For (belated) Lady Porn Day: This time it’s personal

02/27/2011 at 12:40 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I’ve gone from having writer’s block to not being able to stop writing. Whereas today’s earlier Lady Porn Day post presented an overview of experts in conflict over pornography’s place in sexuality, this one will be more in keeping with the theme of LPD: To talk about my own experiences with porn. While this post probably squeaks by as SFW, it’s still TMI ahead, it goes behind a WordPress cut. Everything should still appear in your RSS feeder if you’ve subscribed though.

Continue Reading For (belated) Lady Porn Day: This time it’s personal…

For (belated) Lady Porn Day: What are the experts saying?

02/26/2011 at 7:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments
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February 22 was Lady Porn Day, a blogging event organized by Rachel Rabbit Write. This is the same blogger who, last year, organized “No makeup week.” In this case, “Day” is something of a misnomer, as today is actually the last day of the week-long Lady Porn event. (A good thing, too, considering my recent writer’s block.) In an interview with the Huffington Post, Write said the purpose of Lady Porn Day was to, “Essentially to celebrate porn and masturbation. I’m inviting everyone to talk about their porn experiences, share stories and to ultimately share their porn recommendations. This is about not only opening up a dialog about how porn is good, but also how porn is hard, how it can be an issue for women, in terms of dealing with guilt or body image or their sexuality.”

What’s been on my mind for awhile and has finally been knocked loose by this event is the subject of pornography and sex therapy. I’ve been thinking about this topic because I’m seeing a conflict between sex therapists who embrace pornography as a healthy & valid part of human sexuality vs. those who view it as the source of all kinds of sexual problems. Sex therapy is a possible treatment option for some folks with sexual dysfunctions and problems, so clients could find themselves in the middle of a political, academic & psychological tug-of-war between experts.
I’ll show you what I’m talking about, but with a caveat: you must bear in mind that I myself have not had sex therapy and I have absolutely no desire to do so, to the point where I’m actually quite resistant to sex therapy as a treatment for my dysfunction.

Whether or not sex therapists and sex educators are pro-porn or anti-porn looks to me like it’s largely a function of their own personal politics.

Notable sex educators who have articulated porn-positive arguments include the following:

Dr. Marty Klein is a long-term sex therapist and author who is very much anti-censorship and who consistently defends the use of pornography. He does identify as feminist and is clearly pro-choice; however one theme I’ve noticed in some of Klein’s writing is that he is critical of feminism – or at least, select vocal feminists and feminist groups. Oh well, so am I.
Dr. Leonore Tiefer, a feminist sexologist who is highly critical of female sexual dysfunction and so spearheaded the New View perspective of FSD (a perspective which I myself am highly critical of,) likewise recognizes a valid place for pornography in women’s sexuality.
Jessi Fischer is a sex educator who you may know better as The Sexademic. She recently got into an academic debate about pornography, opposite Gail Dines and Shelley Lubben – two notable anti-porn activists. (Each side of the debate was joined by additional activists, so it wasn’t just Fischer Vs. Dines & Lubben.) The pro-porn side of the debate came out on top – the audience members voted on who made the more convincing argument and decided it was Fischer’s team.
Dr. Carol Queen, sex educator with GoodVibes, wrote a post in favor of porn and Lady Porn Day – which makes sense considering her involvement with instructional & graphic sex videos. Most porn is not for educational purposes, but there’s some out there that is.

Nonetheless, porn-positive activists can be critical of porn. Pornography can, and often does, have problems. Criticisms of porn from sex-positive therapists may consist of something like, “This element is good, that element is neutral, and if you will look over there there, there is the element is the inherently problematic one that needs fixing.” And the element that needs fixing may be something like, the marketing of porn rather than the content itself. A great example of this took place a few weeks ago when actress Nicki Blue elected to film her first vaginal intercourse experience for the pornographic website, kink.com. The initial marketing for Blue’s film shoot was highly exploitative and inaccurate.

But I’ve seen activists, educators and licensed therapists go in the opposite direction too, and come down hard against pornography. Often this stance against pornography is lumped with a warning against sex and masturbation addiction – which is another extremely controversial topic. However, I’ve repeatedly seen more acceptance of the term “Compulsion” instead of “addiction” to describe obsessive sexual behaviors, to the point where such behaviors interfere with someone’s personal or sexual life.

