Vulvodynia will be appearing on TV shortly

07/31/2009 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Set your TIVOs & old timey VHS decks to record this:

According to His & Her Health forum,

Be sure to tune into 20/20 next Friday [August 7, 2009 -K] at 10pm ET, when Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABC News’ Chief Medical Editor, will discuss the diagnosis and treatment of sexual pain disorders and vulvodynia with Andrew Goldstein, MD, and Amy Stein, MPT. Dr. Goldstein directs the Center for Vulvovaginal Disorders in Washington, DC, and New York City. Ms. Stein, a New York-based physical therapist, specializes in the treatment of pelvic and urogynecological pain disorders. The segment will also feature the stories of two women with sexual pain, as well as an interview with Christin Veasley, NVA’s associate executive director, and her husband Melvin.

More of the same @ alternate link

You’ll definitely want to check your local TV listings to find out what time & channel it will be airing for you. The description also mentions, “Sexual pain disorders,” so it sounds like we may hear a few words on some other related conditions.

I hope they get it right this time. I’m a little apprehensive after what happened the last few times vulvodynia was on TV.

Probably the first time vulvodynia was mentioned on TV was during Sex & the City, which generated some attention & discussion, but the topic was handled flippantly. There was that episode of Private Practice (Season 1, “In which Addison finds the magic,”) which was a little more complicated & in depth, but still not 100% satisfactory. I don’t believe that Oprah ever aired that episode about vulvodynia the producers were recruiting for about a year or two ago. I don’t think that show was aired in Fall 2008. If it was, I must have missed the post-show discussion that was surely generated online.

At this point, there is little influence any of us can have on what happens during the show. I’m hoping that since the Goldstein, Stein & Veasley are familiar with vulvodynia, the discussion will be accurate and professional.What’s been said has been said, so it’s up to the editors now.

Here’s hoping it goes well.

My experience with alternative treatments for Vulvodynia

07/28/2009 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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I’ve mentioned on this blog that I see a chiropractor & acupuncturist. These treatments are for management of some mysterious pelvic pain, which has significantly improved in the last few months.

I should probably clarify what that means and what my history with alternative medicine is.

I actually do have some experience with alternative medicine treatments for vulvodynia. A few years ago, when I was just starting my long journey into the land unknown, I tried acupuncture and homeopathy. I stopped because it didn’t work at the time. About a year later though, I returned for acupuncture & chiropractic work for a mysterious, unidentifiable pelvic pain flare. That’s something I continue to do now, although I’ve tapered down the frequency of my visits.

No alternative medicine treatment I have tried has had any noticeable effect on the vaginismus. At-home dilators & physical therapy are a better option for me personally.

How I got into this and where I stand now is kind of a long story. I’m divulging this now partly in anticipation of someone inevitably asking me “Well did you try anything else before you had surgery/physical therapy/whatever else you may try later on in life?” Yes, actually, I did. And, maybe by sharing, I can save someone else a few bucks or provide feedback on what to expect.
None of this should be mistaken for actual medical advice though. This is what I went through. I can’t say what is best for you and I can’t say if your experiences will be the same as mine.

Before I was formally diagnosed with vaginismus & vulvodynia, or rather its specific sub-type, vulvar vestibulitis, alternative therapy was the first thing I tried before anything else. I know self-diagnosing is generally frowned upon, but I knew something was wrong, and these pelvic pain conditions were the only thing that made any sense. The later diagnosis would confirm my suspicions. But until I could get in for the appointment with the vulvovaginal specialist, I felt like I was doing nothing in the interval. My mother had good experience with acupuncture for back pain, so I started seeing her acupuncturist.

I had a couple of reasons for making this decision. One, my mom did well with acupuncture for back pain, so I figured it might be worth a shot.
Two, often when diagnosed with medical problems, be they chronic or acute, sooner or later someone is going to recommend trying alternative medicine.  Vulvodynia is no different. I don’t think it’s fair to say that only one way of treating health conditions – Western medicine or Alternative products – is inherently “Better” than the other. Both can be used for good. They can even be used together. On the flip side, like it or not, both types of treatment can also be misused.
My third reason – just in case my suspicions turned out to be wrong, and vestibulitis & vaginismus were not the reasons for my pain, these alternative treatments would probably do me very little harm. I would probably suffer no long-lasting side effects on my body. There was little long-term bodily risk – I’d just burn through a wad of cash.

So I gave it a try, roughly late summer 2006.

My acupuncturist has a degree in medicine, so he is a bona fide doctor familiar with the the science of the body and he can write prescriptions. He is also a licensed chiropractor and his practice offers other therapies as well, including homeopathy, massage therapy, and NAET therapy (supposed to treat allergies.)
Some of these practices are more controversial than others. I haven’t tried the other alternative options. But it’s there if you’re interested.

When I first went to see him, my alternative medicine doctor took a pretty detailed history from me & explained what acupuncture and homeopathy were & what to expect with it. I had already taken an alternative medicine class in college, so I I was already familiar with what to expect.

Acupuncture would take awhile to see any results and would require repeated visits. The doctor would stick very fine needles into certain points on my body, which, in terms of acupuncture, is supposed to free up clogged energy channels. How it works in scientific terms, I’m not so sure although I have some ideas.
Homeopathy would involve taking a substance that would normally cause symptoms (ex. Candida albicans,) diluting the hell out of it (to the point where there probably wouldn’t even be any of the original substance left in a solution,) and having the patient ingest that. The idea is “Like cures like,” at least in tiny (or non-existent) amounts.

Meanwhile, I tried to explain to the doctor what my problems were & what my goals for treatment were.

The thing is, this doctor – acupuncturist – chiropractor – is not a specialist in vulvovaginal disorders. I am still probably the only patient he has ever seen who was diagnosed with vulvar vestibulitis. I know this, because he was not familiar with this condition when I started seeing him. I had to explain it to him. He was slightly more familiar with vaginismus, or maybe that was just easier to understand – muscles tensing down. Okay that makes sense, he sees patients with muscle spasms frequently… It’s just that my muscle spasms were in my pelvic floor & vagina instead of in my back, neck & shoulders. Still, same principle, right?

At first, the doctor was convinced that my underlying problem was a yeast sensitivity. I must have a yeast infection since that’s what caused vulvovaginal pain so often in his other female bodied patients.

So he tried treating me as though I had a yeast infection. Even though I had been screened for infection by the gynecologist. All clear.

Treating me for a secret yeast infection wasn’t a completely baseless idea. There are some doctors who believe that yeast can lay mostly dormant yet still cause problems in some individuals. If that’s the case, then it makes sense to treat for yeast.

But it didn’t work on me.

I’d already been screened for yeast infections by my gynecologist, and would be screened again at the specialist’s. Nothing – no bacteria or fungal overgrowths. Whatever was causing the redness in the vestibule, I cannot know for sure. Too many variables were going on at once – I had been treated for a bacterial vaginal infection recently but the redness had been there for awhile before that. I had used some prescription topical steroids on my vulva in the past. I had been on hormonal birth control. I had experienced more than one injury to the posterior fourchette. I had noticed but not understood some vulvovaginal irritation as a little child. I had never been able to use tampons, etc.
There was way too much shit going on downstairs to pinpoint any one culprit.

