Tags: academia, books, disability, experts, female sexual dysfunction, humor, news, NVA, picture post, sex, sex education, sex is not a natural act, sexual dysfunction, TMI, vulvar vestibulitis, vulvodynia, what
In the same spirit as the original Shorties, I bring you: A series of posts which were each too small to constitute blog entries on their own. Divided we are weak, but together, we are strong!
The National Vulvodynia Association’s newsletter for 2010 is posted on their website, here. It includes updates on research and funding, and profiles of researchers who have received NVA-related grants. There are also profiles of medical professionals working towards a more comprehensive understanding of vulvodynia. There’s also updates on educational materials and programs provided by the NVA.
There’s a couple of reasons I like to post book reviews on this blog. I may post product (vibrator, dilator etc.) reviews in the future; I haven’t decided yet. Again, a reminder: Any reviews I posted here so far, I had to pay for the product in question & I haven’t gotten any compensation for my services.
It’s a blog about sexual dysfunction, especially that greatest bone of consternation, female sexual dysfunction. One of the common themes I read in feminist analysis of FSD is that a lot of it is actually sexual insecurity which stems from ignorance and lack of education. The idea goes something like, men & women are socialized differently and grow up with different expectations & pressures when it comes to sexual behavior. (In other words, differences in sexual behavior between men & women aren’t necessarily inborn.) Women are discouraged from learning about sex & pleasure. Combine this with shitty sex education and you have a pretty good chance of not understanding the influence of gender roles and how your own body works. This in turn is misinterpreted by the individual as “There must be something wrong with me” when experiencing a normal, understandable reaction to sexual stimulation. And the cure for this is better sex education instead of medication. Go read a goddamn book or something!
Improved sex education is great, so that’s one reason to post reviews of sexual guides and products. So every one in awhile you’ll find such a review here – it’s my way of saying, “Hey, here’s something that’s good and worth your time,” or, “Hey, here’s an overrated product that isn’t worth the packaging it came in. Save your money.” Or I’ll post something more nuanced – ”This is good, this is bad, and this part I don’t understand at all.”
However there’s another reason I post the reviews here…
Sometimes all the sex education in the world cannot fix a sexual problem.
Because it doesn’t all come from sexual ignorance.
Many of the sexual guides I’ve read, some of which come highly recommended, do not do a good job of addressing my problem in particular – pain. Maybe it’s because they’re not medical advice books so they can’t recommend treatments. Liability issues, maybe.
I’m doing what I’ve been told to do. I’m getting better sex education. I read the blogs. I buy the sex toys from the feminist sex shops. I have explored my sexual fantasies and will continue to do so. I masturbate to orgasm. I am in love with a supportive partner (the feeling, I understand, is mutual.)
The lady with sexual dysfunction is reading a goddamn book or something.
So why do I still experience dyspareunia?
Why do I still have vaginismus?
Why does my vagina still take so long to recover from vaginitis?
Why is medical intervention the treatment that best addressed the sexual and chronic pain?
Hey wait a second, this isn’t working. I still want to have some penis-in-vagina sex over here and that’s still like, really hard to do. Maybe I’m just not reading books and trying to learn hard enough.
The sex education helps – it’s definitely worth something. But it’s not comprehensive enough for me.
Now we could say here that I am the special snowflake exception to the general rule that FSD is a fake invention designed by Big Pharma and evil doctors; Dr. Leonore Tiefer, organizer of the New View Campaign, said as much when she wrote, “Dyspareunia is the only valid sexual dysfunction and certainly the only important one,” in response to the suggestion that dyspareunia might be better considered a pain condition rather than a sexual problem.
So hypothetically I suppose I could say, “Fuck you all; I got mine.”
Hypothetically. I have no desire to actually do that and in fact I feel dirty for having spelled such a phrase out in text. Excuse me while I swish some mouthwash and/or wash my hands. Is that what I’m supposed to say? Is that the way I’m supposed to feel? Is this the signal that, as someone with dyspareunia, I’m supposed to shut my pie hole when I see folks with other dysfunctions belittled for it?
I maintain that elevating one or some forms of sexual dysfunction as more real than others creates and crystalizes an artificial hierarchy. And it throws folks with sexual dysfunctions other than or in addition to pain under the bus.
And if, for me, all the sex education in the world fell short of actual medical help from professionals, then why should I believe that it would be any different for all of my friends who have sexual dysfunctions that are not painful?