Dr. Mary Anne Layden is a clinical psychotherapist and Director of Education at the Center for Cognitive Therapy, part of the University of Pennsylvania. In 2004, she went before the US Senate to talk about the so-called dangers of pornography. In another interview with the Washington Examiner, she talked about the process of becoming addicted to porn when she said, “There’s always an escalation process. We don’t know what the threshold is, and those with addictive personalities will start it earlier. But I see a lot of people who didn’t show any psychological problems before [viewing porn].”
Jason McClain is a UK therapist who considers himself to be a former porn addict. He runs an organization, Quit Porn Addiction, and now he counsels clients who likewise want to break away from porn.
Dr. Alvin Cooper is a sex therapist and director of the San Jose Marital & Sexuality Center who contributed to a documentary, A Drug Called Pornography. According to the linked synopsis, this film’s thesis is that, “Pornography is an addiction. Its effects on users and their loved ones are just as habit-forming and destructive as heroin, tobacco, or any other addictive agent… The program features disturbing interviews with pornography addicts, many of whom are convicted sex offenders. They talk frankly about how pornography affects their psyches and systems, coloring all their activities and relationships.” And according to this Time article, Cooper also gives seminars about addiction to cybersex.

In addition, Googling search terms such as, “Sex therapy addiction” or “Sex therapy porn” brought up many, many more results for therapists and organizations that prominently feature treating sex and masturbation addiction among their services.

I am confounded, though not surprised, to see that sexuality experts with licenses, teaching jobs and more credibility than me have not come to a unified agreement on porn’s place in sex therapy. It’s not surprising that sex therapists haven’t come to a standard approach on how to deal with pornography, because there’s precedent for a lack of resolution: Pro-and-anti- porn debates in politics, academia and feminism remain unsettled.
But it is confounding, because who am I supposed to believe, and why?

Actually, I have been convinced by the arguments of the porn-positive side. I especially appreciated Violet Blue’s analysis of the for-profit agenda of major anti-porn activists. This analysis, and others like it, also note that anti-porn rhetoric is also often anti-masturbation – a healthy sexual activity. There are numerous other arguments in favor of pornography that I have heard which have contributed to my “Up with porn” POV… the only reason I’m not getting into them right now is because it will take too long to document everything.
Though I’ll also admit that most porn has problems which could and should be handled better (but won’t,) and, like just about any other tool, it can be used for the forces of good or for evil… and everything in between.
(Plus I’ll admit to some potential bias – I have a subscription to a porn site which I regularly check on. I have not noticed any ill effects from doing so…)

So there’s a couple of scenarios with regard to porn use that I envision as potential problems in a sex therapy setting. While I have no experience with sex therapy myself, I nonetheless speculate that these scenarios have probably come up before many, many times in clinical practice. So I would be surprised if practicing therapists and educators didn’t have tools in place to address such situations. How could such conflicts not come up?
The problem is, because so many google search results for “Sex therapy addiction” or “Sex therapy porn” result in facilities looking to treat addiction to porn & masturbation, I am not able to find out what these client-therapist conflict-resolving tools may be. The search results are too bogged down with stuff I’m not looking for. (Little help? Anyone?)

One of my concerns is with regard to pornography and sex therapy is that if you’re entering into a therapeutic relationship with a licensed professional, there’s inherently going to be a power imbalance. The therapist has probably had more exposure to educational materials, which may have their own biases & agendas. You and your therapist are probably going into that relationship with some ideas about pornography to begin with. If there’s a match between your beliefs and your therapist’s, then in terms of personality you may not have a problem, and you may be able to swiftly work out a plan of action. But if you and your therapist have conflicting beliefs about pornography as a tool in your sexuality, then you may have a problem.

So what happens if you are someone with a sexual problem or dysfunction who just happens to have a history of porn use? If you find a sex therapist who is anti-porn, will your previous or current use be zoomed in on as the source of your problems to the exclusion of other contributing factors?

Or what happens if, due to the conflict between you and your therapist re: use of porn in sexuality, you decide to find another therapist? That may be possible, depending on your geographic location. Finding a good therapist may take time and transportation, depending on where you live and what sort of resources are available in your area. Checking my own local area via the American Association of Sexuality Educators and Certified Therapists, I was surprised to find one licensed sex therapist! The next “Local” one, though, would be about 45 minutes away by car – not exactly the worst commute, but certainly not convenient, either. Finding Kink-aware therapists may be another option.
I’d like to imagine that sex therapy may be easier to provide now and in the future though, thanks to technology like Skype, though this is speculation – I do not know if there are any therapists willing to use this remote communication service with clients. But,  hypothetically, if I were very unlucky, then I might be stuck with a therapist I don’t agree with, or no therapist at all.

Basically, for Lady Porn Day, like many bloggers my concern is what happens to the porn users and their partners who are stuck in the middle of it all. This conflict between professionals is unlikely to be resolved  any time soon. The most neutral article about porn use in a relationship was this one from About.com, which says, in the end, “Whether or not pornography will add to or lessen a couple’s sexual enjoyment is up to each couple.”