The test for yeast sensitivity at the alternative medicine doctor’s office was one of the more interesting tests I’ve had… My memory is a little jumbled after this many years but what I remember is,
He had me lay down on a table, hold either a magnet or a bottle of some substance, or possibly both, in my hands, over my abdomen. The bottle was filled with potential allergens (such as Candida albicans.) He lifted my arm up above my head & asked me to keep it rigid. I can’t remember if I was holding a magnet or a bottle anymore or if he was holding the bottle or a magnet but I know each of us was holding something. When he passed either the bottle or magnet over me, if my arm became weak, that reaction indicated I had a yeast sensitivity.

Based on my reactions during this test, he recommended a homeopathic antifungal regimen. At first he wanted me to use YeastAway treatment vaginally but I said “No way” – that would hurt me too much to insert. So instead he had me try two oral solutions. Aquaphase A, and Candida albicans D-83. I placed a small amount under the tongue and let it dissolve into the rest of my saliva.

So for about two months, I tried homeopathy & acupuncture in conjunction. I’d go in for acupuncture about twice  a week. During acupuncture, the doctor targeted various points. I remember that a few, but not all, of the points were associated with the female reproductive system – points that, in terms of acupuncture, connect to the uterus and ovaries. I guess those are problem points for many of his female patients, but not for me. I tried to communicate this to him, but at that time, I was still not completely comfortable saying “My vulva,” and “vagina,” aloud. Still, he tried targeting points that connected to my vagina as well – these needles went in my ear. He tried targeting my mood (forehead needle), which was understandably depressed and hopeless.

I do not believe that acupuncture is entirely free of side effects. To this day, I feel those needles when they puncture my skin. I feel each and every single one of them. I do not like this feeling. Puncturing some points make me wince. The doctor cannot put any needles in my ankles at all, because I will reflexively kick out. I don’t mean to do that, it just happens.

I experience one visible side effect of acupuncture: Bruise marks. When those needles go in and get twirled around a little, I bruise. Sometimes the acupuncture points bleed, although this is rare. But after acupuncture, I always have some bruises for days, especially on my legs.

That’s not the only side effect of acupuncture, although the other “Side effects” I experience may as well be called “Side benefits.”
Acupuncture makes me chatty. Normally I am a very taciturn, introverted person. After acupuncture, for a few days, I tend to be more talkative and outgoing even if I have nothing interesting to talk about.
Another measurable side benefit is that, acupuncture reduces the amount of nasal discharge I produce. While I do not have any seasonal or pet allergies that I know of, nonetheless I tend to use tissues more than my co-workers. I never really noticed it until I started going to acupuncture and stopped reaching for the tissues every day.
The last side benefit, which may be linked to a reduction in pain – my more recent experience with alternative medicine is that, as pain falls, my libido rises. It will probably never return to the levels I had during those pre-vulvodynia days, in high school when I was blissfully ignorant of what lay ahead of me. But my libido iss… higher. When I’m in pain, my sex drive shuts down.


The first time I tried these alternative treatments, late summer 2006, the acupuncture & homoepathy did not make a dent in the vestibulitis. Nope… still burning, stinging, itching. Definitely no change in the vaginismus either.
It didn’t work. It wasn’t doing anything.

At $80 for each acupuncture visit after insurance, plus the price of the homeopathy which wasn’t covered at all, after awhile it was got too expensive for me to maintain the alternative meds as a poor unemployed college student. With no change in the severity of the vestibulitis or vaginismus, I could no longer justify the cost.

So my first experience with alternative therapy for vulvar vestibulitis/yeast was not good. It wasn’t working. I felt then and still feel now, that waiting 2 months for even a minor change, was enough time.

So I stopped.

And threw my lot in with conventional Western medicine.

And that… worked out okay. I tried the hormonal gel, had surgery, started dilating, and I felt… better. Things were becoming less painful. The vestibulitis was moved to the backburner & I started focusing on the vaginismus instead. I started dilating.

Then some months later, I had some weird mysterious, generalized pelvic pain that was definitely not vestibulitis spring up. Never felt anything like it before or since. I’m still not entirely clear on what that mystery pain was or what triggered it. Stress? Muscles tension? High heels? Nerve compression? I don’t know. It wasn’t an infection, & it felt deeper inside of my pelvis than the vestibulitis had. It radiated into my butt & down one leg.

Since the new pain was a mystery even the vulvovaginal specialist could not address, I went back to the acupuncturist. And this time, I agreed to give chiropractic work a try too. No homeopathy this time though.

So I have had experience with alternative medicine for pelvic pain, twice.

For some reason, this time, the second time around, the alternative treatment worked much better. It did not provide a cure, but it was palliative until I could start seeing a physical therapist. Once I was doing acupuncture, chiropractic, AND physical therapy, my progress sped up even faster and further.

I actually prefer the chiropractic treatment to the acupuncture. It takes less time and I don’t feel exposed as I do on the acupuncture table. It’s an interesting therapy – the chiropractor throws me around in ways which probably look frightening to an outsider. It doesn’t hurt. It’s not required that the bones make an audible “Pop!” or “Crack!” but mine do. The doctor noted that it looked like my pelvis was probably out of alignment, and so he tried to correct for that. Sometimes he used a “Clicker” to make an impact on either side of my pubic bone. That doesn’t hurt, and it seemed to make a slight improvement. Some of my muscles were weak initially as well, notably the abductors & my abs.

After awhile – and especially after I started physical therapy – the doctor needed to make fewer adjustments with my return chiropractic visits, and I was able to taper down on how often I received it. I guess my pelvis was starting to maintain a better alignment for longer periods of time. My muscles were getting stronger.

I only experienced a side effect of chiropractic twice – a little soreness the following day, the first time I tried it.

This time around, even the acupuncture seemed to work better.

It took some trial and error, but eventually I discovered that the acupuncture worked best if I had the treatment done laying face down, with my back exposed. A lot of needles are put into points along my legs.  I overhear the doctor say he is targeting points associated with ‘Liver nine. Liver seven. Kidney lines.” I don’t know if I’d be able to point out each little point on an acupuncture chart, but I have a general idea of where they go.
He usually places some needles in my back too, although fewer go in my back than on my legs. When they do go on my back, the most awkward needles are the ones that puncture the back of my hips – it’s just above my buttcheeks. It doesn’t hurt, it’s just a little embarassing.

At one visit a few months ago, I was stagnating since the last chiropractic & acupuncture session. I felt like I more pain than I had been for a few weeks. The doctor hooked up a TENS machine to two acupuncture needles. The TENS machine sent an electrical current into the needles, and into my body.

