Book review – The Camera My Mother Gave Me

08/31/2010 at 6:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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[Trigger warning for rape]

The Camera My Mother Gave Me is both one of the easiest and hardest books I have ever read.

Years ago, shortly before I received a tentative diagnosis of vulvodynia by my main gynecologist, I started looking for support and information about what causes vulvar pain. The Camera My Mother Gave Me is one of the earliest books I read about the topic. At the time, it was one of a very few books available that talked about vulvodynia with any amount of detail. Most of my other sources were scientific & peer reviewed medical journal articles or anecdotes from the internet. What sets The Camera My Mother Gave Me (henceforth I shall refer to it as TCMMGM) apart to this day is that unlike informational resources that talk about treatments, it is a memoir. It’s a first-hand personal recollection of author Susanna Kaysen’s life with vulvodynia over about two years.

Yes, you read that right, the author is Susanna Kaysen – this is the same author made famous for her previous memoir, Girl, Interrupted, which was made famous by Hollywood – though I understand the film distorted the facts in the name of artistic license. However, I have not read Girl, Interrupted and will not be talking about that today. Whether Kaysen’s experience with psychiatry in the 1960s has anything to do with her vulvodynia later in life, I cannot say.

So, TCMMGM is both an easy read and a hard read for me. How is this contradiction possible?

It’s easy because it’s short. It’s only about 150 pages with paragraphs double spaced. If you’re interested in reading it, it probably won’t take more than a few hours to finish; maybe a day or two tops. Kaysen uses everyday language instead of heavy academic jargon, so you don’t necessarily need to be a doctor or be familiar with vulvodynia in order to follow along.

But it’s hard because every time I read it, for all the progress I’ve made and improvements I’ve seen over the years, I am instantly transported right back to square one – that daunting, hopeless, barren place where the walls of pain obscure every available path. It’s hard because when I read it, I remember everything… the questions unanswered, the ignorant doctors, the uncertainty …the pain. I’m in my early 20s again and I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.

Another reason this book is so hard for me because no one understands this book unless they have vulvodynia. Perhaps I’m not giving folks enough credit. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration… but not by much. TCMMGM has received mixed reviews, many of them negative. The negative reviews usually contain some variation of gross-out due to TMI or frustration with Kaysen’s lack of progress in treating her pain medically. It’s TMI and gross because vaginas and vulvas are generally considered vulgar and gross – at least outside of feminist circles – sometimes even within feminist circles, because don’t talk about vaginas too much or else you reduce yourself to a big walking vagina – and thus it’s a shock to read such frank language and descriptions about the vagina. Frightening, too, to have to think about an area that’s supposed to be capable pleasure feeling instead only pain. If readers are frustrated with Kaysen’s lack of progress, that may be because Kaysen herself was frustrated and was deliberately trying to convey that feeling – trying treatments she felt comfortable with, avoiding the ones that she didn’t want but that were nonetheless pushed upon her over and over again. When she opened up about her vagina and all its problems, Kaysen also left herself open to invasive personal questions, “Why didn’t she do this, why didn’t she try that.” If the book feels unresolved at the end, that’s probably because vulvodynia is itself a chronic problem, often with no clear resolution. There are still loose ends by the time the book ends, because in Kaysen’s real life the struggle with vulvodynia was ongoing.

So what’s the book about?

The briefest answer is to say that it’s about Kaysen’s vagina. One day, mysteriously, “Something went wrong with it” (3.) Everything else follows over about a two-year period.

A more comprehensive answer is to say it’s about Kaysen’s experiences during a time when she had to re-evaluate her relationship and sexuality as she navigated the gauntlet of modern medicine in search of answers for her debilitating vulvovaginal pain.

Kaysen began experiencing vaginal pain that “Felt as if somebody had put a cheese grater in it and scraped” (3.) The reasons for this pain are never made 100% clear. We learn that Kaysen had a bartholin’s cyst surgically drained some 20 years earlier, and the pain felt intense at the surgical site – but the pain radiated to other areas of her vulva as well. She was approaching the age at which many women enter menopause (though I could not tell what her age was when the pain started.) Her gynecologist initially misdiagnosed Kaysen with a run-of-the-mill infection and prescribed some treatments that probably didn’t do any help. At some points, Kaysen explores the possibility of psychosomatic causes.

This pain interfered with her everyday activities like “Wearing pants” (8), “Taking a bath” and “Too much driving – it hates that” (146.) She maintains a pain diary, measured on a scale of 0-5, with her pain frequently hovering around a 2 and sometimes spiking above 5. She had good days and bad days.

The pain interfered with her sex life, to the point where her sex life and her relationship with her own body fundamentally changed. Very early on, Kaysen tells her gynecolgist,“Listen, I said, everything’s getting worse. I’m really having trouble with sex. My vagina hurts all the time now. If I have sex it hurts more, but it never doesn’t hurt” (9). Unfortunately an expanded definition of “Sex” did not adequately address Kaysen’s problems:

“I tried a lubricant named Astroglide that was more glue than glide. My boyfriend and I tried all sorts of varities of sexual activity: very quickly, so it wouldn’t have time to hurt; without moving, just in there; only fingers in there; nothing at all in there, only outside. Whatever we did, it hurt” (10).

She was not even able to enjoy arousal in and of itself, because “Just getting aroused hurts” (55).

When her pain first manifested, Kaysen visited multiple doctors specializing in different fields. She lived in Boston at the time, which is home to some real-life vulvovaginal specialists. She visited her gynecologist, an alternative medicine practitioner, an internist, a vulvovaginal specialist, and a physical therapist. Some of these doctors pass her off to other doctors – notably, when her primary gynecologist was stumped, Kaysen felt that he was “Washing his hands of me! After twenty years” (9). She was tentatively diagnosed with vulvar vestibulitis and tried multiple treatments – conventional western style and alternative – but none of them were right for her. Kaysen was acutely sensitive to side effects, and in some cases the side effects just made things worse. Even physical therapy, a treatment that I had very good luck with, only set her back farther. (Having a crummy physical therapist who ignored her wishes probably didn’t help.) Other treatments, notably surgery, she did not want to try, though the doctors and her boyfriend pushed and pushed.

The doctors left Kaysen with a lot of unanswered questions about vulvar pain…

With her gynecologist:

So what is it? I asked him.
I don’t know, he said

But what is it? I asked him. What’s wrong with me?
I don’t know, he said.
(9).

With the internist:

But why does it hurt all the time? I asked. Why does it hurt when I’m not having sex? When I’m sitting on the sofa?
I don’t know, said Doctor Matthew
(21).

With the vulvar specialist:

Why did this happen? I asked him.
Eh, he said. He shrugged.
What is it, anyhow?
Eh, he said. He returned to the stool and resumed his Q-tip (28).

What’s the matter with me?
You have a sore spot, he said
(30).

WELL THANK YOU, CAPTAIN OBVIOUS!!! A sore spot! Of course! Why didn’t Kaysen think of that?! That explains everything!!!

*headdesk*

It goes on like that in some fashion over the whole book. Just as it continues to go on day after day in real life for still all too many women.

[Trigger warning for rape]


Kaysen’s nameless boyfriend was not sympathetic to her situation or open minded about the kind of sex he wanted. For two years prior to the events described in TCMMGM, Kaysen and her boyfriend had enjoyed a sexual relationship. Her partner had a strong interest in sex - “It was one of the things I had loved most about him” (95), though they never say “I love you” to each other. But when sex hurt, Kaysen began to lose interest in sex. While they stayed together for the first year that she looked for treatment, the boyfriend nagged and coerced Kaysen to have sex with him – even if it meant she was performing against her will. Readers of this blog would probably recognize what Kaysen describes as rape. She didn’t say no, she acquiesced under pressure, but certainly she stopped giving any kind of enthusiastic consent. She spends days after sexual activity coping with the painful after effects. Kaysen herself never uses the word rape to describe what she went through with her boyfriend, even when it caused her to disassociate during the act and left her in physical pain for days afterward. When asked by a biofeedback specialist if she had ever been sexually assaulted, she answers “No,” but when the question is rephrased to “Have you ever had sexual relations against your will,” Kaysen says “Yes” (82). When she recounts the last straw to her friend, Kaysen questions herself, her boyfriend’s actions, her own fear at the time, and what actually happened.

[/TW]

Even after evicting her boyfriend, Kaysen continues to feel pain long-term. It wears her down over an extended period of time. “Low-grade pain is debilitating in a subtle way” (121.) Eventually she loses interest in sex, and this is a painful experience for her, but in a different way. When Kaysen talks about sex and eros, it’s clear to me that prior to these events, she really did enjoy sexuality in her life. For her, it was a source of unpredictability. At one point, after throwing her boyfriend out of the house and struggling to rediscover pleasure from what once felt only plain, she tells a friend, “When eros goes away, life gets dull. It’s as if I’m colorblind. The world is gray” (125.) She eventually decides that the best course of treatment is to stop treatment. Eventually she makes a limited, partial recovery… But by then her relationship with her vagina, vulva and her own sexuality are fundamentally changed. Maybe forever.

Kaysen’s language may be plain and easy to understand, but it’s not without criticism. She uses frequently the word “Vagina” even though a more accurate word is “vulva.” Or maybe it is accurate for her to describe her pain as vaginal, since with vulvodynia the pain can radiate and spread beyond the vulva. In practice, when the pain feels like it’s everywhere, it can be very hard to pinpoint. One social construction argument against female sexual dysfunction as a valid diagnosis is that women with sexual problems may not be educated enough to understand their own anatomy; however Kaysen demonstrates that she is aware of her own anatomical structures and function.

