Tags: emotions, Feminism, FSD, psychology, vulvodynia
Note: This is technically part 2 of a post that got too long to be 1 entry. See this thing or scroll down below for the first part.
There are five stages of grief, according to one generally recognized model. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
Depending on which source you’re using, there may be more or fewer stages, but is is the griving process I’m most familiar with.
I went through these five stages when I was diagnosed with vestibulitis. I greived. I mourned. The prospects long term looked grim. I was losing a part of myself before I even had a chance to try it out. I was already familiar with these stages of bereavement, so they came as no surprise. Perhaps for this reason I was able to reach the final one, “Acceptance,” relatively swiftly. Not that Acceptance is a particuarly happy place to be.
Denial was me trying to figure out other possible diagnoses other than vestibulitis, things that would be easier to deal with. It must be a chronic yeast infection. It has to be bacterial vaginosis. It can only be vaginismus. Maybe it was just a really rare strain of bacteria. Maybe I had PIDD. Something that can be treated after a few days of antibiotics or antifungals – even though we’d already tried that.
I tried running back to the gyno again hoping maybe it was just a more rare strain of yeast other than albicans but she cancelled the appointment. Get thee to a specialist.
Oh who am I kidding. This isn’t going to go away by itself.
It wasn’t. Denial eventually gives way to anger.
Anger took a long time to work through. Even now, I return to or am pushed back to anger. I still get angry about having FSD. Why is this happening to me. I get angry reading and hearing about other people’s reactions to FSD. I get angry about having to talk about having FSD because no one else stops to consider it in feminist – or sometimes even medical – circles.
Of course, being a feminist, I also have a lot of other things to get justifably angry about.
Unfortunately, being a feminist and having FSD at the same time, I’ll often come across the opinions of other feminists re: sexuality… and I’ll find myself angered by those who I would like to believe are my friends.
Anger can be a motivating place to be. A healthy dose of anger can bring focus & drive. It can bring righteous fury and, channeled properly, be used to bring about some kind of change. Sometimes anger can be useful.
But it can be a dangerous place to be. Anger causes people to make irrational statements and to take irrational actions. It makes people say & do stupid things, to break precious (and expensive) things, & to make bad decisions. It is a repellent to some otherwise friendly people and it is a tasty bait to the kind of people who cause such anger to arise in the first place.
And it is a stressful place to be. Anger releases stress hormones & while they can be quite useful in small, short doses, over time, anger eats away at the mind, body – and if you’re into that kind of thing, the spirit. It is an exhausting place to be.
So usually when I find my self being angered, there is little use trying to fight it. It doesn’t do any good to say, “Don’t get angry,” because that doesn’t really work. “Don’t let them make you get angry.” No, it’s okay to let yourself get angry – it’s just what you do with it after. I have not reached a place in my life where I can instantly forgive any & all transgressions. There is no denial of anger. But I need to try to work through it & channel it properly – and swiftly. If I don’t I’m going to get stressed out & if I’m too stressed out I am not going to be able to function near peak.
And it’s just going to make relaxing harder and therefore make having sex harder.
I find blogging helps…
Bargaining didn’t last very long. There wasn’t really anybody I could make a bargain with. I’m not super-spiritual, so I didn’t count on a miracle intervention from out of nowhere. Part of me wonders how depressing it must be to be a spiritual woman, to have faith, and still be struck with FSD. I have heard of faithful Christian women afflicted with vaginismus & being distressed when thier wedding night finally came and went… and then the next night, and the next night…
Who am I going to bargain with, my doctors? My gynos were not familiar enough with vestibulitis & vaginismus to make a baragin with. There is no magic pill I could trade cash for & no appeals I could make.
Bargaining did not last very long. When I realized there was no bargain to make, that there would be nothing I could possibly do, nothing I could give up in exchange for my sexuality, I felt sad…
Depression lasts a long time and is another stage I sometimes return to. It doesn’t help me much that I have a somewhat blue personality to begin with. At this point, thankfully, I spend less time being depressed. I keep busy with other activities. I’m not in constant pain or itching anymore, so I don’t have that weight on my shoulders 24/7. Thanks to seeing some improvement, my confidence levels are higher than they were. There is now hope in me where there was not hope before.
