The almighty glass of wine

02/07/2012 at 12:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments
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How many readers here have heard a variation of the following statements, with regards to their sex lives?

“Have a glass of wine and relax.”
“Sex life is lacking? May I suggest some red wine to go with dinner.”
“A pill for sexual dysfunction is dangerous and ineffective! After all, it’s not like a glass of wine.”

*Raises hand* Heard it? I’ll keep on hearing it till the day I die! There’s a reason I included the ol’ wine glass advice on our FSD Discussion Bingo card, version 1.0. I’ve heard it from doctors, I’ve read about it in advice columns, and I’ve heard it from my own family members.

Follow up question… …Does this advice ever work???

I’m so sick and tired of hearing this! And I know for certain that I’m not the only one frustrated with getting the same generic, useless advice. From a commenter on Jezebel:

I suffer, on and off, from severe pain during intercourse (diagnosed as Vulvodynia), and the worse part for me, is the lack of researched treatments and even the lack of knowledge among doctors about the condition (three doctors told me to “try to relax more” when I had sex. Another told me to “try drinking a glass of wine.”

Even feminist sexologist Dr. Leonore Tiefer, organizer of the New View Campaign, suggests alcohol can improve women’s sex lives:

“I mean there are a lot of inexpensive products like a glass of wine or a massage.” - June 11 2010, related to the Flibanserin controversy.

(After what I’ve been through, I figure if you actually have a sex problem troublesome enough to merit drug use then chances are you’ve already tried a lot of other, inexpensive solutions without satisfactory results.)

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Dr. Tiefer mention alcohol in the context of sexual medicine; In 2004 when testifying to the FDA about the potential risks of a testosterone patch for women as a treatment for low libido, Dr. Leonore Tiefer stated:

Intrinsia is not a glass of Chardonnay, and yet we have already seen that it may well be promoted with a giggle and a wink as “the female Viagra.” Not so – this is a steroid hormone women must continuously take for weeks before getting an effect.

Dr. Tiefer is absolutely right that the Intrinsia patch requires continued use before seeing any effects, so you can’t just slap it on one night and expect to get horny. And it’s absolutely true that the FDA did not approve it for use in the USA due to concerns about health risks. But what I’m really interested in is Dr. Tiefer’s dropping wine in the context of women’s sexual health. What do you suppose she meant by that comparison, anyway?

Now you may be thinking, “K, the chardonnay was just an example. Dr. Tiefer could have used anything in her comparison of sexual medicine.” But wait — I keep finding examples of alcohol specifically in discussions of sexual health. That’s two comparisons of drugs for sexual dysfunction vs. booze by Dr. Tiefer. I’m noticing a pattern…

Between Dr. Tiefer’s comments and repeated comments about booze and sex found elsewhere -

There may be cheaper and faster ways to reduce inhibition—like a glass of wine and a more attentive partner.The Daily Beast

Agree with your partner that you will devote every Wednesday night or whenever to talking, sharing a glass of wine, a video, relaxing together… At least once a week try to think of some little extra to add a touch of glamour or luxury to your love life – a bottle of sparkling wine, a scented oil, a flower.Dear Deidre

Plan a date that you can both really enjoy, with a movie or dinner beforehand, or perhaps a walk or a glass of wine by candlelight. walk, have a glass of wine by candlelight, whatever the couple likes to do as a couple.Sex Therapy Online

- Why, it’s almost as if booze is being held out as a magical panacea to all sexual problems! Even if it’s not an appropriate course of action for everyone’s sex problems!

(Note also that much of this sex life advice is directed at couples – does wine still work on single people? I wonder what folks with religious restrictions or recovering alcoholics with sexual problems think of this advice. Is this advice regularly given to young folks with sexual problems but still below the drinking age?)

Yet somehow the wine recommendation is supposed to be more complicated and nuanced than considering medication to address some sexual problems. I don’t get it; the medical model simplifies women’s sexuality, but the social construction model recognizes the complexity. By the way, have you heard that wine is good for your sex life…?

It sounds like a large part of the push for alcohol instead of medication has something to do with the idea that drinking is cheaper than prescription medicine, but then I keep thinking of that old adage, “Life is too short to drink cheap wine.” I’d really have to run the numbers some time – if a decent bottle of wine costs $20+, maybe $40? split between 2 people and a one-time use of Viagra costs about $10 split between … 1 or more people… Or we have some top-shelf vodka at what, $35? $40? which will last for more than 1 evening vs. about a month’s worth of a prescription gel… But then wine aficionados will point to decent wine under $10 per bottle… or will Box Wine bought in bulk suffice?

Anyway, let me confirm your suspicions so far and this admission is probably going to make me very unpopular:

I hate booze.

I hate all booze everywhere.

I hate wine.
I hate beer.
I hate liquor.
I don’t even like Champagne.
I hate alcohol!

Hate all the booze!

[Description: Bug-eyed stick-figure type white lady in a pink dress. 1 arm raised triumphantly, the other arm holding a broom. Mouth wide open, big teeth. Caption: HATE ALL THE BOOZE! Original picture by Allie Brosh @ Hyperbole and a half.]

I’m one of those people who throws out good booze instead of drinking it, because I get tired of looking at the bottle take up space that could be used up by tasty snacks instead.

hate all the booze?

[Description: Bug-eyed stick-figure type white lady in a pink dress. Not quite so triumphant anymore. Mouth frowny face, tears in eyes. Caption: Hate all the booze? Original picture by Allie Brosh @ Hyperbole and a half.]

Now before we go any further, let me assure you: I don’t hate your booze. I have no interest in taking your booze away from you and I accept that drinking is a socially acceptable way of – being socially acceptable. If anything, I’m the weird one. Almost everyone drinks and does so responsibly. I just ask that you extend courtesy to me and please stop pressuring me to drink. No thanks, I’m fine; I’ll be your designated driver or whatever.

Now let me tell you why booze + I don’t get along:

It all tastes the same to me and the taste is Bad; I’m almost 30 and I’ve heard enough iterations of “You just haven’t found the one you like” to know that I’m never going to find the one I like.

If I drink enough to get tipsy or drunk, then I act out of character – I get giggly. This is not conductive to relaxation, as I must then consciously self-monitor myself to prevent saying something foolish. I can’t keep up with conversations or movies. I lose my wits. The room spins.

Alcohol can cause dehydration, which can then lead to feelings of vaginal dryness. The sugar content can tip some sensitive folks over into yeast infection territory, or at least make it harder to recover from yeast infections. Since my yeast infections last up to six months and tend to be complicated with simultaneous bacterial vaginosis, this is a concern that’s always on the back of my mind when I drink, even more then when I eat junk food.

I hate the smell. I associate booze-breath stench with alcoholic family members and the feelings of powerlessness I endured when I had to put up with them.

Alcohol makes my pelvis feel funny, like my vulva is swollen with blood, yet it decreases my feelings of physical sensitivity, making it harder to orgasm.

Annoyingly, there seems to be a direct correlation between amount I drink and my desire to go to sleep. Unfortunately I wake up multiple times per night on a good night, due to bladder problems. Having to get up & go pee makes it hard to fall asleep in the first place.

The absolute worst part is that alcohol tears the fuck out of my bladder and makes me piss approximately every 5 minutes – not conductive to a satisfying sexual encounter. This is the part I hate the most. Ohh, getting up to go pee every 5 minutes – that’s so sexy. Having to pause, stumble over to the bathroom and pee only to do it allover again a few minutes later. (This goes on for hours when I drink…) Hot.

So far alcohol & sex don’t combine well for my partner either. A single shot is enough to impair his ability to maintain an erection. He can still get one – but not for long. 2+ drinks and it’s just not happening – he’ll be too distracted & uncoordinated to give me the attention I need, and he becomes incapable of maintaining an erection & having an orgasm. Since we can’t enjoy each other sexually after drinking, I feel like if he drinks instead of fooling around with me, he chosen booze over me.
Worryingly, I think my boyfriend is more sensitive to alcohol than he acknowledges. Sometimes, booze will just knock him out even after 2 drinks. One time we split a small bottle of wine over steak and immediately afterward, he blacked out for awhile. He was conscious – or so it appeared – but he had no memory of playing a video game (and he accused me of taking his turn!)
That’s scary! I thought blackouts required more alcohol than that! So was he pulling my leg or is he really that sensitive…? I think we better not fool around after drinking. Nope, not gonna do it.

Yet I’m noticing a theme in the social construction arguments against sexual dysfunction: Women don’t need sexual medicine, because they already have booze. Wine can solve all your sexual problems. You’re just too uptight and need to loosen up, girl!

I don’t want to have to drink when I want to feel sexy. If I want to get drunk, then I’ll drink. If I want to have sex, then I’ll go work on that. The two things have, in my experience, combined very poorly.

So why sex therapists and sexologists suggest alcohol, which has known side effects on sexual health to patients with sex problems, I’ll never know. Perhaps the unofficial prescriptions had something to do with the common sense advice that red wine is good for you, except one reason why may need re-evaluation now, since a researcher’s data is in question. The effects of alcohol and sex are paradoxical: in some ways it might be good for you, but at the same time it can impair sexual health and enjoyment short term. This measurable negative effect has been researched mostly in alcoholics; yet almost half report positive effects.
However, in sexologists’ favor, there may be a link between drinking and higher levels of sexual satisfaction! So maybe there’s something to this advice after all in certain contexts – IF you live in Italy, where there are no doubt cultural differences to take into account, and IF you drink wine every day.

