you into touch?” Well, they’d say, “yes of course,” but that doesn’t mean they want their genitals touched by an adult. So, in the way that we’ve come to talk to children about “good touch,” and “bad or icky touch,” that’s how I’ve come to talk about pain. There is Good Pain and there is Bad Pain.

There is Good Pain, like getting a really deep massage, or flogging, etc. that makes you scream out BUT also makes you go, “Ahhhhhh,” and “Mmmmmmm,” in relaxation or sexual response.

There is also the type of Good Pain that hurts like hell, like the pain during childbirth, but that you withstand and accept it even while cursing and screaming because you know it’s a signal of life and not just life, but life being born. And so this pain makes you feel awful, but mentally you know, somewhere, before and perhaps after the moment if not right in it, that the reward of this pain, is worth the acute pain you feel at the moment.

And then there is “Bad Pain.”

Bad Pain makes you wish you were dead, makes you stop what you are doing and not continue, makes scream out in “Get it the fuck out of me, NOW!” kind of response, VS a, “Mmmm…More Please, Hurts sooo GOOD!” kind of response. Also, bad pain, there is no real reward for enduring it. You don’t feel any pride, “look how strong and tough I am,” you don’t have a child, or an olympic medal, or goal acheived afterwards, you just wish it would stop when it’s happening, and when it’s over, you wish it would never happen again, never have happened, and feel serious anger towards any person causing you the pain, outside of say, “in the moment, of a BDSM scene.” Also, Good Pain, is something you enjoy, and you are not suffering. Unless of course, you enjoy suffering, and then, well, you’ll have to figure out yourself what is Good Pain and Bad Pain. But you get the idea.

So what I would suggest with your Partner, is that you start talking about Good Pain and Bad Pain, and include emotional or psychological pain in the equation, people leave that out and emotional or psych pain is still a form of pain. With the sexual pain that you experienced during sex, that has you afraid now, what I would suggest is basically what they call Densensitization therapy. Like, with your husband, set aside a time, for him to play with you cunt, not necessarily doing penile or otherwise penetration play at this time. Like you could do cunt torture, where you partner flogs your cunt, or learns to do needles in it, (take lessons for this, or get someone in the know to teach you), he can pull, slap, etc.  The GOAL at these moments, is for you start distinguishing what feels “Good” to your cunt and what feels “Bad,” and it’s MOST IMPORTANT that either way, you have positive experiences, make sure, that the whole experience is a generally positive one, lots of loving care, lots of encouraging statements, “that’s a Good Girl your doing great,” or whatever works for you etc.

What your trying to do, is what a therapist once referred to me as “making new history.” you’ve got a history now of having this horrible experience, and so, your basically experiencing, from what you’ve described, a kind of PTSD reaction to the negative experiences. It was so awful, and your anxiety regarding experiencing it again, rises to the level, where your tense, stressed out, frightened, and so, your gonna have “bad Pain,” which, I’m assuming, stops you from having intercourse. So I’m thinking, and I’m NO EXPERT here, but I’m thinking what you need to have, is some positive good experiences, that will counteract that old history. If you haven’t tried it already, I would suggest your partner using his fingers, increasing AND using a variety of different sizes and shapes of sex toys. Go slow, start gently, slowly, doing any “pain work,” BDSM on the outside of the cunt, inner thighs, etc. you can decide for yourselves if you want to do pain work separate from working on penetration experiences. And remember, LOTS of your favorite lube. Your partner shouldn’t worry about you not being “wet,” and neither should you. Just use tons and tons of lube, as much as you can, and just, you know, explore. Explore different positions too when doing this. Maybe you can only handle a very small and thin dildo or vibrator inserted in missionary position, but if you lie on a pillow with your ass in the air, you can take a larger amount and so forth.

I know I experience pain during pentrative sex with dildoes, when I am in doggy style position, my fav position to be in, the pain hurts, but not enough to stop me from doing the behavior. If your pain hurts enough to stop you from doing the behavior and makes you develop anxiety or fear of the behavior, well, for me, I’d place that in the Bad Pain category. I’m assuming that this has probably caused some problems with you and your husband having intercourse, so I would really suggest at first, he focus on using his hands like lesbians do and sex toys. I don’t know if Fisting is something you’ve tried, or if it would hurt you, it all depends on the size of his hands, and honestly, I don’t really know much about your conditions, why I’d love for you to regularly post about these things. But, when I get fisted, it’s not as deep a penetration as with a dildo or a penis would be, it’s more WIDE penitration. I mean, it CAN go deep, but not necessarily and also, it’s hitting a wider area then a dildo or penis would. There’s a great book called “Hand in the Bush,” if your guy wants to try this and hasn’t. As you use the sex toys, hands, etc. and have more positive experiences, you should become desensitized to the horrible one, and also start figuring out what is Good Pain penetratively and what isn’t. Eventually, you might want to try some slow vanilla penetrative sex, with again, lots, and lots, and lots of lube, because your gonna be tense, and so your just not going to as juicy as you would be and you don’t need to be worrying about THAT. I’d really set up times and do this as a carefully planned out, “experimentation,” or “practice play session.” Where the focus is learning and getting new positive memories made, and not so much about “making love,” or “doing a scene.” You can do that at other times, incorporating what you’ve learned works in your practice sessions into your scene.

If it turns out you can’t handle vaginal penetration any more, then I really, really encourage you and your guy to explore anal play if you haven’t done that either. Lots of good books on how to do that out there. If your guy can do you anally, he won’t feel like he’s losing something and you won’t feel like your failing him, etc. Of course, if it happens where you can’t do vaginal penetration anymore, then, both you and your guy have lost something, and there’s a real loss here, that you both need to understand, acknowledge and work through. I would think it would be normal for a guy to feel anger, frustration and loss, all aspects of grief, if his girl couldn’t do penetrative sex with him. And I think you’d feel all these two, but you’d also feel guilt, fear of losing him, shame, sense of not being a “real” woman, and all that kind of stuff. If you can find things to ADD to your sexual experiences then the loss will still be a loss, but not so bad maybe. Just remember that feelings are feelings, and even if your guy is feeling grief, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you, is gonna leave you, or anything like that. allow him to acknowledge and feel his feelings, just, you know, if it’ s too much for YOU get him to dump any anger he may be experiencing on a friend, or anonymously online with other husbands whose wives are dealing with this, etc. It’s okay for him to have a variety of feelings and go through a grief process cause he’s lost something too, but it’s not okay for him to dump that on you, and try to get you to be his support for this issue, cause it’s just too close to home for you. You can’t detach and listen to him as he works his feelings through. Although, again, sharing the feelings, once he knows whats going on for him, is okay I’d think.

I don’t know if this helps at all, but it’s all I’ve got! LOL

It helps. I think, it helped me.

A few points I found particularly interesting: Ms. Sexability uses some BDSM practices, such as sensation play, for pain management. She’s written about this topic before [NSFW]. And she makes a distinction between Good Pain and Bad Pain. I like the use of deep massage as an example of “Good pain,” because that’s something I’ve personally experienced firsthand.

I have had a few deep tissue massages and I think it’s a very good example of Good Pain. A deep tissue massage can hurt a little while it’s going on – but at the same time it feels sooo good… A good masseuse encourages me to give feedback on whether I’m comfortable and if I’d prefer harder or lighter work, and so far I prefer firm pressure. And I relax completely during treatment – which surprised me the first time, since relaxing like that is usually difficult for me to do. At a treatment a few months ago, my masseuse was really working my calf muscles over. She had my right calf in what felt like a vice grip, and moved her hands up my leg with that same pressure. It was a very intense sensation, bordering on pain, but at the same time I didn’t want her to stop on that leg. My left leg, she had to take it easier on, since that’s the leg that pain sometimes radiates down when I’m in bad shape. After a deep tissue massage, I may be left sore for a day or two, since those muscles get worked over much more than what I’m used to, but I experience some benefits too – I’m more flexible and energized for days. I love it. I love the non-professional massages my partner and I give each other, but deep tissue massage by a professional is something I pay money for! I’m about due for another deep tissue massage, in fact.

I also appreciate that Ms. Sexability acknowledges emotional & psychological pain as important to consider. BDSM can involve intense emotions & feelings, not all of them physical – and it’s okay to make distinctions between good and bad pain there, too. And it’s okay to have those emotions. And it’s okay to go through a period of grief when sex hurts and you cannot or can no longer engage in activities that you wanted. I know I grieved.