That made a huge difference in my pain levels. The result was almost immediate and it lasted for a long time – about two or three weeks.
I only needed TENS therapy twice. It never hurt. I’m really impressed with how the TENS worked out for me, but I don’t know if it’s right for others.

I still receive chiropractic & acupuncture to this day, although I’ve tapered off to one visit every few weeks. That’s a maintenance schedule. If I have an acute problem spring up, I can run in for an adjustment & needling.

Overall I do not feel that chiropractic & acupuncture makes my immune system any stronger. I still got sick while receiving regular chiropractic & acupuncture treatments. I still got colds. I still got pink eye. I still got a vaginal infection recently. It worked okay as pain management the second time I tried it. But as far as my immunity goes – no effect.

And it is an expensive treatment. I can afford it with insurance, and my practice offers bulk packages that shave a little bit of the cost off if you pay up front. But it’s not cheap and it’s not free. There’s always a price to be paid…

Theoretically, the cost of treatment may be lower than the cost of missed work days and having to pay medical bills out of pocket without insurance. But even with the best insurance program I was on, chiropractic & acupuncture was still $50/visit. The worst insurance I was on (for a long time too,) still forced me to pay $80/visit, and I was going in up to twice a week! That really cut into my paycheck! And my job at that time didn’t pay well. In my head, I can definitely imagine it being cheaper, even long term, to use conventional Western medicine & prescriptions to manage vulvodynia pain.

So I spent a lot of money alternative treatments. A lot of time, and a lot of money.

Currently I do not need to take any prescription medication to manage my v pain – except for treating infections. But I do need a prescription for physical therapy.
As of now I have not had a prescription for tricyclic antidepressants, pain management pills such as vicodin, or anti-seizure medication.

That does not make me a better person and that does not make my body inherently superior to anyone else’s. If my chosen treatments had not worked I would probably be on medication. That could still happen down the road, too. I’m not out of the woods yet.

And that is what happened. That is my experience with alternative medicine for treatment of pelvic pain. For me, and me only (because I cannot say what your experience will be like, if you choose this route,) it did not have a measurable effect on vulvar vestibulitis. It does not seem to have much of an effect on the vaginismus, either. It makes me chatty and reduces nasal discharge. It worked well on some strange, deep, radiating pelvic pain, and was complimentary to physical therapy. It worked well when in used in conjunction with a TENS device. As it worked, my libido increased slightly but noticeably.

I will maintain for awhile longer but hope to be able to taper off more and more as time goes on, and maybe drop it altogether when I feel ready. If I feel ready.

Interesting posts, weekend of 7/26

07/25/2009 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Posts I found to be particularly interesting over the last week. Post good links if you got ’em.

Consent and Vulvodynia***MUST READ***

Ms. Jankes Profession – I am not fully up to speed on sex workers rights & advocacy, but this whole situation just seems so weird. Is this one of those things sex workers are talking about when they talk about how dangerous it is to be “Outed?” I think it may be.

How I Grew Up Without Health Insurance, or Emergency Rooms Don’t Do Chemotherapy – I’ve seen similiar stories like this but they always get to me.

Feminist Author’s Troubling Position on Rape – Levenson’s words are problematic to me too, Marcella does a good job picking them apart.

A mini-bride for all! – Wtf am I looking at??? How would that even work???

EA games invites convention attendees to sexually harass ‘booth babes’ – and people wonder why more women & girls don’t play video games.

Wtf did I just watch? – “Teeth”

07/22/2009 at 8:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Trigger warning re: sexual assault. Also, spoilers.

So I finally got around to watching a certain film… a film about Vagina Dentata… I’ve heard of it before and was morbidly curious to watch it, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it. But once that curiosity sets in, it’s hard to dislodge. Finally, I said “Fuckitall,” and watched it, partly at the suggestion of another vulvar pain blogger.

I wanted to like this movie, I really did. I was ready to like it.
I should like it, because imagine having vagina dentata, only in reverse – where the teeth are turned inwards, and bite the vagina owner! That is one way to describe what having vulvodynia can feel like.
Then Teeth comes along. Oh but now the tables are turned, aren’t they. Things are going to be different now, aren’t they.

But I don’t like Teeth.
Nope, did not like it. Could not get on board with it.
It’s pretty much as bad as I expected.
Wtf did I just watch?
Why did I watch this?

Teeth is categorized as a horror film. A feminist horror film. Seriously that’s what it says on the Netflix sleeve it came in. I still have not figured out what makes the movie inherently feminist. Is it because it deals with sexual assault? Is it feminist because it deals with lack of comprehensive sex education? Or is it purely because of the penis biting? Please tell me that is not what makes it feminist.

I have mixed feelings towards horror movies in general. They’re pretty hit & miss with me. I’m still a fan of the Scream series, since I grew up with it. I love anything with Zombies in it. The Ring was not scary. But Silence of the Lambs scares the everloving shit out of me.

I decided to give it a try, and I did… A sure swing and a miss.

I didn’t like it. This is a bad movie. It’s not so much a “Horror” film so much as it is a horrible film. Everything is exaggerated to the point of being completely unbelievable. This includes everything from the pushy Purity group ad-libbing biblical quotes in unison, the high school jerks that actively go out of their way to torment other students, the sub-par sex education that includes covering female anatomy diagrams with gold stickers, to the “Special effects,” if you can even call them that. It’s as though a bunch of juvenile-minded folks got ahold of some very expensive camera equipment and decided to make a sex revenge film with all the worst stereotypes of sexuality. An anti-American Pie.

The acting is terrible. I’ve seen some reviews that looked at Jess Weixler’s acting favorably, and there were some believable moments from her. But Weixler’s character scrunches her face up quite a bit, which looks strange – I found myself scrunching up my own face while I was trying to figure out why she was doing that. What emotion(s) are you trying to convey? Towards the end of the film, she has very few lines too. I don’t think she said much for the last 10 or 15 minutes.
Lots of screaming, mutilation and shock going on.
Perhaps with the exception of the asshole step-brother (who, despite his image of toughness, open misogyny, and violence, still lives at home in the suburbs with his parents,) the character’s behaviors aren’t consistent from scene to scene. One minute someone will be shy and charming, the next they’re completely out of control.

Dawn, the main character, is sexually assaulted several times, usually ending in disaster for both herself and the male characters when her toothed vagina clamps down & bites off penis and fingers alike (How could teeth have bitten through bones?) The fingers belonged to the most unprofessional gynecologist I have ever seen. When she turns to modern medicine for help & support, her gynecologist molests her, causing obvious pain – and the loss of his hand (and hopefully his career.)

Both the rapes and the results are terrifying to her. That’s not supposed to happen – either part! After the first time, Dawn is so distressed that she drops part of her identity, symbolized by the red purity ring she valued so much. She is unable to continue forward with the sexual purity movement.