So when someone says about sexual medicine, “It’s not like a glass of wine,” I say…

Good!

I’m glad that sexual medicine isn’t like a glass of wine! Booze gives me more trouble than it’s worth. I say, “Not booze” is a benefit of our hypothetical sexual medication!

So please, reconsider that advice that I add a bottle of wine to my bedroom, and stop telling me it’s what I really need to solve all my sex problems.

2010 a retrospective

01/01/2011 at 1:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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So long, 2010! Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, ‘cuz I don’t want ass prints on my new door!

2010 is finally over. It was a difficult year for me filled with many changes and much instability. Ten people that I personally knew died in 2010; I was close with three of them; one of them was only my age (still under 30.) The political climate in the US (where I live) continued to shift towards the right-wing, particularly the extreme right-wing towards the end of the year. The US economy continues to be shit even though I have heard economists proclaim the recession to be officially over. In the last quarter of the year, I went through two major life transitions, much needed and long overdue, which culminated in the largest change I have ever gone through. Since I’m still trying to maintain a level of anonymity, I can’t explicitly state what the big change was. It’s sufficient to say that  I can never return to the old normal I once had, but at this point I wouldn’t want to anyway. Still, my life remains in a state of flux. Phase 3 of my major life change starts today, though phase 3 will be intangible, long and drawn out, and less major… basically consisting of adjusting to all the newness I am surrounded by.

With phase 2 of my life upheaval over, I can now turn my attention back to other areas, such as this blog. Sexual dysfunction is still real, it’s okay to have sexual dysfunction, it’s okay to want and/or need help with your sex life, and it’s okay to be a feminist yet still have sexual dysfunction. We may not see female sexual dysfunction covered in mainstream news for awhile, but that doesn’t mean FSD is going to disappear into the ether. (At least, not for me it sure isn’t; yours, if you have any at all, may resolve, but I still face a long road ahead.)

We got a lot done in 2010 – we here talked about a lot of different topics and explored some different perspectives on FSD. I would like to extend a special thank-you to all guest posters and contributors who participated in this blog over 2010 and 2009. Did you see the following 2010 guest posts and contributions?

Guest Post – On the social construction of sex
Guest Post – 10+ years with vaginismus
Guest post – Heteronormativity and FSD
Guest Post – On dealing with doctors
Guest post – On the FSD hierarchy and why it hurts all of us
Guest post: GUILT, FAILURE AND A PRE-ORGASMIC FEMINIST
Guest Post: Interview with Elizabeth on Asexuality
Feedback reconciling BDSM and painful sex
Feedback understanding the difference between BDSM and painful sex
BADD 2k10 – sexual dysfunction as disability
Female sexual dysfunction discussion Bingo!
Guest blogging: Reaching out to the asexual community (I did some guest posting too.)

Some other posts I wrote and am particularly proud of in 2010 on Feminists with FSD in 2010, as arbitrarily chosen by me (Not in any particular order):
Statistics and FSD – Part 1 of 2 – In which we examine that famous study that said something like 43% of all women in the US have some form of FSD.
Statistics and FSD – Part 2 of 2 – Don’t miss part 2! I think of it as a follow up to that 43% study. For some reason this follow up never generated the same number of views as the original, which bums me out.
Picture post – Antique prophylactics [NSFW] - People really liked this funny picture post! Someone even offered to buy the antiques off of me but they’re not truly mine to sell.
A 5-part series in which I read all of Sex is not a Natural Act and Other Essays by Leonore Tiefer, which came highly recommended and presents a social construction critique of sex and female sexual dysfunction. My opinion remains unchanged: The book was not enough to convince me to take an exclusively social construction perspective; it’s filled with disabilist statements (It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!) and it creates unique problems of its own which merit further examination.
Edit 1/7/11 – Oh what the heck, throw this one up there too: Book review: A New View of Women’s Sexual Problems – because if anybody suggests that I read this in 2011, I beat you to it. We did that already. Same conclusion as the above book review.
Symbolism, archetypes and stereotypes: What experts have said about vaginismus – You want to talk about the symbolism behind sex fine let’s go and do exactly that.
Book review – The Camera My Mother Gave Me – I thought it was a good review.

Television programs that addressed vulvovaginal pain conditions in 2010:
Dr. Oz – Vulvodynia
Dr. Oz – Vaginismus
Strange Sex on TLC – Vulvodynia – I can’t find a video of the segment so here is a transcript instead!
Chelsea Handler responds to Dr. Oz winning a television award (Warning: you’re probably not going to like this one. Proceed with caution… But on the bright side, there’s 3 serious videos on that same page, right after the Chelsea Handler one, which are more comprehensive and informative about vulvodynia. You might like those.)
Action News – Vulvodynia
MTV – True Life: I Can’t Have Sex - Vaginismus, vulvar vestibulitis, pelvic floor dysfunction; did not explore overlapping conditions.

Wow. I’m impressed with the quantity of media coverage (though not always impressed with the quality,) and that’s just what I know of. I can’t decide which one I like best, the Dr. Oz coverage or the MTV coverage. The weird part of the Dr. Oz video for vulvodynia was using a traffic light analogy. I would have gone with one of those plush vulva puppets instead.
Drop links if’n you saw more about pelvic & vulvovaginal pain conditions in 2010!
Strange Sex also covered restless genital syndrome, aka RGS aka PSAS (persistent sexual arousal syndrome) or PGAD (persistent genital arousal disorder.) The video was here in 2010 but I’m not sure if it’s still up. And you still have to register to get that far.

Biggest FSD controversey topic of 2010: Flibanserin and hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD.)
In 2010, pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim moved forward with plans to gain FDA approval on flibanserin, a drug that started out as an antidepressant but that, in drug trials, showed a small but significant change not on mood but on women’s sexual satisfaction. As the FDA hearing date approached, media and blog coverage of this topic increased. However what the great flibanserin debacle of 2010 reveals the most about FSD, isn’t the drug or its development or the long arm of big pharma. There’s that, yes, and I have no doubt that much of the media coverage we saw was yet another form of marketing. What was revealed but went unexamined in most mainstream media coverage can be found in the comments about HSDD, FSD and flibanserin. In comments and sometimes in the articles themselves, negative, patronizing attitudes towards women with FSD are made clear. I mean, look at these piles of bullshit people say and think (Trigger warnings):
The ugly things people say about FSD Part 2: Electric Boogaloo
The ugly things people say about FSD Part 3: The Redeadening
Good grief. And it just went on like that in some fashion on other blogs and news outlets, resulting in the FSD Bingo Board (linked to above.) But misogyny and disabilism isn’t limited to HSDD. Trigger warning re: [Trigger warning] all the troll comments that Chloe’s article in response to MTV’s True Life: I Can’t Have Sex received on Salon.com. There is something going on with, I think all forms of FSD, where it isn’t acknowledged as a valid experience and diagnosis. When it comes to FSD, it doesn’t matter what kind of FSD we’re talking about; everyone is an expert except for the women who live with it.

Speaking of trolls, heads up: as of the end of 2010, there is still some guy going around targeting V-blogs, YouTube Videos, articles about dyspareunia, etc., and spamming them up with troll comments – Usually the same exact troll spam copied word-for-word, or slightly modified. If you’re maintaining a V-blog and get a weird, deliberately ignorant comment about vaginismus from an IP address that traces back to the Philippines, then that’s the guy. See, this is the crap you have to deal with when you write frankly about life with FSD! Here are some short entries with links to other entries about dealing with trolls, from a feminist perspective: GeekFeminism and FF101.

Reminder: things Feminists with FSD is not:

  • A medical advice blog: It’s possible that some commenters and/or guest posters have medical qualificatons, but I don’t. Do not ask me for medical advice because I probably don’t have any new information for you and god forbid I give you the wrong information, and just make things worse.
  • An agony aunt blog: I am not here to give you dating, relationship or general life advice for the same reasons listed above.
  • A news blog: I make an attempt to keep abreast of FSD news but I have a life outside of blogging and I’m not a journalist.
  • Making any money. I haven’t figured out a way to fairly monetize the blog. Full disclosure: to this day I have earned exactly $0 from blogging about the intersections of feminism and sexual dysfunction.
  • The final authority on FSD – I’m a feminist blogger who has sexual dysfunction. I have my own opinions which may not match your own. Although I certainly hope that as someone who actually lives with the topic of interest, you would give some extra consideration to what it is I say. I’ve been through quite a bit already. I hope you would also question anybody who claims to be the final boss of FSD.

Is Feminists with FSD a sex blog? I don’t know; I’ve said elsewhere that I consider myself to be more of a lack-of-sex blogger. We talk about sex and sexuality! I’m even open to reviewing sex toys in the future. But it doesn’t come easily and my experiences are fairly limited (though many sex bloggers likewise strive and struggle to put out good quality posts, so it’s not like sex blogging is easy, either.) And then there’s times where sexual problems aren’t elusively sexual problems. Problems bleed out and overlap. They stain. If this is a sex blog at all, then certainly it’s a different kind of sex blog.