The desensitization exercise suggested above, is one I’ve heard and seen elsewhere, and something that I’ve been working on. My techniques are a little different, but I’m open to incorporating more kinky activity into my process too. Reading between the lines, desensitization and learning to associate touch with pleasure was one of my instructions for dilator treatment post-vestibulectomy! Learn how to associate physical touch with good feelings. It can take a long time, especially since I’m trying not to rush. For me this means dilators, clinical physical therapy and both touching with my partner (we’re not actually married yet but at this point everything’s inevitable,) and maybe sometimes inserting something into my vagina when we’re together, maybe even to orgasm for me. I’m learning how to associate vulvar & vaginal touch with good experiences. Sometimes I backtrack, and I’m trying to accept these backtracks.

And she makes another important point, to take your time.

I really enjoyed this response, and, if the comments on the Bottoming Book review post are any indication, there are some BDSM practitioners and activists who are willing to lend a helping hand to beginners. There’s a lot of good stuff here, and it’s very reassuring.

Interesting posts, weekend of 5/23

05/23/2010 at 5:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, not too much to share this week, it was a quiet work week for me. I watched some cartoon seasons on DVD thanks to NetFlix. I don’t usually re-watch movies with the director’s commentary on but this time I made an exception. Picked up Picross for the Nintendo DS again and finished up the last levels in Normal mode. I’m gearing up for Picross 3-D. I don’t think I’m going to buy a new Nintendo DS or DSi though – the whole point of the DS is to be small enough to be portable, not make it bigger! Besides, the DSi lost backwards compatibility with regular Game Boy Advance games. Which I suppose is a moot point for me since I have two GBAs… I really need to get on the ball and play some of the original Game Boy games I have in the queue before the backup battery system in them stops working.

Don’t forget, I’m also on Twitter now. I think I’m starting to get the hang of Twitter now.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction. Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sexual health and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive. For this reason, Guest Posters requesting to remain anonymous will also be taken seriously.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Comments made by new e-mail addresses here are auto-screened before going live, so if you want to stay anon use an e-mail address that you haven’t used here before.

Now then, on with the weekly blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

Cushions – a review of some padded seating options designed for folks with pelvic  pain.

The Overlapping Conditions Alliance Launches the ‘Campaign to End Chronic Pain in Women’ on Capitol Hill, to Fight Discrimination Against Women in U.S – On May 19, the Overlapping Conditions Alliance released a report on chronic pain in the US and a representative from Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s office went to Washington D.C. to speak out about chronic pain conditions. The OCA deals with many conditions that effect women, like vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more. You can learn more at their website. Jeanne pointed me out to this news bit, and she blogged a about it too in When Rest Is Just Not Optional.

No Longer Lost? – So I heard Lost is finally ending tonight, and I couldn’t be happier. I never got into that show, I tried to watch one episode this season and it was just a bunch of people talking. I’m hoping I’ll just have to endure a few days of farewell posts on the blogosphere, and then let us never speak of it again.

Monday the 17th was the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. EU leaders mark the International Day Against Homophobia And Transphobia has a lot of links. Not even a week later, this story broke out, but was misreported on various news outlets. I saw Yahoo! News had referred to this couple as gay, but that’s not accurate since one partner identifies as a woman. Malawi: Couple sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for getting engaged. Also, Save Kiana Firouz! – Firouz is a lesbian activist seeking safety in England. If she is deported home, she faces death in Iran.

Holly at the Pervocracy wrote up a 7-part series analyzing some kind of MRA or PUA site. Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. I enjoyed what she did with this series, it has just the right balance of seriousness and snark. Must have taken a lot out of her though, slogging through the whole thing like that. You might want to skip the comments on this one.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is still spilling, much worse than initial estimates. Oil Spill Update, and Big Oil. Meanwhile, Amnesty ad on Shell pulled from the FT – an advertisement critical of Shell Oil was not allowed to run in the Financial Times. Meanwhile, Crude Violations: Oil, Human Rights, and Environmental Devastation in Nigeria – About the exploitation of Nigerians and their country.

RacIsm – Like Lisa, I too am steeped in white privilege, I know it. Lisa included several links to news articles demonstrating racism in the USA. We’re not post-racial yet. Need more proof? Consider the following: Alabama: Geometry teacher uses assassinating Obama as example to teach angles to students, AC360: Kids’ test answers on race brings mother to tears; we’ve got a long way to go, They’re really this hardcore, or Lebanese immigrant wins Miss USA, right wingers lose it. With that last one, yes we can critique beauty pageants from a feminist perspective, but we can also look at reactions to the winner of the contest this year.

Rand Paul (Son of Ron Paul) won the Republican nomination in Kentucky this week. He ran on a Tea Party platform and has made his political views clear, Tea Party Member Rand Paul Wants to Abolish The Americans With Disabilities Act, and Rand Paul and Civil Rights.

Nun excommunicated for approving life-saving abortion – In Arizona, a pregnant woman was very likely to die without an abortion. She went to a Catholic hospital, and her abortion was approved. Now one of the nuns involved in the decision has been demoted. This was followed up over at Feministe with an existential post, That’s some morality you’ve got there.

Insufficient Evidence – [Trigger warning] A few years ago, a rape case came to a distressing conclusion, as Cara explains the background. But she recently found out that a lot of the forensic evidence was never even tested, at the district attorney’s orders. Keep in mind – charges weren’t filed because of a lack of forensic evidence. Which was available the whole time.
Meanwhile, England and Wales Move to Grant Anonymity to Rape Defendants – [Trigger warning] – Rape victims are granted anonymity in the US an England (not always strictly enforced though, which has dangerous consequences for those going forward with charges of rape) and now England is considering granting the same protection to defendants on rape trials.

Some posts about advertising; what’s okay and what’s not: Vintage Ads: Domestic Tropes Then and Now and “Cougars” out, “Sugardaddies” in – I guess because nobody wants to think about older women having sex with young men.

Zombie Cow’s “Privates”: sex ed or misogyny? – Oh hey look a video game about sex education, that sounds totally fun, I like video games so that’s right up my alley rig–oooo wait a minute… wait… What’s all this then? Oooo, that’s not exactly what I had in mind… Both the game and the marketing need improvement.

Swinging to Freedom: Group Sex in China Major No-No. - I was not aware that China had such big taboos on kinky sex practices. I mean, orgies are legal in California.

SEXIST BEATDOWN: For Thee, Fair Maiden, I Would Punch A Thousand Faces Edition – Something that would likely make one of my semi-friends head explode, since he fancies himself as very Chivalrous. We’re not very close friends, I just like to watch his Facebook feed.

I’m sure there’s more…

Thoughts on “The New Bottoming Book,” dipping my toes into BDSM

05/18/2010 at 5:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Ever since I first noticed some trouble afoot downstairs, I’ve been studying sex & sexuality above and beyond what I was granted access to in public school. I’ve learned a lot from different sources – journal articles, paperback books, websites, online support groups and blogs – and I’ve still got a long ways to go… and it’s going to take a lot of practice before I reach a point where I feel confident when it comes to sex.

Different sources try to sell you on different ideas, but I’ve been noticing a few common threads scattered throughout many (though not all) of the works by experts and advocates I’ve been reading. One of the common ideas I’ve come across in multiple sexuality books is that society (and many people in it) would benefit from a broader definition of sex, one which includes a wide variety of sexual activity beyond hetero PIV intercourse. And some of those books make a very interesting suggestion for exploration – BDSM. That is, bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism.

It sounds counter-intuitive at first – Isn’t BDSM painful? Doesn’t embracing and re-enacting power dynamics go against feminism? And to an outsider like myself, it can look scary. How can someone with a history of dyspareunia (painful sex) possibly incorporate pain and power dynamics into their sex life on purpose? Why would you do this? There are vocal critics of BDSM, including feminist critiques. How do you reconcile BDSM with feminist ideals, if at all?

Yet again and again and again in sex-positive communities I’ve been a part of (or at least watched from afar) and in the books I’ve read, I’ve seen arguments defending BDSM and kink, and opening the door for it as a healthy sexual activity.

Consider the following passages from some of the books I’ve read:

Returning once again to Sex is not a Natural Act,

The possibilities for pleasure include, for example, the capacity for eroticizing nongenital parts of the body through conditioning and symbolism. As Jeffrey Weeks (1985) points out, ‘In S/M,… the whole body becomes a seat of pleasure, and the cultivation of roles and exotic practices the key to the attainment of pleasure. A degenitalization of sex and of pleasure is taking place in these practices…” (p. 241) (Tiefer, location 2385, emphasis mine).