As the protagonist, Dawn should be the heroine, but throughout the film she is compared to villains in old stories, especially Medusa. Dawn reads up on vagina dentata (as well as general female anatomy, having been denied access to this knowledge by her school,) and decides to address her condition by taming it old school – allowing a male to sexually conquer her during intercourse. That is how you “Treat” vagina dentata, according to the internet. (In my experience, I wouldn’t recommend that approach to other vulvar pain patients. Maybe if you want to roleplay after you get the pain under control first.)

At first, it appears that Dawn’s chosen treatment may have worked – she sought out a sex partner and was able to have intercourse without biting off his penis. (Where did he get all those candles to decorate the room with anyway?) However, I have questions as to her ability to consent to sex at the time, as she was clearly disoriented from an anti-anxiety medication. (Valium?)
Later on, they Dawn & her partner have intercourse again. During the second sex act, she refers to her partner as “My hero,” only to consciously bite off his penis with her vagina when he displeases her a few minutes later.
The reason for Dawn’s displeasure is that her partner admits to having made a bet that he would be able to have sex with her. I’ve seen this unoriginal idea in other TV shows and teen sex movies. But who would want to injure or kill the hero of a story? Only the bad guy, or bad girl in this case.

Notably absent from the film were other female characters. Dawn’s mother is dying. Dawn does not seek out the company of other female friends, although I believe she had at least one who appears in the movie. I wish the director had taken more time to flesh out the nature of Dawn’s relationships with other women.

I needed help understanding wtf I just watched. Am I the only one who hated this movie? Am I the only one who questions whether Teeth is inherently feminist? Is there any redeeming qualities about it that I missed? There’s some who do and will find Teeth empowering, but I am not among them.

I’m struggling to figure out the message Teeth is trying to convey. Is it about the danger of rape, which can happen to anyone? It doesn’t matter how chaste or attractive you are, even the most pure & virginal nuns can be sexually assaulted. Is it trying to warn viewers that rape is bad and you shouldn’t do it? A deterrent in the form of fear of punishment. Dawn may have a built-in defense mechanism, but she still has to live in a society that condones & perpetuates rape culture. And even then, her vagina dentata may not protect her from harm. It’s not shown in this movie, but a risk of fighting back during a rape is that an attacker will become more violent. I’m surprised that Dawn’s brother did not fight back in the end.

Is the movie about placing too much pressure on youth to remain virgins until marriage, and the backlash it can lead to? Backlash, including misunderstanding of healthy sexuality & sexual health? How would you know what “Normal & healthy” is if no one ever taught you? What if you were instead taught that that whole ~*~area~*~ is a no-man’s land and merely looking at it is defiling?

Is it an environmental movie? In the background over and over again two cooling towers from a nearby nuclear power plant appear. The introduction hints that the nearby power plant is responsible for some animal mutations locally – the animation shows fishes devouring what I can only guess are tadpole eggs floating around in the water… until one dark egg turns around and eats the fish, which is unexpected. Later on in the film, Dawn walks in on a biology class during the middle of a discussion on evolution. The bio teacher just happens to be talking about mutations & adaptations. Coincidence?
Is Dawn the first in a new line of humans with unique abilities & adaptations?

Or is Teeth supposed to be some kind of big joke?
If so, I don’t get it.
I didn’t laugh even once.

In the end, Dawn leaves town, hitching a ride when her bicycle breaks.
Of course, I must ask, “HOW was she even able to ride a bike comfortably? I can’t ride a bike with a normal saddle anymore; wouldn’t applying pressure to toothy bones in her vaginal canal have felt really uncomfortable?”
It is implied in the end that, whatever path Dawn will take (Did she even finish school? Is she going to be okay?) she will not hesitate to use her vagina dentata to get what she wants or needs to survive.

I could not relate to Teeth. I feel like, I should be able to relate to it… vagina dentata, vulvodynia… but I can’t. It’s easier for me to relate to the fumbled handling of vulvodynia that happened on Private Practice & Sex & the City than it was to relate to this! That’s how bad it was!

There was maybe one worthwhile moment in the film. It happens a couple of times. The only thing worthwhile is hearing people scream “VAGINA DENTATA” on tv.
Alas, it was not enough to redeem the rest of the hour & a half.

I think I’ll try my luck with Ginger Snaps next, that’s supposed to be a decent feminist horror film. Let’s hope. I have been renting nothin’ but bad movies lately.

Interesting posts, weekend of 7/19

07/18/2009 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Posts I found particularly interesting over the course of the week.

Oh and hay, post links if you got ’em.

Women and Men – a look at how male vs. female employment effects the great recession of 2k9, and vice versa.

Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy #20 – blog link roundup, delivers what it promises.

The 1973 NOW Sexuality Conference – Betty Dodson reflecting on her experiences preparing for and participating in the one and only conference NOW held on female sexuality.

Cosmocking: August 09! – Holly picks apart the newest issue of Cosmopolitan.

Sex ed in the UK: actually about sex (NSFW) – I liked Violet Blue’s take on this. A topic making the blog rounds this week is that a sex education pamphlet released in the UK actually addresses sex for pleasure. People are freaking out.
I’m actually a little torn up about this myself – not because of a fear that addressing sexual pleasure will encourage teenage promiscuity or moral decay – but because for me, it’s…
Not really that easy… Apparently pleasurable sex is supposed to be that easy but sometimes, finding pleasure isn’t that simple… I’ve been trying to find a copy of the leaflet itself so I can analyze it, but so far I have been unsuccessful. So in my head I’m thinking, “Well yes sex is supposed to be pleasurable but does the pamphlet have any advice on what to do if it’s not? Does it even consider the possibility? If it doesn’t, what does that say to & about people like me?”

Women, confidence, and fear of male judgment – Laura talks about how anxiety about being judged as a female participant in male-dominated activities influences her performance. I’m familiar with this phenomenon since I’ve heard of it before & it’s documented. It’s very catch-22.
For me, if I’m participating in a usually male-dominated activity (most frequently video games,) my fear is that the other participants will gang up on me & target my character in order to “Put me back in my place,” so to speak. She thinks she can play games (and believe me, I can,)  so I feel like I have to work twice as hard to prove myself. And if I fail, it must be because I’m a girl and therefore not good at it. But if I win, the guys gripe about being beaten by a girl, which is disgraceful, as opposed to being beaten by a genuinely good player, which isn’t so bad.

Speaking of video games, What more could a girl want? – how video game companies so frequently fuck up when they produce games they think girls want. I find that game marketing in general tends to be run along gender and age stereotypes though.

And speaking of marketing in general, The Peril and Promise of Pink – You know, I actually like to collect pink objects, but what’s up with pink = girls buy this? I think part of the backlash against the color is a direct result of this type of marketing – it’s infantilizing and sexist.
And being pink does not make up for putting out an otherwise shitty, overpriced product. And don’t forget to think before you pink while you’re shopping.

Things that make me angry – Exploiting vulvodynia patients

07/14/2009 at 6:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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What would you say if I told you there was a single, definite cause for vulvodynia? What would you think if I told you that, in finding the cause, there was also a prevention or another possible treatment available?

