Tags: female sexual dysfunction, Feminism, FSD, intro, Sexuality
The most sensible place to start with this blog is at the beginning. Which means explaining where I’m coming from & where I get off talking about this.
I am a 25-year old female. For now just call me “K,” as I have not yet decided on what handle to use for this blog. I have vulvodynia, specifically its sub-type, vulvar vestitibulitis, and vaginismus. The loose translation of vulvodynia means “Pain in the vulva.” The loose translation of vestibulitis means “Inflammation of the vulvar vestibule,” although that isn’t always the most accurate translation. In practice it means the vulva hurts. If you have true vulvodynia it can hurt all the time without provocation. If you have vulvar vestibulitis, chances are the vulva hurts only on contact with an object. That object could be a tampon, a finger, a sex toy, or yes, a penis. It may or may not be possible to have sex, due to the pain.
Vaginismus means that the vaginal muscles contract so much that it makes penetration impossible, difficult, painful, or some combination of the above.
So I am mostly familiar with vulvar pain conditions, based on all the homework I had to do following up on them & getting a proper diagnosis. Of course, FSD is a broad topic & covers things besides pain – it can mean a low or very high sexual desire, difficulty or lack of orgasm (or in rare cases even an overabundance of orgasm,) hormonal imbalances, skin dermatoses, and others. It’s possible that one thing overlaps with another and it’s possible to have one thing without the other.
I had to learn about these sexual & genital problems the hard way – first hand experience. Without getting too much into detail right now (that’s a series of stories for another time, perhaps,) what happened is,
Prior to treatment, I was never able to insert things comfortably into my vagina, be it a finger, tampon, or a penis. It would burn, sting, and subsequently I would experience chronic itching. When I tried to have sex I would end up torn, bleeding & in pain for days after. I used extra lubrication & became aroused before attempting intercourse, and my partner was gentle with me. Still no good. When seeing a gynecologist, no clear cause for pain was found. No infection was present – usually. At one point during this ordeal, I was treated for bacterial vaginosis but still saw no improvement after treatment.
It took several months to get a proper diagnosis, and several more months to get treatment. Not many people and still somehow not all doctors know about vulvodynia. In the end, I and my doctor, a vulvovaginal specialist, decided on avoidance of potential irritants, going off of hormonal birth control, using a topical estrogen gel for a few months, and then surgery. It’s been over a year since the surgery and while I still have some problems, things are better than they were. I don’t have to run back & forth to the ladies room all day trying to figure out “Why am I itching.” I can insert some things into my vagina. I can withstand pressure on the vulvar tissue without burning. The flap of skin that always tore on me h as been removed. Intercourse remains a carrot-on-the-stick for me which I continue to work towards.
Which has gotten me thinking… Who would have thought that sex would be so much Hard Work! During this whole ordeal I started thinking about all kinds of things about sexuality – mine and other people’s. How my own sex education in public school contributed to my FSD. How sex and occassionally sexual dysfunction is depicted in the media. How women’s health & sexuality is or isn’t medicalized. How much women must have suffered with this in silence for years, decades, centuries, not fully understanding “Why is this happening?” and not being able to find treatment. I think about how feminists talk about sex & sexuality.
And I think about how feminists talk (or don’t) about sexual dysfunction.
I know there will be disagreements with what I say, even among other women who have experienced FSD. I responded favorably to surgery but have heard enough horror stories to know that it is not right for everyone. While I may feel comfortable with porn & can see how it would be beneficial, I recognize that for other women in my same situation, porn could very well wind up ending a relationship, say for example one partner becomes addicted to it.
I can see where these disagreements are coming from, when they come from other people who know about FSD.
What really bothers me is when people, and yes, feminists, who have not experienced or treated FSD themselves, make broad sweeping statements about women’s sexuality, ignoring those who have experienced FSD. I feel like what I see written about sexuality & sex talks only about “Normal” sex & forgets that it doesn’t come that easily for all of us. And It bothers me when I see feminists make mean statements about sex and how it should or shouldn’t be done, because sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.
I don’t have all the answers. I realize this.
Yet In light of the above, and the fact that this has been such a taboo subject, I feel compelled to speak up and provide an answer.