As someone struggling with sexual problems, I find this passage very interesting. In mainstream depictions of sex, there’s a very strong focus on genital activity & orgasm, but according to this, in BDSM you don’t even need to have genital contact to experience pleasure.

BDSM is explicitly stated as a possibility for couples to explore in Let Me Count the Ways,

“Just for fun, here’s a list – in no particular order – of outercourse activities that different people enjoy. Remember a self-accepting, nonpressured attitude make all the difference [...] Dominance and submission: holding your partner down, being held down, using a blindfold, spanking, using wrist or ankle restraints, playact at “forcing” someone to do something. Remember, this is very intimate stuff, so clear communication is essential.” (Klein & Robbins, 114, emphasis mine).

This same list includes several other activities that might fall under a broad definition of BDSM as well.

But wait, there’s more – The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability includes a whole chapter about S/M, in which among other things the authors define terms and talk about the difficulty of navigating the BDSM community while disabled. (I’ve heard PWD discuss this topic of BDSM & accessibility in detail on blogs.) Anne Sprinkle asks the reader of Spectacular Sex whether or not she (Sprinke’s aim was mostly women readers) might be interested in exploring BDSM. Chapters 8 and 9 in Sex Toys 101 talks about BDSM toys and activities, illustrated with lots of bright colorful pictures.
So there’s five examples in print I have personally seen talk about BDSM in a positive way, and the list goes on in published books and online.

Huh. Again and again and again I see the same thing. Perhaps there is something to this BDSM after all. I am intrigued yet apprehensive, and would like to know more. These books listed above don’t all talk about how to do BDSM in step-by-step great detail, don’t talk about how to reconcile it with feminism or a history that may include painful sex, abuse, or PTSD. So where do I start? How do I use this? How do I play this game?

Somewhere along the line, I can’t remember how at this point, I stumbled upon or was directed to a pair of books about BDSM, The New Bottoming Book and The New Topping Book, both by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. It would be awhile longer yet before I could purchase them with my own money, only because I had no safe place to hide them from prying eyes. Luckily the authors and publishers saw fit to make these books available as e-books. One slightly-used Kindle, $20 and a few clicks later, problem solved!

And after chugging through Sex is not a Natural Act, I needed a break from tough brain work. Something a little lighter & friendlier with some positive affirmations in it. And so here we are… For an alternate review to supplement your reading of The New Bottoming Book this one is quite detailed, NSFW.

The New Bottoming Book is a revision of an earlier, shorter incarnation with the same name (minus the “New” part.) After the success of the first printing in the mid-1990s and growth in the kink community (especially online,) the authors went back and built upon their original work. Dossie and Janet (they refer to each other by first names so I hope they don’t mind if I do too,) are writing from the perspectives of a Bottom and a Top, respectively – although both authors have switched roles. It’s a nice, short, easy read, especially compared to some of the more theoretical books I’ve been slogging through. It only took a few days to finish cover to cover and about 1 single day to re-read.The Kindle version has 1656 locations, which translates to about 200 pages in print. I rarely used the highlighter & note taking features of the Kindle this time, although I did toy with the text-to-speech feature at a few juicy passages… While talking via webcam with my boyfriend. Mostly though, I simply went “With the flow” while I was reading.

The primary audience of The New Bottoming Book is bottoms, and anyone who is thinking about bottoming. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry – the authors define many BDSM terms throughout, which is great because I’d be lost otherwise. Dossie and Janet have a liberal definition of what they consider BDSM. “If the people directly involved in any given scene or activity agree that what they’re doing is BDSM, it is” (location 212.) That means that no one can tell you that what you’re doing isn’t “Real” – you and your partner get to decide. It doesn’t necessarily have to look like anything – this is a valuable lesson for anyone who’s struggling with the rigid rules of what mainstream sex is “Supposed” to look like. And whenever you perform BDSM, that’s a “Scene.” BDSM is synonymous with leathersex, and leathersex is “An activity in which one partner consciously, consensually relinquishes control to another in at least one of four areas: movement, behavior, sensation or emotion” (location 108). This exchange of power & control is temporary and all parties involved may set limits by mutual agreement. Dossie and Janet talk about the concept of “Power-with” vs. “Power-over.”

“Most of our culture’s systems run on power-over, with sexism, racism and militarism being some ugly examples. Power-over means that a person sees his or her power as the ability to control others, and thus always sees this power as relative, either greater or lesser than other people’s power” (location 266) … “Power-with is based on the idea that we can all become more powerful by supporting each other in being more powerful” (location 274)

So one of the main themes to understand about BDSM is that it’s about playing with power. The toys and roles used by participants are tools to feeling powerful, which is a reward in and of itself. (Gives new meaning to the old slogan for the Super Nintendo… “Now you’re playing with power. Super power.” Remember that? Best damn console ever…)

A bottom is “Someone who has the ability to eroticize or otherwise enjoy some sensations or emotions – such as pain, helplessness, powerlessness and humiliation – that would be unpleasant in another context” (location 89). Bottoms and the verb form “To bottom” have many synonyms, and you can perform bottoming roles without identifying exclusively as a bottom. Bottoms are the focus of the book, but I have no doubt that Tops – counterparts to bottoms – would benefit from reading as well. Tops “Can eroticize giving someone an experience that would be unpleasant in real-world interactions” (location 98) and likewise have many synonyms.

Speaking of synonyms and language – I noticed that several negative terms were used in reclaimatory fashion, particularly “Pervert.” The authors switch back & forth between masculine & feminine gender pronouns all the time. However there is also some ablist language re: mental illness – “Crazy” is explicitly used twice (not reclaimatory.)

For someone already experienced in BDSM, I’m sure much of the information in The New Bottoming Book will be basic 101-level review – an experienced person will already know about many of the principles and terms the authors talk about. It’s possible that experienced players will have already read The Bottoming Book. As someone who has basically zero real-world experience with BDSM though, I genuinely need that 101 level introduction and found it helpful. I’m so vanilla, I like to eat vanilla frosting straight out of the can and pour Kahlua French Vanilla over vanilla ice cream while listening to Vanilla Ice & Milli Vanilli. But I can be open minded…

Early on in the book, the authors state that The New Bottoming Book is not meant to be used as a step-by-step manual for how to be a good bottom in BDSM. This surprised me, since I had seen it recommended elsewhere – I expected it to be a how-to book. And there are sections and chapters that talk about how to do BDSM – almost the entire second half of the book is dedicated to describing various scenes. But the how-to descriptions are brief. It’s great for generating ideas and helpful pointers but there aren’t any diagrams of how to tie someone up in rope bondage, for example. In fact there are no illustrations save for a small Phil Foglio-esque happy person on the cover. (It’s not actually by Phil Foglio. I think… it’s copyright “Fish.” I don’t know who Fish is.)

Nonetheless, some of the ideas in the book go over my head. It’s not because of technical jargon or academic ivory towers I have to scale. I think the writing overall is accessible to almost everyone, and peppered throughout with plenty of positive affirmation. While not heavily technical nor theoretical, the writing style is nonetheless very philosophical. The book talks about the philosophy of bottoming, the motives behind it, the mindset, the rewards. If you do not understand why someone would choose to bottom, this book may help fill in the gaps in your knowledge. The New Bottoming Book talks a lot about why people bottom (and top,) but there’s not a lot of concrete hard facts, scientific laws or statistics provided. (A quick PubMed search reveals that there are some BDSM peer-reviewed studies… There were probably fewer at the time of printing though.)
For example, the authors discuss the rush of endorphins that probably comes from careful use of intense sensations, including pain. I say “Probably” because Dossie and Janet disclose, “At least, that’s what we think happens: this is a theory that fits our experience, and the medical establishment is very unlikely to subject this to scientific research, so we just have to believe in our own sensations” (location 1126).