Overall though, I would hope that readers accept Kaysen’s idiosyncrasies and simplified language. She uses other inaccurate terms, most likely as deliberately as she chooses to forgo with quotation marks when recalling conversations. She refers to her doctors as the “Vulvologist” and the “Biofeedbackologist” instead of as “The vulvar specialist” and “the physical therapist.” But when you’re encountering these specialists for the first time, perhaps not knowing such fields even existed before, what else are you supposed to call them??? The title of the book itself is an error. The title is based on Kaysen’s memory of a scene in a movie, with some artistic license exercised. (According to this interview with Kaysen about TCMMGM, technically the title of the book should be The Camera My Father Gave Me.) She receives materials from the “National Vulvodynia and Vestibulitis Association” instead of National Vulvodynia Association. And so on…

But this is her story in her words. I hope we can forgive her for taking liberties with some of the language – though it does have some disableist moments that are questionable and perhaps not so flexible.

I don’t know if Kaysen ever found relief for her pain in the years since TCMMGM came out, though it seems unlikely. Around 2003, the following was written about her on Salon.com:

Though she lives in the Boston area, the doctor capital of the world, Kaysen never found a workable medical treatment. Today, Kaysen hasn’t so much lost or won her battle; rather, she’s signed a treaty, with massive concessions. “Celibacy is a great cure!” she said wryly in a recent phone conversation. “I wasn’t interested in having sex again. The only thing I was interested in was not having pain. Pain eclipses desire.”

So who might be interested in reading TCMMGM? Who might benefit from exposure to such a taboo subject and who should approach the book with caution?

If the reviews online are any indication, many readers will be disappointed and frustrated with the book, but a few will strongly emphasize with what Kaysen went through. I am one of those people, and would like to see more people read and attempt to understand Kaysen’s situation. The frustration that so many reviewers are left with may be exactly what readers most need to feel, to better understand the frustration that still too many patients with vulvodynia have to deal with when running the gauntlet of modern medicine in search of adequate treatment.
The book is a memoir of one woman’s experiences with what is probably vulvodynia, and therefore it should not be taken as an advice or how-to book. This is all stuff that happened to Kaysen. It’s not necessarily going to happen to you. Some readers with a history of vulvar pain may find the book depressing because at so many points, things appear hopeless. Others take comfort knowing that they are not alone. It’s been a few years since the TCMMGM came out too, so there have been some advances in treatment since Kaysen conducted her own research and treatments. Your mileage may vary.
TCMMGM is short and small, but it’s not light fare. Although it has moments of dark self-deprecating humor, it’s not something to read if you want to feel good (except perhaps through schadenfreude.) It’s kind of a downer, to be honest. Because Kaysen describes a rape and post-rape scene with frank language, the book may be triggering to those with a history of sexual assault.
TCMMGM is available online from several retailers and it is available in E-Book format for Kindle. If you’re still interested after reading all this, then may I suggest that you make a purchase through the NVA’s book list, since they have a referral program set up for financial support.

As with all reviews conducted at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction so far, I had to pay for TCMMGM with my own money, and I receive no compensation for posting a review of it.

Interesting posts, late weekend of 8/29

08/30/2010 at 9:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, I have this person in my life I refer to as “The Whirlwind.” I was working on something when The Whirlwind whirled into my life earlier this week and started messing with all my stuff. Or personal time, rather. This whirlwind is very insistent & demands attention and if I do not do as the whirlwind says then this whirlwind will just cause more drama. Acquiescing to the whirlwind’s demands, petty yet time-consuming as they may be, is the path of least resistance. But once that got out of the way I went shopping and did that thing where you actually save more money than you spend so it’s just like making money! Not really, but I did get some pretty new clothes that I needed. Then some other stuff happened that was boring but sort of important on a personal level and now here I am.

Here’s the last entry I have in our no-longer continuing series of pictures of stuff with goofy packaging that I purchased at a grocery store. My little picture experiment didn’t go over badly, but it didn’t get a warm reception either so I probably won’t continue with it. I guess I’ll just have to find more relevant pictures to break up the walls of text on this blog. Anyway, presented for your amusement: Hemp granola bars!

[Description: A box of granola bars, prominently featuring a granola bar and what can only be a marijuana leaf just behind it.]

That is a weed leaf on the box! You can buy this at a grocery store! Granola with weed leaves on the box! (But not necessarily IN the box…)
Because the granola bars contain hemp seeds. I seem to recall hemp being a trendy material in the 1990s… “Can you smoke your shirt?” something like that. I seem to recall the answer being “No.”
A taste test revealed that these granola bars are actually quite tasty! There’s a lot of sunflowers and raisins & stuff in there and actually it’s petty good. I was surprised. Would eat again.
(You won’t get high off eating these… it doesn’t work that way.)

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.

Can’t get enough of feminism and sexual dysfunction on the internet? You may want to think about following the Twitter feed, which is more accurately described as my Twitter feed since no one else manages it. Some of my daily mundane and/or angry thoughts sneak in there but I try to include trendy topics as well as a healthy dose of sexual dysfunction related news when I find it.

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

Good Vibrations House Calls: Fainting During Orgasm – If you find yourself or your partner fainting during an orgasm, it may not be because you’re just that good… there may be a serious medical issue going on that merits a checkup.
Good Vibrations House Calls: What’s the Best Harness? - Useful because it mentions that some harnesses may predispose their wearers to UTIs due to friction, and may be uncomfortable to sensitive folks otherwise. But there’s other options available which may be more comfortable or which may make a decent substitute.

Agony Aunts And Bogus Ph.Ds – A Critical Look At Sexperts – Part 2 – Some follow up to an earlier post about the questionable credentials of some so-called experts on sex & relationships.
Speaking of bogus experts, Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics – Think that sex differences between men & women is mostly due to nature rather than nature? Think again – according to this article, almost all of the ability differences can be attributed to socialization and culture. This article cites some of the authors in the Good Vibes article as perpetuating the belief that the widespread differences are hard wired!

Friday Fun Fact, 20 August 2010 – compounds found in red wine may have a slight positive impact on women’s libidos. Unfortunately this finding is moot on me because I Don’t Drink.

Here’s a whole-to-me blog found via SexAbility. It’s called, LOVE ON WHEELS and it’s about love, sex and disability, especially when such disability requires use of a wheelchair.

Liberal ableism - Really good post. Strongly recommended. You can be a liberal – and that includes liberal journalists, liberal academics, liberal therapists, liberal bloggers, etc! – and still engage in ableism! You are not so pure of heart yourself.
Here’s something that some liberal types who do continue to engage in disableism should take a look at – Things That Make My Life Easier, An Invitation (Part 3 of 3), especially for these lines:

There is no shame in doing things differently. There is no shame in taking a different route to reach the same end point. There is no shame in reaching a different end point, even! If it works for you, if it makes your life easier, that is what matters. Not your conformity to expected methods of doing things, but the fact that it accomplishes your starting goal or gets you closer to accomplishing it.

There is no shame in that. There is no moral value attached to a method of doing something. It’s a method, that’s all. Just a method. One method. Not the only option.

Yes!
Speaking of being progressive yet not-so-progressive, here’s something that may address why you’re not so pure of heart as you think you are. In fairness, I’m not so pure of heart either. Why I use that word that I use: Kyriarchy, kyriarchal, and why not patriarchy – A good primer on what Kyriarchy is. This is more complicated than patriarchy, enough so that it’s something even I’m still struggling with. Kyriarchy is like patriarchy’s big badass grandma. I think of it as the secret surprise final boss that’s pulling all the strings in some JRPGS. Remember Final Fantasy III DS? Of course you do… The final final boss just kind of appears out of left field, turns out that boss was pulling the strings all along. And unfortunately even you and I are caught in its web. Can you see the fibers? They’re so thin and widespread even I can’t always pinpoint them.

Got two disability blog carnivals for you. The Disability blog carnival at Brilliant Mind, Broken Body, with the theme of “Distance.” You still have some time to submit to the upcoming one to be hosted by Astrid, with the theme of “Identity.” Hmm…
This isn’t exactly a carnival but it’s a good set of links about race and class, appropriately named… Some links on race and class.

The Motherhood Discounting – About the disparity in womens pay (esp. mothers) vs men & non-mothers. There is still a belief that women are choosing to be paid less in the name of raising children, but this does not recognize the high cost of raising children in terms of time and gender roles (usually women do most of the childrearing.)
Letters From The Anthill – This one is also about work, in more general terms. About how US workers are getting the shaft with regards to the benefit of time off (it’s not a requirement and if you ask for too much your boss could very well laugh and say “Get the hell out, there’s a line of other folks waiting for your position.”)

I’ve Got Your More Responsible Pain Management, Right Here - Little late on this one, but it’s a good one, about acupuncture and pain management options and how such options are promoted, especially for veterans.

In Woman’s Day Magazine: How To Get A Raise At Work? Clean Your Vagina – The ad itself is safe for work but the rest of Violet Blue’s blog is NSFW so heads up on that. This is a real advertisement. Why is this a real advertisement. This is an advertisement that recommends that if you are asking for a raise you should douche and make sure your vagina smells fresh and clean. What the fuck. That’s the #1 item on the list! I swear god, who the hell approved this ad. Who thought up this ad? Hearkens back to those old-time ads for Lysol vaginally.

Have You Heard of Bayard Rustin? – He was involved in the civil rights movement, but no, I had not heard of him…. quite possibly because he was gay.