Not that sex education has been completely useless; far from it. I have taken advantage of the information I found useful. (I also tripped over the parts that were counter-productive.) But to deny medical options to women with sexual dysfunction is to remove an important potential treatment, which for some folks may very well be necessary to find sexual satisfaction. And I find it highly disturbing when such options are removed through means of threats & intimidation, shaming, or ableist comments.
Speaking of dyspaerunia being “The only valid sexual dysfunction and certainly the only important one,” I made this Privelege Denying Dudette meme just for you:
[Picture: Background: 6 piece pie style color split with pink and blue alternating. Foreground: White girl wearing a green t-shirt, featuring an African-American Sesame Street muppet with nine different hairstyles, subtitled, “I Love My Hair.” Has a smug, arrogant facial expression and plays with her long, brown hair. Top text: “ [SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION ISN'T REAL, YOU DON'T NEED MEDICAL INTERVENTION IN YOUR SEX LIFE] ” Bottom text: “ [WAIT, YOU HAVE DYSPAREUNIA? YOU BETTER GO SEE A DOCTOR.] ”]
What? Wait, what’s it going to be, do I trust my doctors or not? Do they know enough about sex to help me or is it an exercise in futilty to even bring up a sex problem? Am I allowed to go to one of the heavily-marketed sexual dysfunction clinics Dr. Tiefer mentioned in Sex is Not a Natural Act when my regular gynecologist gets stumped and refers me to such a clinic? If I take a prescription for sexual pain, am I just feeding the Big Bad Phama Beast and looking for an easy, quick fix? If I get treatment for dyspareunia, does that count as medicalizing sexuality?
I recently came to a revolutinary conclusion. If your definition of sex positive does not include sexual dysfunction, then your definition isn’t positive enough.
I want to go out of my way to explicitly include sexual dysfunction in sex-positive discussions. Because ignoring it, outright denying its existence, or claiming that looking at sexual dysfunction = focusing on the negative, will not make it go away. Insisting that sexual dysfunction is a lie erases people who actually have sexual dysfunction. As a result, people with sexual dysfunction are excluded from sex-positivity – and I hate that. There is push-back against excluding people with a history of STIs from the sex-positive community by means of negative, stigmatizing language – why not push back for people with dysfunction?
You know what? I have sexual dysfunction. I exist. This is a long- term thing for me that I do not foresee changing any time soon. It will not go away just because you are uncomfortable with dysfunction (and, by extension, disability. These two phobias tend to go tovether, possibly because dysfunction may be viewed as a sub-type of disability.)
Yet even with the dysfunction, somehow, in spite of everything, I am sex-positive. I have made peace with it – or, at the very least, I have made a truce with myself until I can figure something better out.
Insisting that sexual dysfunction isn’t real or that medical options are unwarranted is just going to make it harder to get the care that I and my friends need. It’s true that most people will never experience sexual dysfunction, and so will not require medical options to address it. Nonetheless, inevitably, some people are going to develop sexual dysfunction. Isn’t there a way we can focus on getting support to such folk, instead of trying to sweep ‘em under the rug?
Sexual dysfunction and sex-positivity do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Sometimes, I worry a little bit about my reliance on a vibrator for orgasm. I think that, with enough practice, I probably could masturbate to orgasm using only my (or my partner’s) hands. But until then, I orgasm easily enough with a battery-powered vibrator.
I’m not worried about spending money on vibrators and thus supporting a capitalist system. I’m not worried about using my vibrators during sexual activity with my partner. I’m not worried that he’ll feel inadequate compared to my vibrator. I’m not worried about becoming addicted to masturbation. I’m not worried that I’m supporting the tyranny of orgasm.
The real reason I sometimes worry about using my vibrator is…
…I have this paranoid fear that some day space aliens or a freak accident or a Hollywood movie-esque disaster will unleash an electromagnetic pulse over the USA (home) and all elecronics will lose functionality.
Including my vibrators.
And then I’ll have to find a techno wizard to SteamPunk some kind of hand-cranked or steam-powered vibe for me. Possbily incorporating or inspired by one of the old-time antiques like those found in the Museum of Sex. And it’s just going to be really awkward and frustrating and I’ll probably have a lot of other important things to worry about post-EMP.
Obviously I don’t really know how EMPs work and I don’t really care. Everything I learned about them, I learned from movies.