I feel that sometimes Dossie and Janet were writing as though the reader already knew what the authors were talking about. Although the authors make it clear that all are welcome to join the BDSM community of their own free will, I sometimes felt left out for my lack of experience. I get the impression that The New Bottoming Book was written mostly for those who already had an draw to BDSM and who have already established what might be considered BDSM fantasies. But I don’t know where “Bottom space” (location 217) and “The forever place” (location 935) are and I’ve never been put in a trance. You had to have been there…

I’ve never been there before. For example, the authors sometimes compare their bottoming experience to flight. And they do not mean flying while seated in coach on a long plane trip cross-country – they mean mentally, the feeling of free flight as in a dream.
What was that Sandman line? Anybody else here read that series? Dream is talking and he goes, “If you do not climb, you will not fall. This is true. But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall?” Todd Farber replies, “Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.”
I remain earthbound. For now…

I’m coming from a position where BDSM is not an intrinsic drive for me – it’s something that I was told about later in life and am curious of now. I think I could get into this. My only other exposure to written BDSM material was the Claiming of Sleeping Beauty – an erotic BDSM novel that bored me to tears. I remember reading it years ago (I was still in high school and all my goth friends had read it) and being sorely disappointed. I was expecting literary pornography and got something else. I never bothered reading the other two novels in the series, not wanting to waste more money on something that didn’t do anything for me sexually.
In contrast, I’ve heard some activists talk about how their attraction to BDSM and kink is a variation of sexual orientation. This is something I’m actively building an interest in.

Yet I am not too worried about whether my newly budding interest in BDSM will make me any better or worse at it than anyone else. I’m new so of course it’ll take time & practice to figure out how, if and where BDSM will fit into my sex life. And I can understand why some of those sexuality activists and experts mentioned above offered BDSM as a suggestion in the first place – the way it’s described by Dossie and Janet makes it sound relaxed and flexible, yet ethical. Consent and choice are very important concepts to good BDSM players, as they should be to any good lovers. BDSM is a means to lowering physical and emotional barriers and thus experiencing intense intimacy. The trade-off is increased vulnerability and risk for the duration of the scene. That’s why it’s so important to negotiate limits and duration before starting a scene.

The authors make recommendations to stay safe and minimize your risk of getting hurt physically and emotionally. You don’t have to surrender all of your power over to a top all at once and certainly you don’t have to do so permanently. It’s okay to take small steps. And it’s very important to communicate candidly and frequently. And if something does go wrong during a scene, it’s okay to stop what you’re doing, usually by speaking a safeword. A violation after a safewording isn’t an extension of a BDSM scene – it’s abuse.

And, unless you want to, you don’t even need to have sex as part of a BDSM scene. It’s possible to keep genital stimulation off the table completely and still experience pleasure in a BDSM scene. This is very important to me, as right now I would definitely need to keep any and all vaginal penetration/insertion off the table when engaged in BDSM.

Speaking of what you want, the authors make it clear that you should want to get something out of BDSM. You’re not doing this just to please a top, unless pleasing that top is what pleases you most. What you want may be something obvious like an orgasm or something more intangible, like to explore negative emotions. Or you may want to be praised for doing a good job, or to feel an endorphin rush. And it’s okay to stop mid-scene if you’re having a problem. If the problem can be easily resolved, then you can pick up where you left off or take a break if it cannot be readily addressed.

So once you know what you want in the end, how do you go about getting it? The authors talk about making a BDSM checklist. This is a list of any and all kinky activity you can think of and deciding whether you have any interest in doing such activities. You can write it down from the top of your head, but there premade checklists lists ready for use online. (I still find it amusing that one of those lists includes vaginal dilators, since dilators are so hum-drum and clinical to me.) You can then compare lists with other people and come to mutual agreement on what you’d both enjoy. If you and your partner do not have much in common on those lists, you’re allowed to decline playing with them at all.

The authors strongly recommend joining the BDSM community, but it’s not clear to me from this book whether it’s sufficent to partake solely of the online community. One shortcoming of the book is that the authors don’t talk about is the risks of coming “Out” as kinky publicly. If you get caught doing BDSM, it can be a whole big stink especially if you’re a politician, for example. Another risk not touched upon is that, although the authors mention at several points that some issues would be better worked out in a professional therapeutic environment, not all licensed therapists are kink-friendly.

One chapter talks all about meeting new people, checking their references and using the internet; unfortunately this section of the book feels so outdated it’s almost quaint. That’s not the author’s fault though – technology just kept on chuggin’ along after the book was published. Luckily for me, I don’t think I need to look very far to find a good top.My partner has an interest in topping, and I’m fine with that – but I told him the only way I’m going to play with him is if he reads the companion, The New Topping Book! I did my homework, now you do yours!

At the end of the book, I understand why other authors and bloggers have placed BDSM on the table as an option for sexual activity, but questions remain. I have a better understanding of bottoming but not topping or switching – which is fine since I can read the companion Topping Book for that. But I still lack real-world experience, and it’s going to take practice to make perfect. The New Topping Book does not explicitly address feminist critiques of BDSM. Since I still lack that real-world experience, overall I have to give The New Bottoming Book a final grade of, “Middle.” Yeah we’re not using a number or grade letter scale today. It just feels middle to me. I’ll have a better idea of what the authors are talking about after I see it in person.

So who might benefit from reading The New Bottoming Book? I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in or currently involved with BDSM. I would suggest to anyone who is not necessarily interested in BDSM but nonetheless curious about it. I would suggest it to people experiencing sexual difficulties – maybe not so much for every single activity but for the sense of acceptance and creativity throughout the book, and for the frequent, consistent affirmations that yes, it’s okay to do this thing that you want (so long as you take steps to do so safely,) and yes it’s okay to not match a mainstream definition of sex.
One caveat though is that, some folks are triggered by descriptions of BDSM from having experienced abuse. People with a history of abuse may still be able to take something positive away from The New Bottoming Book, but should proceed with caution. If you are not getting a benefit from it at all, then in the spirit of the book, I would say it’s okay to put it down and do something else.

But you know what, I’m not sure a book alone is the only place I can get BDSM knowledge from… this is the whole wide internet. Maybe before I dive headfirst into the BDSM pool, I should check in with some more experienced advocates. I have a lot of questions left to ask.

Stay tuned.

Interesting posts, weekend of 5/16/10

05/16/2010 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Dear internet, I had nothing of value to contribute this week. I’m still working on a draft book review/report/first impressions and then I have more drafts followed by more drafts. Writing (and everything else) is coming slow this week, since I’m not feeling too great.

Don’t forget, I’m also on Twitter now. I don’t fully understand exactly what I’m supposed to do with it, but it’s there.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction. Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sexual health and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive. For this reason, Guest Posters requesting to remain anonymous will also be taken seriously.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Comments made by new e-mail addresses here are auto-screened before going live, so if you want to stay anon use an e-mail address that you haven’t used here before.

Now then, on with the weekly blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

Something strange is going down re: The Pill, or rather I should say media coverage of hormonal contraception… What I mean by that is, I think that, for the last couple of years, The Pill has been an untouchable subject in women’s health care. For example, I noticed that for all her criticism of Viagra and medicine for sexual dysfunction, there was a conspicuous absense of a critical analysis of The Pill in Dr. Leonore Tiefer’s Sex is not a Natural Act. I wondered why that was, why was The Pill not subjected to a social construction analysis? It had a very strong impact on women’s reproductive choice and sexual expression, especially in the US.
It’s undeniable that it may cause side effects, and some of those side effects are serious. Certainly I experienced side effects and I’ve talked to other women who also noticed problems after going on the pill. But not everyone will experience side effects; I know a woman who’s been on the same brand of birth control for almost 20 years with no noticeable problems. Other times, chronic conditions conflict with one another, and it’s worth it to stay on hormonal birth control as an accommodation even if it is causing problems in other areas; for example, endometriosis and vulvodynia.
Some authors do criticize The Pill in feminist & sexuality texts, but with a heavy-handedness that even I find too prescriptive. You have to be very careful about the way in which you critique The Pill. For example, I was not fond of the following description in Sex Tips for Girls – this is one of the first, if not THE first, sex book I ever bought, towards the end of high school. And it was in the humor section and it’s mostly out of date because it was originally printed in the 1980s but it was a stepping stone and this is what author Cynthia Heimel said,

“At first glance, birth-control pills seem like a great idea. You pop one in your mouth each morning and never get pregnant. What could be more adoreable? But don’t take them. Just don’t, that’s all… [She goes over a long list of like every symptom that HBC could ever cause as reasons not to use The Pill,] …Also, lots of girls who take the pill get hairs on their chins. Long, coarse, dark hairs that are singularly unattractive and stupid” (p. 48)

Was not fond of scaring girls and women into using her preferred method of contraception (the author used a diaphragm at the time of publication.) Not to keen on the bit about making readers feel insecure about the way they look. And even though I had bad side effects while using the pill, I can’t get behind Inga Muscio’s comparison of its use to “Napalming” the body in Cunt (p. 61). Amanda Marcotte disapproves of Laura Eldridge’s way of critiquing The Pill.