Marginalized folks shouldn’t always have to be “the bigger persons” - Another strongly recommended post this week. About offering offenders the opportunity to save face when they say or do something genuinely offensive; why are we expected to offer such an opportunity? Relevant especially in light of the Laura Schlessinger radio personality on-air fuckup.

I’m sure there’s more…

Interesting posts, weekend of 8/22/10

08/22/2010 at 3:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Dear internet, I got knocked on my ass this week. I think I picked a good week to take a break from blogging. I have not felt pain like that in some time. Every piece of me from the waist down hurt. Some of it was due to using the “Wrong” kind of toilet paper, which caused irritation… You can’t just switch out toiletries on me! Part of it was due to menstruation. Most of the time, my periods are punctuated by a lack of punctuation… most of the time, they’re nothing to write home about. Mild to moderate discomfort at worst, increased use of the bathroom, maybe some breast tenderness and irritability. So what else is new? But every once in awhile… I get knocked the fuck out. This time, the cramps breached the “Moderate” level into “Major” territory, and my vulva became involved with the cramps, aching and soreness. It felt “Tired.” My feet and knees hurt, the line where my legs meet the rest of my pelvis hurt, and my butt hurt! All of my emotions felt exaggerated, but especially the negative emotions. I literally could not have written any blog posts even if I had wanted to because every night after work (which I thought about skipping but OTC-medicated my way through) I had to lay down and space out. I’m starting to feel better now.

Here’s another entry in our possibly-continuing series of pictures of weirdly-named stuff I found at the grocery store. This week’s contestant: Earth Balls!

[Description: A mostly green-and-brown plastic bag of chocolate. Conspicously the candy is named "Earth Balls" and it's made of fair trade chocolate. The candy is wrapped to look like globes.]

Photo taken mostly because I actually have the maturity of an 8 year old and find the word “Balls” amusing. Balls of the Earth! See also the old-time web 1.0 fun known as “Ate my balls!” A taste test revealed that the balls of the Earth taste like… milk chocolate. That’s all there is to it. No surprises, if you want milk chocolate, this will be just as good as any other milk chocolate. The wrappers are pretty.

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.

Can’t get enough of feminism and sexual dysfunction on the internet? You may want to think about following the Twitter feed, which is more accurately described as my Twitter feed since no one else manages it. Some of my daily mundane and/or angry thoughts sneak in there but I try to include trendy topics as well as a healthy dose of sexual dysfunction related news when I find it.

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 an oldie but goodie. I’m re-linking to Bitten by the Bug: Lyme Awareness Month, Part I because I found a deer tick on my white t-shirt a few hours after playing with the neighbor’s cat. I don’t think it got a bite of me but that was too close. I thought it was just a piece of dirt or debris on my shirt but I remembered this post and I was like “I better check it out…” and pulled it off with tweezers and put it in a plastic bag and looked at it and it was a deer tick! Feelings of vulnerability.

Honeymoon cystitis? – Another outrageous case of doctors not taking women’s health and sexual health seriously. Got cystitis? Got long-term complications in your everyday and sex life due to chronic cystitis and recurrences? Relax; is just something that some women get! FFFfffffuuu- no! This post talks about the connection between cystitis and sexual intercourse – something some of my readers here may be unfortunately familiar with – and about how hard it is to get adequate treatment especially if you wind up having to take the long view of pain management. I had a hard enough time dealing with a UTI last year that lasted about a month because the incompetent doctor’s office lost my first pee sample. I could pick out any random passage from this article and it would probably still apply to someone here. Here, try this one on for size:

After three attacks in as many months, a debilitating fear of intercourse with my current partner began to develop. The unbearable pain of cystitis does not erase itself from the memory easily; you will do anything to avoid it. One commentator on an online cystitis forum noted: “After I gave birth to my daughter I thought, ‘That wasn’t so bad, it wasn’t as bad as cystitis.’”

Also pointed out to me via an anonymous source.

Oh look, here’s another one from the F-Word just now: Cheers, Doc – yet another case of doctors not taking women’s sexual health complaints seriously and in fact prioritizing how a gentleman partner is coping! Because when a lady is struggling to enjoy penetrative sex and even to use a tampon, you know their poor partner must be suffering! Here, try this passage on for size and see if it fits…

But according to our messed up sexual norms, I have no sexual desire (other than to be desired) and he’s incapable of empathy because his brain’s in his dick. Oh, and there’s no such thing as non-penetrative sex. Don’t you hate it when you can’t even do something as simple as go see a doctor without this rubbish turning up?

I swear to god, I can’t, I can’t… deal with this shit. I can’t like, believe. This is still happening. Why is this still happening. And yet I’m supposed to believe that doctors will jump for joy and be quick to prescribe sexual medicine to women if it ever becomes available.

You know what riles me up? – One woman’s perspective on advertisements for hormonal birth control. Interesting to me because I experienced similar side effects myself, though it took a long time to find out the hard way. Of course these negative side effects are not guaranteed and most women who use HBC do so without experiencing what she’s describing… I even read a Seasonique insert in a magazine yesterday and vulvar pain wasn’t described as a possible side effect. However I keep thinking back to that 20/20 special which explicitly stated that birth control may sometimes be a contributing factor to vulvodynia. The relationship, if one does exist, is still not fully understood, and research continues
Also from the blog “down there” this week: Pelvic Yoga – I may be interested in such a DVD if it’s really that good.

More blog posts from women dealing first hand with sexual problems! Brain Dump – MinorityReport has come up with her own list of ugly, obnoxious things people on the internet say to her, as someone dealing with low sex drive!

Agony Aunts And Bogus Ph.Ds – A Critical Look At Sexperts – Part 1 – Just who are we taking sex life advice from? Sometimes we’re getting it from hacks. (Full disclosure: I have no credentials but on the other hand I’m not here to offer advice anyway. Just perspective.)

Sexy is For Everybody: An Interview with Lupe Sino – Interesting because according to this interview, the staff of Sexy is For Everybody have been getting quite a few questions about painful sex… what’s going on there…

What Happened With Our Porn, Ourselves and Facebook – Awhile back, Violet Blue’s Facebook page for OPOS got taken down, due to non-existent terms of service violations. Here’s some more details on that.
[storytime] Sympathy for the Anti-Porn Feminists - Clarisse has changed her mind and position on pornography since her first exposure to it. Here’s how.

Cosmocking: “S&M”! - Holly skewer’s Cosmopolitan magazine’s shoddy coverage of BDSM.

Prop 8 Update – There will be further delays in resuming gay marriage in California until at least December 2010.

The numbers game in a hung parliament – Seriously what’s the deal with Australia? I saw all those #ausvotes tags on Twitter and now it’s like the country doesn’t even have a government?

Today in Feminist History: Women Get the Vote – 90 years ago women in the US were granted the right to vote, though in practice to this day many people in the US still face barriers to voting.
For some reason, Google did not honor this date with a Doodle the way it honors other dates of recognition.

Why I use that word that I use: Cis, cissupremacy, cissexism - If you see the word “Cis” used on feminist blogs (like this one) and don’t know what it means read this entry.

Dr. Laura Meets the First Amendment – Radio talk show personality Dr. Laura spewed out racist crap last week and now she’s off the radio… and ranting about how the first amendment means she shouldn’t have to be held accountable for her free speech, or something. Yeah you can say what you want but you can also be held accountable by other folks exercising their right to free speech too, you know.

How to be funny: a rudimentary lesson for wingnuts – Surprisingly useful tips for making humor.

Sarah Palin is talking about feminism, or something. Something about how it’s been co-opted by a “Cackle of rads who want 2 crucify other women w/whom they disagree on a singular issue; it’s ironic (& passé).” Um, okay, actually talking about the co-option of feminism in and of itslef is not a totally invalid topic. But in this case it’s highly ironic considering that much of Palin’s rhetoric and actions do not line up with even the most basic principles of feminism. For example! Push(back) at the Intersections: How About Some -isms with Your Feminism? – When talking about feminist icons it’s worth looking at the negative parts of their history too, because the movement is all shattered and marred and it makes it hard to identify with. You can be a feminist and do some very not-feminist things.

Poisonous Food Comes From Poisonous Corporate Farms [Anthony McCarthy] – In the US there is an egg recall going on because some eggs have been contaminated by harmful bacteria. However this is not the first time that tainted food has come from the farm in question!

I’m sure there’s more…

Interesting posts, weekend of 8/15/10

08/15/2010 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

Dear internet, I went shopping the other day but didn’t pick anything up. A lot of stuff was on sale but I couldn’t find something similar to what I was looking for and some of the shirts were too juvenile for me to wear – I couldn’t get away with wearing them to work. So I got a few more Kindle books instead, including Whipping Girl which I am looking forward to reading in the future. I watched Eagle Eye with the kid from Transformers in it. The movie is like a cross between National Treasure and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not bad; mostly mindless action. I’m torn on whether or not to see Scott Pilgrim in theaters. I never read the graphic novels but on the other hand I did not read the graphic novel for Watchmen until earlier this year, but I still enjoyed the movie at the time. Oh also I finally got around to watching Wizards. If I could sum it up in one word, I would say it was “Choppy.” Some beautiful still images used story-book style, terrible sound quality and voice acting. But on the other hand, that movie is old now… so it was one of those early animations for adults… it would be a few more decades yet before The Simpsons would raise the bar for the genre in terms of writing. It’s like, I know what the film was trying to say but it had a hard time articulating itself.

Remember, I’ll probably be taking a break from posting new content this week. I’m beat and dealing with acute vulvar pain. It’s time for some self-care.

Here’s another entry in our possibly-continuing series of pictures of oddly-named foodstuffs to use as conversation pieces:

Twilight candy bar

[Description: A candy bar in a light purple wrapper that says "Twilight." There are some sparkle designs on the wrapper.]