I think about this with about the same frequency that I think about the Zombie Apocalypse as a real thing. Which is to say, not very often except for maybe after watching a movie about a zombie apocalypse or a post-apocalyptic setting.
Tags: blogging, Feminism, news, what
Dear internet, I no longer know what country I’m living in.
I no longer know what planet I’m living on.
There is too much shit going on in my home country (the USA) and around the world that I do not have the energy to process it all. It’s everything; politics, laws, reproductive rights, environmental disasters, protests – and government crackdowns on protests. Then there’s the little news bits that I feel somewhat ashamed about not discarding in light of life-threatening events – the usual sexuality & sexual dysfunction news & spins, the celebrity gossip & spin, video game culture news & spin, etc. For every piece of news I can provide you with, I’m going to miss 10+ other important happenings.
I miss slow news days.
Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. Did you see this week’s guest post by Elaine F. Bayless?
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. An incomplete collection of posts I found interesting over the month. 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.
On March 11 there was a 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan, followed by strong aftershocks and a tsunami. Thousands are dead or missing; many more have evacuated or have lost their homes entirely. Then some of the nuclear power plants started malfunctioning. I keep seeing comparisons to Chernobyl & I’m seeing the word “Meltdown” used in headlines however I am unable to confirm whether or not such a catastrophic event has actually occurred. My understanding is that Japanese officials are treating the situation as though a meltdown occurred in order to use maximum precautions. I was alive when the Chernobyl disaster occurred but I was too young to have a conscious memory of the event. It’s been around 10 years since I took a chemistry class and as such I am struggling with a crash course in understanding the historical comparison to today’s news.
And this earthquake comes only about a month after the Christchurch, New Zealand one, which is still causing problems.
Anti-Gadaffi government protests continue in Libya. When Egyptian women went to publicly rally on March 8 (International Women’s Day,) they were harassed. Saudi Arabia’s Day of Rage didn’t work out so well. [Trigger warning for rape, transphobia and rape culture:] Teens and young men raped an 11-year old girl in Cleveland, Texas – and the news reports gave quite a lot of coverage to the local sentiment, which is that the victim is anything but. Also, some news has drawn attention to the racial tensions in the area.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, with the support of Republican representatives, passed a bill which effectively disbands collective bargaining rights for public employees not involved in fire safety or law enforcement. Although Walker had said that the law was supposed to be tied in with government spending, what happened is the lawmakers actually split that original bill up into two smaller ones. Since the collective bargaining part was separate from the budget bill, the government did not require a quorum (which would usually mean having then-absent Democratic representatives present.) Now keep in mind this is after Walker, via enforcement officials, passed a bunch of other anti-protest shit that basically shut down the Capitol building to anyone Walker didn’t like. It’s possible to make a compelling case that the public worker anti-union bill is part of a larger attack on women, or that it’s a Republican attack on Democrat political organization.
[Trigger warning for disablism:] New Hampshire representative Martin Hardy actively wants people he calls “Defectives” to be sent off to Siberia to die. Nevermind the fact that you do not need to live in the Russian frozen tundra to freeze (or overheat) to death already.
Meanwhile the state of Michigan’s House & Senate passed this bill which allows the governor to appoint officials to take over public entities. I think this is more extreme than the current version of when local governments delegate public services (like water & waste management) to private entities.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I keep thinking that the USA is looking more and more like the government in the Final Fantasy 7 game, where it’s political and corporate, also nepotism, to hell with the people & the vote. It was supposed to be just a game! You weren’t supposed to haunt me 14 years later!
Sexuality & dysfunction-related news:
In response to the US House of Representatives voting to de-fund Title X & Planned Parenthood (a measure which failed in the Senate, BTW – fight’s not over yet though,) US Uncut made this video. There’s no transcript yet so it’s basically music + a montage featuring a bunch of young people holding up paper signs that read, “I have sex,” “I don’t have sex, but I plan to,” or “I have friends who have sex.” And everyone says what’s on the card & is all smiling and laughing & pointing out that lots of young people have sex & need reproductive & sexual health support.
Announcing a Support Group for Disabled Folks – it is a sexuality support group for folks with disabilities of all sorts, and it’s in Berkeley, California. Organized by this Soma Evolution.
Call for Participants: Research on Women’s Sexual Desire in LTRs – Interesting because I have recently seen the so-called “Seven-” or “Three-year itch” tossed around. Hmm, I wonder where they get their funding from, hmm oh really, that’s certainly interesting… (I think we may need to go back and look at some of Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion’s funding sources later…)
Sex Ed for Cancer Survivors is Often Missing – About the difficulties of addressing & caregiver’s awkwardness re: sexual problems during and after cancer treatments.