But last week was the 50th anniversary of the FDA’s approval of oral hormonal contraception. And some of the history behind the origins of HBC as we know it was brought to my attention, and it ain’t all pretty. Bianca I. Laureano (I linked to one of her articles last week too) wrote up, Why I’m Not Celebrating the Pill, which looks at the history of exploiting Puerto Rican women in its production.

Studies are coming out which support anecdotal evidence (skip the comments!) provided by women who have said for years that their sexual appetites decreased while on the pill. This particular news article isn’t ideal though… some issues I have with this article include: I wish the author had focused on the pill and left Flibanserin out of the equation. Yes I know you’re probably trying to stir up marketing and controversy so you have new material for future articles but I’d have preferred to go more in depth with The Pill in and of itself at this time… Also I’m trying to confirm one of the interviewee’s claims in that article. K. Wallen said (and then author Catherine Elton finishes up,)

“We know that long-term relationships increase the risk of female sexual dysfunction — a condition easily treated with a new partner, which is many times more effective than any drug or hormone,”Wallen says (although it has been shown to be true in medical research).

I’m interested in finding the source(s) in medical literature Elton and Wallen are referring to. If you find it, please let me know.

On top of this, let’s not forget one of the doctors interviewed by 20/20 briefly mentioned the tentative link between hormonal birth control in some vulvodynia patients, which really could use more study.

Maybe I should look elsewhere for a different writing style but you see I saw that Time article via Feminste which I read on a regular basis. And that’s a post in which some commenters leave female sexual dysfunction “In quotes” for some reason. Actually some of the comments on this Feministe thread are not as bad as I expected. Somewhat surprised that there weren’t more folks claiming FSD is always 100% fake and manufactured.

And that’s all I got regarding The Pill right now. Very surprised to see that maybe it’s not so untouchable of a subject after all.

Actually scratch that, on second thought it’s not all I have regarding The Pill. There was a series of posts on Disability and Birth Control at Deeply Problematic.

Just in case any of you are now saying, “But what about birth control for men?!” I have just the thing for you: Ultrasound as male birth control?

Edit: I don’t know how long this has been there, but I saw this how-to guide on Babeland last night. From Painful Sex to Pleasurable Sex. I put it in the “Interesting posts” category on the sidebar because I think it’s very interesting to see a well-known sex toy retailer acknowledge that it’s not so easy for all of us.

PCOS – A post about living with polycystic ovary syndrome, from the perspective of a photographer who is well aware of beauty standards and the symptoms PCOS has on her own skin.
Fibromyalgia Awareness Day 2010 - Contains some links and a video (no transcript available @ this time.)
May is also Multiple Chemical Sensitivity month. (Via FWD)
Guest Post by Tasha Fierce: A Matter of Strength? Meds Vs. No Meds - I don’t have much constructive to say other than I really liked this post and I think you should look at it.

President Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagen to be the next member of the Supreme Court. Her work, positions on issues and personal business (unfortunately) are being investigated.  Pres. Obama to nominate Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court via Feministing and Initial Thoughts on Elena Kagan and What A Progressive Judge Looks Like via Harpyness. At the end of April, Diane Lucas wrote about racism in the Harvard Law School. Kagan has been involved with racist and sexist disputes at HLS.
Also political this week, surprising news about former first lady Laura Bush. Former First Lady Laura Bush: In favor of legal abortion and gay marriage – Whaaat? What took you so long to say so?

Science says! – Translating science into lay terms to make a good story and then having to go back and re-translate it back into science because that’s not what it really said. Don’t forget to stop by and look at Holly’s Cosmocking: June ’10! Featuring the line, “[Sperm are] like little Roombas, they can figure out when to turn.”

Don’t Tell Us – Gizmodo’s response to a Jezebel article about an upcoming Hollaback iPhone app. I’m actually very much looking forward to this app though I hope I never have to use it.

Top 10 Myths About Immigration – Something which would impel one of my not-very-close-friends to immediately start his big ol’ truck up and come banging on my door with a pitchfork and torch if I posted this link on FaceBook. (I’m thinking of un-friending him but I find his statuses simultaneously amusing and appalling.) Via Feministing.

The Colour of Beauty: White Girls That Are Painted Black – on racism in the fashion industry.

Hazarding a New Definition of Virginity? - Exploring the definitions of virginity & how heterocentric it usually is.

Vintage Video Sexism: Kissing is for Whores – Wow. This is very paternalistic and slut-shaming. This video puts a lot of pressure on young men and women to remain virgins until marriage (so what if they don’t marry? What if they’re not hetero?) and then of course you’re suddenly supposed to drop your virginity and automatically know what to do…  (What if one or both of them have problems when they do go to have sex? What if they’re still not ready?)Plus, oh my god, the music in the background, oh my god. You know, I can get over the dated look and hair and fashion but bad audio just ruins everything for me.

17 May is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – And tomorrow is May 17!

I’m sure there’s more…

Interesting posts, weekend of Mother’s Day 2010

05/09/2010 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, how do I turn comments off on Yahoo! News articles? I like to cruise the Yahoo news but I hate the comments that appear beneath the articles. I try look away but it’s like a train wreck.

Also, I’m on Twitter now! How do I do a twitter link? It’s just like a regular link, right? Anyway, look for me @femswfsd. I sure am lonely on Twitter and could use some new friends on there, because I have … 2 twitter friends right now. One of them’s Figleaf and the other is a stranger. Look at how much Twitter influence I have on the web. Harnessing the power of Twitter to change the world since May 2010. I don’t even know how to make a good tweet. All I want to do is Tweet about what I just ate for lunch. I’m too verbose for that platform but I’ll try it… Or maybe I’ll post real-time updates of whatever post I’m working on and whatever media/journalism/blog post has infuriated me that day. I’ll try not to start any big TwitterWars.

I’m still real busy with meatspace and family crisis stuff & it’s pretty draining so I’m still expecting to have some irregularity in posting activity sometime shortly. Looks like summertime will be crunch time.

I’m reading a book right now and I’d like to write up a review of it when I’m finished. Don’t worry! I won’t be as nitpicky with this next book review as I was with Sex is not a Natural Act. I may be able to start up another continuing series after I finish the book though – not about the book per se but about the topic it covers – so we’ll see where it goes from there.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction. Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sexual health and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive. For this reason, Guest Posters requesting to remain anonymous will also be taken seriously.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Comments made by new e-mail addresses here are auto-screened before going live, so if you want to stay anon use an e-mail address that you haven’t used here before.

Now then, on with the weekly blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

First up there were a bunch of articles about female sexual dysfunction and women & girls’ sexual health.

Over at RH Reality Check, Bianca I. Laureano posted (VIDEO) A Review Of Orgasm, Inc. It’s a pretty in-depth review in praise of Liz Canner’s documentary and in condemnation of the medical model of FSD. I like the questions that Laureano wrote at the end of the review, although I’m still not convinced that a purely social construction model of sexual health & dysfunction is the best & only response to sexual medicine. I haven’t watched the film yet but obviously, eventually I won’t have any choice anymore. Unless one of the readers here has watched it and wants to write up their own review?

Why am I not entirely convinced that a purely social construction model is the best and only defense against Big Pharma? One of the reasons is because I keep running into stuff like this: Women Have Lots of Casual Sex — Get Over It – Oh well that doesn’t sound too bad of a title, right? And for the most part it’s an okay post content wise; except for the survey it talks about wasn’t particularly rigorous in the science department due to the way in which it was conducted so it probably can’t be generalized to the population at large. But the article contains this rather unfortunate line:

Unfortunately, most of the research on women and sex these days seems to focus on “sexual dysfunction.” There’s little research, says Wentland, on women who actually like sex, and what little there is, is hopelessly out of date and doesn’t reflect what’s actually going on out there. So she did her own.

Yes it’s so unfortunate that there’s any research about sexual dysfunction because all people with sexual dysfunction automatically dislike sex, always hated it, will always hate it and so their feedback is completely worthless. I mean obviously people who have for example pain with sex or who have difficultly orgasming automatically dislike all sex, amirite or amirite? Those two groups, people who like sex and people with sexual dysfunctions are totally mutually exclusive and there is absolutely no movement or overlap between the two categories so who cares about people with sexual dysfunction, research on sexual dysfunction is a total waste of time and will never do anybody any good ever. Either you work right or you don’t.
BTW in case you couldn’t tell the preceding paragraph was completely sarcastic and I don’t mean a word of what I just said. That line, why is that even in this article. Why would Wentland even say that.