Would you say “That’s too good to be true?” Would you look through the years worth of messages posted to online support communities – the discussions of pain, possible causes, treatments and hope? Would you think about the other patients you know online (and maybe even in person) and wonder if all this could be caused by a single common factor? Would you think back to the journal articles & books you picked up along the way?

What would you do?

Because I know I would do all those things – say “It’s too good to be true,” then reflect on what other patients and doctors are saying, thinking about their experiences. I would remember the quetions as to the origins of this and related conditions, and sometimes, why there is some overlap. I would (and did) browse through the books & journal articles I’ve accumulated over the years, and I questioned whether this syndrome could have a single root cause, when so much of the literature and real life experience allows for plenty of wiggle room.

And I wondered, who could have discovered a single root cause? A researcher? One of the vulvovaginal specialists? A team of patients? Did CureTogether actually find The Cure?

No, the discovery of a single root cause for vulvodynia was found by a semi-retired doctor of philosophy and author of  diet books.

Wait, what?

Needless to say, I, for one, am skeptical.


Let’s take a look at this idea and what, if any, analysis we can make of it.

It all begins with,

Doctors just love giving medical conditions fancy names with Latin roots to make us tremble when they give the diagnosis. Vulvodynia is one such word.

And right away things look a bit strange to me.

Yes, the doctors are trying to scare us and they take a sick delight in doing so by making up big, scary words. The doctors want to make us tremble with fear. It couldn’t possibly be the severe, debilitating pain interfering with quality of life that is so upsetting.

I must truly be the outlier, the different one, because in my experience, it was not the word itself  but the meaning behind the word that scared the everliving shit out of me. A rose by any other name would have smelled just as sweet.

My regular gynecologist was reluctant to give the diagnosis of vulvodynia, because for one thing it’s not exactly easy to treat. She was visibly frustrated when she called me into her office to give the tentative diagnosis & refer me to the specialist. For another thing, she knew she was not a specialist in vulvovaginal pain. While she could provide pap smears and medication for acute infections, and could deliver babies, she knew she was unprepared to guide me along the road to treatment. For another thing, she knew that road I was about to take was going to be long & hard and fraught with “Here be dragons!”

There was no love, no delight in her eyes when she pronounced the word.

But what is vulvodynia, anyway? What was going on in my vulva? A brief description:

The condition typically presents with stinging, burning and/or itching sensations that can really zap a woman’s sense of wellbeing.

I’m not going to argue with the last statement, that vulvodynia can interfere with how patients feel about themselves, since, there’s no denying that I
certainly got knocked for a loop. However, Appleton’s description does not state that the pain takes place in the vulva; it just describes what it feels like, and the title of the page is awkward, shy.

However I’m not clear on whether Appleton is talking about true vulvodynia or vulvar vestibulitis. To be fair though, I, too, have a tendency to use the two terms interchangeably, but I at least try to use “Vulvodynia” as a broader blanket term to include pain besides vulvar vestibulitis. Perhaps that’s what’s going on here, but the difference could be important: If Appleton found treatment for vestibulitis, would it also work on general vulvodynia? Or vice versa? or

At any rate, it’s not surprising that women with sensations like Burning, stinging, and/or itching in their genitals might want to seek treatment:

Is there a cure or treatment? Mainstream medicine has been slow to come up with a definitive answer.

Indeed, although the medical community has been vaguely aware of vulvodynia since about the 1800s (and possibly even longer,) it’s really only within the last 20 or 30 years that serious research has been done. And since it is still not fully understood what causes vulvodynia & related conditions in the first place, there are various treatments in place. What works for one patient, may not work for another. Furthermore, some patients may not be comfortable with certain treatments, so it’s worthwhile to have a lot of options open.

So what treatments are patients trying? Appleton touches upon an article published by Dr. Barbara Reed in 2006. The article, Vulvodynia: Diagnosis and Management, is aptly named – it gives an overview of what vulvodynia is, how to determine if a patient may have it, and what treatment options are available.

Luckily, you and I can read the article in question too, for free.

Back to the question of whether or not there is any cure or treatment available. Researcher Reed’s outlook is generally positive:

Most women experience substantial improvement when one or more treatments are used.

And the article eventually presents a Table 3, a brief overview of what treatments patients can investigate. However, Appleton isn’t impressed with way the article “meanders through discussions of nerve sensitivity, cognitive behavior therapy and pelvic floor muscles.” Instead, she seizes upon this opportunity to point out what “tidbits” her research in nutrition has in common with Reed and other researchers’ findings in vulvodynia:

inflammation, immune system, allergies and diet.

If you will look closer at Reed’s article though, it states,

There is controversy about whether changes exist in the inflammatory infiltrate in vulvar tissue of women with vulvodynia. Some studies29-31 found an increase in inflammatory cells or mast cells, whereas others32,33 found that inflammatory cell infiltrates were similar in patients with vulvodynia and control patients… The cause of this increased neuronal density and its role in vulvodynia remain unclear.

So even the medical doctors don’t know why some patients experience inflammation in their vulvar tissues and others don’t, and even the medical doctors don’t know why that inflammation, when present, occurs.

As to the immune system response, it may be worth noting here that some patients with vulvodynia deal with overlapping chronic conditions, which may be related to the immune system functioning – enough patients deal with possibly related chronic conditions that the NVA participates in the Overlapping Conditions Alliance. Reed’s article states that some research foundminor immunologic changes” in vulvodynia patients, which “could result in a decreased ability to downregulate the inflammatory response, which in turn may be associated with neuropathic changes.”

The only place in Reed’s article where allergies is mentioned at all is in a diagnostic table as a differential diagnosis. The possibility of allergens as a cause for vulvodynia is not explored in detail in this article.

Still, there are three key words mentioned in Reed’s work that fit in comfortably with Appleton’s own research in diet & nutrition. Appleton notes that a diagnosis of vulvodynia requires there be no active yeast infection found in vaginal cultures (No word on the fact that the diagnosis also requires that there be no active bacterial infections.) So she asks (as I’m sure many patients themselves ask, hoping against hope for an easier answer,) whether it’s possible that doctors miss yeast infections during their cultures:

Can the yeast infection change form and continue to cause pain in women after the topical ointment has killed off the infection, which typically is found on the surface?

The answer is yes, according to Majorie Crandall. This actually looks like a pretty interesting piece of research. Crandall’s work suggests that “Any red, burning, irritated tissue for which there is no identifiable cause should be considered a candidate for the diagnosis of the red form of candidiasis,” including the redness that is sometimes found with vulvar vestibulitis. For vulvodynia patients, that means it might be worth looking into treating a yeast infection that’s hiding deeper in the skin.