And so, as 2011 begins, I see that there is still much work left to do. We’re not done here. I have not yet begun to fight so it’s a good thing I’m still not burned out.

I’ll be catching up with my RSS feeder and working on new posts over the next couple of days. Won’t you join me on this journey? I cannot do it alone.

Guest Post: Interview with Elizabeth on Asexuality

11/01/2010 at 10:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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[Dear internet, we have a guest poster today! This is a follow-up post that picks up where Guest Post: Interview with K on Female Sexual Dysfunction over at Shades of Gray left off. Our guest poster, Elizabeth, had some questions for me about FSD and HSDD in particular, which I addressed over on her blog. And I had some questions about HSDD and asexuality which I was hoping she would be able to clarify.

To refresh your memory: In summer of June 2010, hearings were scheduled to determine whether the antidepressant-turned-potential-libido booster, flibanserin, should receive FDA approval. The possibility of this drug of questionable value going to market in the near future was met with resistance, especially from certain feminist organizations and activists. There were also some concerns about flibanserin and the type of sexual dysfunction it was supposed to address (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorer) from within the asexual community. Elizabeth and I first made contact when we bumped into each other on a thread about the drug over at Ily's blog; there was some delay between then and the posts you see before you now.

I suggest that if you would like to participate in the discussion here, please check your privilege so as not to step on anyone's toes. Don't forget about the intersectionality; it's possible that we've got some folks with sexual problems & dysfunctions lurking in the wings here who put the "Questioning" or "asexual" in LGBTIQQAA. Flibanserin will no longer be pursued by Boehringer Ingelheim so we don't need to debate it today. As Elizabeth said in the preface to my interview, let's focus on making each other more aware, understanding & accepting of asexuality and sexual dysfunction.]


My name is Elizabeth, though many in the asexual community know me by my online moniker, the Gray Lady. I am a twenty-something cisgendered female blogger. I am both asexual and a feminist, and I blog about both subjects and how they interrelate. I identify myself as panromantic asexual, and am currently in a committed polyamorous relationship with a trans woman. Although the original subject of my blog is about being in the gray area between sexuality and asexuality and my own questioning where I fit on that spectrum, I now simply identify myself as being a sex-positive asexual. I take an intersectional approach to feminism, and always strive to identify where I have privilege and confront it, though of course from time to time I will fail to see it, as anyone does. I think it should be noted here that not all asexuals are feminists or any of the other things that I listed, and certainly not every asexual agrees with me. I represent only myself, though I try to do my part to help the community. In my leisure time, I can often be found reading, learning foreign languages, or playing Pokemon.

I understand that there is a lot to think about in a definition of asexuality. What are some important points you would like to see people understand about asexuality?

Most importantly, I want people to try to understand the word as we actually use it before trying to enter into a conversation with us. Too often, people make the mistake of inferring a meaning from the word’s component morphemes–that is, they think it simply means “not sexual”–which is very vague and could have a whole range of meanings, depending on how each person defines “sexual.” Some people have such a broad definition of sexuality that from their perspective, it encompasses the entirety of human existence. So at first glance, to some people it seems to be impossible. Others may think that we are referring to celibacy (lack of sexual behavior), an inability to have normal sexual function, or even think we’re saying that we don’t have genitals.

Generally speaking, however, we’re ONLY addressing sexual attraction. What that means is that, while we may be attracted to people in other ways (we might think they’re pretty, or like their personality), and while we are certainly capable of love, that (by itself) just doesn’t translate into a desire to have sex. If we do get “crushes,” they’re not sexualized; for me, if I like someone, the things I want to do with them are things like having deep intellectual discussions, cuddling, sometimes making out (though at other times I find myself grossed out by the thought of doing so), and literally sleeping in the same bed. Or sometimes, when my attraction to a person is purely aesthetic, just looking for a while. For this reason, some of us will use the word “squish” to describe a non-sexualized crush, so that hopefully there will be fewer misunderstandings.

That’s not to say that none of us ever want to have sex for other reasons, but the attraction itself just isn’t it. I never look at people and think anything like, “Wow, that person is so hot, I would so do her/him!” It doesn’t typically occur to me to think about sex on my own without some sort of external reminder, except as some sort of intellectual puzzle. I’ve found that I can have desire for sex, even enthusiastic desire for sex, without experiencing attraction, however. I never really feel this desire as I’m going about my day-to-day life; it only really arises when I’m in a situation where I’m comfortable with my partner and okay with the idea of having sex, and she begins to physically arouse me. That doesn’t mean that when I’m not in that situation I never think, “Oh, that might be nice,” but that kind of thought is usually pretty detached and apathetic, not so much a true desire. My partner and I will still often go months without realizing how long it’s been since we last had sex, even though she is sexual. I think one thing that helps me be comfortable with her is that she is not really sexually attracted to me either, because she mostly prefers guys for sex.

So asexuality doesn’t necessarily mean that we dislike sex, although there are certainly some asexuals who do. There’s tons of variety in the asexual community. There are some asexuals who would prefer to be celibate for life themselves, but are totally fine with sex otherwise. There are other asexuals who are disgusted by even the idea of sex, and don’t want to talk about it or see it in movies, books, etc. Just as there are many different sentiments within the asexual community about sex itself, there are also many different preferences on romance and intimacy. I’ve had people assume that just because I’m asexual, that means that I don’t experience love, or don’t experience romantic love. That’s confusing what we in the asexual community call romantic/affectional orientation (which, just like sexual orientation, describe what gender(s) a person tends to attach romantically to; e.g. hetero-romantic, homo-romantic, etc. And on that note, just to clear this up, it’s not a contradiction to identify as, for example, an asexual lesbian, because lesbianism can refer to either sexual or affectional orientation.) with sexual orientation at best, or assuming a lack of basic human emotions at worst. I think it should be the default assumption that asexuals of ALL stripes, even aromantic asexuals, experience love, even if it is platonic or non-romantic love. There is a wide variety of ways to form close connections with others; some rely on a close group of friends, some get intimacy through their communities, some have intimate relationships that aren’t categorized as strictly friendship or as romantic. What does “romantic” actually mean, anyway? There is no clear definition, and some of us struggle with deciding whether we are romantic or aromantic because of that, or don’t believe there is a distinction at all.

There’s so much variety that really, it’s reasonably safe to say that the only thing that unites us is a lack of sexual attraction significant enough for us to embrace this label. Of course, there are some gray areas as well which I’ve devoted much of my blog to, but that’s a little outside the scope of this.

Is there a difference between asexuality and HSDD, and if so, what is it? What about sexual dysfunction more broadly defined?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, asexuality has to do with sexual attraction, and HSDD has to do with sexual desire or sexual interest. These are not the same thing; it’s very possible to have either one without the other. For example, I’m not sexually attracted to anyone, but with an understanding partner and a different approach to sex, I’ve found it enjoyable and desirable, even though I don’t really have an intense level of interest in it. I’ve found that I tend to fall into a pattern of responsive desire as mentioned above, wherein I don’t really think about sex too often or get “in the mood” for sex without having had any kind of physical stimulation, but being in a safe space with a partner I’m willing to have sex with does allow me to enthusiastically consent, and generally speaking I find that I have no trouble on the physical side.

Of course, I used to have a lot of pain with PIV intercourse, to the extent that my first sexual partner condescendingly explained to me that I have a sexual disability, but that situation was coercive at best, and the real problem there was that I wasn’t able to become aroused enough in a situation that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, with a person who didn’t seem to really care how I was doing and never bothered asking my permission before touching me. He essentially was writing off any responsibility he had for the way I felt (both physically and emotionally) by claiming that I was just “defective.” Initially, even in a situation where I am completely comfortable with having sex, I do sometimes have pain with intercourse for a variety of reasons, but it’s not very much pain, and it’s mostly due to not being used to the size, not enough lubrication, perhaps a bad angle, something like that. As far as I understand, this kind of pain is relatively common and normal for a person who has intercourse as infrequently as I do. I don’t have any pain with outercourse or any other form of sex. It’s not something that typically inhibits my ability to even have PIV intercourse on the same occasion that I have that sort of pain; most of the time, it is temporary. I’m not distressed about it at all. So I don’t define this as a disability or dysfunction of any sort, though if I did, it wouldn’t be HSDD.

One other thing I wanted to mention is that there was a study that recently came out recently called “Physiological and Subjective Sexual Arousal in Self-Identified Asexual Women” (by Brotto and Yule)” which I want to quote from here. This is just from the abstract, so you don’t have to actually read the full article to see where the quote came from:

“Asexuals showed significantly less positive affect, sensuality-sexual attraction, and self-reported autonomic arousal to the erotic film compared to the other groups; however, there were no group differences in negative affect or anxiety. Genital-subjective sexual arousal concordance was significantly positive for the asexual women and non-significant for the other three groups, suggesting higher levels of interoceptive awareness among asexuals. Taken together, the findings suggest normal subjective and physiological sexual arousal capacity in asexual women and challenge the view that asexuality should be characterized as a sexual dysfunction.”