But depression took a loooong time to work through and indeed, I made much better progress easing out of it only after getting medical treatment. There was always at least some fear, some anxiety about sex on the back burner of my mind, even when I was doing something fun… “What if I can never have sex?” “What if sex always hurts?” “What if I keep itching forever?” “What if I never get better?” “What if I can’t get married?” “What if my partner leaves me?” “What if I can’t bear a child?” “What if he has an affair?” “What if treatment backfires?”
“Oh god I am never going to be able to enjoy this part of humanity that so many normal people get to have.”
I was so afraid, even when there was nothing to be afraid of at that moment. I was so worried. I might be able to accomplish all kinds of amazing goals in my life, but I may never be able to do this one, simple task, this one, simple thing. That so many other regular & not-regular people can do.
I remember that feeling.
I spent many a night crying.
I think if I had not gotten treatment & seen some improvement, I’d still be depressed.
And I was this depressed being in a long-distance relationship, where there is virtually 0 pressure to perform sexually 95% of the time. I am grateful to my boyfriend that the other 5% of the time, he was careful to still not add on pressure for sexual activity.
But it doesn’t really matter the state of your relationship. It’s not necessarily any easier being single or married and having FSD. Any marital status will present its own set of challenges & insecurities.
Being asexual probably wouldn’t be much of a buffer either, at least not the genital problem is one of constant pain, pain without stimulation, or a dermatological issue.
And I have seen tales of other women with FSD who are depressed. Who have been depressed & distresed for years, because they have suffered, for years. Because they have suffered so long, there is no end in sight.
I consider myself very lucky that I was able to find some relief & see some improvement. There were no guarntees. I have heard enough horror stories to know that I took some big risks going the route I took. It just kind of worked out that way.
Now I consider myself to be in the state of acceptance. I feel a lot better now than I did before, although I will never be 100%. I’m not completely problem-free, I still have some kind of weird mystery pelvic pain to keep in check. I will go back to the prior stages from time to time. Or the anger & depression are a part of acceptance.
I have a Thing. It is always going to be there, lurking under the surface. It could rear its head again at any moment.
I accept this, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I have incorporated this into a part of myself. But I’d much rather, not have to have this be a part of myself. It would certainly make life easier if I didn’t have to do all this.
What am I going to do about it. What can I do about it? What treatment options are still available to me? How shall I go on if I cannot find successful treatment? Is there anyway I can prepare for the road ahead? Is there any way I can make this into something constructive? Is there anyway to draw Good from Bad?
Welp. Here I am, then. Having gotten & getting treatment & trying to deal with it & make something out of it.
Tags: emotions, experts, female sexual dysfunction, Feminism, FSD, health, journals, language, medicine, psychology
Note: This is technically part 1 of a post that got too big to be 1 entry and so I split it up. See This one for the part 2 or just scroll up.
When I was diagnosed with vulvodynia and suspected vaginismus, I spent a lot of time researching these topics. Luckily for me, it was 2006 and not 1996, so there were already some resources I could find online. Unfortunately, it was 2006 and not, 2008, so there weren’t quite as many as there are now. I needed to find out as much as I could in order to make informed choices about treatment, and to find out more about what to expect in the future.
I found some online support groups, some websites reiterated the most common information, a very few books, and hundreds of scientific journal articles. I was a student college and so I had access to some of the online journal databases.
By now my school has eliminated access to some of the databases I’d been using, due to budget cuts and what not. A side effect of the shrinking economy.
Of interest to me today is some discussions about the emotional turmoil women with FSD go through. Again, I’m partial to the pain disorders since that’s what I’m most familiar with.
Take, for example, “Vulvar vestibulitis – evidence of depression and state anxiety in patients and partners,” by E. N. Lundqvist and J. Bergdahl. This study examined women with vulvar vestibulitis and how it affects psychological-well being. It asked a sample of 30 women (and some of their partners) to answer questioniarres about their body image, activities, emotional state, and the like. The authors concluded that women with VVS described having higher states of anxiety & depression than a control group. It was unclear which came first, the pain or the depression. Correlation does not mean causation…
A scientific study… about the emotionatl turmoil that women – and their partners – go through when they deal with vulvodynia and the like.