But wait, there’s more – an anonymous tipster passed this article along to me. Polly Vernon watched Orgasm, Inc. and was so blown away she wrote a review & analysis of it up. The race to discover Viagra for women – I like seriously don’t even have the energy or the peace of mind to write an in-depth analysis of this one because like all these articles have thrown me into rage-rage-rage reaction mode. But in the mean time here’s some of my initial impressions of Vernon’s impressions: I’m getting the impression that Vernon doesn’t believe that FSD exists for anyone ever and that to her “Disease” and “Illness” = bad, bad, bad. You don’t want to think of yourself as chronically ill! Sucks for those women who actually have a bona fide medical condition that might be classified as “Disease” or “illness” or as chronic, I guess. Of course it sucks for the women who do not have anything that can be verified medically too. I think it’s very interesting that in that article Canner herself claims that she believes that a few women probably do have FSD but this article only does not explicitly state who’s FSD is valid and why. The only clue we have here as to who’s FSD is valid and why is mention of postmenopausal women in Europe who use the Intrinsa patch (not approved for use in the USA.)

[Trigger warnings] – The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement re: FGC in the USA. In the USA, FGC is illegal and the AAP has until now discouraged any genital surgery on girls that was not medically necessary. If you will scroll down to p. 1092, you will see some paragraphs saying that some pediatricians working in areas with large immigrant populations are worried about the criminalization of all FGC in the US. Their fear is that families heavily invested in the ritual will do anything to see their daughters go through FGC, and that as an alternative it might be safer for doctors to offer a (what they think is) relatively harmless incision.
As someone who has actually had genital surgery herself, I felt that First, Do No Harm was the safest place for me to read about the AAP’s change of heart. It’s all relative of course but what I mean is that the surgery I had, I’ve seen other people describe it, too, as “Mutilation.” Even though it wasn’t, and I don’t feel mutilated or disfigured, and the person who did the surgery was a surgeon, not a mutant-maker. So Melissa made it clear not to use that term in the comments thread there. But like that surgery I had, it was without a doubt one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s a big deal! And I was an adult at the time, an adult in pain. This change of policy would impact little girls. But my clitoris remains exactly the same as it ever was. What are the risks of this surgical nick? Clitorodynia and scar tissue is a real thing, you know. But it’s not all about me…
This post from Feministing was okay too but maybe skip the comments and maybe the blog post title isn’t entirely accurate. Female Genital Cutting Added to Possible Procedures via American Association of Pediatricians.
There’s voices I’m noticing missing from these blog posts, that is the voices of girls & women who’ve undergone FGC. Right now these conversations are taking place between folks who have probably never experienced anything like FGC. Which can be a big problem, in light of the recent Clitoraid controversy.
EqualityNow is urging the AAP to retract their most recent statement and points out that this “Ritual nick” offered by a doctor would still count as Type IV cutting which offers no health benefits.
Two rules for if you want to comment here on this blog post roundup about the AAP policy: Keep in mind that this blog’s very own author has experienced a medical vulvovaginal surgery, so please use the term FGC rather than FGM. Because come on I’m standing right here. Second, this isn’t the time nor place to bring up male circumcision. Thank you for your cooperation.

Today is Mother’s Day and Renee has a challenging post at Global Comment about it. Mother’s Day: What are we really celebrating?
Coincidentally, today is also the 50th anniversary of the FDA’s approval of The Pill. There was a big roundup of posts about that at RH Reality Check.

Huge eco-disaster in the Gulf Coast; an oil rig exploded, killed workers and then the oil has been spewing out for days and days. Old Feminist wrote about some of the cleanup possibilities.
Is there anything you can do immediately, in addition to long-term working to reduce your own dependence on oil? Actually, there may just be… Got Hair? Consider donating it to A Matter of Trust. They make hair mats that can be used to clean up oil spills!

Nashville is drowning – Inland US is struggling with major, deadly floods too.

Jeans or short skirt, we still wanted it – [Trigger warning] Short post but it addresses a double-bind faced by women who have experienced sexual assault. In this case, the jeans part refers to an Australian case where a sexual assault victim’s perpetrator was found not guilty by reason of her jeans were too tight.

Gynecologist Practiced Medicine for 9 Years, Despite Multiple Rape Allegations From Patients – [Trigger warning] This is terrifying. A gynecologist sexually assaulted, molested & harassed patients for years. And there were complaints against him, but nothing was done about it.

UK Election (Not Quite) Final Results – There were elections in the UK this week. There isn’t a >50% majority this time.

Nope, that’s full blown misogyny – The Catholic church wants to investigate nuns on the grounds of pro-feminist sentiment. What?

An Open Letter to Ms Magazine Blog - Anna calls out Ms Magazine on their ablist language & assumptions, especially after they put out a video where they claimed to totally care about PWD.

Why is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy on Cinco de Mayo? - Not just a coincidence, this was a deliberate choice by National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Awareness – One of the overlapping conditions that Jeanne lives with.

“Slut Panel” postmortem: Shame, shame, go away – You can be labeled a “Slut” in the most negative sense whether you’ve actually had sexual activity or not. It’s a perspective thing. Unfortunately you can be shamed for being a virgin for “Too long,” too. Virgin/Whore dichotomy.

Old and Improved: Long-Term Sex and the Myth of the Slow Decline – A refreshing perspective on the adage that with age and familiarity comes decline in sexual performance & satisfaction.

10 Myths About Sex and Virginity- Debunked – Another sex-positive and refreshing perspective on common cultural (in the US at least) sex adages. Very nice.

How Justin Long Confronted The “Third Rail” Of Interracial Porn Racism…And Survived – A very interesting post about interracial pornography, starring an essay by performer Justin Long.

Cosmocking: May ’10! – Holly does this month’s Cosmo breakdown. It’s a big one and a good one.

I’m sure there’s more…

Picture post – Antique prophylactics [NSFW]

05/05/2010 at 6:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments
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If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then I believe this week’s picture-heavy post should just about cover my weekly quota. However, I must warn you: The following post will contain pictures of antique prophylactics – that means, old condoms & contraception devices. (I am deliberately choosing the word “Prophylactics” instead of “condoms” because the former is an outdated, antique term. Much like what I am about to show you today.) While there are no full frontal nudity pictures in this post, the content & some of the box art is definitely Not Safe For Work. Let me repeat that: NSFW. All links and pictures in the post should likewise be considered NSFW. For this reason, I’m going to try using the ‘more’ tag and (if I’ve done this right) you’ll need to click to continue on. The full content should still appear in your RSS feeder if you’re using one. Thanks!

Continue Reading Picture post – Antique prophylactics [NSFW]…

Interesting posts, weekend of 5/2/10

05/02/2010 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, I watched Twilight: New Moon and Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed in the last few days. They’re both okay… neither is as good as the originals. New Moon has so much angst in it. I thought Spider-Man had a lot of angst; I was surprised by how much more angst one movie could contain. Well I enjoyed the shirtless young men running around in New Moon anyway ;) One thing I will give the Twilight series credit for, it’s pretty to look at. The greens in the background are so saturated. It’s like the opposite of what the Matrix did with blues & reds. A few months ago I wrote up a movie review of Ginger Snaps 1 but I don’t think I’m going to do the same for the sequel. Unleashed was pretty weird, especially in the beginning. I thought it got better after Bridgette and Ghost ran away from the rehab clinic, so it ended better than it started. It still felt more clumsy & careless than the first film though. I caught a few minutes of the 3rd movie in the series, Ginger Snaps Back, on Sci-Fi channel yesterday (or is it Sy-Fy now?) but it looked meh.

Life is still pretty hectic for me so just another heads up on possible irregular posting ahead. Also, attn: The next post I expect to put up will contain some images that are NSFW. I’m going to try to use WordPress’s truncate feature so that you need to click through to view the whole post from the main page, but the whole thing will likely appear in your RSS feeder. Just fyi so you can decide when it’s the best time for you to view the content. To give you a sneak peak of what to expect, the tentative title of the blog post is “Antique prophylactics.” Because I need to post something lite while I regroup. After that we’ll see where it goes from there.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction. Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sexual health and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive. For this reason, Guest Posters requesting to remain anonymous will also be taken seriously.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Comments made by new e-mail addresses here are auto-screened before going live, so if you want to stay anon use an e-mail address that you haven’t used here before.