So at least we do have some scientific evidence that asexuality is not a sexual dysfunction of arousal, in addition to much anecdotal evidence that asexuals are perfectly capable of normal sexual function. However, I also want to note that asexuality and sexual dysfunction can and do sometimes overlap. I know of at least one asexual woman who also has vaginismus, although I have not been in contact with her for a long time now. I’d love to hear from anyone in this overlap who would be comfortable talking about this, because I’m curious how these issues intersect, and how people within that intersection deal with attitudes from both sides.

What are some of the key concerns about HSDD in the asexual community and what (if any) are some ways these concerns might be addressed?

The main concern is that it might be used to delegitimize asexuality–which, quite frankly, a lot of times it is, however erroneously. There’s still a widespread view that asexuality is not a sexual orientation, but instead a disorder, a disability, a dysfunction, or the result of sexual trauma. The DSM-IV specifies that in order for it to qualify as a disorder, it must “result in significant distress for the individual,” however I’m not sure that is specific enough. What kind of distress? There are a lot of people who feel distress about being asexual because they have been taught to feel that it isn’t normal, it’s a defect, and that it’s a huge burden to their romantic partners, who will eventually leave them because of it, or that they’ll never find any romantic partners at all, and that not having a romantic partner and not having sex means they will never lead a fulfilling life. Basically, if asexuality is a sexual orientation, then it is not chosen and we cannot expect asexuals to be happy with it all the time, so simply saying there must be distress as a qualifier, while somewhat of a step in the right direction, doesn’t really work in my view and to be honest, it seems like it was just tacked on without much thought. If we assume that only people who are distressed about their lack of interest in sex have HSDD, and that asexuals don’t qualify because they lack that distress, isn’t the assumption that asexuals are all happy about being asexual? I’ve seen many threads where asexuals (with much embarrassment to admit it) discuss their distress due to being asexual, and I think this mindset only disempowers those people by encouraging them to hide how they feel. Plus, in that study that I quoted from earlier, anyone who felt distress about their lack of sexual interest or level of attraction would have been disqualified from the study, so this leads to issues with gathering representative samples as well. Of course, no one who volunteered did feel that sort of distress, and most likely no one who did would volunteer for anything like that, because of the pressure to present asexuals to the rest of the world as being happy and distress-free, so as not to make it easier for other people to dismiss us all as just disordered.

Now, technically asexuality is not about a lack of desire or a lack of sexual fantasies at all, and in fact it’s possible to be asexual and have either some form of sexual desire* or sexual fantasies, or both. But that distinction is very fine, and not often understood. In practice the two are often confused, and this may lead to a situation where an asexual person who has not yet realized they are asexual will be pressured into seeking treatment for HSDD, further internalizing the message that there is something wrong with them. Asexuality is not yet well known enough that we can expect people to realize that it’s a possibility, in this kind of situation. Sometimes it takes many years before people will come to understand themselves as asexual. I think it would help to have asexuality specified explicitly as something that should be considered. That would go a long way towards helping asexuality gain visibility as well.

* Since it’s been pointed out to me that this term isn’t all that clear itself, I’ll clarify that when I use it I’m not just talking about libido or “sex drive”–which I interpret as a physical urge for release–but also non-physically based desire as well. In other words, I tend to use it more in the sense of having any kind of interest in having sex, aside from altruistic partner-pleasing or coercive situations. Not an interest in the social consequences of having sex, but a desire to have sex itself, even when unaccompanied by a physical urge.

So that’s the practical concern. The other big concerns I’ve seen being raised are primarily ideological. I’ve seen asexuals and feminists alike raise these kinds of concerns. What is “normal,” and who gets to define it? In the case of HSDD, the task of defining such a disorder is essentially the same as authoritatively declaring what level of sexual interest–and by “sexual desire” they do seem to also mean “sexual interest,” as the DSM-V’s proposed revisions make clear (it may be renamed to Sexual Interest/Aversion Disorder)–constitutes a normal level of interest, what constitutes a disordered level of interest. This of course has a significant impact on laypersons’ ideas as well, because it is coming from people who presumably know what they are talking about (although I’ve seen some spectacularly bad… uh, “science” used by those in charge of rewriting the gender and sexuality disorders to justify their claims, so that assumption is not always a good one). If not being interested in sex continues to be considered a huge problem (disorder/defect) by and large by society as a whole, unqualified, then how can we reasonably expect stigmatization of asexuality to decrease? Without any explicit expression that asexuality, while uncommon, is still just a normal human variance, asexuals will still get lumped in with people with HSDD and the current cultural ideology (that all humans are sexual and so a lack of interest in sex is unnatural) will remain the same. Likewise, I think we also should be concerned about potentially having the wrong focus in cases where incompatibilities with one’s partner, relationship problems, or abusive situations may be the cause of the disinterest. Sometimes a lack of interest in or aversion to sex is actually very healthy and adaptive, and this needs to be taken into consideration as well.

Andrew Hinderliter of Asexual Explorations, our go-to guy for information about the DSM, posted an article on the Sociological Imagination which addresses this, and helped me to articulate some of my own views on the subject. As he points out, HSDD describes a symptom rather than a syndrome, and encompasses a wide variety of people in many different life contexts. As context is essentially the determiner for whether or not a low or non-existent level of sexual interest/desire is a disorder rather than a natural human variance or positive adaptation to a coercive situation, I have wondered at times whether this is particularly useful as a diagnosis by itself, or whether it might not be better as a symptom of other diagnoses. However, I also realized that the cause of such a problem may either not be obvious at first, or as with asexuality, just plain unknown. Thus, I think it can serve a purpose as a stand-alone diagnosis, but lots of careful thought needs to go into crafting it.

I’m well aware that careful attention needs to be paid to how this diagnosis works as a barrier for women with FSD from getting the help they need, or how any diagnosis might. If it is a symptom of another problem, that might not be immediately obvious, and so for those people, this diagnosis might be useful to get things started, and can change as more information surfaces. That’s a big if. But I also think that this can be a useful diagnosis in and of itself. Asexuals tend not to realize that you can have sexual attraction or interest in having sex without feeling desire for it. Because it’s a realm outside of our own experiences, we don’t necessarily tend to think about the possibility of this kind of disparity that deeply inhibits a person’s self-expression, this emotional pain that actually does come from an internal source. Although I wouldn’t compare these two experiences, I imagine it might be like a cisgendered person trying to understand what it’s like to feel a mismatch between one’s internal gender and one’s physical, wrongly-sexed body. That mismatch doesn’t exist for us, so we don’t tend to think about the possibility that it might exist for others, or the deep distress that it might cause. That distress alone should be sufficient to qualify for calling it a disorder or disability. I don’t think it’s right to minimalize the way it affects a person’s life by calling it a sexual “problem” instead, though at the same time I do think we ought to be careful not to make “distress or no distress” the sole distinction between people who have HSDD and people who don’t. I think that’s reducing it to an on/off, yes/no type distinction, when it’s really more complicated than that.

Another big concern I’ve seen raised, particularly among feminists and certainly by New View, is whether what is expected of women sexually speaking is centered around a male-centric norm. The argument, as I understand it, is that female sexual desire is very context-dependent, and that “sexual desire” may for many women mean having a sort of desire that is triggered more by physical arousal (in a safe and consensual context) rather than initial interest or attraction. From my own personal experiences, I know that this can be true, but other than knowing that responsive desire is perfectly possible without experiencing sexual attraction, I don’t know what to think about it. Does the HSDD diagnosis itself indeed put women in a position where they are expected to respond the same way as men, or is that more of a cultural assumption? Will the proposed split between male and female SIAD correct that? I don’t know those answers, but more pointedly, is that even the reason why women seek treatment for HSDD? That’s a pretty big assumption, I think. It’s certainly possible that some women do seek treatment for it because they apply a model of desire that’s more appropriate for men, but does that mean that all women who seek (or would seek) treatment for HSDD are doing this? I doubt it. What about women who don’t even have responsive desire? And why assume that no women who might seek treatment are aware of this tendency to view women’s sexuality through a male lens? I do think this cultural tendency ought to be addressed, but I don’t think it’s grounds to dismiss the entire diagnosis.

Switching gears… I want to return to something I mentioned briefly above: the issue of relationship incompatibilities. I feel this needs just a little bit more explanation before I move on to the next part of the question. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of the time, within a relationship where one partner has a much higher level of desire for sex than the other, the partner with the low level of interest gets all the blame for the problems that arise out of that. Rather than viewing this as just another incompatibility with both partners working towards a solution, often it is assumed that only the person with low desire must change, because there must be something wrong with them. A person who is told this over and over again might internalize this and begin to believe it themselves, and in this case might begin to feel distress over this aspect of themselves and want to seek treatment for it. I think many asexuals know this sense of believing oneself to be broken just because it’s what they’ve been told over and over and over again, because it is how they felt before understanding asexuality. I myself have been told many, many times that I must have a sexual disorder or disability, and while I never believed that, to some extent in the past I have considered asexuality to be a shortcoming in sexual scenarios because of it. I would say that this very emotional, touchy subject is what drives many asexuals to discount the possibility that HSDD/SIAD might be a legitimate disorder, and I think we saw that come out in the comments to K’s interview on my blog. But we do need to keep our emotional reactions under control, and realize that we have the privilege of not dealing with this internal pressure that inhibits our self expression.