Someone actually needed to do an investigation about this. Someone actually needed to do an investigation about this? Someone actually needed to do an in-depth investigation to figure out how women feel about FSD?
On the one hand, it seems silly to me that we need studies revealing this. “Having FSD makes women feel bad when it comes to their sexuality. Hmm. Who knew?” Isn’t it obvious?
But on the other hand, there needs to be more studies like this because, Appearantly there is a need for them. It seems obvious to me, from what I’ve seen & the other women I’ve talked to, that having sexual problems can make you feel pretty bad.
And this particular study, the Lundqvist & Bergdahl one – it admits to being one of a relatively few that actually does examine the psychology of women with vestibulitis. Additionally, the other studies available at the time of writing did not consistnetly come to the same conclusion as these authors, that is, that vestibulitis can have a significant impact on one’s state of mind & well-being.
Thankfully this disagreement may mean that having FSD does not guarntee that you will have to become depressed & anxious. It’s not a given.
The study did agree with some other studies that having vestibulitis can put quite a damper on one’s libido & sex life (Gordon & Panahian-Jand, 2003). Which, I suppose, is to be expected.
Studies like this try to quantify the emotional response and gives guidance to doctors on what they should expect when treating FSD patients. And the studies let patients know that what they are feeling is probably normal. You are not alone. The studies can offer recommendations on ways to reduce negative feelings or direct patients to counseling, where needed. In this way, the studies can be useful.
However, sometimes the studies themselves can be distressing. The research is valid but the way it’s presented inclines doctors and patients towards doubt. Take, for example, a one study titled, “Psychological difficulties within a group of patients with vulvodynia.”
The study asked women with vulvodynia and women in a general dermatogical control group a series of questions to get a feel for how they were doing & what behaviors they were engaging in – seeking out the maladaptive ones. This study eventually concluded that women with vulvar pain conditions & dermatoses did report higher levels of depression & anxiety… but also that they engaged in more somatization, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, exhibited more hostility & paranoia & interpersonal sensitivity.
“Somatizing?” “Obsessive-compulsive?” “Hostility and paranoia?” Harsh words, all with rather negative connotations. I see the somatizing topic come up in journal articles from time to time. Somatizing can be loosely translated as making a symptom appear in the body where there is no reason for such a symptom to exist. The body responds to the mind by presenting a problem. Often it is expressed as pain. It’s a term I associate with Sigmund Freud, a figure frequently (and deservedly) critiqued in the fields of feminism & psychology.
Of course it may simply be that women who have experienced painful problems like vulvodynia or vaginismus, are more in tune with their bodies & so recognize real symptoms even when they are very mild. I dare not tune out warning signs of possible vaginal infection for fear of relapsing.
Some parts of the study were okay. It disclosed its methods & subjects & the kinds of questions asked. It agrees that where we cannot know whether the cause for pain is psychological or physiological, a multi-pronged approach is in order. I agree that psychological & sexual counseling can have a place in sexual healing. Key word being, “Can,” as in, doesn’t have to be; it can be a good option for some folks but that’s going to depend on the individual or couple and the counselor. I’ve heard some horror stories about sex therapists who said some pretty alienating statements to their patients. Thus defeating the whole purpose of sex therapy. The study also agrees that we really need more feedback from patients themselves on what it’s like living with FSD.
We can once again argue semantics on how the questions were structured and what wasn’t asked. The questionairre examined, for example, the degree of hypochondria, denial, and irritability. Would the results have been different if the questions were better equipped to figure out sensitivity to bodily changes, acceptance, and coping skills?
There was another part that really stood out for me personally, where the authors state,
“Whilst we are aware that some field workers have remarked that after a physical or surgical intervention the pain levels do not return, this does not explain how the high level of co-morbid psychological distres would resolve spotaneously. Even when there is an organic contribution to the pain… it is likely that the underlying psychological traits may result in emerging and different symptomatology at a later time.” (263).
Which I very loosely, translate to, “We believe that relatively few cases are physiological in nature and that even when they are, the patient probably still has some underlying psychopathology that she needs to let out by making up stuff.”