Found in the natural/organics food section of a grocery store. At first I thought it was just a coincidence that it’s named a “Twilight” bar and that I first ran into it during the age of Twilight fandom. It’s supposed to be a more natural version of a Milky Way bar – chocolate covering nougat and caramel. Okay, milky way galaxy, twilight starry nights… I get it…
But then I looked closer at the wrapper and noticed some sparkly designs on it! Look at the left side of the wrapper – see that white star design thing? It’s a sparkle! Did you know you can just Eat Twilight? A perfect stocking stuffer or humorous gift for that Twilight fan in your life.
A taste test revealed that it tastes like a chewy candy bar… it’s not bad, and I can see myself craving that specific flavor again. But don’t expect it to be identical to a Milky Way.

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.

Can’t get enough of feminism and sexual dysfunction on the internet? You may want to think about following the Twitter feed, which is more accurately described as my Twitter feed since no one else manages it. Some of my daily mundane and/or angry thoughts sneak in there but I try to include trendy topics as well as a healthy dose of sexual dysfunction related news when I find it.

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

Good Vibrations is running a whole four-part series which may be relevant to the interests of some readers here – It’s a series on sex and chronic pain. So far there are two entries so far: Good Vibrations House Calls: Chronic Pain and Sex, Part 1 (lots of book resources at the end here!) and Good Vibrations House Calls: Chronic Pain & Sex, part 2 (about orgasm, communication and sex drives.)

In addition, Good Vibrations has an entry about sexual side effects to prostate cancer treatments. Some Doctors Downplay Effects of Prostate Cancer Treatments – Bear in mind, it is possible to get vulvar cancer as well, and I need to do some research on non-genital cancer treatments and sexual side effects in women.

Mel Gibson Is More Than Just A Racist Fuckbag: Tapegate Revisited[Trigger warning] – While I knew that Gibson is a sexist, racist, anti-semetic asshole, I did not also know he was ableist. I am not surprised by his ablism but I am shocked by what disability he chose to single out, whether he knew that was what he was doing or not… Ouch. I don’t know whether Grigorieva has the disability in question but on a bigger scale I don’t think it really matters either.

The FDA has approved a new emergency contraceptive pill, Ella, that is effective for up to five days after unprotected PIV sex. This is an improvement over Plan B’s 72 hours. (Via Women’s Health News.)

Some political news:
Former Alaskan Senator Ted “[The internet is] a series of tubes!” Stevens was among the five people who died in a plane crash this week.
Proposition 8 was struck down in California, and same sex couples can resume marrying later this week, barring more activity in the appeals court. Now conservative folks are racing to defend their heterosexism by talking about what traditional marriage really means and how and why it’s supposedly good for women:

Marriage is a necessary defense of a woman’s sexuality and her human liberty from determined assault by men who would turn her into a slave, a concubine – something less than fully human. Human communities need to give women some additional degree of protection – through law, custom, religious decree, or sacrament – generally some combination of all three, neatly summarized by the plaintiffs, who demanded the sacred and the eternal from the state of California.

Buhhhhh *mind boggles*
Yeah about that… how’s that working out for us then? Not so good, I’d say. Plus, um slaves and concubines are human too you know… Yeah don’t mention the economic benefits het couples receive now or the thing where it makes it so the male partner has a pretty good idea that all the kids in the house are really spawned from his loins or whatever. And yeah hey don’t mention that marital rape is a real thing or anything. Ff…

But what’s more, there’s history conservatives are overlooking… and that includes history overlooked even in Judge Walker’s decision. Why Marriage Equality Needs a Jaded View of History
Plus, overlooking a history of the United States and equal rights: Equal Protection of the Laws.
Here’s a picture of a chart and graph about same sex marriage that kind of looks like a dick: Resistance is Futile.
Meanwhile, in New York City, debate still rages about a proposed Muslim community center to be build nearby ground zero. This is but the latest in a long history of religious oppression in the US. It’s Good To Remember Our History
GOP Candidate Calls for Internment Camps for Undocumented Immigrants – This has been done before… did you forget about that?
The New York Times: America Goes Dark - The US power grid is under strain…

The Carnival of Kinky Feminists has posted Carnival Number Two: Experience. This post over at FWD would have fit right in! My Experiences with Disability & The Kink Community – these posts may be pushing the limit of work-safety even though there’s no pictures of naked people.

Little Women: Early puberty and what it means for girls – Young girls are showing signs of puberty earlier these days… could there be something in the water? Obesity? Hormones? Chemicals in all the plastic containers we eat and drink food out of?

Since Dr. Laura Can’t Give Advice To Black People Without Being A Racist Twit, We’ll Give It A Shot – So a woman of color called in to Dr. Laura for some relationship advice and Dr. Laura went off on this racist tirade. That’s not advice!

Old Spice Guy + FEMINIST HULK + Judith Butler – This is literally only funny if you know all three of the players in this script. But if you do know them all then oh my god I’m dyin’ laughin’ here.

I know there’s more…

The ugly things people say about FSD Part 3: The Redeadening

08/11/2010 at 7:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Trigger warnings for ablism and rape.

Previously in our hopefully never-continuing series about what people online are saying about female sexual dysfunction…

Last week, I re-opened an old wound, the ugly things people say about FSD, the women who have it, and what treatments (if any) should be acceptable for it. I directed your attention to the comments section of a Feministe post, FDA Wants YOU! to Have Sexual Satisfaction. That’s a brief heads-up that the FDA was about to have hearings on whether or not to approve the drug flibanserin, which in early testing had an ever-so-slight positive impact on women’s sexual satisfaction, but with the cost of a small payout and potential side effects. In the end, the FDA did not approve the drug and it’s back to the drawing board for Big Pharma and for women with HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder.)

But I’m not here to talk about flibanserin today. I need to show you something else – I need you to see what was going on in the comments section and why what was being said there is harmful to women with sexual dysfunctions.

I already addressed some of the comments, like the comments that stated some of the key social construction perspective points of female sexual dysfunction. Those points may be of some use for folks with sexual dysfunction. Social construction isn’t all bad, but it grates on my nerves every time I hear it, because when I see it presented as though it’s something new, it’s actually the millionth time I’ve heard it. But you can’t really have a discussion about female sexual dysfunction without bringing up the social construction perspective so that’s out of the way.

Then, I went into some of the stranger comments. Comments where the social construction model of FSD decayed away and revealed widespread problematic attitudes underneath. Comments that presented entirely new-to-me and far-out arguments about FSD. Comments that started developing serious problems.

Since I already presented the context of the discussion last week, we’re going to pick right up where we left off, where things started to get weird:

I agree that lack of interest/arousal/orgasm is distressing. But terrifying? Is it healthy to have so much invested in our sexual identity? How much of that thinking is behind this pill?

What? If you have sexual dysfunction, you had too much invested into your sexual identity. If you find yourself experiencing a strong emotional reaction due to sexual problems, perhaps even grieving over the loss of your sex life as you knew it (or hoped for), you have no one to blame but yourself. There are many other important things to attend to in life and you should have imposed an arbitrary artificial limit on your sexual self, putting more of yourself into other hobbies instead. Like macramé. Moderation in all things and such.

It goes on with a hard-line stance against medicalization:

I’m in the ‘this is not a really good idea’ camp. The problem ISN’T physical as a rule- it’s that we live in a shitty society with shitty prospective/ current partners and far too many rapists around.

See, this is what I was talking about earlier, when I said that on paper, the social construction model of FSD leaves a little wiggle room for physical problems… but in practice, there’s very little interest in exploring and addressing what some of these physical problems are and how to address them. Now, low libido, as a rule, is not physical. The rule is (who set the rule?) low libido is due to “Shitty partners” and rapists. It sounds like a very rigid rule – is there any wiggle room at all for rare exceptions? Any room for hormonal changes? I wonder what the penalty is when you break the rule.

Someone anonymously spoke up about having sexual problems and about the possibility of a physical cause, and zie mentioned some of the problems in the thread up to that point.

Look, you just can’t ignore that sometimes women can’t get their rocks off due to purely physical causes. And that they would like to get that fixed. And that doing so may require drugs.

Please don’t fall into that godawful trap of assuming that scientists and drug companies are all evil woman-hating pushers. It’s anti-science, in practice it’s often anti-woman (HPV vaccine paranoia, anyone?) and it’s just plain ignorant.

It’s obnoxious to have otherwise reasonable people go off on wild tangents about the evil FDA taking cruel advantage of undersexed lasses, and it’s not helpful to the undersexed lasses either. (The right to self-define and all that: I’m “undersexed” because I would like more sex. Simple.)

This is the response that the anonymous commenter received:

ADTMI: Do you really think that pharmaceutical companies have our best interests at heart? Because, yeah, vaccines are great, and I’ve taken anti-depressants and have a friend that might not be alive without them, but let’s not pretend that there aren’t such things as side effects. Most of them are survivable, but there’s always gonna be someone who really suffers.

Anything that can be used, can be abused. Like the actual Viagra, there’s more demand for this drug then there is a need for it.

I am not seeing the point in which the anonymous commenter said anything at all resembling “Boy howdy I sure am glad Big Pharma’s got my back!”

Around this point, I decided to speak up in the Feministe thread again.

…Ok hold the phone. Are you suggesting then, that women who have HSDD believe that Big Pharma really is watching out for their own best interests? Are you operating under the impression that women with HSDD believe medicine is always best and never hurts anybody? Are you suggesting that women with HSDD have exclusively that one problem and have no experience with other chronic conditions, and so have never run the gauntlet of modern medicine before and so are blissfully ignorant of the abuses of big pharma? Are you suggesting that the real suffering of women with sexual problems is unimportant compared to the suffering of women who have side effects from drugs?