Interesting posts, weekend of 2/13

02/13/2011 at 3:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Dear internet, I have come to a revolutionary decision. Or conclusion. A thought. Here’s what’s on my mind right now: If your definition of “Sex positive” does not include sexual dysfunction, then your definition isn’t positive enough. I thought about it for more than 5 seconds and then decided that it’s really not that revolutionary at all. But I am certain that to anyone who doesn’t think about this addendum, it will seem 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. But I am still having problems with it on my mobile device.

Now then, on with the blog link roundup that’s starting to become an irregular feature around here. Posts I found interesting over the few weeks. Share links if’n you got’em. Remember, if I left anything out, it’s not because a topic was unimportant – it’s because I am a one person with a finite time on my hands. (Some notable omissions this week are a deliberate effort to stay under troll radar.)

Hey, if you live in the New York City area, check out this calendar of events… Events Calendar for Babeland – On March 10, 2011, the Babeland Brooklyn store is going to host an event, “Overcoming painful sex.” Isa Herrera wrote this self-published book, Ending Female Pain, and she’s going to be at the workshop. It’s FREE!

Hey, if you live in the Seattle area, I see there’s also an event targeting medical professionals at the Seattle store, scheduled for March 31, 2011. The description says staff will show medical pros some devices that might assist patients dealing with pre-orgasmia, ED or ejaculation problems and menopause. Also FREE! (Am I supposed to flap my arms and go all like, “Uh oh, someone’s trying to medicalize sexuality! Quick! Someone stop them!” now? No I’m not doing that. I will, however, segue:)

The ubiquitous film, Orgasm Inc. will be releasing into more movie theaters over the next couple of weeks, so we’re probably going see yet another flurry of almost identical reviews of the movie. Call me cynical, but it seems that every time it releases somewhere else (Can it really be considered a “New” film if it came out in 2009?) there’s a a couple of sites that review it – and proceed to question the validity of sexual dysfunction, usually by citing poor sex education, Big Pharma, genital cosmetic surgery (SHOCK VALUE!) and one of the participants in the film who had the sensationalized orgasmatron spinal cord device installed. These reviews usually end by offering unsolicited advice and/or inviting blog commenters to speculate as to the reality of what folks like me and my friends are going through. And further to speculate as to whether or not folks like me and my friends really need to have a medical option available or whether we should all just dump our boyfriends, who simply must be shitty in bed (the assumption in comments is almost always one of heterosexuality.) This month’s (week’s? I have no doubt there’ll be more soon) obligatory Orgasm Inc. press coverage comes from FeministingWired magazine and Jezebel. (Note: this particular Jezebel post actually does the thing where the OP openly invites speculation.)
I think I finally saw a date pinned down as to when the DVD will be available, something about June.
Since it’s supposed to be more widely available soon, I would like to request that a guest poster who has some experience with FSD write a review of Orgasm Inc. for this blog.  Also because I am selfish, so that I can brace myself for it when I eventually have no choice but to watch the film. I’ll have to watch eventually but you go first.

In more helpful news, here’s A new idea – The 5’11″ish woman is interested in starting a vulvodynia support group via Skype. Times like this I really like technology.

Good Vibrations House Calls: I’m Way Too Tight – Some suggestions for dealing with difficulty when attempting vaginal insertion during sex.
Something for the folks who once had but are now minus a prostate: Good Vibrations House Calls: Orgasm After Prostatectomy
Sex Isn’t The Same Since My C-Section! – It isn’t just vaginal birth that can lead to sexual problems and scarring after having a baby.
Something highly disturbing which just illustrates how ableism is still an actual thing in the world (Trigger warning:Informing Consent. A man with cognitive disabilities was legally barred from having sexual relationships and from receiving sex education, on the advice of a psychiatrist. This is problematic on multiple levels; one of the problems is that by denying sex education to people with disabilities, you also make it harder to report sexual assault.

Something else about sexual health and Big Pharma – in this case, an antidepressant which may cause fewer sexual side effects vs. traditional SSRIS and discussions with folks who did experience sexual side effects while on antidepressants: Antidepressants and sex: A doomed romance? Via Violet Blue [NSFW]. Might be of interest to some readers here. Ever the cynic, I find myself wondering why I didn’t see any feminist blog posts making fun of this drug’s name the way that the word “Flibanserin” became the butt of some kind of huge joke last year.

More on Big Pharma and the miscellaneous hazards of backlash against it: How To Avoid Being Seen As A Drug-Seeker (if you have chronic pain), also A Chronic Pain Patients Bill Of Rights. and finally The Government’s Cruel War On Pain Medication. Don’t know about using “Ron Paul” and “Good” in the same sentence, though.