So, with all that said, how might our concerns about the HSDD/SIAD diagnosis be dealt with, aside from all of us trying to take a level-headed view that acknowledges our own privilege? I’m not sure on how the diagnosis should be worded. I do think we need something that distinguishes between different kinds of distress, not so much as something that delineates specific definitions (being too specific would be exclusionary), but something that at least directs therapists and medical professionals to try to locate the origins of it. It seems to me like no matter how it’s worded, a short list of diagnostic criteria is still going to fail to acknowledge the complexity of all the different things that might be going on, and so I think perhaps having educational materials on asexuality available to be presented at the time of consultation might be a good option. (This of course with the acknowledgment that it might not apply, but is just being presented as a way to empower people with the knowledge that it exists, and ability to decide for themselves. I think it should be handled very carefully so as not to be coercive.) I don’t foresee that happening in the near future though, just because it’s such a tremendous task to get such materials distributed to every therapist’s office, not to mention getting them to understand and accept asexuality. If not that, then at least I think that all therapists and medical professionals should be made aware of both asexuality and the instances where low sexual interest or desire would be adaptive, and of the concerns of women who have FSD. They should be educated on the importance of balancing those concerns, and not assuming that the whole diagnosis is bunk just because it might be somewhat too vague in its description. I don’t foresee this happening soon, but we’re taking baby steps towards that goal, and it’s something that I’m hopeful for in the future.

Interesting posts, some time in October

10/12/2010 at 6:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Dear internet, we sure have a lot of catching up to do. I’m still in the middle of a major life upheveal. Most people would probably be done with this sort of thing by now but I am literally receiving zero help from anyone else so it’s all on me go get through it alone. I still work full-time too so it’s not like I can just take some time off and get it over with.

It’s been awhile since our last roundup, so it goes without saying that a lot of shit went down in the news. Hope you’ve all been keeping up with the news and feminist blogosphere, because at this point there’s no way I can bring you up to speed with everything. So as with all roundups, if we’re missing anything after this, it’s not necessarily because a skipped topic is unimportant. I just got a lot of shit to do. Maybe you would like to help pick up the slack by dropping a link? Or perhaps I can interest you in putting together a guest post?

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. There were (technically) two guest posts this week – one that I wrote at Grasexuality, and one that brigid wrote for us here; did you see them yet?
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.

I have some bad news for women dealing with low libido types of sexual dysfunction… Remember the great Flibanserin debacle of 2k10? Of course you do; how could we forget? Get ready to enter rage-rage-rage mode:
It’s over… The German company Boehringer Ingelheim has ceased its work on producing Flibanserin, an anti-depressant turned possible libido booster for women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD.) Social constructionists, congratulations; you got exactly what you wanted, and now women with low libido types of sexual dysfunctions still have no medical prescription option in the USA. So now women who have tried everything else and exhausted every other resource, tried all the common sense advice, sought help from professionals, tweaked their relationships (if they’re even involved in one!), and run up against or even attempted to adhere to every other piece of rubbish that did and didn’t make it onto our new Bingo Board, still hit a wall. Happy now?
Obviously, I am in fact not happy. I am so pissed off. Even BI cited “Complexities!” as a reason for stopping. Figure it out!
I shoulda done more… I shoulda started a counter-petition to disregard the petition to block passage of Flibanserin. (Note my use of language: I didn’t say “Start a petition to fasttrack Flibanserin,” I just think it’s really messed up for activists to go around telling women that they no one needs something like this. Because how would you know?) The reason I didn’t start such a counter-petition, is not because I knew it would gain very few signatures… I’m really not worried about the number of signatures; it’s the principle of the thing… It’s not because I knew it wouldn’t have done any good, which it probably wouldn’t have. It would have been to show that women with FSD themselves are listening and paying attention, and some of us might even have an interest in a medical option… I didn’t start a counter-petition because I knew doing so would be what would draw the New View’s attention and I would really prefer to remain under their radar as long as possible, because I am selfish and seriously don’t feel like dealing with all the stress and insults and lectures on the history of FSD that I know is inevitable once the organization finds out about what we’ve been doing here.
To my readers with low libido types of sexual dysfunctions (and to friends of folks with libido dysfunctions,) brace yourself: I have a feeling we’re probably going to see another spike in coverage about Flibanserin, (I’m thinking certain feminist websites are more likely to cover it than others, and maybe some op-ed pieces in mainstream newspapers, as well as others) and when we do see it, I can guarantee you it’s going to get real ugly, real fast. Everyone, get your bingo boards ready to go if you’ll be doing any reading on the matter. If you see any new and bizarre arguments about FSD and why no woman, anywhere, ever, needs medication for sexual desire problems ever, in comment sections to the inevitable anti-Flibanserin posts, let me know; we may have to produce a version 2.0 if we keep running into the same old shit again and again.

Looks like we’re stuck with the same ol’ old timey libido boosters of questionable value… here’s a consolation prize, if you can get yourself to Mars New York: A New Aphrodisiac Café Catering To Your Passions.

You know how every once in awhile, like, maybe once every decade or so, a huge study of human sexuality comes out? The Kinsey report, the Hite report, 1990s JAMA study (the one that said up to 43% of women in the US have sexual dysfunction but that was actually a wrong figure to use because the study fucked up the language and should have said “Sexual problem, which may not actually be a dysfunction because not all sex problems are dysfunctions”? Remember when we talked about that already?) Well there’s another new one out – The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). It’s sponsored by Trojan this time, I wonder what the reaction to that will be considering that the JAMA report had connections to Big Pharma and so there was a conflict of interest there… hmm… do we need to raise skepticism about the involvement of Big Condom…? Conflict of interest with Big Prophylactic…? I don’t know. It is part of the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Anyway, there’s quite a bit of coverage about the report going around the feminist blogosphere!
Unfortunately for reasons cited in the introduction to this post, I haven’t gotten a chance to actually sit down and read the damn thing!
This could be a neat topic to write about some time in the future, if no one else here would like to volunteer. If you will look at the right side of the the Indiana.edu page, you will find a link to the journal article, so it is available to the public (accessibility is another issue.)
Anyway, here’s some links about this big new sex survey in the US. Mind any comment sections, which may be fraught with land mines. Sex Survey! Condom Use Is Highest for Young, Study Finds. Largest Survey of American Sexual Behaviors Offers Snapshot of 21st Century American Sex. Sex in the US: the shocking truth

Hey, speaking of research! Here’s a month-old post I missed from Happy Bodies which is totally relevant to this discussion! This Week in Evaluating Research – some guidelines to keep in mind when we’re doing our homework. This post looks at studies of obesity but I’m pretty sure the same principles apply to sexual health research as well. In fact here’s a link to a post that Jill links to which is more general: Becoming a Critical Reader: Questions to Ask About Qualitative Research; try that on.

Meanwhile, in reproductive health (which for some reason is still sometimes separated from sexual health): Birth control breakthroughs on the horizon

Meanwhile, in Nobel Peace Prizes! IVF, The Nobel Prize, & Sexuality – Something that I rarely (if ever!) see covered in discussions of In-Vitro Fertilization, but that, if you are dealing with infertility, (and I know some of my readers here are) you may want to think about either before or during IVF treatments. This might be one of those times where talking to a sex therapist is worth thinking about, so if for some reason I had to go through IVF I might break my own rule and try it…

At 2600: Blacklisted Words That Google Instant Doesn’t Like - [NSFW] – Violet Blue is looking at the sexual terms that Google instant is blocking out but again you should probably check out her original source to see the rest of the list.

When Is a Sex Toy Not an Instrument of Pleasure? – The short version is, when it’s not used as such… like, in this case, when it’s used as a source of non-consensual humiliation. That guy James O’Keefe who was behind the Acorn fake pimp video was going to use sex to humiliate and slut-shame Abbie Boudreau, a CNN correspondent. At the last minute, Izzy Santa blew the whistle.

Here’s some stuff about living with chronic illnesses: Self-Diagnosis: Pudendal Neuralgia, very interesting when read next to On Living Without a Diagnosis. And chances are, if you are living with a chronic illness, problem, or sexual dysfunction… you may not hear about it often, but you are probably not alone. Why You Should Blog About Your Vulva

Something about who is critical about medicine, why, and the effects… in this case, vaccines and autism, but can be applied to other treatments as well. Right wing propaganda machine adopts anti-vaccination stance

Meanwhile, in nuanced discussions about selling empowerment vs. Empowerfulment! Overselling agency: a reply to Barry Dank on teacher-student sex (huh maybe I can ask him about that Disgrace novel; my teacher made a big deal about the goat testicles and dead dog thing and it’s 10 years later and I am still like “Wat”)

Is it really “Strange” sex? – A critical look at the television program Strange Sex, which covers and sensationalizes sexual problems… Including vulvodynia. (I don’t watch that show. Are you surprised?)

Mark Hyman – 5 Steps To Kill Hidden Bugs In Your Gut That Make You Sick – I’m less interested in the advice here – I’m not sure how well it’s been proven, and it’s got this curebie thing going on… What really has me interested is Dr. Hyman’s claim that there’s an autism-bacteria link. This interests me because, if you will recall, I was quite skeptical of a similar claim made in the documentary, The Business of Being Born. Now then: the gut-medicine doctor tells me that autism is linked to gut bacteria, the natural birth advocate openly speculates that it has something to do with a lack of natural hormones secreted during birth… HMMMM… Who do I believe here? Am I the only one seeing a potential conflict of interest? Whom do I trust? And furthermore, what’s missing?