You say you have used antidepressants, and yet in the next paragraph you say that in this case you’re worried about side effects broadly. Do you have the same worries about the antidepressants you were given? Why is it okay for antidepressants to be used but not a drug to treat sexual problems?

The drug isn’t the root of the problem in that case, it’s medicine & abusive doctors & partners at large. The drug would be used as a tool, by bad people. Just as with any other drug. Like antidepressants.

Yet some people still really need the tool. And would benefit from it.

I am continually frustrated with conversations about HSDD and FSD in general that do not center women who have the experience of interest.

Let’s look at some components of the response I got:

K:In this particular case, the women who have HSDD and FSD seem to be saying ‘Full speed ahead and d*mn the side effects.’ Secondly, yes, I have experienced a wide range of side effects from anti-depressants. And from other meds, to, so you can be sure that with any med I’m taking, I will ask about the side effects, and raise my concerns about them.

Wow…

Where is the commenter getting this information from? Did zie speak with any women with HSDD and FSD? Did zie listen to any of the responses from the few women who spoke up in the comment thread?
Is that the impression of women with HSDD that the commenter has?
This is what people are really saying about women with FSD: Broad, sweeping generalizations, without listening to them. It’s archetypes and stereotypes allover again.

Perhaps we can rectify this situation, starting with small steps. Shall I introduce myself?

Hi! I’m K and I’m a blogger on Feminists with FSD, and I have female sexual dysfunction! Specifically, my crotch hurts! I sought medical intervention for this and I think it’s totally unfair to say that my physical pain is any more or less real and important than someone else’s distress from non-painful sexual problems! I am capable of independent thought and I think about side effects all treatments that I use even if I’m supposed to use something as mundane as an antifungal! Sometimes, the risk of side effects or the side effects themselves are worth it! Other times, they’re not! This one time, I had to go off of The Pill due to side effects!

(I don’t think anyone is listening…)

There’s no room to recognize intersectionality in this comment. There’s no room to recognize that women with HSDD and FSD more broadly have quite probably thought about, and have been distressed by, life with a low libido for a very long time. There’s an assumption that women with HSDD are unfamiliar with side effects from other medications and that women with HSDD and other forms of FSD will not think about side effects to new medication.

The same comment goes on:

And the reason I favor anti-depressant over libido enhancements is simple: anti-depressants keep people from killing themselves, libido enhancers just add an extra thrill to life.

This is a clear ableist statement that prioritizes one type of disability over another. The distress from living with HSDD (remember we’re talking about a sexual dysfunction here, not just a low libido) is unimportant compared to other chronic problems that sometimes warrant medical intervention. But hey, it’s not like women’s sexual pleasure matters or anything. After all, it’s not like you’re going to die or something.

“An extra thrill?” That’s what a satisfactory sex life means now? It’s true that individuals do not need sex to live, but for many people – not everyone, but for a lot of folks – a satisfying sex life is an integral part of a good quality of life. I have no problem with consensual sex for thrills, but we should recognize that for many folks, it’s about more than the sheer excitement – a satisfying sex life can be a way to let off steam, express comfort, intimacy, playfulness and love.

There’s more to this comment:

Just out of curiousity how the h*ll can anti-depressants be abused? I’ve never heard of a black market in prozac, although I’ve heard of black markets in ritalin and other ADHD drugs.

Wait a moment – let’s backtrack. Am I seeing things? I thought that just a few minutes ago, the same commenter explicitly said (emphasis added,)

Anything that can be used, can be abused.

It seems that antidepressants are the one exception ot the rule that anything that can be used, can be abused.
However even this is not true. Antidepressants can be abused by caretakers or spouses pushing ther partner to go on medication – much the same way some commenters in this thread fear filbanserin will be abused. Doctors may over prescribe antidepressants, or prescribe the wrong type for an individual. But here, in this comment, there is no protest to keep antidepressants out of the hands of the mentally ill due to the risk of medication being forced upon people who do not need or want it.
(There is, however, backlash against antidepressants and other medication in other blogs and books elsewhere. Depression and mental illness are also subject to a social construction critique.)

With regards to abuse and the black market, I also once had a dear friend who became dangerously sick after overdosing on prescription antidepressants following a bad break-up. And every once in awhile I’ll get spam e-mail offering to sell me Prozac and other antidepressants on what might be considered a black market.

Things may get triggery from here on out, if they haven’t gotten there already:

One last thing: Is the wide-spead abuse of a libido enhancer an acceptable risk if this drug goes on the market? ‘Cause the way I’m seeing it, this is the next date-rape drug.

This is a new-to-me claim in discussions of FSD. Just when I thought I’d seen it all. Date rape drug?

Widespread abuse of a libido enhancer means that someone somewhere has to be distributing this medication, maybe a doctor, or else folks are getting this medication through the same black market I could potentially obtain antidepressants through. But again and again when it comes to sexual dysfunctions, especially pain (which is something most people readily acknowledge as “Real,”) I’m hearing from women who struggle to find doctors who take their sexual complaints seriously. Based on what I’ve been through and on what I’ve heard, I believe that even if flibanserin made it to market, I speculate that most doctors would still be reluctant to prescribe it to women.

But this misunderstanding about flibanserin used as a date rape drug appears to be widespread:

If a man slips a drug in a woman’s drink that makes her so aroused she has sex with him when she otherwise wouldn’t, you’re talking about rape.

A drug that would, shortly after consumption, instill an irresistible impetus for sexual activity would raise serious ethical problems! But flibanserin won’t work like that. Times like this I’m glad that women’s sexuality is complicated, and can’t be instantly turned on or off with the flick of a button – or consumption of a pill. (Furthermore would such a hypothetical drug instill a desire for partnered sex? Why not masturbation?)

To begin with, this comment demonstrates a misunderstanding of the difference between desire and arousal. This misunderstanding is probably only exacerbated by the media and the New View Campaign’s insistence on calling flibanserin “Female Viagra,” which it isn’t. Desire and arousal are closely related, and hopefully the two match up when you’re looking for consensual sexual activity. But you can have conscious sexual desire but low or absent arousal (physical response, like lubrication or erection) or you can be physiologically aroused but lacking in desire. You do not have to act on either. From About.com:

Libido refers to a baseline interest in sex and might be redefined as sexual appetite. Arousal refers to the physiological response to sexual stimuli. Women with higher libidos generally have a greater response to sexual stimuli, or greater arousal. Physical manifestations of sexual arousal include vaginal lubrication and increased blood flow to the labia, clitoris and vagina.

But framing flibanserin as a date rape drug, again, seems to come from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the drug works. It’s not an instant aphrodisiac, and it won’t work on bloodflow like Viagra does - it takes several weeks for the ever-so-slight effect on sexual satisfaction to kick in. That means slipping it into someone’s drink won’t do anything to someone’s sexual desire and will not make someone consent to sex (but it would still be  predatory.) According to Dr. Petra Boynton,

Early trials claim the drug boosts sexual desire, but (as with other SSRIs) this drug must be taken every day for 3-6 weeks before any effects will be noticed and continuously thereafter.

And even when reading Sex is Not a Natural Act, I didn’t see the specter of “Female Viagra” raised as a date rape drug. I haven’t gotten around to reading the New View book yet, but rape isn’t even listed in the index to the book. In Sex is Not a Natural Act, Dr. Tiefer examined several angles of the medicalization of sex, for better or worse – and from what I’ve seen so far, sexual medicine used as date rape drug isn’t even on her mind. Furthermore I did not see Dr. Petra’s blog talk about using flibanserin as a date rape drug either, nor did I see Dr. Klein say anything about that. Credit where credit is due: critics of sexual medicine do their homework, and examine the issues from multiple sides (just not all sides, and different experts weigh their pet arguments differently.) I think that it means something then professionals who put their reputations on the line writing about sexual dysfunction do not give any credibility to this possibility.

The other part of this argument about flibanserin as date rape drug moves away from a critical fact: Rapists are predators. Someone who is a rapist will use whatever tools are available at their disposal to rape. That may mean alcohol, GHB, force, coercion, abuse, threats, drugs – anything. What you wear, or what you do, or who you’re with, won’t change that. Flibanserin won’t change that. The difference in whether or not you are raped is the presence of a rapist.

This argument, as with many others made on the Feministe comment page, de-centers women with HSDD. Based on what what I’ve just described, I think it’s safe to say that flibanserin as date rape drug is a red herring. We’re moving farther away from women who actually have sexual dysfunction and instead we’re sacrificing their concerns, supposedly for the greater good.

Enough.

That’s enough. I certainly hope you’re starting to get the picture.

So, what did we learn about sexual dysfunction from the comments thread at Feministe? To summarize, I saw the following:

  • Social construction arguments against medicalization – not completely irredeemable but can become just as prescriptive and corrupted as medicine is supposed to be
  • Misunderstandings about the way flibanserin would work
  • Misunderstandings about the difference between arousal and desire
  • Dismissal of sexual pleasure as important
  • Disregard for what women with sexual problems were saying
  • Ablism
  • Partner blaming
  • Sexual medicine as date rape drug
  • The further stigmatization of sexual dysfunction

Ouch. And all of this took place within an explicitly feminist space – a place where, of all places, I should have felt relatively safe talking about my point of view of sexual dysfunction. Now are you starting to understand why I was motivated to start this very blog? Is anybody listening?

