This blog is TMI02/07/2009 at 6:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: emotions, experts, Feminism, health, language, media, sex, Sexuality, TMI, vulvodynia
This blog is probably TMI for folks with delicate sensibilities.
This is a blog in which, so far, I have talked about vaginal pain, pain with sex, sex besides intercourse, menstrual blood tangling up pubic hairs, and pubic hairs getting jammed underneath my clitoral hood.
I know I’m not the only one who has suffered grief at the follicles of my own pubic hair, among other things. People have stumbled upon this website while doing searches for terms like “Pubic hair stuck in clit” “Pubic hair pain” and variations on that theme. But I’ve never heard anyone talk about such things offline.
Female sexual dysfunction, vulvodynia, even just plain vanilla sex, is still a taboo. Oh maybe sex is more acceptable to talk about in mainstream media, but only so long as we’re talking about heterosexual intercourse. But the female anatomy and all the amazing things that can go right with it, all the mundane things that it does every day, and all the painful things that can go wrong – there’s still backlash against talking about that. “That’s gross & disgusting & you should be ashamed of yourself.” “Why would you post that on the internet.” “There are more important things to talk about than your broken crotch.” And of course the always edgy, anon-esque dismissal, “Get back to the kitchen.”
Yet for as many folks think such discussions on discharge & the gory realities of childbirth are disgusting, there are others who recognize these topics as valid & worth spreading. I’ve seen it myself on other discussion forums, VaginaPagina in particular. “Please, go on. Tell me everything. Thank you for sharing this and letting me know that I’m not a freak.” Because if no one talks about it, it’s very easy to think that you’re the only person some such thing has ever happened to – and if you are bothered by what is going, being alone means you may not be able to find the resources needed to get help.
When I first learned about vulvodynia, there was ~some information online, and I quickly exhausted nearly every resource I could find. As of 2009, there’s more sites, forums, & even whole weblogs about living with it, and finding effective treatments. How difficult it must have been for the older women, the ones who had it before the internet became mainstream. How isolating it must have been to feel like you were all alone in the world with no network of answers. How liberating it must have been when, in recent years, women started talking about this condition. You are not alone. I know I remain grateful.
And then there’s the ambivalent response. Some combination of wanting to be impressed by the women & men posting on the internet & sharing the experiences that their fragile mortal shells endure… and yet the reader is not able to recoil from the sheer horror of it all.
Such is the response of a one Rebecca Traister of Salon.com.
Traister writes about, women who write about the experiences unique to a female body. Throughout her piece, Traister’s tone is obviously one of ambivalence. She seems to try appreciate that in talking about the human body, especially the sexual aspects, we de-power the mystery behind it & find release. She states, “There is no question that many women find the process of self-revelation, as Holmes said, cathartic. It’s about breaking certain silences, yes. It’s about letting loose with long pent-up questions and anecdotes and curiosities and fears. It’s about laughing about things that might otherwise make you wail with shame or pain or fear.”
But at the same time she uses terms such as “Nasty shit,” “Embarrassing,” “Irritating and Crass,” to describe these juicier parts of life, and accuses women who talk about these things as making a desperate grab for attention.
You know, every day I question whether I should go on with writing this blog, precisely because I don’t want to grab too much attention. I did not contact the Oprah show when it was recruiting women with vulvodynia to share their stories, because I did not feel ready to put my face out in the world & say “I have this.” The internet though, provides me with some level of anonymity – although at times I realize it’s a very thin veil.
Yet I go on – compelled, goaded on by ignorant statements like Traister’s, and Sheenah Hankin, who once claimed that “Women are not like faucets that get jammed up and will not turn on.” Obviously we’re dealing with someone who has never heard of Pelvic Congestion Syndrome. So clearly, there’s a need for such information & opinions to get out there.
I feel more embarrassed about having vulvodynia, when this author basically comes out and tells me I should be embarrassed. Perhaps I become too comfortable in my close circle of friends & support groups. As if talking about FSD wasn’t humiliating enough, due to the kernels of self-doubt living with it sows. Now I have to care about what other people think about myself, too. Maybe I really am a freak.
No, I am not a freak. I am as real & statistically likely as other bodily snafus. It was just my luck of the draw to be standing (sitting – and I remain grateful for my ability to sit, something that Traister probably doesn’t recognize as being an amazing bodily feat,) here before you, talking about that condition which bad luck & irony handed to me, nay; strapped to my body. I know I am not the only one, thanks to other women who have taken the time out of their days to write about their bodies.
Here’s another Traister gem to talk about, regarding second wave feminists and Riot Grrrls, who have taken steps to allay individual fears about the female anatomy through self-exploration –
“But all that communal celebration or shouted fervor for the female body and its effluvia was always a little too marginal, too embarrassing, reeking of moon-tides and red tents and creaky second-wave earnestness.”
“Marginal?” “Reeking?” Even I, a one who does not identify as a second-wave feminist, and who is frequently turned off by what they have to say about sexuality, am grateful to those who pushed for self-exploration with a speculum parties and the like. I wasn’t there at that time to particpate, but now I can reap the rewards. I want to know how to read what’s going on inside & outside of me, especially all things pelvis-related. How is that “Marginal?”
I’ve sen these reactions of horror and confusion with the female form before, particularly in reference to many of the comments posted about Susanna Kaysen’s book. The consensus, with a few exceptions made by sensitive people, is “I don’t get it.”
It’s a real shame. Kaysen tries to make vulvodynia accessible & tangible for laypeople, so that we don’t have to say, “You had to have been there.” Yet all too often, we do still have to say that, perhaps due to an unwillingness to listen – or a grudging, resistant willingness. “I could have gone my whole life without knowing about this condition.” So could I…
So could I…
Forgive them, lord, for they do not know of which they speak.
It’s the same way with Traister. Forgive her, lord, for she clearly knows not of which she speaks. A one who, judging from the tone of her article, seems to have had the luck of owning a fully-functional body and working female pelvis. I guess she didn’t have to Work for hers the way I had to – have to continually – Work for mine.
Ironically, it may be worth noting here that this same Traister wrote another article about the female body, and in a much more sensitive tone. She also wrote about Uterine Fibroids, and, for some reason, didn’t use the words “Gross,” or “Crass,” and the like, even once.
I wonder why that is.
Except not really. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that these fibroids are hidden & unseen, an invisible problem, and therefore more Abstract than menses & childbirth. She doesn’t have to think real hard about the blood & guts, because she can’t see them on an every day basis.
What’s up with that?
My blog, and other places like it, are probably TMI for Traister and other folks. I expect that the title of mine should serve as fair warning of what lies ahead – “What you see is what you get.” Perhaps when you go to Jezebel and find out that it’s not what you were expecting, you should turn around and read about Victorian-era romance instead of writing a great big long schpeil about how shameful it all is, and, by inference, how shameful we all are. The internet is a big, wide place. There are other, more comfortable places you can go where you don’t have to confront your internalized norms about what the female body and mind “Should” or “Shouldn’t” do.
But I’ll stick around for now… perhaps, one day, if something unpleasant happens to Traister, or someone just like her, maybe then she’ll come around and see what it’s all about. I’ll probably be waiting.