Official: vb.ly Link Shortener Seized by Libyan Government – [NSFW] – Another setback for Violet Blue; this comes on the heels of the Facebook page for Our Porn, Ourselves being removed. VB.ly was a sex-positive link shortener, so, you could have used it to shorten links to adult content. So there wasn’t any adult content hosted on the server, it’s one of those dealies where it just re-directed you to such content. And that was supposed to be allowed but now it’s not.

As always, I’m sure there’s more

Guest blogging: Reaching out to the asexual community

10/02/2010 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I guest blogged for Elizabeth @ Shades of Gray, an asexual blog. Here is a link to the post: Guest Post: Interview with K on Female Sexual Dysfunction. Elizabeth is trying to maintain a relatively safe space there for commenters including people with sexual dysfunctions; so far the comments have gotten fairly long.

The post went up just a few days ago, but it’s actually been brewing for months, literally, so there was a big time delay between when we first got in contact and when it went up. We both had life stuff going on. If you go there, you may want to check out the introduction to the post for more background. Elizabeth and I communicated first during the middle of the great Flibanserin debacle of 2k10. You are probably by now already aware of the resistance Flibanserin has received from multiple angles, like some sex therapists, feminists and activists. There are also concerns about the drug and the validity of the diagnosis hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) from within the asexual community.

During this back-and-forth across blogs re: Flibanserin, Elizabeth asked if I would be willing to answer some questions about FSD and flibanserin. I agreed, with the same caveat I’ve repeated before: I’m not a doctor in any way shape or form. So I can’t answer any questions with the same level of authority. (It didn’t come up there, but I also don’t feel comfortable giving out advice.)

But anyway, I tried. Asexuality and sexual dysfunction aren’t the same things. Neither side can ignore the other, especially since it’s possible to have overlap.

Here’s a snippet of what’s going on over there:

Some basics:
What is Female Sexual Dysfunction? What kinds of FSD are there?

Female sexual dysfunction is a broad term encompassing several types of sexual problems with a common denominator of personal distress. A good overview of sexual dysfunction can be found at harvard.edu. When discussing FSD in general terms it is important to remember there it is not limited to one specific manifestation. In addition to sexual medicine, there’s a lot to talk about with regard to female sexual dysfunction.

There are a few different ways of looking at FSD. The two ways I’m most familiar with looking at FSD are through the medical model and the social construction model.

I also had questions about female sexual dysfunction for Elizabeth to address from an asexual perspective. I eagerly await a response.

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

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

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 July 4, 2010

07/03/2010 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Dear internet, it’s a holiday weekend in the US and even though I just took a vacation a few weeks ago, I most definitely needed another one. Even as we speak I am enjoying the sounds of the overhead fan whirring and birds chirping outside. There’s even a few movies in theaters I’m hoping to get to soon. But it’s not all fun and games – got some paperwork and computer stuff I need to take care of on break. I’m hoping to see my partner again sometime soon, “Soon” being a relative term when you’re doing the long-term LDR thing.

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 belated blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last few weeks. Share links if’n you got’em.

First up is news related to sexual dysfunction because that’s kind of what we do around here… I got some good news and I got some bad news. Not in order.

Dr. Oz ran a repeat episode, the one which included a surprisingly comprehensive 5-minute clip on vulvodynia, originally broadcast in January 2010. (My thoughts on the Dr. Oz coverage of vulvodynia are over here.)

The US talk show Chelsea Lately ran a bit on vulvodynia in response to Dr. Oz’s re-airing of the above episode.  I have the Chelsea Lately video for you sans transcript, but if you’re a regular reader here or if you’re a woman with vulvodynia who stumbled upon this blog while searching for the video, you’re probably not going to like it… Having borne witness to the Amanda Palmer Evelyn Evelyn disability blog debacle a few months ago, I feel I have no choice but to refrain from critiquing the video in great detail. Once again my need to feel personally safe is greater than my need to educate. Anyway, some hits to this blog were coming in from searches for “Chelsea Handler vulvodynia.” You asked and I deliver, though I’m numb from handling it. Chelsea Lately vs Sexual Suffering-Vulvodynia [VIDEO]

An Oasis for those in pain! – a dilator series review by a sex blogger who also deals with vestibulitis and vaginismus! Eerily familiar. If you’ve been thinking about getting a dilator kit and you live with vulvar pain, check this one out!

Flibanserin Defeated; What Is Accomplished? – Veeeery interesting and refreshing take on the New View Campaign vs. flibanserin; dare I say, I recommend reading this post. Even sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein has criticisms of the tactics of the New View Campaign in its quest to defeat Flibanserin! I never would have expected that. They’re pretty solid criticisms too, like, how the New View Campaign does not center women with FSD and how calling it “Pink Viagra” is a misnomer which leads to confusion about what flibanserin and Viagra do and confusion about the difference between desire and physical arousal.

In that same spirit, I’d also like to present to you Flibanserin: Is a ‘Female-Desire’ Drug a Bad Thing?, a post by someone who actually has personal experience dealing with prescription hormones. Found via Womanist Musings.

I also enjoyed “Why Not Me?” Ask Women As FDA Turns Down ‘Female Viagra’, which talks about the flibanserin study results – what happened, side effects, etc. Yes, ASK WOMEN. TALK TO WOMEN. Who have FSD, in this case, HSDD in particular. Talk to them!

Camille Paglia talked about flibanserin… I think. Shit I can’t even figure out what she’s talking about. She wrote in an op/ed piece to the New York Times and it’s this… on the surface, it starts out as being about “Pink Viagra” so she’s referring to flibanserin, (and as Dr. Klein just pointed out like 5 minutes ago the above post I linked to, that’s not a completely accurate description.) But I’m really struggling with what to do with this piece. What is this post even about??? I don’t know, I read this editorial 3 times and I keep losing her train of thought. I… think it’s supposed to be a distilled, distorted version of the social construction model of sexual dysfunction, so it’s got elements of “FSD isn’t real, it’s just that everyone is shitty in bed due to shitty music and television. Also people don’t conform to their gender roles and THAT IS BAD FOR SEX.” What? Also punctuated by racism and classism. Anyway, here’s No Sex Please, We’re Middle Class.
(::mutters to self:: “Sexual malaise?” Has she ever used the internet and found a sex blogger’s site? Any sex blogger? I don’t even…)

A few feminist bloggers have produced responses to this weird NYT piece, some of which are better than others. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I am willing to bet cash that sooner or later a feminist blog post is going to be written which will contain some permutation of “I’m not agreeing with Paglia, but…” and then say something which basically agrees with the worst parts of her arguments and climbs on the “FSD isn’t real” bandwagon… I am not actively looking for such a post, but it’s happened before, and it will happen again. BUT I haven’t found such post yet so in the mean time here’s a pretty good skewering by Holly of the Pervocracy. No sex please, I’m a complete twit.

Understanding restless legs syndrome – People joke about it and don’t understand it but it’s actually pretty serious, and has connections with other chronic health conditions – including sexual dysfunction, though in this article that’s only briefly mentioned. Still, how interesting and relevant. Via FWD.

Stuff not necessarily about sexual dysfunctions:

Good Vibrations House Calls: Sexual Surrogate for a Gay Man? – Interesting because you might remember a few months ago that I watched a movie about sexual surrogacy and asked some questions of Shai Rotem of IPSA.

Scientists invent first male contraceptive pill - I have no idea how far this will get in human testing since supposedly this little pill has been in the works since I was in high school. Here’s to hoping it works well without damage. Coices and options and shared responsibility is a plus.

One reason why humans are special and unique: We masturbate. A lot – Seems like everybody and their grandmother is talking about this Scientific American post. I liked Bering’s summaries of documented historical observations on masturbation in the animal kingdom, the health of sperm and the attitudes of old time experts towards masturbation, but I did not like all of his opinions formed based on the readings. In particular I did not like his questioning asexuals’ orientation on the basis of what their sexual fantasies may be. Fantasy is not reality and it’s not cool to judge what someone’s sexual orientation is based on their fantasies.

Disability Blog Carnival #67: Proud Voices. – Been waiting for this one. Wow Dave really did a nice job rounding up the posts.

Anti-Porn Profiteering: What They’re Selling - Is this accurate? Selling “Cures” for masturbation??? Violet Blue usually does her homework, but to say these organizations are selling a cure to masturbation? It sounds too rich to be true. Why does this need a cure? Does this apply to people without sexual addiction, which I know is controversial? I don’t want to cure my erotic fantasies!

Why you should not see “The Last Airbender” movie, but watch the cartoon instead. – Not on my list of movies to see to begin with (I never got into that show.)

White House aide meets with LGBT media – no news, lotsa spin – Pam Spaulding met with white house representatives on LGBT rights, on the record.

Iceland Legalizes Gay Marriage, Prime Minister Marries Partner – Making PM Johanna Sigurdardottir “The world’s only national leader with a same-sex spouse”

World Cup Fever: Has it Really Led to an Increase in Trafficking? – Which is what I heard, but Audacia Ray has a more nuanced discussion:

Trafficking is a very serious topic, but it’s important to recognize the differences between trafficking and sex work, without doing so, we do a disservice to both victims of trafficking and sex workers.