So I think we should turn our attentions back to the women who filbanserin and other sexual medicine would most effect – women with sexual dysfunction. Women with low libido who are disturbed by their low libido, to the point where they actively seek out help for it.

There will probably not be a new post by me for next week. You’ve drained all that I am out of me for now, feminist blogosphere. I hope I never have to do this again.

Interesting posts, weekend of 8/8/10

08/08/2010 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
Tags: , ,

Dear internet, dag nabbit I missed yet another feminist blogosphere conference this year. I need to get on the ball or something. I need to go out and do something fun this week. Movies and books are alright but I need to do something unique and interesting soon.

A few weeks ago I mentioned I was thinking about adding more pictures to the blog. This place is very heavy on text. But what pictures should I add? How do I give credits? I can’t always find pictures of antique prophylactics and candies that look like vulvas. But I think I need something to lighten the mood and break up the words.

Well I don’t know, so we’re going to try an experiment. I took some pictures of stuff I found at the grocery store. Stuff with silly names. We’re going to start with something simple and see how it goes from there, at least until I run out of packages to photograph. Let’s start out with a granola bar…

Description: a granola bar in its wrapper. The wrapper says it’s Pop Culture brand and contains probiotics.

Did you know you can just buy pop culture? Gives whole new meaning to the term, “Consuming pop culture.” I wonder why they called it that. I thought it might have pop culture trivia on the wrapper but no.
A taste test revealed that it tastes like a chocolate chip granola bar. It’s okay.

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.

Can’t get enough of feminism and sexual dysfunction on the internet? You may want to think about following the Twitter feed, which is more accurately described as my Twitter feed since no one else manages it. Some of my daily mundane and/or angry thoughts sneak in there but I try to include trendy topics as well as a healthy dose of sexual dysfunction related news when I find it.

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

Female Sexual Dysfunction in DSM-V – Astrid has some thoughts on the new DSM-V classifications for sexual dysfunction.

I found out that The Camera My Mother Gave Me is available for the Kindle. It’s been available in paperback form for years, when did it go digital? This is a memoir about life with vulvodynia, written by Susanna Kaysen – the same Susanna Kaysen made famous for her previous memoir, Girl, Interrupted. This is a unique book and one I think many more people need to read it (hint, hint.)

I was looking around for some more stuff about flibanserin and after sifting through the spam I found this: Debate: the “Medicalization” of Female Sexuality – It’s not perfect (says the blogger with no professional credentials – sigh… some day…) like, the author should have latched onto the revised 12% statistic for prevalence of FSD. But it’s pretty neat, looks at the cost of medical treatment vs. psychotherapy, though I’d like to know where those figures come from. Basically it centers the women with sexual dysfunction instead of women without it.

There was some cross-blog … argument? too civil for me to think of it as a flame war, but not civil enough so that it was a discussion – something about sluts vs. prudes. See, a few weeks ago Jaclyn Friedman wrote up My Sluthood, Myself. Most of the reception that I saw around the feminist blogosphere was positive. The post did not resonate with me personally, not because I have anything against sluthood – I think it didn’t resonate with me because I did not see any indication in this post that Friedman paused to ask herself what she meant by “Sex.” Like, okay you know you have a high libido and want sex, but what kind of sex? Causal encounters might be tricky for me since we still live in an intercourse-centric culture. Plus some other little things like the language of brokenhood… But this post was about relationships as much as it was about sex, so whatever. Anyway, Jaclyn herself was slut-shamed by some kind of relationship advice … counselor? Guru? Agony aunt? I don’t know what her qualifiications are. It was Jaclyn who was being attacked on a personal level, at least as much as the post she wrote. A few feminist bloggers defended her. I’m not going to link to the slut-shaming post in question, but you’ll find links to it through the following. No laughing, no screwing, no learning how to read. Slut-shaming and misogyny as traffic bait. Don’t be a slut, you prude – this one looks at relationship advice the guru has given out in the past. Girl Fight: Sluts vs. Prudes – This one also talked about the biological chemical (weapon?), Oxytocin – AKA the “Love hormone.”
Now about that hormone, Oxytocin… let’s move on to a post that debunks myths about oxytocin. Some conservative relationship advisors talk about it as though it’s addicting and dangerous, and I remember Oxytocin was brought up in that home birth movie by Ricci Lake. (I didn’t’ like that movie.) Myths about the “love hormone” oxytocin that could ruin your love life.
But wait, there’s more about slut blogging! (Can I call it that? I mean it in the best possible way, I assure you.) That Oxytocin post was by Heather Corrina of Scarleteen, a sex education resource aimed at young people (though older folks use it, too!) She wrote up another one for Feministe, her advice comes from fact that Heather Corinna is ANNOYED, responding to a personal attack, an accusation of being a slut.
Wait, I got one more, an older one. I was looking through my old starred items in the RSS reader and pulled up this older one that’s relevant to our discussion: Hooking Up for Sex: Sluts or New Feminists? – Mainstream media’s take on hookup culture. Don’t bother looking at the comments section.

Every picture tells a story – what the TSA is doing with those full-body scanner images.
Here’s another post with pictures, a different kind of pictures that tell stories. Breitbart forces superman Kevin Pezzi to go Galt

When Porn Goes Bad: “Girls Gone Wild” – Greta Christina changes her mind about the GGW franchise, for good reason.

Newsflash: Senate Appoints Elena Kagan to Supreme Court – More big news from the US legal field – Elena Kagan has been approved to join the Supreme Court. She will be replacing a liberal judge so the court will still be 5-4 in favor of conservative justices. Kagan will be the fourth woman justice to serve out of a history of 112 justices, and for the first time there will be a whopping three women on the bench at the same time.

Prop 8 Findings Of Fact – Big news from California – Judge Walker ruled that Proposition 8 (the voter-passed initiative that banned further same sex marriages in the state) was found to be unconstitutional. Thomas has a summary of some of the key facts that the Judge found. The ruling will most likely be appealed and same sex marriage has not yet resumed.

Just – thinking about that line of thought that asks “Why are you disabled? You must have done something to deserve it/something happened to you/there’s gotta be a reason/who can we blame for this.” Sometimes there’s no reason, it just fucking happens.

Followed a series of links to reach a potentially neat blog to keep an eye on and see what direction it goes in: Sexually Able. The blog author also has a Call for Submissions. This is not to be confused with a blog bearing a similar title, SexAbility, which has been established as being a neat blog.

Push(back) at the Intersections: Defining (and Critiquing) ‘Intersectionality’ - Good for getting a definition of what ‘intersectionality’ means and where there are weaknesses in its practice.

Today in !!Free Markets!! - About higher education for fun and profit. Academia is not immune to corruption!

The justice system is on crack, baby – About punishing pregnant women and mothers.

I’m sure there’s more…

The ugly things people say about FSD Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

08/04/2010 at 8:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Part two in our hopefully never-continuing series on what people are saying about female sexual dysfunction, the women who have it, and how to address it. I hate writing these posts so much. Feeling masochistic? Click here to visit part one.

Around June 2010, the feminist blogosphere went all a-twitter with news and rumblings about the upcoming FDA hearings regarding the potential libido-boosting drug flibanserin. Flibanserin is a drug that was originally intended for use as an antidepressant. In drug trials, it did not perform well as intended. However, it had an interesting side effect: flibanserin was found to have a small but statistically significant effect on women’s sex lives. Flibanserin was found to increase the number of satisfactory sexual encounters ever-so-slightly, moreso than the placebo effect. Although it’s been called “Female Viagra,” it’s worth noting here that flibanserin does not operate the same wasy as Viagra. Viagra works on bloodflow, whereas flibanserin has an effect on brain chemistry – it’s thought that flibanserin has an effect on women’s libido. Naturally, the drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim took an interest in this result. There is to this day no FDA-approved female equivalent of Viagra in the USA (although some women use it off-label nonetheless, and the hormone-based Intrinsa patch is available in Europe.) However, in the end, the FDA did not approve Flibanserin. There were concerns about the study design and more testing is needed. Boehringer Ingelheim remains interested in getting flibanserin approved and the FDA did not outright reject the condition flibanserin may address as something that may sometimes warrant medical intervention.

This is controversial stuff here, and it raises ethical questions. Some feminists (and one major feminist organization in particular, the New View Campaign,) charge that the very existence of flibanserin (or any other “Female Viagra” drug) is inherently problematic. Potential risks include the possibility that pharmaceutical companies will market such a drug aggressively, creating demand from otherwise healthy but sexually insecure women. There is also concern from the asexual community that such a drug would be used to “Treat” asexuality, which, being a sexual orientation rather than a dysfunction, needs no intervention.
On the other hand some women like myself recognize potential for good in such a drug in managing female sexual dysfunction, even though its application would be limited. Flibanserin would not have any discernable application for sexual pain that I am aware of, for example, and the effects of the drug were small in trials. Nonetheless, for women who’ve felt anguish over a decreased or absent libido  and have been unable to restore their sex drives to a personally satisfactory level, such a drug could be of some use, whether used alone or in conjunction with another treatment. I also have concerns about the way in which FSD broadly is handled in most feminist discussions of women’s sexuality and I believe that even if flibanserin were more effective than it is, there would still be resistance against it.

During this time, some feminist bloggers stayed on top of the flibanserin hearings and criticism of female sexual dysfunction broadly – of particular interest in these discussions of flibanserin was a specific sub-type of FSD: hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD.) One popular feminist critique is that low sexual desire is not a disease and not a valid form of sexual dysfunction. However I do not feel comfortable creating a hierarchy of what and isn’t a valid sexual dysfunction and by extension what is and isn’t a valid disability. Bear in mind that to be considered a sexual dysfunction clinically, there must be acute personal distress accompanied by a sexual problem. That means if you have low or zero sexual desire but you’re not dealing with serious stress and problems due to that, then you do not meet the clinical definition of sexual dysfunction. (However if you were to say to me “I think I have FSD even though I don’t meet the clinical definition,” I would be disinclined to boot you out and say you can’t party over here. You know yourself better than I do, and by the same token I have no business diagnosing anyone.)

