Tags: experts, female sexual dysfunction, health, journals, medicine, research, surgery, TMI, vulvar vestibulitis, vulvas, vulvodynia
Hey guys, you want to see a recent article on vulvodynia? It’s full text & it’s free!
Careful, it’s not work-safe (but then, I suppose few things about vaginas are…) It’s even got pictures.
I don’t want to copy & paste the entire article so instead, let’s have a bulleted point list. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog you may already be familiar with some of what is being rehashed here anyway.
But if you’re not familiar with this topic, then well here’s your chance.
Couple of noteworthy points –
Article breaks out V into 3 kinds: cyclical vaginal infections (recurrent yeast in particular.) Vestibulitis (pain with penetration) and essential Vulvodynia (more generalized pain.)
I still tend to use “Vulvodynia” as a blanket term which includes vestibulitis.
However, technically speaking we’re supposed to start moving away from the “-Itis” suffix in “Vulvar Vestibulitis,” since, that ending implies inflammation. Inflammation was present for me, but it’s not present for every patient. Instead some doctors are moving towards using the phrase “Vulvar Vestibulodynia.” I’m probably going to continue with the -itis though, since I’m more used to that phrase.
This article cites a 16% rate of some type chronic vulvar pain in female patients in Boston. That’s around the same numbers I’ve seen before. That’s not necessarily a 16% rate of diagnosed vulvodynia, just those reporting chronic pain.
I disagree with the headline that says “Medical treatment is ineffective” re: vestibulitis. It’s kind of a weird headline anyway since I always thought that the vestibulectomy was a medical treatment. The only thing I can think of is that the authors consider surgery to be a category of treatment unto itself, separate from “Medical.” Maybe the authors mean “Medical” as in, oral medications?
But then why not mention the oral tricyclic antidepressant approach for vestibulitis? It’s mentioned further down re: treatment of vulvodynia – maybe the authors of this article have concluded that tricyclics work better on vulvodynia rather than vulvar vestibulitis?
Also, the article mentions that steroids don’t usually play out too well as a topical treatment… but why didn’t it mention topical hormones? It’s mentioned as a treatment for older & post-menopausal women, but, I’m a young lady & I used topical estrogen gel for awhile.
I also disagree with this headline because ouch, what a kick in the teeth to women with vestibulitis who would very well benefit from some medical intervention. Surgery or bust just isn’t fair.
The authors note that vulvodynia is more likely to happen among older women, although in practice I’ve seen it among women the same age as I & younger. In practice I’ve also seen resolution take much longer than just a few months for vulvodynia. The authors sound pretty optimistic.
For some reason Physical Therapy is not mentioned as a treatment in this article at all. I find that to be a glaring omission. “Where’s the beef Biofeedback?!”
Dietary changes & avoiding irritants are likewise not mentioned. Alternative treatments like acupuncture & chiropractic is not mentioned.
Sex therapy is missing. Maaaybe this article isn’t really the best place to bring up sex therapy since, the article focuses on typical medical treatments. I don’t think that sex therapy be a good option for myself but the authors could have mentioned it as an option to expand a patient’s sexual horizions. Intercourse does not necessarily have to be the end goal of treatment, which is kind of implied with the patient used as an example at the beginning & end of the text.
The authors do not examine possible causes much.
Some of the sources cited in the footnotes are on the older side. I’m familiar with several studies though; I’ve printed out & read several of these. The Goetsch study in particular comes to mind. I’ve seen statistics in other subsequent studies hover around the same incidence rate numbers that Goetsch came up with so I guess the repeatability makes it a fairly strong research paper. Still, I’d prefer to see a stronger emphasis on more recent work.
So it’s not perfect, it’s missing some things, but it’s still an article on a website so maybe somebody with a medical degree will actually pay attention. Or even a layperson who never heard of such things before.
Tags: female sexual dysfunction, Feminism, FSD, identity, sex, Sexuality
(To those who have found their way here via FigLeaf – uhh I’m not really sure what the proper netiquette is here but to err on the side of caution – hello. I hope you find something of interest here. Thanks for reading… You’re not here to make fun of me are you? Suddenly I feel a rather self-conscious & sexually inadequate knowing there’s some more people looking.)