In old time news, here’s Your Sex Questions Answered (Jan 1959) – This is 11 pages of actual sex questions and answered published in an old magazine, Sexology. You can buy “Best of” collections of this magazine on Amazon! Some of these questions and articles are very interesting and well-answered! Others are handled just terribly to the point where it’s almost humorous! The nice thing about this article is that, even though the pages are in graphic form, there’s a full text transcript at the bottom. I might come back to this article later as a full blog post because it looks like fun to pick apart.

Superbowl Sunday was last Sunday. It was turned into “Porn Sunday” by some anti-porn organizations. Food for thought; here are some posts that take quite different stances regarding pornography and Porn Sunday. The first one is actually an Oldie but Goodie from last year, a friendly reminder of just who it is that’s so All Up Ons about porn: Anti-Porn Profiteering: What They’re Selling. Now compare this with explicitly anti-porn, Pornography Nation. Did you catch that? Okay, now compare that to Humans Aren’t Rodents. Porn Isn’t Ruining Marriages. Interesting conversations going on in the comments over there.

GOP Cuts – a list of the departments, programs, and amounts of $ which US Republicans have proposed cutting. Ow. Ow. Ooooww. These cuts would essentially defund Title X, family planning, which includes health care for women.

Here’s a neat book and blog, because I just really like comics. Black Comix by black writers & illustrators, blog especially covers events pertaining to the book. Via Boiling Point Blog.

Feminism 101: Helpful Hints for Dudes, Part I – Helpful advice for the gentlemen who are themselves feminist or have feminist partners. I especially like the advice where Liss is all like, stop asking the ladies to divorce their sexuality or some other component from who they are. (I get that a lot. Some variation of “Well if it weren’t for X, then wouldn’t you Y?”)

Africans in Ancient China & Vice Versa, Part 4: A Final Word about Zheng He–Guest Blog by Eccentric Yoruba – Something that I didn’t learn from my highly informative Asian studies class.

Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey – A big study that shows how trans folk & people who don’t fit into nice neat little gender boxes face real, tangible, dangerous discrimination. As a result of this discrimination, trans & gender non-conforming folk deal face high rates of unemployment, poverty, lack of health care, educational barriers, violence and death. This report also includes some recommendations to reduce this discrimination.

Getting around to older items from my RSS feeder:

Ask Matt Monday: My Guy Doesn’t Want to Have Sex – in this blog post, Matt answers a reader query regarding a trans man who is uncomfortable with sexual activity in a relationship.

That troll who goes around targeting V-blogs and anything vaginismus related is still active. If That Guy, (it’s a guy) has tried to get all up in your bloggy business, then this may be of some use to you: How I minimize the online abuse I receive. Once again let me reiterate: there is a reason I make it deliberately hard to get in contact with me.

Do you scream?[Trigger warning] – This is an example of one way rapists groom their victims.

Last week I posted a link to shitty logo design for women’s groups. This week here’s a common uncreative theme shitty advertisements use when targeting the ladies: Women laughing alone with salad (via Feministe.)

As always, I’m sure there’s more…

Interesting posts, weekend of 2/6/11

02/06/2011 at 9:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, I’ve been feeling like lying low for awhile in terms of cranking out new content here. This time, it isn’t because I am busy or because I’m having too much fun. It’s because I was starting to feel burnout start to eat away at my core. So rather than get burned and stop blogging together, I withdrew into myself. Unexpectedly, it wasn’t even sexual dysfunction related news that got me feeling overwhelmed either; I’ve been keeping an eye out for more FSD news (crappy and good articles) but that front has been relatively quiet lately… Just more of the same and the occasional troll. No, what had me feeling overwhelmed was just general political & feminist news happenings. I’ll share with you all today some of what has had me feeling powerless – some, but not all of it, for reasons that include my need to feel relatively safe.

Before we begin the weekly blog link roundup though, I’d just like to say – this week, Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction had its 50,000th page view.
HOLY SHIT. 50,000 page views??? This calls for an irreverent picture!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

[Image Description: Little kid Corey from the terrible video game movie, The Wizard, staring slack-jawed at an old arcade game box. From Canada.com; I am pretty sure their TOS will forgive me fair non-commercial use of this picture.]

“You scored 50,000 on Double Dragon?!” We sure did. And it only took us… what, 2 & 1/2 years…! Ugh, I know some blogs get that many hits in 6 months. But this isn’t exactly a team blog, and I have work to do besides blogging. So I suppose it’s reasonable that it would take us awhile longer to get that far. But we still have a long way to go… (and I really need to work on my cis-sexism :/ ) We haven’t quite broken 200 posts yet but we’re getting there. Won’t you stick around and contribute to help us get there & beyond?
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.
One of the posts that pushed us over the 50,000 page view edge was this recent guest post from Rhiannon, who was our very first guest poster all the way back in 2009. Did you all get a chance to see her new follow up post?