Most blogs allow comments to continue discussing the original post beyond its end, but as you are probably already aware, comment features are a dual-edged sword. (As if we needed a timely reminder of this, one need only look at recent guest posts on Feministe.) On the one hand, blog comments allow discourse and debate to take place, and participants may learn something new about a topic or about themselves. On the other hand, comment sections carry the potential to backfire and turn into cesspools of troll waste and rampant privilege. Try as it may, the feminist blogosphere (alas, including this blog) can never be truly “Safe space” for everyone.

It’s been a few weeks since the flibanserin hearings, and and things have settled down a bit with regards to sexual dysfunction in the blogosphere. It’s quieter now… the trend has come and gone, but this won’t be the last we’ll hear of it. With some distance between me and the discussions now, I’ve been able to slog through comment threads on some of these flibanserin posts with only feelings of numbness instead of white-hot rage. Today we’re going to take a look at some comments on one of the flibanserin threads, because I believe the comments posted in relation to flibanserin, FSD and HSDD reveal problematic attitudes about FSD and towards women who have it, and especially who seek to address it. I’m not very interested right now in talking in detail about whether or not flibanserin should or should not have received FDA approval – I’m interested in talking about what people are talking about. I believe these attitudes, which include ablism and sexism, further stigmatize female sexual dysfunction and the women who have it. Some of you visiting here now need to examine what some people are saying about FSD, because perhaps you yourself have harbored such problematic attitudes, or else maybe you never thought about it this way. Others reading this blog are already familiar with the ugly things people say about FSD. If you or your partner have sexual dysfunction, you may want to bypass the rest of this post, or at least be in a position to return to a good state of mind after reading.

You may notice that the format of this installation in our hopefully not continuing series on what people are saying about female sexual dysfunction has changed since the first time around. Instead of pulling some of the best of the worst comments from various sites around the feminist blogosphere, I’m going to focus on one post from Feministe, FDA Wants YOU! to Have Sexual Satisfaction, which eventually turned into a privilege goldmine. We’re going to touch upon many areas but I cannot go into detail on all of them because if I hang around the comments too much I’ll burn out.

The setup: On Feministe, Frau Sally Benz posted a brief note about how the FDA hearings on flibanserin were about to take place. Not much else to it really; just a heads-up, no critical analysis in the body of the original post. From the flippant way it’s written, it’s hard for me to make out what Frau Sally Benz’s position, if any, is on flibanserin and female sexual dysfunction.
Anyway discussion ensues in comments, following a pattern that is becoming familiar to me.

Early on, the social construction arguments critical of FSD and the medicalization of sex were stated,

The problem with “female Viagra” is that there are so many reasons why women might have a poor sexual experience that are not biological.

More,

My understanding is women experience loss of interest in sex because of stress, tiredness, hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy and menopause, past abuse, repeated unsatisfying encounters, and being unable to name and explore what gives them sexual pleasure.

Often when I see someone talking about the social construction of FSD and social construction approaches to dealing with it, it’s as if social construction is a brand-new revolutionary way to think about sex and sexual dysfunction – to the person talking about it. Social construction isn’t all bad, but one of the reasons I’m unwilling to unquestioningly stand behind it is because it just doesn’t work for me. Based on what I’ve seen in some comments on this blog, a purely social construction approach is not a panacea for everyone. These social and relationship tweaks work well for some couples and individuals, and they may be significantly cheaper than going to a doctor and using medication! When it works, that’s just fine. Better communication, studying sex and technique, etc. Lovely.
But what happens when it doesn’t work?

Basically, what I want to know and still have not figured out is, what is the next step when ardent social construction proponents encounter responses like this:

I personally WOULD really like a drug to treat my crappy libido, and not wanting sex feels bad to me both physically and emotionally. Low libido CAN be a physical problem for many women, and I suspect it may be so for me.

My partner is competent as hell and places no demands on me. I’m healthy, I don’t have emotional problems with sex. I would just like to be able to come in less than half an hour. It’s also not diet, exercise, or any of the other blah blah blah things I’ve been told I should change about myself to fix a problem that is not my fault or under my control. So, commenters, please don’t belittle the experiences of women who have libido issues. I don’t want to see drugs given to women to substitute for their partners giving a fuck about their pleasure, no, but if a woman has libido problems that are distressing her, yeah, a little help might be useful. Drugs are not the enemy. There is nothing superior about a person who does not take or does not need to take drugs.

I really wish we’d see more comments like this when talking about FSD and flibanserin, since these are the voices of women who would be most directly effected by advances (and setbacks) in sexual medicine. But so often in discussions of sexual dysfunction, the conversation becomes dominated by people who do not have it, (statistically no matter how I look at it, the majority of women do not have sexual dysfunction,) perhaps who don’t even believe in its validity, and/or who are unfamiliar with what it’s like to live with. Which probably wards off women with FSD who might otherwise speak up. I’ve seen some women with sexual dysfunction, or at the very least sexual problems, have problems in their lives that social construction might do a good job addressing. But I’ve also heard from women with sexual dysfunction for whom a pure social construction approach does not and has not worked. It is as sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein says,

Flibanserin is proposed for women whose reduced desire can’t be explained by a dozen other factors, including well-known desire killers such as ambivalence about the relationship, sexual trauma, and husbands who don’t bathe.

Furthermore it seems there is very little room in social construction to acknowledge that there can be social forces and biology, or even, once in awhile mostly biology, at work when people develop sexual dysfunctions. What social forces caused me to develop vulvodynia? I’m uncomfortable with the way that social construction and medicine are separated, as though it is impossible to use both medicine and a social construction approach at the same time. It is as though the two are mutually exclusive, and if you choose one, you can’t have any of the other. On paper, the New View Campaign leaves a little wiggle room for medical factors to cause sexual problems but in practice the New View does not appear to be heavily invested in investigating and addressing biology and sexual problems. Reading through Sex is Not a Natural Act, author Dr. Leonore Tiefer, who is affiliated with the New View, she came down pretty hard on sexual medicine, even if FSD patients were dealing with complications from vulvar surgery. I’m very surprised that one of the early comments acknowledged the possible role of hormones in sexual dysfunction, because Dr. Tiefer included “Defining a [condition] as a deficiency disease or disease of hormonal imbalance” as a sign of disease-mongering (Payer in Tiefer, 2006).

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about on the Feministe thread with the resistance to sexual medicine:

I’m a bit concerned about the drive behind this drug. If you look at current information about women experiencing low arousal/desire, it’s full of sensible ideas like “talk to the woman about how she is feeling” and “maybe ur doin it rong”.

I so hate assigning blame for sexual dysfunction. What if your partner has been doing everything right? What if you already have good communication? What if your’re single? What if there really is something physical going on?
When my libido crashed because it was looking like I’d never be able to have sex again anyway, how sensible would it have been to say that was all my partner’s fault because he was doing something “rong? This was no one’s fault – and I remain grateful that my libido rebounded after getting medical treatment for the pain.

Seriously, I get it. I get the concern behind the drive for the drug. But I don’t get why there’s no concern about denying treatment, including medicine, to women who genuinely need it. The social construction approach is that since FSD isn’t a valid disease and isn’t recognized as a disability, it needs no medical intervention – there’s nothing to treat almost all of the time. I hear very little support for those rare cases in which someone does need sexual medicine.

Moving on, there’s also the ubiquitous women’s sexuality is complicated argument,

Will a pill fix a woman’s loss of libido? I think it’s unlikely, given that sexual arousal in women is complex, and that drugs do not affect one specific part of the brain and body.

Returning to Dr. Marty Klein, it’s more accurate to acknowledge that sexuality in general is complicated regardless of gender:

* Reinforcing the myth that women’s sexuality, especially desire, is more complicated than men’s.

No, no, no. Eroticism in adults is complicated, and it insults both genders to suggest that only women have emotions around sexuality. Professionals don’t understand why men don’t desire women they love any more than we understand why women don’t desire men they love.

Most men are not heartless machines eager to screw anything with a heartbeat, any more than most women are frigid creatures who only acquiesce to sex out of duty.

Another of my concerns is that the “Women’s sexuality is complicated” argument may be used to quash investigation into biology and sexual functioning. Sexuality may be complex but should that complexity stop further research into sexual medicine? Is there any room for sexual medicine at all?

Up to this point, the comments I’m pointing out are pretty typical and to be expected when talking about FSD. But right about now is the point where the comment thread started to get really weird. I’m familiar with the social construction arguments regarding HSDD, FSD and sexual medicine and while I’m tired of it and feel like I’m just being able-’splained to, (“Here’s what’s REALLY going on with you,”) at least I understand where it’s coming from. But then the conversation took a new, unexpected turn. Here’s where problematic attitudes about FSD become obvious and things start to turn ugly.

Here’s another quote from the Feministe comments section, which demonstrates at least three problematic things at once: Heterocentrism, what FigLeaf describes as the “Two rules of desire/No sex class” and the slippery slope,

It occurs to me that a rather depressing dystopian story could be written about this. Woman doesn’t want to have sex with man. Man sends her to doctor. Woman suddenly wants to have sex physically, but is mentally unready. Emotional health is effed up. Welcome to the new slavery. Fin.