And Now For Some Unabashed Jingoism! - July 4 is Independence Day in the US, Canada Day is July 1.

On Cure Evangelism – Attention grabbing early on since the post quickly defines Cure Evangelism as,

Put simply, cure evangelism involves aggressively pushing a medical treatment or approach to a medical condition or disability on someone, without that person’s consent, interest, or desire.

The High Price of Industry: Cancer Villages in China - Since China has been industrializing at such a fast rate, the rates of cancer have increased. These cancer cases cannot always be averted with lifestyle changes because the causes are all around people.

Sometimes a Strange Notion – A survey of attitudes towards equal rights for men & women globally.

You don’t get to out me - Above a 101 level discussion of trans topics; this one is about how allies sometimes mess up by outing bloggers as trans men or women but in this case trans women especially. If you out someone, you probably won’t have to deal with the worst of the fallout directly.

Posts that might be triggering:

Tracking Shit On The Carpets – [Trigger warning] – Not actually about what the title is. Kinky spaces are not “Anything goes” spaces. You still need consent.

Police Don’t Really Protect Victims of Battery or Sexual Assault… Why Believe They “Protect” Sex Workers? – [Trigger warning] Figleaf goes over 6 points why we should question protection as motivation for police involvement in sex work.

On Dismissing Sexual Violence Against Some Women As “Cultural” – [Trigger warning] – On the need to recognize rape as a threat to security and take it seriously.

Human Rights Violations at the G20 – [Trigger warning] – Protesters, and in this case, a journalist, were arrested outside the G-20 convention. Afterward, the detained were subjected to threats, abuses and assaults. This ensures security how?

Does Rape-aXe prevent sexual assault? – [Trigger warning] The short answer is no probably not, it only works with PIV rape, and it places a burden on rape victims.

The complicated relationship of sexual aggression and porn – [Trigger warning] Seen a couple of blogs going back-and-forth about a study on pornography and sexual aggression, I particularly enjoyed this one, mostly because of the following paragraph:

I’ve noted in the past that I think the outsized role that misogyny plays in porn probably has to do with the fact that a small percentage of heavy duty porn users dictate the market.  I speculated that most men spend not very much time looking at porn compared to other activities, but that some men are complete pornheads who have to be staring at it all the time.  I suspect that men who look at porn well beyond the basic “get on, get off, get on with some other activity” amount are way more likely to be in it to see women hurt and degraded, on top of just wanting to get off.  And since they look at it way more and spend way more money on it, the industry caters to their demands.  Which is why, to quote a friend of mine, in a lot of porn videos there seems to be a need to have a winner and a loser of the sexual encounter, and the woman is the loser.  And men who are less interested in having their ego shored up this way simply tune out or refuse to analyze some of the misogyny in a lot of porn, because they see it mainly as a masturbatory tool.

[Trigger warnings] On the subject of prenatal use of dexamethasone, I’ve seen the discussion go in two directions. One direction focuses on the use of this risky drug as guiding sexual orientation while a fetus is still developing: Doctor Testing Dangerous Drug to ‘Prevent’ Lesbianism? The other direction focuses on administration of the drug as a prenatal treatment for ambiguous genitals which may be associated with intersex conditions, Discussion Thread: Dexamethasone and “Fixing” Broken Girls. Feministing has, I think, a pretty good breakdown of what intersex means – intersex is not necessarily a problem at all; doctors and a kyriarchy culture make it into a problem.

I’m sure there’s more…

Interesting posts, weekend of … missed weekends

06/26/2010 at 9:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Dear internet, whew, finally starting to catch up with my RSS feeder from while I was on vacation with my long-term, LDR boyfriend. As a result of him keeping me too busy and joyful to blog, my already-spotty coverage of tales of interest from the feminist blogosphere is going to be spottier than usual this time around. Everyone blame him for this spotty roundup. Or else thank him if you like it. No, actually, thank me if you like it. But blame him if you don’t like it. Yes. Since there’s so many items left to check out on my RSS feeder, we may see some posts from earlier in the month spillover onto future blog link roundups. Better late than never.

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. So some of my daily mundane and/or angry thoughts sneak in there.

Now then, on with the belated blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last few weeks. I’m sure I missed plenty that’s worth talking about; share links if’n you got’em.

As I had mentioned in the Blog Note, there were some posts around the feminist blogosphere regarding the FDA’s hearings of flibanserin. Remember, that’s the antidepressant turned potential libido booster for women living with low libido. And remember, I didn’t blog about the hearings while they were taking place, because 1. I was on vacation and 2. it was too much to bear. I was greatly and predictably disappointed by blog and news coverage the story received. I am going to link to some of these stories now, but beware! You may notice some common themes of ablism and little or no attempt made by the blog posters to actually reach out to women with the condition of interest, HSDD. You may also notice some genuinely offensive comments  in the threads too – stereotypes about women with FSD and HSDD.

FDA hearings this week on “pink viagra” – Um gee I wonder if maybe anybody ever thought to ask individual women if they are comfortable with their libido. That seems like the most important person to ask to me. There be dragons in the comments, although some women with low libidos spoke up as well…
FDA Wants YOU! to Have Sexual Satisfaction
– Another disappointing post with rampant, unchecked and apparently unexamined ablism and stereotypes about women with HSDD and FSD broadly in the comments section. I had to speak out on this one and there’s a lot more points that I should address sooner or later. The more I think about it, the more I kind of want to go back and write up my own blog post response to it and some of the comments… but if I do that, keep in mind doing so will drain everything I am out of me & I’ll probably have to skip another full week of original posting in order to recover.
I resent these remarks - A guest post by asexual blogger RavenScholar, reposted to Womanist Musings. Unfortunately whatever lessons RavenScholar may have had for me from the perspective of an asexual woman were completely lost on me since I had to tune out more ablist and stigmatizing language. Actually, I’ve e-mailed a different asexual blogger re: FSD and asexuality, so, some time in the near future I’d like to post the e-mail exchange. I’m hoping something good comes of that but we’ve got to take a wait & see approach until I get confirmation that it’s okay to go forward with posting the e-mails.

So there’s your feminist take on FSD related posts for the weeks I missed. It’s like, there’s all these news posts & posts by people who give no indication that they have experience with FSD themselves. It’s frustrating. So if it seems like I’m exasperated with mainstream coverage of FSD, HSDD, flibanserin and the frequently-cited arguments against sexual dysfunction, it’s because I am. Chances are that a lot of the social construction arguments are new to you, but to me? Each time is the thousandth time I’ve heard it before. My distress from living with FSD hasn’t evaporated in a puff of social construction the first 999 times I heard it; what makes you think it’s going to go away now? Especially when such arguments are put forth in such a manner as to feel completely alienating and just make the distress worse. Like there’s something wrong with having FSD, something wrong with wanting help managing it.

In the end, critics may very well get exactly what they want. The FDA advisory panel advises against approval of flibanserin. The FDA wants more data, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Data, well gathered and analyzed, isn’t a bad thing to have. Meanwhile women with FSD, more specifically low libido, still have no oral prescription option.

Maybe we should change gears to something from the actual perspective of a woman who lives with low libido. Yes, let’s turn our attention to such individuals and hear what one has to say in her own words. Been reading MinorityReport for awhile, she has three posts that all kind of tie in together.
It started with Epic Fail… which led to Consolation Prize… which eventually led to, If At First You Don’t Succeed.
That’s more like it.

What else we got going on here in this RSS feed. Some more medical/research/sexuality news:

Good News in Reproductive Health - The FDA is open to approving a morning after pill that would work up to 5 mornings after PIV sex with ejaculation.
New Research on Vibrator Use - Actually not that new; this post is from 2009 but new to me, found via Regina Lynn.
Friday Weird Science: FINALLY, a clitoris study!
– Possibly NSFW due to pictures of up-close vulvas? It’s not a perfect study, room for improvement, but it’s interesting – and neat to see the clitoris being taken so seriously. Found via Violet Blue, whose blog is almost always NSFW.
Choosy Bodies Choose — uh, not sure yet
– Research on conception.
Not all the research I have to present this week is positive.
Sex Bias in Biomedicine
– TigTog posted links and an excerpt of the details from Nature‘s editorial section.
The following is Triggering, for child abuse and sexual abuse. The sanctioning of child genital cutting at Cornell University – Dr. Dix Poppas of Cornell University has been conducting research, openly, on girls following clitoris reduction surgery. Researching involving use of vibrators on children. Children who may or may not be intersexed. More over here, still triggering. Genital cutting as “research” at Cornell University
New VA Research Could Explain Lasting Effects of PTSD
– not about sexuality, but still about research.

What do I have in the sex files….