If someone had said to me a few years ago, “I’m not a feminist, but…” I probably would have balked.
In my experience, most of the time when I’ve been confronted with “I’m not a feminist, but…” that “But” has been followed up by a statement like, “I believe in equality of the sexes,” “I oppose violence against women,” or “I believe in equal pay for equal work, regardless of whodunit.” These are pretty basic tenets of feminism, especially mainstream US feminism. If I tried hard enough, I probably could have convinced the speaker that they are some kind of feminist, much to their own horror. The word gets a pretty bad reputation in the media. Even when famous conservative speakers are not badmouthing feminism with stereotypes and fearmongering, mainstream media still sends out very mixed signals about it, perhaps reflecting an overall unease of the greater community. (That this example is a cartoon might actually make it be a better example of niche media addressing feminism…)
In my face-to-face interactions, if I then ask, “Why not be feminist then?” often the reason really is because of fear of those misconceptions & stereotypes. Sometimes I don’t even have to ask “Why not be one?” because the person I am talking to is will volunteer their frustration with those bra-burning man-eating home wreckers hell bent on destroying the nuclear family. Once in awhile, whoever I’m speaking with will even say an out-of-context, radical feminist quote made decades ago to illustrate their point.
But sometimes… Especially from what I’ve seen online…
Sometimes things don’t go as expected. This script doesn’t always play out.
Sometimes the reasons for someone not embracing the term, are a lot more complicated than that.
It’s not because of fear of stereotypes. It’s not ingratitude to those women who pushed for the right to vote & for a woman’s right to choose. It’s not because of indifference to the plight of women globally.
Sometimes, it turns out that a lot of thought & anguish goes into making the decision to avoid the feminist movement, or to turn & walk away from feminism.
There’s been some discussion over the last week on other blogs about identifying with the word, the movement(s) & embracing it as a part of who you are. Renee posted once again about how she isn’t feminist; she is Womanist. After reflecting on one of the ex-feminist speakers at the Sex 2.0 Conference, a writer at Punkassblog called out people who do not identify as feminists. Then more comments were had, all about what it means to take on the identity. I’ve actually made two comments about identifying as feminist or not before, so this is the third time I’ve thought about it & the third chance I’ve had to flesh out my ideas a little more.
Feminism is an identity you can “Opt-in” to. It is not like ethnicity or disability (although it can be used to explore these two areas of interest.) It’s not necessarily something you’re born into (although you can be raised feminist.) Your status as a feminist can change. You may one day find yourself warming up to the term after avoiding it like the plague for years. You might actively decide to become a feminist and start learning more about it and/or start participating in feminist-related events just all at once. Then, you can move from one sub-type of feminism to another, depending on your interests & motivations.
Or, on the opposite side of the coin, you might eventually “Opt-out.”
Why would anybody do this? It looks bad at first glance. Does this person who rejects feminism as part of his or her identity not support equal rights for all? Do they really believe those stereotypes from TV? Do they really not care? Are they genuinely misogynists?
Sometimes the answer is “None of the above.”
Renee explained that she does not identify with feminism since, among other things, its history has not been so kind to women of color. TrinityVA got tired of policing, as she puts it. For Renegade Evolution, actions speak louder than words. These are women of color, disabled women, kinky women, sex workers. I can think of several other noteworthy former feminists who have made comments in some other posts linked to throughout this one here. They live on an edge. Maybe not “The” definitive edge of all edges, whatever that is; what I mean is these are smart women who you don’t often see or hear from very frequently unless maybe you deliberately seek them out (perhaps because they’ve been silenced. They’re secretly around, but have to hide lest they be chased, thus furthering the illusion of their invisibility.)
And they keep having – having to have – the same conversations over and over, having to explain the same not-mainstream principles & concepts to the same people who are not open to reconsidering their opinions. That gets frustrating & exhausting. It leads to burn out.
Yet many of the folks who deliberately reject the label “Feminist,” are still nonetheless associated with the movement. Self-described not-feminists may still say & do things that sound & act just like feminism. Renee won this year’s Canadian F-Word blog contest, and seemed pleased with the nomination. TrinityVA & Dw3t-Hthr (and others) maintain SM-Feminist. Renegade Evolution has hosted the 18th Feminist Sex Carnival post.