One question that comes to mind is “Who are these ‘some field workers?’ How many? What kind of field workers?” This is not addressed. Then,
After I had surgery & started to see improvement, my mental health just took off. I went from being pretty bummed out & nervous most of the time to feeling, pretty good about myself. I felt more confident & hopeful. I felt like I dropped a load of weight all at once.
Admittedly, it probably helps that I had surgery right as college ended, so I also never had to go back to school ever again. And it may be worth noting here that I always hated school.
Yet I’m seeing another increase of this mood improvement effect now with physical therapy, since I’m making swifter progress with that. The first time I was able to use a 1 & 1/2 inch wide dilator for the first time, I smiled, for a month. I could not stop smiling. Nonetheless, I still have some discomfort – a LOT less discomfort. We are talking probably about a 90, 95%% improvement I’d say.
So yeah, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m always going to complain at least a little about having pain during sex, because chances are there’ll always be some. Key word here, some. As in, well within my tolerable levels & worth it.
The author’s assertation here also makes it sound like any subsequent physiological problem is still going to be psychological in nature, just another somatization. Thus ignoring the syndrome overlap the vulvodynia family is sometimes noted for and also making it harder to get treated for unrelated real health problems that can spring up later in life. Appearantly the authors feel that even if you successfully treat FSD, the patient may still just make up some other problem later in life. If my future doctors buy into this idea, I may have a hard time finding relief from disease or pain I may experience later on in life. The thought of this alone is enough to cause some anxiety in me.
…But then what else should one expect from the, Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynaecology. A journal just about women who somatize re: their reproductive organs.
I’d like to believe that such a journal has a small subscriber list and that relatively few med students actually read it on a regular basis. I’d like to, but,
I have a feeling that my first gynecogist probably subscribed to that journal.
He thought it was all in my head too, but my vulva’s biopsy results begged to differ.
This particular study, it just seems weird to me. Something is off. The women in the study were diagnosed as having either vulvodynia or other vulvar dermatoses – real, valid diagnoses. And we know from other studies & Dr. Glazer’s book that if you have one thing, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re experiencing some overlap with another chronic condition of some sort.
It just looks to me like the study is set up in such a way that it will quite deliberately bias doctors against taking FSD patients seriously when they complain of symptoms. “Oh it’s all in your head, you need to relax and have a glass of wine and get laid. What you’re feeling isn’t real, you’re making it up becuase you’re stressed out. Hey why are you looking at me like that, why are you getting so angry? Don’t get so uppity. Don’t be so hostile & paranoid. Nurse, next patient please.” Rinse & repeat.
Which, if you’re an FSD patient, there’s a pretty good chance that this is exactly the stonewall you’ve encountered when looking for a good & smart doctor.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
There really are some good & thorough doctors out there who are familiar with FSD and are better prepared to treat it. There are some doctors who have done their homework and do not dismiss the emotional or physical sides of FSD.
The trick is finding them… which can turn into a trick & a half depending on your income levels, where you live, if you have insurance, etc. And it will depend on the individual doctor & what studies they put more weight into.
And then we move on to the personal… my own account of the emotional aspects.
Tags: books, essays, experts, female sexual dysfunction, Feminism, FSD, health, language, medicine, pornography
There are a lot of topics I want to touch upon in this blog. There are so many areas for discussion – I want to talk about everything. Pain, fear, the physiological & psychological, expressing ones sexuality, porn, and of course feminism. I may even want to go down tangents sometimes, and I expect that as I maintain this blog I might even change my mind on some things.
Becuase there are so many areas of discussion, at times I feel overwhelmed. How can I do it alone? How do I find good resources to refer to? When I do find something to review, do I have to read through the entire thing or can I stop if something turns me off?
Actually, that’s not really a bad place to start with. So let’s talk about what’s written, what’s not, & where to find it.