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. But I am still having problems with it on my mobile device.

Now then, on with the blog link roundup that’s starting to become an irregular feature around here. Posts I found interesting over the few weeks. Share links if’n you got’em. Remember, if I left anything out, it’s not because a topic was unimportant – it’s because I am a one person with a finite time on my hands. (Some notable omissions this week are a deliberate effort to stay under troll radar.)

So in the United States following last year’s elections, the House of Representatives has more Republican party members than Democrats. What’s some of the recent, important legislation that (mostly) Republicans and conservatives are pushing for? Is it something to stimulate the economy? Something to see to it that unemployed people will not be unemployed much longer and in the mean time have enough food and receive decent healthcare? No! There are like a bunch of things going on that make me feel 100% comfortable calling many congressfolks in the government proud members of the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club.
House Repeals Healthcare Reform – Now this is just the House of Representatives; the Senate did not follow suit. So national health care reform passed by President Obama is still under attack. Also, there was this: Federal Judge Rules Key Provisions of Healthcare Unconstitutional. Now this judge sounds like he agonized about having to declare the entire law unconstitutional, based on the fact that the law makes it so citizens need to buy health insurance. The thing is, if you will recall, this was a concession made to appease big health insurance companies. So you might be wondering, what does this have to do with being part of the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club? Well for one thing, health care & insurance is still a feminist issue, and one which has a strong impact on women. Today’s Health Care Battle in Congress Directly Affects Women’s Health. Here’s an example of how the availability of health care impacts women with vulvodynia in particular. Number 50,000,001:

“I am a statistic. I’m am one of the millions of Americans who is unemployed. But that’s not the only category I fall into. I am also uninsured. I am unemployed and I am uninsured. And I am scared. I’m scared that I won’t find another job and that we won’t have enough money to pay the bills. I’m scared every time my husband leaves for work that he will get in an accident and we won’t be able to cover the care he needs. And mostly, I’m scared that once my medications run out, I won’t be able to afford to buy them, and my vulvodynia will get worse.”

In December, the House of Representatives also blocked legislation that would have supported the prevention of child marriages outside of the US. (The Senate had passed the bill.) What changed the House’s mind? A couple of hours before the vote, this memo went around to pro-life representatives, saying something about how the law would support abortion or something. Abortion isn’t even mentioned in The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act!
Then, this other bill, HR3, would have redefined rape for the purposes of who gets to have an abortion covered by federal funds – forcible rape only, whatever that vague language even means officially – though feminist analysis has some pretty good insight as to how it would have created a false hierarchy of rape. [Trigger warnings apply:] Redefining Rape: More Important Than Jobs – now there’s several layers of wrong with this bill, it’s both about abortion funding and rape, and Sady Doyle was on top of it with a activism campaign, #DearJohn. This worked to remove the “Forcible rape” language from the bill but it’s still seriously fucked up and so we’re not done with it yet.
But wait there’s more - Chip, chip, chip… multiple bills that hack away at reproductive rights.
Whew. Are you starting to see the big picture now? Does anybody else smell some a double-standard what with the, fearmongering about Death Panels & fear of Big Government health care dipping into what procedures you are and aren’t allowed to get, but then like, folks (mostly Republicans) involved in Big Government do exactly that? I, I don’t get it; we can’t allow government to provide health care to millions of people because then government will bureaucratize health care and nobody wants that oh by the way here’s a bill that makes it a lot harder to get certain medical procedures done and it just so happens that those procedures impact women more than men. What? I am not seeing the link between all this reproductive coercion bullshit and cutting the deficit.

Now here’s something that you may’ve heard about, a truly seedy abortion clinic. On second thought about Kermit Gosnell – Kermit Gosnell ran a truly disgusting abortion clinic in Pennsylvania and he got busted after one of his patients died; some babies born live may have also been murdered. This is by no means a standard of what abortion providers are like, this is an exception to the rule – especially since Gosnell & co. weren’t even supposed to be providing abortion in the first place. So why would you go there? Because there was no where else to go.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood (which does provide abortions in sanitary conditions as well as general sexual health care,) has come under attack by one of those fake video sting campaigns. Standing with Planned Parenthood. This is like the 4th fake video sting that I know of, if you go back to the ACORN thing, Shirley Sherrod’s heavily edited speech and James O’Keefe’s attempted entrapment of a news reporter. As was the case before, what’s been released is heavily edited & designed to make Planned Parenthood look bad. One of twelve targeted facilities did not follow protocol in cases of suspected abuse & the employee who messed up has been disciplined.
Meanwhile! One Maggie Gallagher, founder of the homophobic National Organization for Marriage (The organization that put out that “Gathering storm” ad a few years ago,) has made some odd statements trying to link abortion to anal sex. Um. I guess because they are both dirty, painful and terrible, you see (not really.)
Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin will no longer be providing abortion services in its clinic, due to the dangers caused by protesters outside.
Also, just in case you’re hanging around a forum and get sucked into an abortion debate (it’s happened to me) and somebody goes all, “Women get abortions in secret and don’t tell the father and I’d want to know about it!” Here’s a resource you can use to say, most women do share with their partners when they will be seeking abortion, most partners support the decision. A notable exception is when there’s domestic violence involved. Partners of Women Who Have Abortions Are in the Loop.