Online, this leaves me feeling kind of awkward, because I have links to such people listed under labels like of “Feminism” or “Feminism & sexuality.” It looked like feminism to me… but I may have to re-think those categories out of consideration of their wishes not to be labeled feminist. It is not my place to go around applying and denying identities. It looks to me like once you put on that mantle, it’s actually hard to take it off. The label sticks around for awhile.
As for myself, I remain self-identifying as feminist. I wanted to be one when I was a child, even if children are foolish and screw up the meaning of the words. When I got older and wiser and learned more about it, and all the conflicts & yes, even problems that happen inside this one little word, I still wanted it. “Still the road keeps on telling me to go on…”
But it’s a vulnerable, precarious identity. I still struggle with it. So many different ways to practice it… and I have a lot to learn.
After all, how can I find myself identifying the same blanket movement that Dr. Leonore Teifer rallies for and markets herself as being a part of? We have very different different ideas & goals about feminism as it relates to FSD, to put it politely.
Maybe it’s normal to struggle with feminism. But some people just seem so self-assured in it, and that’s difficult for me to emulate. Am I supposed to be able to do that? Am I supposed to just, go with the flow?
Maybe some day, after being nagged & pushed enough, I, too, will have to put feminist down & be, just another woman with lots of other interests. I’ve seen it happen enough so that I should not be so surprised if it happens to me, too. But then maybe I’ll take some time off and come back around to it again later, older & wiser…
I don’t know if there’s any way to avoid that happening to me.
Alas, even if I put feminism down, I’ll probably still live with at least some residual FSD. That’s not something I can opt-out of. I would like very much to opt-out of vulvodynia & vaginismus but it’s not that easy.
And without feminism, I will have one less coping mechanism to address the FSD with. One less shield to defend myself with from the slings & arrows thrown at me daily by the TV & movies that tell me how sex “Should” be. One less lens to examine sex & sexuality from. One less way of looking at the pain and the treatments available for it.
When someone says to me, “I’m not a feminist, but…”
I am not so quick to balk anymore.
I might. I might still balk.
But not so fast. Slowly. After listening. There may be something going on there that I hadn’t thought about before.
Tags: blogging, books, communication, experts, Feminism, health, history, internet, pornography, relationships, sex, sex 2.0, sex work, Sexuality
It is an interesting coincidence that I should finish reading the book now, since it had (has? Present tense? The conference is today,) its own coverage & follow up at the event. I didn’t plan for it to work out that way – it just did.
Alas, clearly, I did not attend this conference, and indeed, I’m not sure I’m ready for it at this point. I’m interested in attending some nerd conventions but always seem to miss out, either due to time or financial constraints. But someday…
In the mean time though, until I can start getting out & going to some of these events, let’s expose & explore Naked on the Internet.
Naked on the Internet is a book about female sexuality and the internet, to say the least. More accurately, it is a book that explores feminism, sex & sexuality, women’s health, entrepreneurship, pornography, sex work, the history of computers, and especially the internet. Among other things, Ray talks about how women use the internet to explore their sexuality, how much they reveal about themselves, risks vs rewards, and what those rewards are – be they orgasm, money, validation, and/or something else entirely.
I wanted to like this book. No, I wanted to love this book. It sounds so perfect. I’m fascinated by the topics contained within its pages. I want to know more about feminism, sex, and the internet. I want to be a feminist, and I guess a sort-of sex blogger? (Here my own internalized insecurity nags, “More like a lack-of-sex blogger.” “Vagina blogger” may be a better term & one I’ve been accurately referred to – you were talking about me, right Esther? I’ll embrace that. It’s not wrong.) So I was eager to start reading & dive in.
And it’s a good thing I dove in when I did…
Because at this point, the book is two years old, and the internet updates fast. I’m a little late getting to the party.
Ray states that “One offline year is the equivalent of ten Internet years” (18). I’ve heard similar statements before – things like, a month in “Internet time” is like a year of real time passing. The amount of new content on the web just keeps growing. Websites, social networks, trends, blogs come & go.