There’s a couple of issues I have with Crandall’s article though. For one thing, not all patients with vulvodynia experience redness in their vulvas. I did, and the “-itis” suffix on “Vestibulitis” is there to indicate “inflammation.” But the medical community is moving towards a more inclusive term, “Vestibulodynia,” because redness is not always found in vulvodynia & vestibulitis patients. Crandall’s seriousness table says “Vulvodynia = vulvar vestibulitis,” whatever that means since although they’re related, they’re not technically the same thing… and she has vulvodynia & vestibulitis classified under the “Annoying = Benign = Superficial candidiasis” category. Well maybe this is just me speaking out of anger, but I for one don’t consider vulvodynia & vestibulitis to be “Annoying” or “benign.” Maybe she just means it’s not serious in the sense that, it’s not a terminal illness.

Crandall doesn’t cite her own research on this page, which annoys me to no end for a couple of reasons. One, because I’m genuinely interested in knowing which controlled clinical studies have provided evidence for the candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome,” and which ones show that SSRIs & cough syrup may have antifungal properties. Two, Crandall dismisses vulvodynia treatments including surgery, biofeedback, the low oxlate diet, and estrogen gel, as being “Barbaric,” “Unproven,” “Invalid,” or as causing more yeast infections. The thing is, while I’ve heard of some doctors who will aggressively treat yeast long-term just in case it IS a problem for vulvodynia patients, I’ve not seen many controlled studies on that myself – if I have run across such studies, they’re few & far enough between so that I can’t remember how they turned out.

Back to Appleton’s article. She talks about what it means to the vulvodynia patient if a hard-to-reach yeast infection is causing vulvodynia. How did the yeast get there in the first place?

The answer to that question, according to Appleton, is Sugar.

And indeed, sugar is a possible cause for yeast infections – along with injury, hormones, antibiotics, condoms, clothing, a compromised immune system, etc. etc. etc… it goes on.

Appleton goes on to cite some research about yeast infections dating from the 1970s through the early 1990s. I guess the medical research community is done studying yeast since there’s no recent work included. According to her, ultimately, sugar is the root cause for yeast infections and by extension, vulvodynia. Her article concludes, “Sugar causes everything and vulvodynia is but one more example.” (emphasis mine.) Appleton doesn’t state something like, “Sugar is a possible contributor to vulvodynia,” she puts it forth as a direct cause-effect relationship.

If that’s the real reason for vulvodynia, then the way to prevent or stop vulvodynia in its tracks is clear – eliminate sugar from your diet, thus starving the yeast out. And, maybe try the low-oxlate diet (even though one of Crandall’s articles linked to above says it may not work anyway.) It is not clear to me whether a sugar-elimination diet will eliminate the rare but still infectious strains of yeast besides Candida albicans, as that is the only species Appleton explicitly mentions in her article.

Of course, eliminating sugar isn’t an easy or comfortable thing for most people to do. Luckily, Dr. Nancy Appleton is here to help you by providing sugar elimination diet-related materials, for a nominal price.

…Does this look just a a conflict of interest to anybody else? Am I the only person here who finds it just a bit suspicious that Appleton, the author of not one but two books about sugar elimination diets and a seller of various other goodies, puts forth sugar as THE cause for vulvodynia?

Is anybody else just a little bit disturbed that someone who is not a medical doctor (M.D,) a gynecologist, a vulvovaginal specialist, or a vulvodynia patient advocate, claims to have found THE cause, and, coincidentally, a way to stop it from happening?

Maybe it’s just me, but when I see things like “Sweet suicide,” and “Sugar kills,” I can’t help but think that maybe there’s a little bit of fear mongering going on. Appleton’s article states, “An allergy is merely a precursor response that can later develop into whatever disease comes next,” meaning, that if you keep eating that sugar, you will eventually develop a debilitating disease. You may not have vulvodynia yet, but you will. Keep on eating all that junk food and you’ll be digging yourself an early grave.

What do you think?  Is it just me? Am I being paranoid? I don’t know, I’ve been wrong before. But dietary changes didn’t seem to do much for me when I was dealing with the worst of the vestitibulitis, and it doesn’t seem to have an influence on the vaginismus. I mean, I cut caffeine out, sure, and I maintain a little bit of a high-fiber diet post-vestibulectomy. I added probiotics to my diet as well, something that appears nowhere in Appleton’s article.

But even I was inclined to drastically change my diet,

I think I should probably talk to my doctors first. Doctors who are more familiar with vulvodynia and my own physiology. And then, even if they say, “Oh yes you should definitely cut all sugar & seek help doing so since it’s so hard,” I think I would avoid Appleton’s plans.

Becasue I’m not fond of being marketed to in this way.

It’s a bad way of furthering research on vulvodynia, because any valid point Appleton may have about diet, allergies, and yeast, is overshadowed by the fact that she positions herself to earn money off of vulnerable patients desperate for a cure. I suppose that’s true of almost any medical research, and it’s actually a giant bone of contention for some doctors researching female sexual dysfunction in general. That’s one of Dr. Leonore Teifer’s concerns – that pharmecutical companies sponsoring research into sexual dysfunction stand to earn big money if a treatment or cure is found. The thing is so much treatments available for vulvodynia now, use what is already available – there is no magic pill for vulvodynia. There is no single cure. I want there to be one. I want there to be a prevention.

But not like this! Not if it means using scare tactics and telling patients that they are literally killing themselves a little bit every day, and the only way out is your way, which by the way you can participate in if you just pay a small fee…

On the flip side, Appleton’s marketing also targets women who don’t have vulvodynia, by holding it over their heads as a threat if they keep eating the way they do.

Another problem I have with Appleton’s page is that, nowhere on it does she mention the existence of the NVA & its efforts to further controlled research studies on vulvodynia. If you want to explore sugar as a possible causative element in the development of vulvodynia, why not approach the NVA about it? Why not see if there’s interest in starting a study? Why not make a donation? As it is, spending money on Appleton’s diet program diverts needed funds away from bona fide research efforts.

The thing is, I know this is just but one example of websites and blogs targeting and schilling questionable goods & services to vulvodynia patients,and certainly it is just one of many ways in which chronic conditions in general are subject exploitation. Appleton doesn’t outright claim she has found the cure for vulvodynia, but this program implies that her research has found a direct cause-effect link, and that has been kept hidden from patients by the medical community. I’ve seen other websites hawking goods and treatments of dubious validity for various chronic ailments. I absolutely love a post up at ChronicHealing in which the blog writer, Jeanne, picks apart suspicious claims made by the Endometrosis Foundation of America.

I don’t have a problem with investigating hidden yeast infections as a cause for vulvodynia, I don’t have a problem with investigating a low-sugar or candida elimination diet. But if those are going to be listed as possibilities, the research needs to be done in repeatable & verifable conditions. It needs to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and subject to scrutiny & improvements. And at the same time, we need to let patients make their own informed choices about treatment, and not scare them into going down one route, wallets open.

Interesting posts, weekend of 7/12

07/12/2009 at 6:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Posts I found particuarly interesting over the last week.

Panels 66: Why Chicks Cry – Old comic books lol

World’s strongest vagina – If I can train my PC muscles to be a fraction as strong as this woman’s I will be happy. Actually, I think my PC muscles probably are trained to be a fraction as strong, thanks to the biofeedback. Well then I better aim a little higher: I want mine to be able to shoot laser beams!