Some nice posts on asexuality. Not social justice from where I’m standing from Chally about how sexual social justice is incomplete if you exclude asexual folks, especially when sexual folks appropriate asexuality to illustrate stuff that’s wrong & bad from truly anti-sex folks. Then on Goodvibes there was two posts, Asexuality is Not Antisexuality: Sex-Positivity in a Negative World and then Sex-Positivity and Asexuality: Bringing Them Together. There’s also this post by swankivy, who identifies as asexual: Sexual Attraction vs. Romantic Attraction.
I’d like to believe that Feminists with FSD is ahead of the curve for reaching out to and including works by asexual folks on a mostly sexual blog but really if you want to talk about being ahead of the curve then you should probably go visit some asexual blogs which have been around for longer than this sexual dysfunction blog.

Something a little bit fun but also NSFWLoveHoney’s design a sex toy contest. What I find noteworthy is that last year’s design was the Sqweel, which is designed to mimic oral sex – it’s not for vaginal insertion. (Or I suppose it could be if you were really creative with it? It looks more like an external toy to me…) So wouldn’t it be funny if someone with a sexual dysfunction designed a winning sex toy? Hmmm…
Something else that will hopefully amuse you and disabuse you of any shitty lessons you may still be bearing: Bad Sex Ed tumblr. (via Babeland blog, probably NSFW.)
Here’s a survey for long-term lesbian couples, via Violet Blue [NSFW]. Lesbian Couples Sex Survey.
A book offering a frank discussion of sex education with a Muslim audience in mind is causing controversy in Pakistan. Fury over doctor’s book on sex education for Muslims (again via NSFW Violet Blue.)

Some strange news regarding who is OK to speak at colleges about sex, first link is NSFW: Tristan Taormino, Ann Coulter, And The Disgrace Of Oregon State University – so feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino was invited to speak about modern sex at Oregon State U, but then after she’d already paid for transportation & all, OSU backed out and was all like, “Don’t come here anymore because we can’t be all using public $ to pay for a pornographer to come here and talk.” Meanwhile, Bristol Palin was offered private $ to come speak at Washington University for Sex Week – she would have been talking about abstinence. But then that appearance was canceled, too – because Bristol wasn’t abstinent. I was going to say something about there being a double-standard but since both schools canceled appearances by speakers who have been in some way involved with sex it’s not really a double-standard at all – the consistent message is something along the lines of, if you are a woman who has been in any way shape or form involved with sex, get out.

A blogging event coming up on February 10: Love Beats Hate: February 10, 2011 Event
Another one, the Blog Carnival of Mental Health: Announcing the February Blog Carnival of Mental Health – You got till Feb. 26.

A little bit of an older post but a good one, Why I ditched the “lady mags”. Note also the plastic shield in front of the Woman’s World magazine, which features a woman of color on the front. Now compare to a recent episode in which a plastic “Family shield” was used to cover a picture of Elton John with husband and child.

If you were a logo designer, how might you design a logo for something relating to a service for women? If you are completely uncreative and unoriginal you’ll probably dip into these tired old “Women-as-squiggly-lines” images. (Either that or you might refer to one of those O’Keefe paintings of flowers as vaginas, which I am so tired of.)

Two instances of barely averted domestic terrorism in the US. This threat comes from home, not from without. Pipe bomb threatens Spokane MLK Day parade, and then later Another attempted terrorist attack to send down the memory hole. Now just in case somebody tries to dismiss these acts of violence with something along the lines of, “Oh well that’s just one person and he’s clearly crazy,” don’t let whoever says that to you off the hook. Why do you speculate as to these guys’ mental state? Let us not forget that people with disabilities, including mental illness, are more likely to be themselves victims of violence. Case in point: Dutch Psychiatric Patients Likely to Be Victims of Violence.
It’s probably no coincidence that a Latina child, Brisenia Flores, was shot in killed in what I would certainly consider to be an act of domestic terrorism.