Welp. I better hurry up & read then. These blogs & websites aren’t going to sit around waiting for me to come along, and indeed, many of them have changed since they were mentioned in this printed old media. Other, newer ones have also come up – Twitter is becoming all the rage right now. That service didn’t make it into the book at all. On the other hand, some of the websites were already deleted by the time Ray committed their URLs to paper. Why bring them up at all then? Because of their historical value. Besides, even if it doesn’t exist anymore, like JenniCam, I can probably still learn about thanks to Wikipedia.
However, I believe that as the web becomes older & more ubiquitous (at least to those privileged enough to use it,) it is becoming… slower. More long-lasting. The ratio of internet time to real life time is leveling out. I actually very much enjoy reading old posts from a few bloggers. Old content sometimes gets reposted under labels like, ‘Oldie but Goodie.’ Since I work full time, and I tend to get long-winded, I myself will post about topics long after the fact, since I’m only discovering them now. It’s new to me.
And, many of the websites & bloggers Ray refers to in her book, are still around. Websites mentioned in the book, including Blogger, CraigsList, Adult Friend Finder, Alt.com, Livejournal, YouTube, MySpace, Wikipedia still exist and remain ubitiqous. They have not fallen into obscurity – they just have new friends that didn’t exist or weren’t well known at the time of publication, like Twitter.
I said earlier that I wanted to like this book. So did I? Yes, I would say so. I enjoyed reading it. It didn’t take very long either – the book looks longer & thicker than it actually is. I burned through it in a little less than a week.
I liked learning about the women that Ray interviewed for the book. I never heard of most of these women before, although it turns out I’ve actually been exposed to some them – I just never put two and two together before. “Oh so that’s who that person is,” “Oh that person? Wait, I’ve heard of her. She still writes!”
I enjoyed reading about the women who started up their own sex blogs and porn sites, their motivations, their business models, and the daily grind such a business requires. I never really knew much about the “How to,” behind the scenes work maintaining such a website requires – other than the obvious of course. So it turns out things can be a lot more complicated than just producing content. There’s hosting, advertising, monitoring site popularity, revenue vs. costs, employee drama, which credit card processing site to use, etc. There’s also interaction with the audience to consider, thanks to comment features & e-mail. Not all of these interactions are pleasant.
Likewise, I enjoyed reading about how sex workers use the internet to make contacts and keep in touch with one another. I learned a little bit about the networks they use, online and off. It’s more complicated than I thought.
With regards to her chapter on Women’s health and the internet, I was already pretty familiar with this topic. After all, it was the internet which pointed me in the right direction for a better sex life than I otherwise could have had if I became an adult 10 or 20 years ago. It was through internet health & support groups for women, and access to journal articles, that I was able to learn about and decide on my best course of action for my treatment of vulvodynia & vaginismus. Even now I speak relatively freely to strangers whereas I stifle myself in person. But of course, my lived experience is much different from someone seeking post-abortion support or support within the trans community, and I appreciated these anecdotes.
Mostly I just found the last chapter about cyberdildonics funny. I first heard about these things a long time ago, and thought they were funny then, so this chapter did not shock me at all. They’ll always be “Teledildonics” to me, even if the “Tele-” prefix is outdated. For those that don’t know, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a sex device to be used remotely, using a computer. As Ray illustrates, the technology still isn’t exactly feasible yet. And it will probably never really replace human interaction. I wouldn’t worry about that.
I didn’t get the impression that Ray judged any of the women she interviewed, in one direction or another. She neutrally presents what her interviewees told her about their experiences with the internet. Or maybe Ray was not completely neutral, since she is herself a former sex worker, and so empathetic to what they do. But I like that she didn’t try to psychoanalyze. I think there’s quite enough of that already outside of the book.
So yes, there were a lot of things I very much enjoyed about Naked on the Internet. I feel like I learned a lot.
But did I love the book?
No, not really. Like all things, it’s not perfect.
Naked on the Internet is not the best work of prose I’ve seen, and I’m disappointed by that. Sometimes I feel like I’m tripping over Ray’s words. It’s not that it’s too academic or cerebral; Ray’s had a lot more lived experience dealing with sexploration and the internet than I have.
Although there is one highly cerebral section dealing with Cyborgs that I think could have just been completely thrown out because that went waaay over my head.