The Liz Canner film, Orgasm, Inc. continues to make the rounds. If you actually know what sexual dysfunction is like, then you probably want to stay out of the comment sections on reviews. This week’s reviews are brought to you by Comment is Free, and the F-Word UK. I like how Brooks’ article states the obvious; how a device designed to assist women with orgasm difficulties will not help women with desire problems. I don’t think she meant it that way though; I get the feeling that she meant to conflate the two problems into the same exact thing.
There were also reviews for the ubiquitous film on Funky Brown Chick and the Babeland blog. I am definitely noticing common themes in almost all of the reviews. But I am still requesting a guest post to really brace myself for it.
Edit 3/14 – Great Scott, hold the phone – I think we finally found a voice of dissent. Here is the first film review of Orgasm Inc – “Orgasm Inc.:” Libido Meets Pharma at a Theater Near You - I could find that is actually critical of the film – of all places, unexpectedly, it’s over at Women’s Voices for Change. Unexpected.
Ask an Abortion Provider – Now this one is doubly-interesting, because obviously it’s an abortion provider answering questions… she also had an abortion herself… …which she sought after getting pregnant from what sounds like outercourse. Friendly reminder: So long as there is a combination of semen + ova involved, there is still a slight, but non-zero probability, of pregnancy even if you’re not having PIV sex.
National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day - [Trigger warning] – Documents recorded acts of violence against abortion providers.
The War on Reproductive Rights: A Recap – A summary of much of the bullshit going around in reproductive health.
Endometriosis Awareness Week 2011 – About the author’s experience with it & a general overview.
Jeanne is taking a critical look at Yellow-Washing – basically, pink-washing (branding crap as benefiting cancer research when the product being sold is possibly carcinogenic) except for endometriosis. She also remembers what it was like being a teenager with undiagnosed endo.
There’s been some shitty op-ed/blog post/discussion/book promotion pieces going around the ‘tubes lately. Usually targeting women and how everything they do is wrong if they want a committed relationship. Here’s some evisceration to lighten your day: Gentlemen Prefer Grinning Automatons. Ross Douthat sells sex and young people way too short.
Ask Matt: How Can I Enjoy Sex When I Hate My Body? – Some suggestions & responses to a trans man reader.
Violet Blue saw Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction! *Excited gasp nowai!* She included one of the Lady Porn Day posts in one of her roundups because it had a different perspective that’s valuable enough to share! Look, the blog post is included right alongside Miss Maggie Mayhem, the Sexademic and Ms Naughty. Yay!
In vulvovaginal pain news:
There’s some updates on vulvodynia-related research posted on the Vulvar Vestibulitis Support Network blog.
VVSN brings the news that: There’s another new book out about painful sex! Buy it from the NVA’s website, cuz if you spend money that way, then the NVA gets 25% funding! It’s called, When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain, and it’s also available in e-book format for the Kindle! ~$10!
You want less wrinkles in your vagina? – Pain in the ass bullshit Down There had to go through to get botox treatment. It’s not just for
breakfast cosmetics anymore.
When Sex is Painful, Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Look So Sweet – Something many of the readers here can probably relate to. I didn’t have any PIV sex on Valentines Day, either.
I found this blog, Christians with Vulvodynia, which might also be of interest to some readers here. I have no spirituality so all the psalm & praise stuff passes right through me but I still like this blog because it also has Comic Strips by the author and I brake 4 comics. Especially the ones by women.
Also, I notice some of the V-bloggers are still dealing with our virulent, mansplaining, hate-and-shit-sandwich-spewing troll whose IP traces back to the Philippines. His comments are easier to control on the WordPress platform, because WordPress lets you edit comments whenever you see fit – or send them to spam, or just block ‘em all. It’s harder to moderate comments on Blogspot, so that’s where I’m seeing him more often lately.
May I suggest, if you are a V-blogger still dealing with troll problems, the Disqus comment platform? Shakesville is a big blog, and the moderators use Disqus to moderate comments. There is a drawback though: You can’t have Blogger comments + Disqus comments on at the same time. I think that if you switch to Disqus, you’ll wind up losing whatever Blogger comments you got so far, so, this might be a very good option for New & startup V-Bloggers who have not yet accumulated a lot of discussion.