I’ve been following BoingBoing.net’s coverage of the Egypt protests & counter-protests. The Pursuit of Harpyness blog provided details on the revolution in Tunisia: WTF is Going on in Tunisia: Must-reads.

F*cking tides, how do they work? - Mildly funny but also pathetic.

Toy Story 3: Lessons in Race and Gender - Because I just really like cartoons and analyzing cartoons from social justice & feminist perspectives.

Fat, Ugly or Slutty – [Trigger warning for violence, misogyny] – Think of it as the HollaBack for video games. Women gamers post actual screenshots & messages from creeps in online games. Via the F-Word.

The nice pregnant lady’s guide to not offending polite society* – Bullshit pregnant women have to put up with when talking about being pregnant.

Something that may help some readers here – Scarleteen’s Find-a-Doc service. I actually used this to find some potential doctors in my area!

I’m sure there’s more…

Vulvar pain in women of color

02/01/2011 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This was cross-posted to Womanist Musings.

For the purposes of this post today, I will be focusing on vulvodynia; however keep in mind that there are other causes of chronic pelvic and sexual pain; likewise there are serious sexual problems besides pain which also deserve attention.

Vulvodynia is a syndrome, a collection of symptoms, centered around chronic vulvar pain, lasting longer than 3 to 6 months. Pain (commonly described as burning, stinging, stabbing, rawness and/or irritation,) may occur in the vulvar vestibule, mons, urethral opening, labia, clitoris, or elsewhere in the vulvar area. Not all instances of vulvar pain are vulvodynia, and for some women vulvar pain may resolve on its own.

Vulvodynia does not have one universal cause; some possible causes include injury, sensitivity to vulvar microorganisms (like yeast,) hormonal changes, muscular problems, etc., though for some folks the cause will remain unknown. For some women, vulvar pain is caused by pudendal neuralgia or pudendal nerve entrapment. Everyone is different, so some women experience pain all the time without provocation while others experience pain only when attempting to insert something vaginally. Likewise, for some women, it is still possible to enjoy sexual activity even with vulvodynia, while for others sex will become too painful to engage in. There are a number of treatments available for vulvodynia, but no single cure, so women with vulvar pain may have to burn through multiple doctors and treatments before finding the right one.

Who develops vulvar pain? I have seen several sources which present similar estimates as to how many women experience vulvar pain at some point during their life – at least, in the United States. According to one 1991 study, about 15% of 210 patients attending a gynecology clinic met the criteria for a diagnosis of vulvar vestibulitis. According to a 2002 release from the National Institutes of Health, about 16% of over 3,000 survey respondents reported chronic vulvar pain. (More on this figure in a bit.) The raw numbers seem to vary more; this same NIH release estimates that up to 14 million US women will experience vulvodynia at some point during their lives, whereas media coverage such as the Dr. Oz show estimate that there’s about 6 million US women currently living with vulvodynia. One thing all these studies agree on is that chronic vulvar pain, while not experienced by a majority of women, certainly isn’t rare either.

However, for a long time, I thought that women of color developed vulvar pain like vulvodynia less frequently than white women. I believed this, because I saw such statements in books, I saw it in studies, I saw it in the media and I went along with it. I realize now that I was completely and totally wrong. Vulvar and sexual pain does NOT just effect white women and in fact the rates of pelvic pain in white and nonwhite women is similar. But how many people still don’t know about vulvar pain in women of color? How many doctors and gynecologists are, like I was, under the impression that their nonwhite patients rarely experience nameable vulvar pain conditions which have treatment options available?

Here’s why I was wrong and why you too should care about women of color and chronic pelvic pain:

One of the first resources I picked up when I started looking for treatments was Dr. Howard Glazer’s The Vulvodynia Survival Guide, which is all about vulvodynia. Here’s what Glazer’s book said about vulvar pain and women of color…

“For unknown reasons, African-American women as a group are the least likely to report vulvar dysesthesia, or any other type of vulvodynia” (Glazer, 19). And “Again, Caucasian women have vestibultis [a specific, localized type of vulvar pain -K] more than any other racial group (Marinoff and Turner, 1992).” (Glazer, 23).

It goes on. In the late 1990s, early 2000s, Glazer organized a survey of women with vulvodynia though his website, vulvodynia.com, and in his book he reported that 90% of the survey respondents were Caucasian; “Less than 1 percent were of African origin” (33.) Additionally, it’s worth noting here that according to this same survey, participants’ “Socioeconomic status was higher than average; 62% reported incomes greater than $50,000″ (33,) and the majority also held “professional, managerial occupations,” and “59% had completed college” (33.) Glazer cautions, “The higher levels of socioeconomic, education, and occupation status is consistent with previous studies. Why? Unfortunately, it’s probably because educated women with access to money for medical care are the most likely to pursue the best, most sophisticated medical treatments (or at least to use the Internet” (33.)