Now then, on with the weekly blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

The US political climate is still a hostile, dangerous mess, to put it softly. There have been comments, actions and  laws passed that I and many folks find appalling.
In response to some of these acts, a scathing commentary was posted to FaceBook by Tim Wise: Imagine: Protest, Insurgency and the Workings of White Privilege (via Mandolin.)
Last week, Lt. Dan Choi, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen plus four more military veterans were arrested when they handcuffed themselves to a White House fence in protest of DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy.) Sandeen wrote an open letter to President Obama describing her experience while in custody, President Obama: A Transgender Veteran Is Not An ‘’Impersonator,’’ ‘’It,’’ Or ‘’Shim’’
The state of Arizona passed a law which will require police officers to check the immigration status of suspected undocumented immigrants. Supposedly race alone is not sufficient to stand up as a probable cause to run a check, but when you read about it and see some of the other steps Arizona is taking – yeah it’s racist alright. To get you started, try Arizona Immigration Law: A Roundup by Cara. Don’t believe the racism charge? Maybe you should check in with Now Republicans Want to Microchip Undocumented Workers. A few days ago, another measure in Arizona went to the governor, this one puts heavy restrictions on education. Arizona’s hateful climate gets uglier. On May 1, in response to these laws, rallies were held nationwide which attracted thousands of participants. There have also been calls for a Boycott! of Arizona, by not supporting businesses in the state, tourism & sports for example.

There’s also been overt racism coming from one Stephanie Grace of the Harvard Law School. She don’t know why she’s getting called out on this? You don’t know how many things are wrong with what you are saying and how that kind of attitude is a sign of the culture at Harvard (and unfortunately outside of academia as well)? Jill and guest blogger Diane Lucas over at Feministe broke it down for her.

May 1 was also Blogging Against Disabilism Day hosted by Diary of a Goldfish. You can see the participants listed here. Don’t know what disablism is? This post answers that question, Blogging Against Disablism Day: What Is Disablism? (The term can be used interchangeably with ablism which is heard more in the US.)

What happens when you don’t like what the doctor orders? – It’s okay to tell a doctor “No” and ask for an explanation when they tell you to do something. (On the other hand I seem to recall reading posts where doctors went over patients’ heads – like, when giving birth (birth rape) or during emergency situations when you’re not able to consent to procedures. It’s okay to say no but sometimes they don’t listen…)
Also from F-Word this week: Abortion: A Polish Perspective – Interesting post about the history of abortion in Poland within the last two decades. The laws have become very restrictive. The number of legal abortions has dropped but illegal (and potentailly more dangerous because of that) abortion continues. Ohio recently passed a similar law, the governor tried to veto it (though only because it made no exceptions for victims of rape & incest)

Reproductive rights within the US are becoming more restricted too, Chip, chip, chip… A law in Florida will require that women receiving an abortion receive (whether they want to or not) an ultrasound, and pay for the experience with their own money. There’s similar legislation in Oklahoma, Oklahoma Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto on Abortion Laws, which will force women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound whether they want it or not and will protect doctors who withhold information about the developing fetus.

Tinker … bill? Disney fairies get a sex change – About children modifying in-game avatars to go around strict gender roles in a Disney video game that for the longest time only allowed female avatars. There’s a male character in the game now though. Via Violet Blue (NSFW)

Rutgers lab studies female orgasm through brain imaging – Rutgers University uses an fMRI to map what happens to the brain during orgasm. The journalist who wrote this article volunteered. (I thought you had to remain still during an MRI? And what a bummer that you can’t bring metal into the machine – that means no vibrators so I guess I would make a very bad volunteer.) There’s some sensationalistic elements to this article though, and skip the comments. Also via Violet Blue (and still NSFW)

I thought this post about BDSM & chronic pain might be of particular interest to readers, it’s NSFW though so heads up. BDSM: Pain Just Isn’t Pain, When You’re Dealing with Chronic Pain – [NSFW] this one also addresses the stigma of BDSM, like, going to the doctor after a consensual scene.

[Untitled post; about braille erotica for the blind] – [NSFW] – The raised, tangible images contained in Tactile Mind don’t get censored in news outlets for some reason, whereas if these were photographs or drawings they probably would be. Why is that? Via FWD.

PTSD and Healing After Sexual Trauma – [Trigger warning] This isn’t an official guide but it’s steps that Lauren found helpful & would suggest.

At What Point Is A Rapist No Longer Responsible For The Harm Caused By Rape? – [Trigger warning] Re-framing the question, “When is a sexual assault victim responsible for helping herself?”

Guest Post: The Evolution of Cosmopolitan Magazine – a very interesting retrospective of the history of Cosmo magazine. Via WM.

I’m sure there’s more…

BADD 2k10 – sexual dysfunction as disability

05/01/2010 at 7:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2010

This is my first time participating in Blogging Against Disabilism Day. For this post, I’d like to take a deeper look at an idea that’s been touched upon a few times on this blog before. That is, looking at sexual dysfunction as a disability in and of itself. I though that for this year’s BADD event, we could flesh out this idea and see where it takes us.

Looking at sexual dysfunction as a disability is a very a new idea to me. For the record, this isn’t my original idea – first I heard it from Flora, then Ms. Sexability. (Flora also contributed to this post, so keep reading.) My other hint that there is openness to this idea (at least on the internet) should have been when FWD’s was willing to include this blog on its blogroll.

The other established & more famous ways of looking at sexual dysfunctions are through the medical model and the social construction model. These two models are in conflict, and I believe that they both have positives and negative features. To describe these models very briefly,

The medical model relies on the 4-stage human sexual response cycle (excitement, plateau, orgasm, resolution) established by Masters & Johnson. Disruptions to this cycle are framed as a sexual health problem in an individual, so long as that individual feels personal distress due to the problem. If the individual is bothered by the disruptions, then medical intervention may be warranted. Treatment for sexual dysfunctions may be drugs, devices, therapy, or something else involving a trained professional. In practice getting that treatment isn’t always so easy, and this model doesn’t do a good job of looking at social forces like the individual’s relationship and cultural pressure to stay sexually pure. There is also the potential for abuse of this model, particularly by drug companies, and the medical model tends to treat male sexuality as the default without challenging the origins of what forces shape male sexuality.

The social construction model frames sexual dysfunction (especially female sexual dysfunction) as the product of cultural and relationship problems, like society’s skewed views on sex, women and medicine. If these social problems can be addressed on a larger scale, then theoretically there wouldn’t be many dysfunctions at all because a wider variety of sexual expressions, activities and outcomes would be accepted as on the broad spectrum of normal. So, fewer individuals would experience personal distress. However this model gives off a very strong anti-medicine vibe, and in practice I’ve seen experts and laypersons frame FSD as fake, going so far as to rake people who live with sexual dysfunctions (and their partners) across the coals. Proponents of the social construction model often frame FSD as newly invented and “Fake,” which carries an implicit accusation against women who experience sexual dysfunctions as being foolish, gullible lying fakers.

I’m hoping that looking at sexual dysfunction as a disability will present an opportunity explore similarities and intersections between disability and sexual dysfunction. I also hope that doing so will address some of the shortcomings of both of these models while retaining their positive, potentially helpful features.

However since sexual dysfunction as disability is so new to me, it’s not fully fleshed out yet in my mind. A 1999 Boston medical conference on female sexual dysfunction had many doctors attend to refine & direct the direction of the medical model of FSD for future treatments. Dr. Leonore Tiefer had a group of people to assist with developing the New View of Women’s Sexual Health Problems. I don’t have that kind of authority or manpower. I’m a blogger. I have a blog. I can’t do this alone. So, let’s blog.

For this post, I thought I would start by putting together a bullet point list of some areas to think about and explore. Bullet points because I’m still thinking. I’m open to constructive criticism in comments. (Plz do not be all asking me things like “Well I experience X sexual problem, are you saying I’m disabled?!?!” Because for one thing no I’m not and for another thing that is so not the point.)