Still, even if you are an old hat on your Blogspot place, this might work well if you’ve derived all the useful info you can from your comments section, or if you decide that such a moderation tactic is worth the trade-off. If you or someone you know is V-blogging and is getting harassed by trolls on Blogspot, please, let them know about this comment moderation option.
As always, I’m sure there’s more…
Tags: experts, female sexual dysfunction, FSD, guest post, health, medicine, pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, relationships, sex, sexual dysfunction, sexual health, vaginismus
[Dear internet, we have a guest poster today! The following was written by Elaine F. Bayless:
Elaine F. Bayless is an author and pastor who lives in Raleigh, NC. She is currently working on a memoir about her experience with pelvic floor dysfunction. After choosing to have surgery to correct her issues, she is happy to report that most of the dysfunction is resolved. She and her husband are expecting their first child in July of this year. For more information about Elaine's published work and her writing process, visit her blog http://elainefbayless.blogspot.com]
I am one of the lucky ones. I only saw three gynecologists who ignored my vaginismus. I only wasted 9 months of my marriage in therapy, convinced that my pain was psychological. My husband never forced me into sex, never punished me for my condition. It only took me six years of treatment to finally find resolution in the form of penetration concomitant with orgasm – MY orgasm.
In November 2010, Discover magazine’s column, Vital Signs, discussed an intern who missed the symptom of painful intercourse. When the doctor asked him about this symptom, he admitted that he thought all women found sex painful. This doctor was shocked to discover this attitude in an “educated” person. I’m not shocked.
Women just don’t enjoy sex that much. That’s the pervasive belief in our society. And women who do enjoy sex are often penalized. We aren’t supposed to enjoy it, after all. We are supposed to be enjoyed. We are objects, not subjects. I still remember vividly an encounter in my recent past, when I had multiple orgasms and my husband had none. I was apologetic! But he had no regrets. He simply smiled and said he was glad I enjoyed myself. He’s a true man, someone who understands that sex is a two-way activity, an encounter between two participants, not between a subject and object. How does this belief play into the diagnosis and treatment of dyspareunia? In every way. My own story serves to illustrate it.
I had my first Pap smear at age 18. I was a virgin, but irregular periods plagued me and so I wanted to go on the Pill. The exam was torture, but every year I went back. My gynecologist was unconcerned, blaming me for not relaxing. She never gave me any tips on how to relax, never suggested anything to try to make things less painful, even when I almost passed out from the pain. My gynecological history post college was sporadic. Still a virgin, I went on and off the Pill, only getting a couple of Pap smears. Each time it was excruciating. I didn’t use tampons – too painful. But I kept that a secret. My doctors assumed that I didn’t enjoy insertion because I wouldn’t relax – that it was my fault, not something beyond my control. After all, women don’t enjoy sex, why would they enjoy an exam?
Prior to my marriage, I went to a friend’s gynecologist, highly recommended. I shared with her my pain issues. I asked her specifically to determine whether there were any reason why sex would hurt (I was still a virgin). This was her chance – her opening to discuss dyspareunia with me, to talk about different causes for pain in the vagina. Surely my medical history, my fear of tampons, and my simple reaction to the exam should have clued her in. She told me to relax because there was nothing wrong with me.
Why did this doctor not even mention the possibility of actual physical conditions that could cause pain during intercourse? Why did she assume that after 11 years of pain during vaginal exams I would be able to relax? I guess she figured I would learn how to grin and bear it, like many women do.
Because of her bad advice, I went to see a therapist immediately after my honeymoon, convinced I was mentally screwed up. After all, physically I was fine, right? When my prescription for the Pill ran out, I went to see a new doctor, a nurse-practitioner who specialized in seeing rape victims. I knew she would be sympathetic. She gave me a tranquilizer to take prior to the exam. It did nothing – my blood pressure was through the roof and I winced at the moment of first contact. And that wonderful woman sat back and told me I needed to see a physical therapist.
The discovery that there actually was something physically wrong with me – that I was incapable of relaxing – that was a turning point in my entire life. I had never heard of vaginismus, vulvar vestibulitis, dysparaunia, etc. I didn’t know that walking around with a constant Kegel was abnormal. (To this day I still catch myself in “locked and loaded” position). Finally I was able to clear the self-blame and self-doubt that was tormenting me and my marriage. I had a physical problem!