But who is also the most likely group to be in the higher socioeconomic class and have a high level of education, and be in a better financial position to use technology and seek medical care? White people, in the US. Because of this, the design of Glazer’s study itself most likely skewed the results to exclude women of color. However, he went on to state,

Caucasian women reported more vulvar pain than any other ethnic group. African-American wome rarely report these conditions. Researchers aren’t sure why this is true, though it has been commonly observed by many of our colleagues in the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease, who practice and teach in various medical settings where women of various races and incomes are seen. Other dark-skinned ethnic groups, such as Indians, do report chronic vulvar pain syndromes (33).

Hmmm, Glazer sure spent a lot of time driving home his point that black women don’t report vulvar pain frequently and that white women do.

But wait, there’s more. The results of an oft-cited but highly controversial, hotly contested study of sexual dysfunction in the US, Sexual Dysfunction in the United States, also stated that black and hispanic women were less likely to report dyspareunia,

The association between race and ethnicity and sexual problems is more variable. Black women tend to have higher rates of low sexual desire and experience less pleasure compared with white women, who are more likely to have sexual pain than black women. Hispanic women, in contrast, consistently report lower rates of sexual problems. (Laumann et al, online).

Additionally, media coverage of vulvar pain frequently reinforces the idea that it’s mostly white women who experience vulvar pain. Stock photos and illustrations that accompany books and articles about vulvar and sexual pain overwhelmingly feature white women. (See for examples, here, here and here – I could easily go on!) The erasure of women of color with pelvic pain and dyspareunia happens on television too, with a few exceptions; for example in 2008 the television show Oprah explicitly reached out to women of color in an e-mail requesting participants willing to talk about vulvar pain. Alas, to this day, although filming has been completed, that episode has not aired on tv. Another exception took place in 2010 on the Dr. Oz program, which ran a segment on vulvodynia. The original 8-minute segment included a guest woman of color who briefly commented on life with the pain condition (unfortunately the second half of this segment has been excised from the online video.)

However, the prevalence of vulvar pain among women of color may have been understated. The study which the NIH release above references is, A population-based assessment of chronic unexplained vulvar pain: have we underestimated the prevalence of vulvodynia? The abstract contains this critical line: “Contrary to earlier clinical assessments, white and African American women reported similar lifetime prevalences. However, Hispanic women were 80% more likely to experience chronic vulvar pain than were white and African American women” (Harlow and Stewart). Harlow & Stewart’s survey is no fluke; the WebMD article Vulvar Pain isn’t so Rare refers to a University of Michigan study published in the 2004 Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease, “Although previous reports show the condition is rare among black women, the responses indicated that this is not the case. Black women had similar rates of vulvar pain as women of other races.” (Reed, online).

And as for Dr. Glazer’s claim that women of African descent rarely report pain outside of US settings? Even that has been challenged! In 2005, a study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine revealed that 22.8% of women attending a general medical clinic in Ghana reported vulvar pain, which was linked to sexual dissatisfaction.

I am certain that effect of emphasizing white women’s reported rates of vulvar pain over that of women of color is silencing to this day. So what’s being done to address this revision in what caregivers should know about vulvodynia?  The NVA’s fact sheet on vulvodynia now reflects that nonwhite women are just as likely as white women to develop vulvodynia. The language explicitly shows a change of perspective, from vulvodynia being thought of as primarily a Caucasian women’s issue to much broader. An NVA newsletter, Faces of Vulvodynia, included identifiable women of color like Karen, Yamalis, Amanda, Michele and Emily, who are willing to be interviewed by the media.

Unfortunately vulvodynia remains difficult to diagnose and it doesn’t help that some doctors remain ignorant of its very existence. Even doctors who do know about vulvar pain conditions may not be up do date with all the research. And doctors who are well-trained to address chronic pelvic and genital pain may be too far out of reach for many patients, both in terms of money and geographical distance. Genital and sexual pain received some media attention in 2010 but it still remains very much a taboo subject, and it is the butt of crude jokes surprisingly often. Society, guided by the long tendrils of patriarchy, pushes women to learn how to please men sexually, and so there is also pressure to perform sexual activity – even if it hurts. It shouldn’t have to be that way. And the quality of sex education is highly variable – I recall my own sex education lacked any mention of pain other than what happens when the hymen is broken.

If you or someone you love is experiencing chronic vulvar and/or sexual pain, some resources available online include the NVA in the US or the ISSVD internationally. A short list of some available treatments is available from the Mayo Clinic’s site.

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