I will be your lab rat for the evening

09/30/2009 at 7:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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My specialist’s office called me the other day. Or rather I should say a researcher from the office, to see if I was willing to participate in a vulvodynia study.

I don’t think I can say what questions were asked or what my responses were, since I don’t want to break confidentiality. But, I answered the questions honestly to the best of my ability. It was pretty simple. I think I see where we’re going with this study. I hope my answers, aggregated with other ones to produce statistics, help someone.

This study is only available to women who have had a vestibulectomy, so, chances are you can’t participate in this one.

Don’t feel left out though. The online support groups are helpful for this kind of thing – finding current research & networking – but the trade-off is that it exposes your identity to your friends…
But there’s some studies posted in there.

On one such group, the maintainer posted a link to this site: Dr. Laura Clark – and that site has links to 3 surveys. One is for women with vulvodynia, one is for women without vulvodynia, and one is for partners of women with vulvodynia. I participated in the first of those studies, and my boyfriend completed the last one. Anybody without vulvodynia reading this can think about doing the second one. I’m not sure where Dr. Clark is going with that second survey.

And I’m not sure yet which journal (if any) these results will be published in.

So yes. I am a statistic.


It was nice to talk freely about having had vulvovaginal surgery without being judged & condemned.

Movie review: Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate

09/28/2009 at 6:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments
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“I’ll tell you what I do. I work with men who have sexual dysfunctions as their partner and I practice sex with them and I practice social skills & I practice communicating & I practice teaching them how to love people.” ~Maureen Sullivan in Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate.

I finished watching a documentary on sexual surrogacy. Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate, directed by Kirby Dick – the same man who directed (among other things,) This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It was filmed during the early 1980s – right at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and long before Viagra and mainstream access to the internet.

Sexual surrogacy is an interesting topic to me, in large part due to its rarity as a therapeutic tool. How many people have even heard of it?

The first exposure I had to the idea of sexual surrogacy came from (of all places,) an erotic novel. As the setting in that novel was the late 1700s, and the book was fraught with grammatical & factual errors & stretchings of the truth, I didn’t think much of it.
Then, Anne Sprinkle touched upon it in her book, Spectacular Sex, in describing how a physically disabled person was able to have a sexual experience with the aid of a surrogate. Huh, maybe that erotic novel author was onto something.
Then there came a Feminist Review of Private Practices.

Wait, there’s a movie about this?

I’ve heard of sex therapy before, in terms of talk therapy & couples’ therapy. You go in, talk to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, and work through your thoughts, emotions & physical problems as they relate to sex. It shouldn’t matter if you have a partner or not; the therapist should be equipped to handle you (your mileage may vary.) You might be given homework assignments to finish before your next session. And I’m personally familiar with dilators and physical therapy as hands-on healing tools for vulvovaginal pain. (Dilators & PT are surprisingly unsexy treatments. Effective for me, but clinical almost to the point of sterility.)

Sex surrogacy is something a little different.
So what is it?

This is a real thing. The same organization that Maureen Sullivan was president of at the time of filming, is still around – the International Professional Surrogates Association. If you watch the film with the director’s commentary on, you’ll hear Kirby Dick and his interviewer talking about how surrogacy was gaining popularity as a treatment for sexual dysfunction, until the AIDS crisis hit and derailed it due to safety concerns.

As described on the IPSA’s own website, sex surrogate therapy consists of,

In this therapy a client, a therapist and a surrogate partner form a three-person therapeutic team. The surrogate participates with the client in structured and unstructured experiences that are designed to build client self-awareness and skills in the areas of physical and emotional intimacy. These therapeutic experiences include partnerwork in relaxation, effective communication, sensual and sexual touching, and social skills training. Each program is designed to increase the client’s knowledge, skills, and comfort.

The website goes on to list some problems that sex surrogacy can address and Wikipedia includes painful intercourse as one area. Although sex surrogacy is described as appropriate in some cases for both men & women, the impression I got from Private Practices, Wikipedia, and IPSA is that it puts a stronger focus on men than women. I get this impression because all three resources explicitly point out conditions that men experience – notably erectile dysfunction & premature ejaculation.

One of the big questions I’m still left with is, whether or not this counts as a form of sex work. There can be exchange of sex for money, and intensive therapy can be expensive. You don’t need to have any special qualifications or degrees to be a surrogate, although you should go through training with IPSA. The legality of surrogacy is dubious. And indeed, a text block at the beginning of Private Practices notes that the film would likely raise moral & ethical questions – questions that the IPSA attempts to address with its Code of Ethics.
However, According to R.J. Noonan, PhD., sex work and surrogacy should not be mixed up. Much of a surrogate’s time is going to be spent doing non-sexual activities & coaching. But then, is this distinction being made because sex work is so stigmatized? Would there be a distinction if sex workers were more respected?

The movie asks that rather than fixating on these questions, the viewer should focus on the lives of the subjects being filmed.