Looking at Sexual Dysfunction as Disability

  • The most obvious reason I can think of to look at sexual dysfunction as a disability is for reasons of sexual and/or pelvic pain.
    • Chronic pain falls onto the broad spectrum of disability.
    • Women report feeling sexual and/or pelvic pain more frequently than men.
    • This may include vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis, clitorodynia, pelvic floor dysfunction, pudendal neuralgia, cancer, lichens sclerosus, complications from FGC or medical surgery and others. Not everyone who develops one or more of these problems will necessarily live with or be distressed by symptoms for life, and even for those that do it may be possible to manage symptoms. However, for many people, these can be chronic problems with no clear resolution.
  • It may also be possible to look at orgasm problems as related to disability, for example in the case of spinal cord injury or restless genital syndrome.
  • Additionally, it’s worth noting here that many patients with chronic pelvic pain deal with related, concurrent health problems. This happens frequently enough so that the National Vulvodynia Association is associated with the Overlapping Conditions Alliance.
    • According to the Vulvodynia Survival Guide, 69% of vulvodynia patients also reported IBS, 56% IC, 28% Hashimoto’s disease, 30% fibromyalgia, and 30% reported autoimmune/inflammatory diseases (Glazer, 36.) So sometimes it’s hard to separate one thing from another.
      • So there’s some intersection between chronic problems, disabilities and FSD.
      • In some cases the sexual health problems may be secondary to these other co-conditions, other times sexual health may be considered equally important, and other times there may be no other health problem. I, for example, do not have (that I currently know of) any of the above listed co-conditions sometimes seen in vulvodynia patients.
  • I don’t know if or where low libido and arousal problems would fit in with this model. Maybe as secondary to (though not necessarily less important than) other chronic health problems, if such a problem exists? But then what if no problem can be pinpointed? I don’t know about that either.
    • Low libido in and of itself is not necessarily a problem at all, neither is asexuality. These are healthy variations of normal.
      • The social construction model of sexual dysfunction is particularly critical of the pathologization of variations in libido.
    • Likewise, sexual orientation is widely varied and these variations are healthy. Certainly you can be be queer and have a disability, be queer and have a sexual dysfunction, or queer and living with a disability and sexual dysfunction at the same time, but queer is not a disability.
  • I don’t know if or where acute/temporary/transitory sexual problems that resolve with little or no intervention would fit in with this model.
  • Chronic pelvic pain is usually invisible to others so you may face the same dilemmas as PWD that are non-sexual in nature. Invisible disabilities; “Pass” as fully able-bodied
    • Passing is complicated due to the pain being located in a taboo area you’re not supposed to talk about in public and even in private it’s still not exactly dinner conversation
  • Some treatments for primary health problems can have sexual side effects.
    • Ex. SSRI’s for depression

The social model of disability and FSD

The social model of disability proposes that systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently) are the ultimate factors defining who is disabled and who is not in a particular society. It recognizes that while some people have physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychological variations, which may sometimes cause individual functional limitation or impairments, these do not have to lead to disability, unless society fails to take account of and include people regardless of their individual differences. The model does not deny that some individual differences lead to individual limitations or impairments, but rather that these are not the cause of individuals being excluded.

  • Society does not always do a good job making accommodations for people with disabilities; making accommodations would make impairments less disabling. (Ex. I have vision impairments, but with glasses (and surgery a long time ago) it’s not a big deal to me. So I am not visually disabled.)
    • In the case of chronic pelvic pain accommodation in daily life may mean something as simple as a pillow to sit on (without having to answer questions about why someone is carrying around a pillow in public)
    • Accommodation for a pelvic pain patient may mean something more complex like a special desk or chair (ex. a work station that does not put pressure on the pudental nerve) or frequent bathroom breaks
    • Sexual culture – if US culture were less intercourse-obsessed, I’d probably feel less pressure to perform intercourse and would feel more secure in my sexual identity and non-penetrative activities that I consistently enjoy and can perform without problems
  • Social model of disability still leaves room for medical intervention where appropriate
    • Do not force people with disabilities (PWD) into medical treatments they do not want

Potential Problems/Areas to Explore

  • A lot of people are not going to be comfortable considering themselves disabled due to sexual dysfunction
  • Both disability and sexual dysfunction are stigmatized in the media. It’s considered “Bad” to have either, or both.
    • Why does this stigma exist?
    • What are some sources of stigma and stereotypes?
    • Is there anything inherently “Wrong” with having a disability or sexual dysfunction?
  • The media
    • Relative invisibility of sexual dysfunctions
    • When sexual dysfunctions do appear, how are they depicted?
    • How are “Normal” sexual relations depicted?
  • The DSM-IV and soon-to-be DSM-V revision: What do they say about sexual dysfunction?
    • What does it mean that sexual dysfunction is classed in the diagnostic statistic manual of mental health?
    • What has the DSM-IV said about sexual dysfunction in the past?
  • Is there a hierarchy of what is considered a valid sexual dysfunction and what isn’t?
    • Are some sexual dysfunctions treated with a higher priority than others? Why or why not?
    • Are some individuals or groups of people who experience sexual dysfunction treated with a higher priority than others? Why or why not?
  • Disability & sexuality – PWD are de-sexualized; accessibility to sexuality resources may be limited; PWD are at increased risk of sexual abuse; PWD may also be fetishized

Things that make sexual dysfunction as disability hard to think about

  • It’s not easy to embrace the term FSD due to the history of female sexual dysfunction & hysteria
    • Ex. Freud & the vaginal orgasm, “Frigidity,” Victorian era, treatment for hysteria, hysterical paroxysm (orgasm) the DSM & homosexuality
  • Disability itself is still stigmatized
  • Current experts on sexual dysfunction
    • Who are they and what do they say about sexual dysfunction?
    • When Dr. Tiefer states for example, “What sickness befalls the person who avoids sex? What disability?” (Sex is Not a Natural Act, location 241) from what direction is sex looked at?
      • This quote also makes it quite hard to think about sexual dysfunction as a disability, even when it’s pain, which may be the reason for ‘sickness’ and avoiding sex.
  • The gender binary
    • The social construction model of sexual dysfunction tends to be more open to non-binary identified folks than the medical model
  • Risk of appropriation – is it even okay for me to think about this?
  • My own privilege – can’t talk for anybody else,
    • Are there any groups or individuals the disability model overlooks or arbitrarily sweeps in?
  • My utter lack of credibility & professionalism

As you can see, there are a few places where I’m asking more questions than I have answers for – because I don’t have all the answers. And in some places, I’ve left off with “I don’t know.” Because I seriously don’t know. You’ll also notice that I tend toward FSD in particular rather than the more general term sexual dysfunction, in large part because that’s what I have the most experience with.

Flora also had some points she wanted to touch upon re: sexual dysfunction as disability, and she hit upon several areas I missed:

  • Fear of disability as a factor in unwillingness to accept FSD and similar disorders as real, or desire to dismiss it as “in your head.”
    • Many non-disabled people use magical thinking about disability due to their fear of it, especially to invisible disabilities that are difficult to objectively prove the symptoms of– “if I don’t believe in it or that it can happen to me, it won’t.”
  • Absence of disability is a form of privilege, which is as true of FSD as any other disability.
    • Sex-positive feminists need to check their own privilege and consider whether their definitions of sex, sexual liberation, sex-positivity, etc, can embrace people with disabilities or are only for the non-disabled (it usually seems to be the latter, which is why I don’t read many sex positive feminist blogs).  Or only for people who are not disabled in certain ways (i.e. inability to have intercourse).
  • Fears about a “manufactured epidemic” of sexual dysfunction and whether there’s ever anything to this.
  • Role of partners (of any gender)– what is their responsibility?
    • Can “forgetting” a partner’s FSD or acting like it magically went away if your partner hasn’t mentioned it in a while (which MANY non-disabled people do with invisible disabilities) ever be excused?
    • How do you have “the talk” (i.e. telling them that you have it) before having sex with a new partner– are there right/wrong ways of doing it?
  • Why are people with disabilities overlooked by designers of sex toys? … Why are devices like dilators considered to be strictly medical devices?
  • Why don’t we have, for example, the option of buying dildos or vibrators in the same range of sizes as dilators?
  • Why don’t more sex manuals address the issue?

Flora also pointed out there are issues of consent to consider, (Traveltothesky touched upon something like this briefly a few months ago)  as well as society’s (especially in the USA) obsession with PIV intercourse as the only “Real” way to have sex. For folks with sexual problems, his view adds an additional layer of pressure to “Perform” even if doing so is unenjoyable and/or outright painful.

I think that sometimes there can be overlap between disability and sexual dysfunction. And I think that there are several new questions & areas here to explore which haven’t been looked at with either of the more traditional models. I hope that by thinking about another alternative way of looking at sexual dysfunction some weaknesses in the current models can be addressed while keeping strong points, and present interesting, overlooked ways of looking at sex and disability.

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