The reason I say it’s not the best work of prose is that, many of the paragraphs presented one feature of the internet in a positive or neutral light and then immediately followed with a “But,” “Though,” or “However” statement describing problems that come along with it. Which isn’t necessarily bad or wrong. But (and now I’m doing it!) I felt these ideas could have been better fleshed out with more detail in whole separate paragraphs. I suppose her contradictions held within the same paragraph are reflective of the contradictions inherent on the tubes. For every pro-something website you can find, there is going to an anti- website somewhere else. For every positive online interaction that you’ve ever had, somewhere, someone else, is getting harassed. All of this takes place simultaneously in the larger context of this digital universe.
Most of Ray’s comments and conclusions are drawn from interviews with other bloggers and sex workers. By nature of the medium, I suppose this had to be the case. But I would have liked to see more hard statistics backed up with verifiable sources. It would be a mistake to universalize the experiences of a just a few people.
The table of contents (and the cover) makes the content of Naked on the Internet sound more “Juicy” than it actually is. I was expecting to see more in-your-face raunch and graphic descriptions. It’s not like that at all – there’s really not much drama in this book, although drama certainly went into creating some, if not all, of the conflicts Ray describes.
So if you’re looking for something “Wetter,” for lack of a better term, look elsewhere.
I felt that the chapter on the history of women & computers was dry, and, to someone who has already lived through it, common knowledge. I got my start on the internet back in the late 90s and that’s actually how I met my current partner, so to me, much of the history is old news. Been there, done that. Wrote the blog. This chapter would be more useful & interesting to someone younger than I, who got online only after the Y2K fiasco.
However, perhaps to make up for this, I did very much enjoy Ray’s insights into the history of pornography and how the internet has changed (continues to change) the industry. That was new to me.
I would have liked to see something about women who produce porn & erotica not by taking pictures & videos of themselves, but by writing or drawing it.
For some reason, the book does not have an index. This annoys me to no end.
Perhaps to make up for the lack of an index, there is a pretty comprehensive list of useful links & resources in the back, as well as a glossary.
There are no pictures whatsoever, not even any witty little Ziggy comics below chapter headings. Sometimes I like irreverent black & white pictures. I would have liked to see a graphic of a timeline or maybe some diagrams depicting the interpersonal links that Ray goes into detail about. Or a picture of what exactly a “Cyberdildonic toy” looks like (use your imagination, it’s probably exactly what you’re thinking…) Hell, I would even settle for a LOLcat.
So I would have liked to see some graphics – and I’m not even a visual learner! Most of the time if I look at charts & graphs, they just confound me. Perhaps Ray, like me, is totally comfortable with walls of text. It just seemed strange to see a book talking about a multimedia platform and yet have no multimedia of its own to present.
As Ray concludes, she could not address every little corner of the internet and make any definite conclusions within her book. The internet is too fluid, constantly changing. But it’s still a pretty good book, and much of what was true in 2007 remains true today. I’m hoping that there’ll eventually be a second edition printed, with follow ups to the interviews. Luckily, even if that does not happen, that is what the Sex 2.0 conference was (is?) partly for.
Naked on the Internet would be a useful title to pick up if you have an interest in any of the topics it covers – feminism, sexuality, the internet (And who isn’t interested in at least one of these things?) You may pass over some parts briefly since you already know about them. You may identify with some of the women & situations they find themselves in. You may learn something new.
Just remember to read it asap while the data remains relevant. Do it now before the information on the web gets written over.
Tags: books, experts, Feminism, identity, media, Sexuality
Feministe posted an article yesterday that got me thinking…
Quick setup: Naomi Wolf is feminist and author of such works as the ubiquitous Beauty Myth. Wolf wrote up a review on a biography about Helen Gurley-Brown, the founder of Cosmopolitan magazine and author of Sex and the Single Girl. It’s questionable whether or not Brown is considered any kind feminist at all, in large part owing to her involvement with the magazine & related topics.
Sex & the Single Girl is another book I’ve yet to read – and in truth, I’m more inclined to read that before Beauty Myth, just out of whim – but I’ve certainly had enough exposure to Cosmopolitan. Enough exposure to know that, it’s definitely far from perfect and often outright contradictory. Holly of the Pervocracy does a good job picking the magazine apart on a fairly regular basis.