Uganda to outlaw female circumcision – I think it is going to take more than a law on paper to stop this practice.

Things that make my life easier: TENS edition – I have tried a type of TENS therapy only twice and … yeah it helped me. I can never say if it will help anybody else. If you’ve never heard of it, or are interested in more, this post may help.

A visit to the bookstore

07/10/2009 at 10:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I missed an appointment with my chiropractor/acupuncturist today. I’m still feeling kinda crappy and still dealing with a side effect from the medication I was taking. Obviously since I’m still getting sick & getting infections, this treatment doesn’t seem to do much good for my immune system. Yet I still go to him once every few weeks, since the chiro/acupuncture treatment helped me manage some mysterious pelvic pain.

I missed the appointment since I was stuck in traffic. The office is nearby a bookstore. I figured I was already near the store, and my evening was free since I didn’t make it in for the appointment, so I stopped in.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular at the bookstore. I already have enough sexuality & feminist lit to keep me going all through the summer and then some. I was curious about the selection. I wanted to see if anything caught my eye, hoping something would.

I was somewhat disappointed.

Shopping in a retail store isn’t like shopping online. Online I can find almost anything, although out of print books & imported goods tend to cost more. But physical locations can’t have an infinite inventory. Retailers have to pick & choose what’s most likely to sell. That’s not an easy call to begin with, but I imagine it’s compounded when you’re in the middle of a recession.

I looked at some of the women’s Health books, hoping but not expecting to find some new vulvar health care books. Something with new, updated research. Nothing new though. The store had “The V Book” in stock, and more generally several copies of  “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” and “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.” But I already own those, and I was not interested in other women’s health care topics at this time.

I left the Health section empty-handed.

As I moved on, I couldn’t help but notice – my goodness, but there certainly are a lot of diet & cook books. My god it’s like the entire center of the store was all about food & fitness.

I looked at the Sexuality books. My impression of the section on sexuality is: A lot of the books are actually the same book. That’s not entirely true, I know. I’m sure each book brings something new to the table, although some are bound to be better than others. But so many of the titles sounded like they had the same theme – “Great sex,” or rather, “GREAT SEX” in big bold letters. A big chunk of the reason I think all the sex books are the same, is because they all used the same exact font! Most of these book covers were exclusively text with a solid color background. Lots of blacks, purples, reds. If a cover’s background wasn’t a solid color but a photo or image instead, the photo was rarely of people. I saw more photographic covers with hints of fabric, promising fun times in bed. When covers did show human figures, the images were stylized, like outlines, or else did not show an entire figure – the faces were obscured or there was no head for a face to be on. And as for the bodies themselves – not a lot of variety there, lots of conventionally beautiful white men & women.

So much of the same theme repeated over & over again… Or maybe I just felt like it was the same few books, since the sexuality section was so small. Not much of a selection at all.

“Great sex” was definitely the predominant theme – whatever the hell that even means. Those books seemed so in-your-face, so much “Come on and read me, I dare you! Look how hip & edgy & bold I am. I’m a book about SEX! I’m gona tell it to you straight up even if what I say makes no sense can be found online for free is a stereotype makes you mad.” Books that promise “Great sex” no doubt have to explain what the authors actually mean later on in the text, and in my experience with the sexuality books I already own, I would hope that the authors take a broader view of sex. It doesn’t seem revolutionary to me anymore, to expand the meaning of sex in order to enhance your experience of it. I’ve been exposed to that for awhile now. But I look around at the media & how intercourse-centric it is, and maybe it really is revolutionary.
But what if the sexual advice books really do just mean one kind of sex?

Besides that, there were a lot of books about the Kama Sutra. A few titles promised to give details on how to perform non-intercourse activities, such as oral sex & mutual masturbation. There were two books about erotic massage exclusively. A few books promised to talk about orgasm – what it is, how it works, how to have one. In the past, I’ve seen this store sell books about sex toys but there were none in stock today. Mostly vanilla heterosexual activities today.

I think what I was looking for, was not a book about “Great sex…” Somehow, when I see themes like that, I feel excluded. In my mind I think to myself, “I’m sure these books are great for people who already have a healthy sex life and who are able bodied enough for some athletic positions, but I’m still new at this and I’m not ready (emotionally or physically) for advanced positions, if that’s all the authors have to offer.” Perhaps the marketing of sex books holds them back from me. Or maybe it’s how sex is marketed in general, and I’m bringing my own internalized notions of the word with me to the bookstore.

I think I was looking for something more like, “Sex after pain. Pressure-free sex that doesn’t have to be GREAT every time yet can still be pleasant for everyone involved. Sexual intimacy. Slow sensuality. A beginner’s guide to kink.” I’m making the titles up now, although a quick glance on Amazon let me know that such things may actually exist. They’re out there, but not on retail shelves. Apparently titles like what I’m looking for, are not popular enough to take up shelf space during a recession. Or probably at any other time.

I did see some recommended titles with staying power that I probably would purchase at a later date – like, after I finish reading some titles I already own (that the bookstore doesn’t sell!) But overall the sexuality section was… small, skewed towards newer titles, and had a lot of overlapping information. There were some oldies but goodies in there, but very few. I didn’t even see anything by Betty Dodson.

I looked at the Gender Studies section and it was even more paltry than the Sexuality shelves. It probably didn’t help that the books were just disheveled & allover the place – on their sides, laying flat… general disarray. It was a mess.

There were a couple of oldies but goodies were available which I probably should read at some point in the future. Other books I’ve been thinking of picking up were out of stock (or just not in stock to begin with.) I’d prefer to thumb through some titles before I buy. I may have to order them online. I recognized a lot of titles available on the shelves were published by Seal Press, including some of the notably controversial ones that have been analyzed in sometimes heated discussion online. Some books about media, sexism, ageism, self-help, survival, sex work.

But other than that, just, not much in Gender Studies… the bottom 3 shelves out of a several-feet high wall. Not as wide a variety of topics as I expected.

I wound up leaving the store with something I didn’t go in looking for – an art book. Because believe it or not, I actually do have other interests, too.

Interesting posts, weekend of 7/5

07/05/2009 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Posts that I found to be particularly interesting over the course of the last week and my thoughts on them:

On hand-holding as pain relief for the ladies – This one may be of particular interest to those living in the circle of vulvar pain. This is an older post but I just found it, so it’s New To Me. Rugbyfan (I didn’t see her e-mail or blog link,) talks about her experience a gynecologist for a consultation. She tried to talk to the doctor about ways to manage the pain of smear tests and instead of brainstorming some options the doctor said, “Would you like me to ask a nurse to hold your hand while I take the smear?”