Good Vibrations House Calls: Painful Intercourse – about painful intercourse after menopause and some steps that women may be able to take to ease it. Not a bad start, but not comprehensive either. Do more stuff like that! Nice to see big sex websites talking about things that make sex hard.
In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women – A book review of a book that critically examines contraception. Seeing as Eldridge’s work has been referred to as JAQ’ing off and seeing as how HBC is for some reason frequently overlooked in discussions of the medicalization of women’s sexuality, especially in talking about FSD, I may just have to be a punk and read this at some point :) Here’s to hoping for Kindle version.
It’s Really Not That Hard – Talking to kids about same-sex relationships.
There were some posts at Feministe about sex but I dunno… they didn’t sit well with me… I thought that the posts didn’t leave a flexible enough definition of “Sex.” How can you have sex when you don’t even know what sex is? – So what’s sex then, are we going to do that thing where we arbitrarily decide what it is and then if you don’t match that definition, you’re not having sex? Ahh that’s probably not the point though, the point is probably something more along the lines of providing better sex education to everyone… But still, ehhh.
Withholding – Holly picks apart an otherwise completely miserable piece of “Advice” by AskMen/Fox writer Sarah Stefanson. It’s a good thing Holly picked it apart too because there are so many layers of Wrong in that Fox article.
Best Friend Rape Prevention. – [Trigger warning] Another one from Holly; why conventional rape prevention advice won’t always work – most rapes are not committed by strangers.
What’s the difference between lesbian and queer? - About differences between the words.

Some media and blogging controversies happened over the last few weeks.

It’s Helen Keller MythBusting Day! – Not a completely terrible idea, a day of blogging to dispel myths about Helen Keller. This is good information to know – I’m one of those people who grew up having to watch a performance of “The Miracle Worker” no less than three times growing up in elementary school. Seriously, the school kept on taking class trips to performances of the same script… (What a waste of budget!)
The problem here is that, the date chosen, June 19th, is already a day of recognition in the USA – it’s Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in which slaves were emancipated in the state of Texas. So Renee at Womanist Musings called bloggers out for overlooking Juneteenth, with the post Why I AM Not Celerbrating Helen Keller Mythbusting Blogswarm Day!” and numerous blog comments. The reason she did this is because overlooking this historical day is a form of erasure, and a function of racism.
Helen Thomas and General McChrystal both turned in their resignations after making ill-advised comments to the media. Al Gore has been accused of sexual assault. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig continues to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico, fouling beaches, polluting the water, killing animals, and destroying livelihoods.
At about the same time as the flibanserin FDA hearings, there was an anti-pornography conference in Boston, Massachusetts. When word got out to some sex-positive bloggers, some, like Violet Blue, took action by organizing a pro-porn counter movement. Here’s some posts related to the pro/anti porn debate 2k10. Picking Your Battles, Going the Distance: Pro-porn and Anti-porn Feminisms, Define Your Terms Before Debating: The Social Construction of Porn and Erotica, time to play anti-porn BINGO! [NSFW]

Got a couple of blog carnivals coming up.

Keep your eyes on Rolling Around In My Head – Dave Hingsburger will be hosting a carnival with the theme of “Pride” shortly.
Carnival 2: Experience – The Carnival of Kinky Feminists is looking for posts for the next edition. You have until July 30 to submit something.

Justice for all?

All Kinds of Fucked Up – [Trigger warning] Police brutality and racism in Seattle. I heard some of the radio personalities and interviews talking about this, and I gotta tell you, some of these discussions were disturbing. Like I remember hearing this one guy saying something like, if you lay hands on a police officer you deserve whatever you get. And I’m thinking to myself, weeeeelllll, not all police officers are all that great… there’s some great cops, and then there’s corrupt people working in criminal justice. So what if one of these corrupt officers starts messing with you; are you not supposed to defend yourself even then, and hope that justice will come to your side instead of covering things up? Because I’m not convinced that people in positions of authority will take you seriously and do the right thing all the time. I mean check out this 911 transcript where the dispatcher wants to play a game of 20 questions or something instead of sending help [Trigger warning] – Let’s Not Be Silly: The Marie Arraras 911 Call, and What It Means. Still don’t believe it? Maybe you should check out A Voice For Neli, [Trigger warning] an autistic young black man who was arrested apparently for sitting underneath a tree in front of a library.

Not necessarily related to each other:

Question for the weekend (by Suzie) – Interesting observation; what’s the female equivelant to “Emasculate?”
Forbes’ Top 100 Websites For Women – the list is skewed towards white, cis, het women and so it is not representative of all women everywhere.
The potential and the danger of first person in feminist discourse – interesting discussion of guidelines of when to talk about experiences from your own perspective and not steamrollering over people who are not you.
Bitten by the Bug: Lyme Awareness Month, Part I – Very interesting and comprehensive post about ticks and Lyme disease, especially in animals.
#Spillard Reader – June 26, 2010 – Australia has its first woman prime minister!
Trans woman Delphine Ravisé-Giard’s breast size dictated by French civil court – The reason cited sounds circular and as much as I’d like to chalk it up to a translation thing it’s more likely gender policing plain & simple.
The hardest thing I’ve ever done – [Trigger warning] First person account of leaving an abusive marriage.

Whew. We’ll break here for now. If I keep linking to blogs for this roundup, the post will get so big and heavy that it will collapse in on itself and form a new black hole. CERN will come to my house and try to run tests this blog post and all my neighbors will be like, “Why is CERN building a particle collider under my street?”

[Edit 6/29/10:] And then theres’s more. Rape, Male Victims, and Why We Need to Care -[Trigger warning] a requested addition examining rape. It’s not just done by men and it’s not limited to PIV penetration.

As always, I’m sure there’s more…

Blog note

06/20/2010 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

Uh oh, a blog note! That can only mean one thing! Some kind of delay in posting or a hiatus or vacation or something!

Luckily (or unluckily if you dislike me,) I’m not quite burned out yet, so no extended hiatus is planned. I will, however, likely need to skip a new content post this week. There will be no blog link roundup for at least one more week.

My reason for the delay in new content is, I was on a week-long break with my LDR boyfriend and I was having so much fun I never had a chance to sit down and write.

I had semi-mentioned my break and that there would be no blog link roundups for awhile via my Twitter feed.

But if you do not follow the Twitter, then you may not be aware that I was on break at all, because earlier this week I posted the conclusion of our two-part series on statistics and FSD. I was able to get this post up in a timely manner, because I wrote it up ahead of time. However the rest of my draft posts are unsatisfactory, so I need time to work on them and create new ones.

Then when I got back home from the break I had to unpack and catch up with work & home events and I wanted to update some of my computer software before I started writing.

Coincidentally my break just happened to intersect with a week of flibanserin-related posts around the blogosphere… which I may or may not link to. I’m leaning against linking to the feminist discussions of flibanserin and the FDA’s hearings on flibanserin, because almost all of the posts I saw were predictably distressing. Chances are if you have FSD or more specifically FSAD or HSDD and you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need me to tell you the exact trajectory that these discussions took. You don’t need me to explain it to you, because you are already aware of the typical arguments against a medical option for FSD or against FSD as a valid thing in general. You’re probably also aware of the fact that many of these discussions do not center women with FSD or HSDD, which is ironic since that is the topic of interest. Should you choose to seek such discussions out on your own, I advise against delving too deeply into the comment sections.

Just reading these flibanserin discussions was exhausting and incredibly stressful so that is also partly why I cannot talk too much in detail about it. In this case my need for self-preservation is greater than my need to educate. See also this post by Abby Jean if you do not understand what I’m talking about.

I think it’s really just as well that I was on break for most of the week of flibanserin posts, because being with my partner allowed me to unplug from the internet and tune everything out. It was too much to bear otherwise. And that is one of the many reasons that I love my partner – because he keeps me going.

Fortunately, as I had hoped, this trip did yield some interesting new experiences! Not all of my fantasies came true but we really got a lot done – and some of what we did is relevant to this blog. For (TMI!) example! I still have a bartholin’s cyst, which pumps out more fluid when I spend a lot of time being aroused. The fluid doesn’t drain out well, so it swells up and can become uncomfortable. But we bought a sitz bath early on during the break and I used it about once or twice per day. Much to my surprise and delight, this did and excellent job of managing the size of the cyst, and so I felt quite comfortable for the duration of the trip. I don’t know exactly how it works, but sitz baths may be a viable treatment for me at least until I can get the cyst addressed with a long-term solution, which will require an experienced gynecologist and recovery time.

So the plan for the next few weeks is:

  • Catch up with RSS feeder and compile a blog link roundup
  • Make new content posts – topics may be on the lighter side for awhile until I get re-oriented.
    • For example I may post reviews of some adult toy stores my partner and I visited while on break. If I think these posts will be NSFW I will place the details behind a wordpress cut.
    • I may also want to post a review of one of the sex toys I bought to use as a new dilator. If I can just figure out how to use it…! I may have bitten off more than I can chew here. Eyes bigger than my vag, or something.
    • Still need to post some book reviews
  • Need to send some e-mails out that may prove fruitful down the line

If you are interested in guest posting in the mean time, you may want to leave a comment here or on one of the previous blog link roundups. Remember, the criteria at the time is, if you think you would fit in here, you probably would. That may be subject to change in the future but we’ll see how it goes from there.

You may also be interested in following the Twitter feed, because I want to try tweeting more frequently at least until I get new content rolling. Twitter needs more posts about vulvodynia, vaginismus, and FSD broadly! Posts that aren’t spam! Be warned though; Twitter, I think, is becoming my “Angry space.” I find that due to the immediate yet restrictive nature of the medium, I tend to screen whatever’s on my mind much less there than on this blog.

That’s all I’ve got for you at this time. Stay tuned, we shall return to our regularly scheduled vagina blogging shortly.

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