In General Health Books
In my experience, I’ve had some difficulty finding books that deal with female sexual dysfunction in detail. General women’s health books, by nature, need to cover everything from conception (yours and that of your child’s, if you have one,) to death & bereavement. Everything inbetween gets covered – diet, anatomy, the menstrual cycle, birth control, common health problems, etc. When I look through books like that, sexuality & one’s sex life usually takes up one or perhaps a few chapters out of many – not including those dealing with birth control or sexually transmitted infections. The sexual problems that can and sometimes do arise might be covered in a few sentances or they might get their own chapter, with each little condition getting a brief overview. We can find examples of this in All About Eve, a book my mother owns, and even in Our Bodies, Ourselves. This is the one with a whole entire ~page or maybe a page & a half on vulvodynia specifically. Since this topic is relevant to my interests, and since this was one of the most easy to find & bang-for-buck books, I was somewaht disappointed.
In a way, it makes sense that sexual dysfunction gets little airtime in this type of book. There’s a LOT of ground go cover in these big text books. It might be better to leave detailed discussions to the experts in other books & articles. The book is just there to point you in the right direction.
But the cynical in me thinks to myself, “FSD is not exactly uncommon, but perhaps the authors of these books are merely operating under the assumption that it IS rare & so it doesn’t make sense to waste ink & pages talking about something few people will need.”
In my experience, I’ve had even more difficulty finding materials that deal with female sexual dysfunction from a feminist perspective… And even more difficulty finding materials that do it sensitively & with compassion.
Going back to Our Bodies, Ourselves, I’m pretty turned off that the book’s discussion on female sexual dysfunction focused mainly on levels of arousal. That bothers me. I take a broader perspective – I include pain disorders and the influence of hormones in with FSD. Personal experience tells me that these two things – pain & hormones – can themselves have a strong impact on the level of sexual desire a person feels. Listening to anecdotes by other people, personal experience & one’s upbringing can also play a pretty sizable role. One paragraph acknowledges these physiological issues in passing… I tried reading through the their companion website, looking for more information about these pain conditions. After all, it’s the internet, so nearly infinite space is avilable there. Alas, even on the website, the physiological was mentioned merely in passing, and no resources were provided on that particular page.
It also bothers me that it’s pretty clear, reading between the lines, that the authors do not support medical intervention when a low sexual desire, in and of itself, is a problem. I don’t think it’s fair to advise against medical intervention for women who are bothered by a low libido. I understand that that isn’t always necessary. I would never force it upon someone who feels comfortable and/or does not want outside influence.
Still. Maybe some of us do want. Please don’t take that away from us. Please don’t make it harder than it already is.
Some texts are surprisingly unhelpful – I glanced through a medical text book – 600 pages of gynecological conditions at my college’s bookstore once. It talked all about women’s reproductive organs, and yet even in this specific book, vulvodynia only got about a half-page of coverage. I forget the name book now, something with a deep purple, almost navy blue cover…
In Feminist Books
Books like that focus strongly on women’s health. When talking about books that deal with feminism specifically, Cunt is but one work that springs to mind. It springs to my mind immediately because, I own a copy. This is one of the popular feminist books I have – and attempted to read.
Key words here, “Attempted to.” I found this one to be so distressing & counter-productive, I had to put it down less than halfway through, right around when Inga started talking about how men only love women so long as we are, “consumer… bitch, concubine, accountant, orphan, punching bag,… threeholestopenetrate…” etc. etc. It went on.
I’m really not okay with having to look at men this way. I really don’t think I’m going to be able to enjoy a healthy sex life with my beloved male partner if I have to think about guys like that.
The cynic in me thinks to myself, “Welp. Inga says men only love me so long as I’m threeholestopenetrate, and one of my holes is broken, so… guess I’m fucked. …Or not… :(”
That’s just one of the problems I had with Cunt. On the very next page, Inga talks about how she doesn’t understand why anybody would want to see a male doctor or a male gynecologists and how she and all her buddies like holistic natural medicine.
Well, I receive both treatments. I do the holistic thing in the form of acupuncture & chiropractic, and I do the western way by having applied estrogen gel, getting surgery, and taking a combination anti-anxiety & muscle relaxer medication as needed.
I get both, becuase the holistic thing by itself, wasn’t helping. Before I had tried estrogen gel & surgery, I tried the whole acupuncture thing. I did not see satisfactory results.