I still listen to women who have bought into the lie that we don’t enjoy sex. They say that their vaginas are too small. They say that they don’t enjoy orgasm. They continue to engage in sex that is unfulfilling. I was teaching a group of high schoolers about sex and counseled them to stop having intercourse if it hurt. They all looked at me blankly and then asked why. I was horrified.
We are not sexual objects. We are sexual subjects. I am currently pregnant with my first child, a little girl. A girl conceived during pretty fantastic, orgasmic sex. (Sure, it took 6 years, 3 physical therapists, and surgery, but it was WORTH it). And one of the most important things I hope to teach her is that sex feels good. And if it doesn’t feel good, she will have to be her own advocate and work tirelessly to find the cause and the solution. I hope that the world will have changed somewhat by then – that the medical establishment will have a better understanding of sex as something that is designed to be enjoyable. For anyone.
Tags: academia, experts, kink, media, news, psychology, sex education, sexology, Sexuality
A recent controversy in sex education involves one Prof. John Micheal Bailey, from Northwestern University. Professor Bailey teaches a Human Sexuality class to some 600 college students. He is a controversial figure, as described on the wiki page linked to – previous work includes his theories about homosexuality (he believes it is largely an inherited orientation,) and a book about transsexuality, which has been heavily criticized by trans activists for racism & transphobia (Plus Bailey engaged in unethical conduct while making the book.)
Bailey’s sexuality class includes optional events with guest speakers who talk frankly about sex & sexuality. The controversial event in question was titled, “Networking for Kinky People,” and the guest speaker was Ken Melvoin-Berg, associated with the Weird Chicago Tours group. Melvoin-Berg brought his partner and a kinky, engaged, exhibitionist couple with him to the event. (The couple has been named by some sources while others are keeping them anonymous; I’ll stick to the anonymity route here since outed kinky folk face safety risks.)
According to this Salon.com article, during the day’s lecture, Bailey presented a lesson on the G-spot. The Chicago Tribune says that the lecture included an educational video about the G-spot. Melvoin-Berg, his partner & the kinky couple arrived early, so they happened to be there for Bailey’s lecture and video. Melvoin-Berg’s group members were all unimpressed. So just before their speaking part was about to begin (after the lecture was officially over,) Melvoin-Berg asked Bailey for permission to demonstrate to the class what a g-spot orgasm looks like, in person, with a fucksaw. (Exactly what it sounds like: This is basically a modified power-tool with a dildo on the working end.) Bailey hesitated but decided that the demonstration would fall within the bounds of the scheduled speaking event, since such a demonstration is undeniably kinky.
So that’s what happened. The couple Melvoin-Berg brought with him, did exactly that – after giving an hour & half speaking lecture with a Q&A session first, according to Rabbit Write (the same Rabbit Write who organized Lady Porn Week.) When Melvoin-Berg’s crew finished the speaking portion of their presentation, the boyfriend used the fucksaw on his girlfriend and she had several g-spot orgasms in front of about 100 or so present students.
After that, the student newspaper reported on the event. From there, a lot of mainstream news sites picked up on the story. Reports about sex are easily sensationalized & they sell well or generate page views, whatever. So now there’s a lot of backlash & controversy going around now.
I can’t decide whether I’m in favor of this event or not. At first I was all for it – I thought, “That sounds useful,” and I understand that sometimes, written instructions, diagrams and educational videos fall short because they do not provide experience. I needed help learning how to find and then use my own pelvic floor muscles. Although I had anatomy diagrams and written instructions on how to dilate, I eventually hit a wall with my at-home dilator kit and needed to get physical therapy to progress with treating my vaginismus. (It was an incredibly clinical, non-sexual and useful experience – not really all that much different from rehabilitating any other muscle group, except for all the cultural baggage and weight assigned to people’s genitals.) But that was something I initiated, and since it took place behind closed doors, there was no risk of making anybody else know what was going on.
But then the more I read about Professor Bailey and the Northwestern University event, the more I started to change my mind & think to myself, “Hmmm… maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…”
Even Bailey himself has issued a formal apology, of sorts, for drawing such negative media attention to NU. If he could do it over again, he wouldn’t.
However, demonstrations like this have taken place before – just not on campus. Let’s all turn to Page 13 of Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide by Rachel Venning and Claire Cavanah. Some of the relevant parts are available on pages 13 & 14 from Google Books. Unfortunately not everything got scanned in – it looks like all the pictures are missing, and page 14′s relevant text is blocked out (It should be on the left side of the page.)