As Feministe points out, Wolf used her review as an opportunity to bring up differences between two different schools of thought on feminism. Wolf contrasts Brown’s book to Betty Freidan’s Feminine Mystique and then uses the two as Archetypes. She uses these two books as examples to illustrate contemporary conflict between old guard feminism vs. the new generation. Wolf uses Freidan’s Feminine Mystique to represent the more mature, socially responsible second wave generation and Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl to represent today’s third wave feminism, marked by younger women, sex positivity and pop culture.
“Sex and the Single Girl,” Brown’s brash, breezy and sometimes scandalous young-woman’s guide to thriving in the Mad Men and Playboy era, made headlines the year before Friedan’s severe, profound manifesto burst onto the scene. Since then, the media and the women’s movement itself have put these two icons in opposition, pitting Friedan’s intellectual, ideological, group-oriented feminism against Brown’s pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, girl-power style.
Which is ironic, considering that this isn’t just the media pitting the two aginst one another now: It’s a feminist herself. Jill of Feministe asks, “Don’t we get this kind of dumbed-down narrative enough whenever mainstream media covers feminism? Do we really need a feminist regurgitating it?”
And she asks for good reasons. Life is a lot more complicated than fitting people into neat little boxes. Things don’t always fit right into compartments. There’s spillover, crinkles and gaps. In practice, you can do more than one thing at a time, even when two or more things seem contradictory to one another in theory.
(In my head, I imagine my days back when I was a little girl playing with dinosaur toys in the grass, pitting a fake plastic t-rex against a plastic long-necked herbivore. They’re very different with one another… …but they’re both still dinosaurs. Fake, plastic ones, representing animals that were both wiped out by probably the same thing.)
Reading Wolf’s review, I feel like I’m once again caught in the middle, or pushed to the outskirts… because I don’t feel like I fit into an “Either/or” category.
In truth, I don’t even know what kind of feminist I am yet. What, I have to pick now?
Well, I know I’m some kind of feminist… there’s definitely something going on there… but to what degree? There are so many different schools of thought on what it means to be feminist, what needs change most urgently, and what the best way is to go about it. Second wave? third wave? even fourth? womanist? sex-positive? Something else entirely?
I don’t know what I am yet. I don’t feel like I fit into any category nice & neat.
I certainly look to feminists who identify as sex-positive. I guess partly I’m hoping some of their skills & wisdom will rub off on me… and partly I’m hoping they’ll be the least likely to judge me poorly & call me a fool for pursuing sex as I see fit.
But I always feel kind of ironic labeling myself a sex positive feminist, when, in reality, I’m actually having, very little sex at all. Like, maybe I shouldn’t even be talking about this kind of thing because how would I know what I’m doing? But on the other hand, who else knows about expressing sexuality while living with vulvodynia better than those who have actually lived it?
And then, even if I do pick one category to the exclusion of another, that means I am likely going to wind up automatically repelling some other feminists who do identify with the school of thought that I don’t agree with. Which may or may not be a good thing for me on a personal level. But even then, I’m bound to make mistakes & say the wrong thing & forget to acknowledge my privilege. I still have a ways to go yet.
Identity crises isn’t the only thing that bothers me about Wolf’s review though.
In the “Battle” of the feminisms, Wolf declares that there is one clear Winner. And that winner is Third-Wave Feminism, as evidenced by US culture & the sheer number of girls & women who identify with this particular movement.
And guess what? In the long battle between the two styles of feminism, Brown, for now, has won.
Somehow, despite Wolf’s claims to the contrary, I don’t think that any kind of feminism has really “Won” yet.
It’s not a popularity contest.
“Winning” means that we can now safely & truly enter a post-feminst age. “Winning” means that the goals of feminism have been achived. If a widely embraced definition of feminism is the notion that “Women are people,” that means that in order to win, for starters, women’s rights around the globe are have been recognized & are enforced – or ideally, don’t need to be enforced. If being sex-positive is the most important feature to this generation, then why are we still arguing about & bringing up very real flaws in the sex work industry? Why is sexual purity still so strongly cherished to the point of shaming those who are not? And the list of questions goes on…
Are we there yet?
No… I don’t think we’re there yet…