The other issue is, not all of us have female practitioners readily available in our areas to see. I live in a pretty heavily populated area, yet female gyns & female alternative health practitioners are still kind of hard to find. Still hard to find if you have insurance, as some may not be on your particular plan. Or your health insurance, if you have any, may not cover the alternative stuff. Or if you don’t have insurance, then you have to pay for everything out-of-pocket, which may be very difficult.
It may be worth noting here, that the alternative health guy I do see, is male. So is my vulvovaginal specialist & surgeon.
So I really don’t like feeling like I’m being judged for seeing a male gynecologist & taking medication. Which is how I felt when I read Cunt.
The cynic in me thinks to myself, “Welp. Inga says the natural holistic medicines are inherently better than western, invasive techniques so… I guess I’m a poor excuse for a woman & a horrible traitor.”
I really don’t think Inga had my best interests in mind when she wrote this. She tried to write a book that would unify everybody with a cunt, but I refuse to stand in unison with her.
That said, I recongize that the book did, in fact, help many women learn more about their bodies & about women’s history, and other things. I know of at least two women in on of my support communities who did find support & comfort in Inga’s words. For this reason, I don’t want to take Cunt away from anyone or off the shelves. But based on my personal experience, I would strongly advise against reading it if you yourself have FSD. It just made me feel bad, for all the wrong reasons.
In Specific Gyno-related books
Okay, maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places for resources to use along my long, lonely journey of FSD. So I started looking for books that address the female reproductive system, specifically, and FSD where possible. Books like these are a bit harder to find. There’s a couple of really good ones out there. Some of the ones I like the most are out-of-print. I had to pay extra for those. And some of the really good ones are out-dated, so more research has been done since they were printed.
Two books in particular come to mind as being particularly useful for my situation. These are the ubiquitous V Book and The Vulvodynia Survival Guide. These two books are great for me. The V Book is useful for any female because it covers all kinds of gynecological conditions, in pretty decent detail. There’s a whole chapter for the basics, one for skin conditions, one for vaginal infections, one for cancer – and a whole chapter just for vulvodynia. The Survival Guide deals only with vulvodynia and it talks about possible causes, coping strategies, treatements, and provides resources at the end. Because it only needs to cover one topic, it can afford to spend time on little details.
I have one problem with these two books – they’re 6 years old now. There has been additional research into many of the topics covered in these pages. I’d like to see a second printing made which includes the new research findings & updated statistics. As they stand now, they make good starting points. They’re relatively cheap online, $10-$20 plus shipping – you may have a hard time finding them in a bookstore. I wasn’t able to find the Vulvodynia Survival Guide in my local Barnes & Nobles or Border’s, or mom & pop shops.
Several of the books on the NVA’s own Book recommendation list are out of print. Now these ones are even harder to find. One of the out-of-print books I own & really like is A Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Sexual Fear & Pain. This one is hard to find… and since it’s a work book, copies that are available online may have already been marked up in pencil or pen.
I would ask that if you do not have or treat FSD, please do not buy this book. There are a finite number of copies available.
I like that the book deals with FSD sensitively & lists detailed instructions on techniques you and/or your partner can do to make your sex life more comfortable. Keep in mind, it is a work book – you’re supposed to use it as a tool & mark it up. If you don’t feel comfortable writing in the pages I suppose you could always write in a seperate journal or on the computer.
My one complaint about this book is that, since it was written in 1998, the book doesn’t address vulvodynia specifically, and it doesn’t provide the NVA as a resource in the back. Some of the strategies it talks about might work if you have vulvodynia, since it deals with sexual pain. For me some of the things are quite useful because I mostly have mine under control. I can’t really blame the authors. The NVA was not yet well-known. The NVA existed but it looks like things really picked up around the start of the new millennium.
Yet these books do not address feminism specifically.
In Life Experiences
There are at least two vulvdyina memiors that have been printed in text – and an increasing number of more are being published online within the great big blogosphere even as I write this. The ones in text I am referring to, are The Camera My Mother Gave me and one essay in Jane Sexes it Up.
The first is Susanna Kaysen’s memior of vulvodynia. This is yes, the same Susanna Kaysen who experienced Girl, Interrupted.