To summarize the relevant passages, the book says that a couple of years ago, sex educators affiliated with Babeland (then still known as Toys in Babeland,) took their G-spot program to a “Carnival-style book release party of a friend of Babeland…” (The next page says this event took place at a bar.) The sex educators set up a tent and one of them called out to passers-by, asking patrons to go in. People who went into the tent (up to 10 at a time) received a lesson in human female anatomy, complete with some suggestions for ways to find the g-spot. But the lesson didn’t end there, “Once they were inside, we gave them more than just a lecture.”
One of the sex educators took safe sex precautions (a glove and lubricant in this case,) and said, “Okay, who wants to experience it [a g-spot orgasm]?” So one lady and her boyfriend stepped up and the lady sat down in the hot seat. The description on page 14 says that this volunteer took off her underwear & used a vibrator on herself, so onlookers would have her masturbating. Then the sex educator with the lubricated glove on inserted two fingers into the volunteer’s vagina & found the g-spot. It’s not clear from the text on this page whether the volunteer had an orgasm on site. The text makes it sound like this scene was repeated throughout the evening.
So one reason I don’t fully understand exactly what the problem with the February 2011 demonstration is that there’s precedent for g-spot demonstrations just like the one at Northwestern University. This already happens. The show-and-tell described in the Sex Toys 101 book didn’t use a video, puppet or a piece of fruit as a stand-in.
On the other hand, this article from GoodVibes says that events which GV hosts do use stand-ins or clothed volunteers. So okay, sex educators can go either way when it comes to live demonstrations.
At first I thought the reason the school program caused so much controversy is that it must have been paid for with school funds, because that’s what was going on when feminist pornographer Tristan Taomino was initially un-invited from speaking at Oregon University. The student newspaper says that NU has events sponsored by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and this Chicago Tribune article says that NU provides funding to Bailey & his speakers (including Melvoin-Berg but not the kinky couple) via this organization. But according to this statement from Bailey, he arranges the class events at “Considerable investment of my time, for which I receive no compensation from Northwestern University,” which makes it sound like he pays for the class’s extra-curricular speaking events out of his own pocket. So now I can’t follow the money trail because there’s like 3 different things going on there. (Maybe the school doesn’t pay him for the time it takes to arrange speakers but it does cover their fees? Like, no overtime pay for whatever networking is required to set everything up?)
So far what I’ve read about the event says that, participants who stayed for the demonstration aren’t the ones who are upset about it – as of 3/6/11, Bailey says that all the feedback received from attending students was positive. It is people who were not present for the show and found out about it afterwards that are registering complaints. They’re upset that it took place at all. I’m seeing similar complaints in comment sections of articles summarizing the event, and the negative comments usually contain some variation of “Immoral,” “distasteful,” “exploitative,” or “sick.” Something to that effect, which focuses on the content of the demonstration. Since kink is widely misunderstood & berated, I’m thinking that such comments would inevitably be made of such a demonstration or sex act regardless of the setting.
Every once in awhile a commenter will bring up the viewers’ ability to fully consent, which I think is a stronger argument against the demonstration, since it was spur-of-the-moment. An event like this should have required time to plan it out and better distribute information about the content. There wasn’t time to include this on the syllabus, basically (though being an optional event, it wouldn’t have been required either.) But even then, the articles say that Bailey & Melovin-Berg took steps with the limited time they had to make sure that the students understood what the content of the demonstration was going to have & that they had the option to leave without penalty, which some students did exercise. Yet, one student Bailey’s class explicitly told the media, “Then, just out of nowhere, the girl just takes her pants off, takes her shirt off, takes her underwear off.” That the student used the phrase “Just out of nowhere” suggests to me that adequate preparation for the students was nonetheless lacking. It should have come from somewhere. This student, though, also acknowledges that students were given adequate opportunity to leave.
So with regards to what the real problem is with this NU event, I keep getting different answers – including the “Nothing wrong” answer. I can’t pinpoint it down. But having done just a cursory background check on Bailey himself, even I am now resistant against throwing all my support behind him too. Will NU administrators be more translucent with their investigative findings now than they were when claims of impropriety were previously leveled against Bailey?
P.S. Good god almighty can I just express my own frustration with this entry – this was hard to research; every source I checked had different pieces & I couldn’t get a comprehensive tell-all! And then before I knew it I had 1600 words and okay fine, up it goes.