Huh? Well that’s a new one to me.

To Sarah’s credit, you probably could write a very depressing story about a Stepfordian society in which women are minus all sexual desire and have absolutely no sexual agency! Or any other agency, for that matter, since it sounds like the women characters in this story are subject to Man’s orders to go to the doctor and then become slaves. However that dystopian story would probably not be about “This,” the topic of interest right now being real-world flibanserin with all its inherent limitations: should the FDA approve it? The dystopian story requires a gross exaggeration of flibanserin or any other sexual medicine for women to the point where it becomes a magic, mind-controlling sex pill, and it requires a world without lesbians, bi-, a- and pansexuals. Right now, in this physical plane we call home, such a magic mind-controlling sex pill doesn’t exist. Might make an interesting, depressing story but it moves us farther away from real-world women with sexual dysfunction, and further up into the ivory tower of theory.

The Feministe comment thread continues, with demonstration of a fundamental misunderstanding about how flibanserin works,

To end the sarcasm and speak seriously, I have a question that I hope one of you can answer. Would the drug work only through penetration. Or does clitoral stiumlation “activate” this drug too?

To find out how flibanserin “Activates,” let’s visit Neuroskeptic, who has a scientific descriptions of how it works.  Neuroskeptic says,

How is flibanserin supposed to work? According to a paper on the Pharmacology of Flibanserin, it’s a serotonin receptor 5HT1A agonist and a 5HT2A antagonist. This makes it a kind of cross between the antidepressants nefazadone and buspirone. Neither of these are widely used as antidepressants because they’re not considered highly effective. Flibanserin is also a weak dopamine D4 receptor partial agonist. This might underlie its aphrodisiac properties, because drugs which increase dopamine levels are known to enhance motivation and libido (or indeed cause problematic hypersexuality.) In rats and mice, flibanserin has sedative effects and enhances the effects of other sedatives. It also has antidepressant-like effects in some tests but not all. Drug geeks can click the image on the left for more details.

The short version is: the description does not say anything about flibanserin requiring penetration or clitoral stimulation to work. I don’t think that mattters… or it would depend on what the person using flibanserin likes.

Back over to Feministe again. Some combination of both heterocentrism and misunderstanding the application of sexual medicine,

The drug is an antidepressant.

In short, if a woman doesn’t want a penis in her vagina it MUST be because she has an undiagnosed mental illness.

Well, no, not exactly… flibanserin doesn’t work well as an antidepressant. And what this commenter and many readers visiting this post for the first time are probably unaware of is the fact that tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes used by women with the vulvar pain condition vulvodynia. That does not mean that vulvodynia is in and of itself a mental illness. In this case there’s something physical going on inside the body. The low dose of tricyclic antidepressants are thought to calm overactive nerve endings down for some patients.
However it is worth noting here that FSD is listed in the DSM-IV and soon-to-be-V. Pain may be included as a sexual dysfunction. That’s interesting, but today as I write this post, instead of questioning validity of this categorization, I’m inclined to save that conversation for another day. No matter how I slice it, I keep coming back to recognizing FSD as disability…

Furthermore, this is an intercourse-centric quote that treats PIV intercourse as the default sex. There’s no room for a woman who wants to want a vibrator on her clitoris sans the involvement of a penis.

So far, pretty typical stuff for a discussion of female sexual dysfunction and sexual medicine. I’ve seen comments like this before and I’ll see them all again.

Then things started to get really weird.

But you’ll have to stay tuned until our next installment of Ugly Things to find out what comments were so shocking to me that they constitute their own post! …Plus this is getting way too long.

Interesting posts, weekend of 8/1/10

08/01/2010 at 4:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
Tags: , ,

Dear internet, no pictures to upload yet, still haven’t broken out the digital camera. I’ve been working hard lately, I can’t believe it’s August. I could use another vacation already. Last night I watched a DVD of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland 2010 and it was half-good… beautiful character and set design, pity so much of it was computer-generated. I’m starting to miss classic puppetry and costumes in movies. The computer stuff doesn’t carry the weight of reality. Alice in Wonderland had was a decent story, certainly ripe for a feminist analysis – so why was it so… boring?

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. Did you all get a chance to see Simone’s guest post this week? If you enjoyed her guest post, you might also like this entry, Sex Does Not Mean Intercourse, Part 2768, on her blog.
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.

Can’t get enough of feminism and sexual dysfunction on the internet? You may want to think about following the Twitter feed, which is more accurately described as my Twitter feed since no one else manages it. Some of my daily mundane and/or angry thoughts sneak in there but I try to include trendy topics as well as a healthy dose of sexual dysfunction related news when I find it.

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

Fighting With The Insurance Company – What it’s like when you try to get your insurance claims for sexual health problems reimbursed with a certain insurance company! Fun times… good god it’s miserable, it takes forever, no one ever gives you a straight answer, the telephone reps always give you the wrong address & contact information,sometimes someone will say a supervisor will call you back but they don’t. They don’t. Oh my god I the worst encounters with the most un-professional, deliberately obnoxious, rude telephone rep I have ever had in my life with this company. Like oh my god if I ever talked on the phone like that to a client I would soooo be fired 10x over. And then after you finally get the right information and enough time has passed to get your insurance claim process the next random phone rep will tell you it was sent to the wrong address and it will be another 30 days before the claim can be processed with the right… department or something I don’t even know. And then they finally process the claim and the answer is always “No!” Then you gotta go through it allover again! I cannot believe utter malice of insurance companies, I swear they operate in 100% premeditated bad faith. This one operates in bad faith. I cannot believe, I swear.

An Introduction to Massage – One of my surprisingly useful tools in addressing pelvic floor dysfunction and in a different context, an intimate act that can be incorporated into sex lives.

So You Want to Be a Sex Educator – Interesting because I still have basically zero real-world credibility for anything I’ve talked about so far :/ I really need to get some. Goddammit I’m going to have to go back to school just so I can get a Ph.D. just so that people will take me srsly. Or maybe there’s another way?
On the other hand! Why Yes, Virginia, You Can Be Barred From Getting A Degree If You Won’t Do The Work – A student of counseling did not provide counseling services to a gay client. For violating the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, she was expelled from the school and is seeking representation in court from the Alliance Defense Fund. Check out one of the comments in this thread – it’s got links to show that there is a concentrated effort in the US to allow discrimination to take place under the guise of morality.

Popularizing Research in the Conventional Media – Useful post about how research findings are brought to the public through journalism. This is relevant to what we so often talk about on this blog because critics of female sexual dysfunction in general will point out flaws in popularization pieces and the research that journalists relied on. Also touches upon the fact that academia is not necessarily a panacea for independent research.

It’s been a busy week in the feminist blogosphere, and not all of that busy work is good work. The Feministe/Jezebel blogosphere blow-out is an unavoidable topic. The blog Feministe has called upon some guest bloggers for the summer, and Mai’a’s posts about children and motherhood have been generating a lot of discussion. It ain’t all pretty, you may not want to read the comments sections at all. Some responses I mostly liked were written by Karnythia and Renee.

RMJ at Deeply Problematic posted Disability Blog Carnival #68 with the theme, evidence.

Some updates in sexual assault cases, trigger warnings apply. Roman Polanski: Still a rapist – Another woman has come forward who claims that Polanski raped her three years before the case for which Polanski was convicted (and fled the USA.) Portland Authorities Announce No Charges To Be Filed Against Al Gore - A massage therapist went to Portland police to file charges against former Vice President Al Gore. The district attorney offices does not have enough evidence to put a case together. This does not necessarily mean that the assault didn’t happen, but it show how difficult it is to go to police and seek redress through the legal system.

The Impossibility Of Disclosure Obligations - This post about how hard it is to figure out how much to disclose to potential sex partners and when follows on the heels of another Feministe discussion, Rape by deception. Thomas’s post looks at issues of disclosure effecting trans women in particular.

Federal Judge Puts Hold on Controversial Part of AZ Immigration Law – This hold up is no doubt going to be appealed.

Today in Not News: The Afghanistan War Blows – In US political news, WikiLeaks published upwards of 90k pages of classified war documents revealing that the war in Afghanistan is not going as well as we have been led to believe, which isn’t good to begin with.

If CNN Won’t Do It, I Guess I Will: Transcripts of CNN’s ADA Coverage – July 26 was the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ironically CNN did not provide transcripts for its coverage of this landmark date.

Anti-porn is pro-censorship, even if they say they’re not – Violet Blue’s “Our Porn, Ourselves” FaceBook page has been deleted, supposedly for violation of FB’s terms of services – in spite of the fact that there wasn’t actually any pornographic material on the page. It was more of a digital social gathering to talk about being pro-porn. (This link is work-safe.)

Homophobia apparently just the same as objecting to homophobia – Oh my god,

Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes.

Oh my god, this quote, oh my god. Well now that pretty much sums up why there’s a need for social justice.

The cellular telephone assault on fiction – That certainly is an observation in modern fiction mm-hmm. Also a chronic problem in animated programs.

Some Disturbing Statistics – Re-printing a Yahoo! Finance article which is just as well because I can’t read Yahoo! News articles anymore due to the comments sections.

Passages Malibu: Detox as Vacation, maybe – Daisy Deadhead goes over why this program is probably a scam.
You know as a total aside note here I’m thinking aloud to myself it’s like… why… do we (generally) recognize addictions like… alcohol addiction and gambling addiction… but there’s still resistance to recognize sex addiction. Hmmmm…

Edit – Actually on second thought I’ll include this one too because this could be me some day… Comments – Thinking about using words correctly or incorrectly when writing blog posts.

I’m sure there’s more…

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