I love The Camera my Mother Gave Me. I hate that anyone has to live through this, but I love that she talked about it so openly. FSD, vulvodynia, it’s hard to talk about. Who is going to understand & believe?
And that is exactly what happened. That is exactly what happens to so many patients with FSD in one form or another. She got bounced around from doctor to doctor, trying to get a diagnosis, trying to get treatment, trying to live her life, trying to talk to her friends & partner, trying to find relief.
And this really happens. I’ve heard enough horror stories to recognize this is real.
And I linked to the Amazon page in this case because if you’ll look at the reviews, you’ll find that so many readers didn’t understand that. The book’s ending is ambiguous because FSD IS ambiguous. The reader doesn’t know if everything ever worked out because that’s how it really is. The patient doesn’t know, either. The author is called “Whiny” by one reviewer, and frustrating by another. Why didn’t she do this, why did she do that, etc.
Because in real life, so often, that’s exactly what it’s like. Especially if you are limited by finances or location.
Welp. This isn’t exactly a book about eating ice cream on a sunny day or having a pirate adventure. What did you expect?
THE HOLY GRAIL
Finally we come to an essay that incorporates both feminism and vulvodynia.
In the book Jane Sexes it Up, Katinka Hooijer submitted an essay about her feelings on feminism & porn – and how she sees it through the lens of sexual dysfunction. Porn is always a hot topic among feminists. There are always at least two sides to it. It’s inherently anti-woman and always bad. It’s not anti-woman it’s just sexual expression. It’s unhealthy, it’s healthy, it hurts all women everywhere, women can usurp it & use it for their own purposes, it encourages other girls to objectify themselves, it encourages women to feel empowered by their sexuality, etc. etc. It goes on.
Hooijer is in a unique position to talk about pornography. It’s hard to enjoy your sexuality when some part of your sex isn’t working out. It’s hard when it doesn’t meet expectations. It’s hard when it is in physical pain. For her, porn improved her sex life even more than the surgical route. It offered her options she hadn’t yet thought of. She was presented with several choices of alternatively-penetrating or completely non-penetrative, painless sexual expression and made her feel more comfortable with masturbating. She didn’t need a partner and she did not require medical intervention to experience orgasm. She was able to become aroused and enjoy herself, using porn. It allowed her to reclaim & express her sexuality, even in the face of great pain.
How is this anti-woman?
I agree with Hooijer. For us, as she says, “Porn is literally medicinial” (273.) It is distressing when other feminists – Hooijer points out Catherine MacKinnon here – tell us that our thoughts are bad & wrong & hurtful to every woman everywhere & we don’t deserve our sexuality. How about that – feminism telling Hooijer that she isn’t entitled to a healthy sex life. This, on top of the virgin/whore dichotomy that women deal with that makes sexuality a tricky subject already.
How is that pro-woman?
Yet I realize… when I look around the corner, I realize that there are still going to be other women with FSD who lose thier partners to porn. Unable to express their sexualities the way they want to, or the way thier partners expect them to… in my head I realize that somewhere, one partner turned to sex to the exclusion of other intimate activity, and a relationship was lost. Hooijer doesn’t talk about that. We also have different ways of dealing with painful penetration – to her, she was still able to re-engage in it after awhile, but I prefer to refrain from painful penetration.
So although we have some differences, Hooijer’s essay is unique to me & represents the kind of thing I’m hoping to do here, by maintaining this blog. It was very comforting to see another person just like me who shared my own opinions.
I wonder how she’s doing now?
Whew. It looks like I’ve written more about the books I don’t like than I did about the books I do like. I don’t feel like I have a lot to complain about with the books I do like.
Now, I have a couple of other books in my queue right now which I have not yet evaluated. I may need to come back to these later. Stay tuned for my thoughts on … A Headache in the Pelvis, Sexual Healing, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, Ressurecting Sex, and The Science/Fiction of Sex. Among other things I’m sure I’ll be adding to my library.
And I haven’t even touched all the scientific studies & journal articles!
If you can’t or don’t want to wait that long, then comments are turned on right now so you can talk about your resources.