Now, I’ve had someone hold my hand for visits with my vulvovaginal specialist, but all that does is provide moral support. Hand-holding just keeps me from getting up off the table and/or kicking the doctor in the face. It doesn’t make the tests & proddings any less painful, which is my goal (except for maybe if the doctor is trying to ascertain your pain thresholds as part of figuring out which treatment would be best.) For routine exams though, my gynecologist would have no reason to test my thresholds, as she is unprepared to treat vulvodynia. So why not try to make things a little easier? Why not offer to use a smaller speculum, try a little lidocaine ahead of time, maybe a muscle relaxant, a painkiller, something that actually might do something?

Rugbyfan says,

I know the medical profession has a very poor track record when it comes to pain management, but it’s hard to think of a situation involving significant pain to any other part of the body being dealt with in this manner (“I’m just going to drill into your tooth – no need for anaesthetic, the nurse will hold your hand.” “I’m just going to pop a few stitches into your split lip without anaesthetic or a numbing spray – now don’t worry, the nurse will hold your hand.”)

Rugbyfan goes on to say that there’s a major difference between “Uncomfortable” and “agonizing.” This much even I know from first hand experience. Pap smear tests should not be agonizing and they should not be followed with post-exam burning for days after. I’m so aggravated that there are still doctors & facilities that do not realize this!

Part of me wonders if they doctors & nurses are still willingly refusing to acknowledge that some of their female patients feel severe pain because that acknowledgment means, they are going to have to acknowledge & confront the fact that for years, they were willfully subjecting their patients to horrible pain and stigma. Having to confront this means enduring a “My god, what have we done” moment.

The comments on this one are good too.

Then we have something that’s been making the rounds on several blogs – Vibrator use common, linked to sexual health. Differnet blogs are linking to alternate sources & commentary.

Now, this is particularly interesting to me because, I grew up always knowing that vibrator use was acceptable. I never questioned this. I have never once experienced any stigma about using a vibrator. How to choose and/or use a vibrator is a common topic on womens’ sexual health forums. Once in awhile vibes & sex toys will sneak into tv shows like Sex & the City – when the movie is a comedy, this is just about the only place where they’re derided at all.

Apparently I’m extremely lucky not to have had to deal with negative views of vibrators. It wasn’t always like that – according to the NYT article, the Journal of Popular Culture in 1974 called vibrators “Masturbatory machines” reserved for “Sexually dysfunctional females.” Well I may be sexually dysfunctional alright, but at least I’m in good company. A great big giant chunk of the rest of the female population uses vibrators too – 53%! That’s an even bigger stat than that commonly cited & questioned 43% number re: sexual dysfunction in general.

One quote from the ScienceDaily site says,

“The study about women’s vibrator use affirms what many doctors and therapists have known for decades — that vibrator use is common, it’s linked to positive sexual function such as desire and ease of orgasm, and it’s rarely associated with any side effects,” said Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion.

So, you probably already know this, but just in case you need a reminder: using a vibrator is not something that means there is something wrong with you. It doesn’t have much to do with FSD.

I probably owe a lot of my personal security with vibrators and other sex toys to GoodVibes, Babeland, et al – stores & people who made it okay to experiment with vibrators.

Finally, a short post from the GoodVibes blog – Medical Pornography? Porn has been banned in Ukrane – unless it’s for “Medical purposes.”

Veeery interesting. How does that even work? Welp my vulvovaginal specialist did recommend that I strive to be aroused during the dilator process so … does that count as a prescription for me? Would I be exempt from this law? Can I get a doctor’s note for that? Or would even I, an occassional consumer of (so far) mostly cartoony images, be jailed?

Back on the saddle again*

07/03/2009 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Wow if I ever thought I’d be able to take a vacation from dilating for a few weeks, I was completely wrong. I’m really not going to be able to let up with this for the rest of my life am I?

I went to PT again this week. Since it has been a few days since I finished both medications for the vaginal infections, and I was feeling better, I felt ready to start up with the internal work again.

That was one of the more difficult internal work days I’ve had in a long time. Before the infections, I had been able to handle the largest dilator comfortably, and quite a bit of pressure on the tissues. It’s more uncomfortable now. I’m not reset back to zero, but I definitely fell back. No tearing or bleeding, and things were within my tolerable range, but just barely. I had to start off with one of the smaller sizes and I’m definitely not ready for the big one yet. I’m being paranoid about germs even though I washed my gear, so I’m insisting on covering the dilators with a condom for awhile. I probably don’t need to. They’re not made of porous materials and I don’t share them with anyone.

Once again I left wondering what, exactly, the biggest component of the discomfort was. Was that the vaginismus acting up? Definitely; the muscles were tensing & haven’t been worked much for a few weeks. Was some discomfort the residual vestibulitis? I don’t know but I hope not. That area of redness I noticed during the infection is better now but still not the same shade of pink as the rest of me. Could there still be some infection left? Maybe; although the sensation of intense heat is gone, and I’m not registering anything else out of the far-reaching realm of normal for me, my infections don’t like predictable textbook cases. HOW WOULD I KNOW??? If it looks like I’m shouting, it’s because I am. Not knowing is frustrating. I’m getting frustrated when I read comments online that talk about how women need to learn what normal is & what infection symptoms to look for. Mine’s not working like that.
Or maybe some discomfort is just due to me approaching my menses. I’m a bit low on some hormones.

This current discomfort is actually something I’m less pessimistic about. Right now I’m not as worried as I thought I would be. Since I’ve felt worse before, and the residual pain post-surgery responded well to PT and at-home pelvic floor & dilator exercises, I feel confident that I may be able to get the tissue supple again over time. The PT wants me to pick up with the dilators & at-home exercises again ASAP.
Of course only time will tell if my optimism is warranted.

I’m still disappointed though – I guess I won’t be able to take a break for more than a day or two for awhile. I was going so well too, I could skip 3 or 4 days without losing much ground. I was maintaining. But two weeks is just too much. I’m interpreting this difficulty with inserting things as a sign & a reminder that I am going to deal with this pelvic floor dysfunction, residual vulvodynia, vaginismus, for the rest of my life. It’s better than it was, no doubt. But some residual may be lurking under the surface long term.

*Sigh* what did I expect? I know vulvodynia is a chronic condition. Vaginismus is going to take a long time for me to address, too. I spent at least several years at least living with chronic vulvar pain. There’s a possibility that there may have been something going on longer, even before I became sexually active. It’s not going to go away overnight.

This could get awkward down the road. How am I going to do this if I have kids? I’ll need to maintain my exercises through pregnancy, certainly. But then what? I can see it now, the baby starts crying and mommy has to struggle to get up off the floor, clean herself off and pick up the baby. And it’s just going to be a mess. Or maybe mommy can shout at daddy and tell him to go pick up the baby, mommy’s in the middle of something. Or something is in the middle of mommy, as the case may be.

Then what if I have a major pain flare while I’m working and being a mom… I don’t think I want to think about that right now.

Welp. Looks like I’ve still got some work to do.

*Metaphorically speaking only. Yeah right like I’m ever going to ride on a normal saddle again. Guess I won’t be going horseback riding or biking in the mountains any time soon. I guess the sybian is out of the question for me too. Oh well, that’s all out of my price range anyway.

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