So how is the film, anyway? Is it worth a rent from Netflix? Does it answer any questions? Who might be interested in the movie? Well,

The first thing that struck me before the content was the quality of the film itself. The DVD is of a good quality, not a lot of extra features, but it runs smoothly. However the cinematography itself is definitely showing its age – it’s old.
It’s old, and it’s a documentary, so the director didn’t have millions of dollars to work with. The quality of the film (regardless of the content) reminds me of an old home movie or a soap opera. If you watch the movie with the director’s commentary on, Kirby and his interviewer, Tonner Barclow (might not be spelling that right,) say that this film could be an “80s time capsule” in and of itself. Everyone is wearing clothes that you would have definitely seen in the 1980s (The commentary includes a line like, Maureen’s blouse looks like it came from a set of the Golden Girls.) Home decor (Maureen works from home) is circa late 1970s & early 80s. Big hair abounds.
The sound quality is mixed – you can definitely hear everyone speak clearly, but you can also hear airplanes flying overhead outside of the houses.
The worst quality anything though, is the music. The music used in this film is awful. It’s described as ‘Avant garde,’ but it sounds like 1980s Synthesized Stock Music you could have bought in bulk and used to produce mass quantities of After School Specials (although in the director’s commentary, Dick says he knew the music arranger personally.) It hurts my ears. Luckily there’s only a music overlay for like 3 or 4 parts.

The second thing that stood out to me first was how the film conflates sex with love. You can have both at the same time, and perhaps more often than not that is the case. But, sex and love can exist exclusively of each other. You do not require an emotional connection to have sex; the film made it sound like sex = love.
However the director’s commentary notes that the surrogacy movement grew out of the Free Love movement, so “Love” may mean something different from what I’m used to in that context.

The film follows Maureen Sullivan and two men over the course of their months-long therapy, set in Los Angeles, California. Both patients are referred to Maureen through their therapists. We do not see how the patients & their regular therapist came to the conclusion that sex surrogacy was an option. We do not see what probing questions must have been asked. The director paid for Kipper & John’s therapy in exchange for allowing it to be filmed. (Did either one of them expect to see a revival of the film after 25+ years? Are they even still alive? We do not know.)

The first client we meet is Kipper, a 25-year old student & virgin who is so shy around women that he cannot form meaningful relationships with them. No, really; you may think that he’s just saying that so he can come across as a stealth-creepy Nice Guy, but I genuinely believe that he was afraid of women. He shows discomfort around Maureen even as she tries to lower his barriers through talk & touch therapy.

In the director’s commentary, Kirby & his interviewer question if Kipper was  gay, and trying to “Cure” himself through surrogacy. The directors note here that that’s not really an appropriate use of surrogacy (and it probably wouldn’t work.) Kipper, as it turns out, has an older brother who strikes me as a real “Bro” type, while Kipper is much more introverted. We don’t learn much else about Kipper’s life and why he is so shy around women. He did not spend much time with his mother, and, it seems that he did not receive much affection from her as a youth. Indeed, when Maureen and Kipper finally embrace on her couch, her touch is more Maternal than sexual, or even friendly.

We do not see Maureen’s first session with Kipper (so says the director’s commentary,) so what you see when we first meet Kipper really cuts to the chase. It starts off right away with touch therapy. (We do not see any questions of consent discussed; hopefully surrogate & patient have an understanding of consensual vs. non consensual touching & respecting other people’s boundaries in a non-therapeutic setting.)

The second patient is 45-year old John, a newly divorced teacher after 20 years of marriage. John’s primary complaints are feelings of sexual inadequacy (exacerbated by mean comments made by his sex partners,) erectile dysfunction & premature ejaculation – although as the film goes on we learn that his problems likely go deeper than that.

John may be overestimating the importance of sex & sexual performance, to the detriment of every other area in his life. Going into the patient/surrogate relationship, he automatically assumed that he would fall in love with Maureen, and she with him (Entitlement much?) While he thought poor sexual performance was the primary reason for his divorce, his ex-wife appears on film to state that no, that wasn’t one of her real concerns.

It seems that nobody likes John. His ex-wife doesn’t like him and calls him a “Slob.” In the commentary the director says he engaged in pathological hoarding at home, and even Maureen calls him a “Cheapskate.” Maureen is somewhat open about her discomfort with John – when he says things that make her uneasy, she says so, framed in the larger context of therapeutic benefit. Yet he has two happy daughters at home – who nonetheless chide him for seeking out younger partners instead of women his own age.

The director filmed some of Kipper & John’s individual therapies. Both clients spend time nude with Maureen in front of mirrors, talking about their bodies. Both clients undergo touch therapy; Kipper’s looks more like sensual massage & sensate focus to me, while John’s consists of Maureen training him how to avoid premature ejaculation by masturbating him (out of frame.)
This is probably the most explicit and uncomfortable scene in the whole movie.
But, this was also back in the day before Viagra, so it’s not like John could have just popped a pill and problem solved.

Maureen also lets both patients explore her body and genitals sexually, trying to show them some techniques (with mixed results.) What’s really odd to me here is that, Maureen spends a lot of time talking about her vagina, but no time talking about her clitoris. Why is that? If you are trying to teach pleasurable technique on a female bodied person, shouldn’t you at least speak the word, “Clitoris?” Or “G-spot?” Or something like that?
On the other hand, I must also acknowledge the wide variety of what gives women pleasure. Perhaps Maureen enjoyed vaginal stimulation more than clitoral?

No intercourse was caught on film, and, if I’m understanding the director’s commentary correctly, there wasn’t any with either of these clients anyway.

One of the most revealing scenes does not involve patient and client at all. Kirby brought Maureen, her brother and father together for the climax of the film. Maureen and her brother confront their father about what Maureen’s career is (The quote at the beginning of this entry is taken from that scene,) and about how witnessing thier father’s abuse impacted their lives. Maureen and her brother both witnessed (if not experienced) physical abuse by their father. He reacts to their confrontation with a blank stare. I don’t think he was ready to admit that what he did was wrong and how long-lasting the effects of witnessing this abuse was. Maureen candidly admits that part of her motivation in becoming a surrogate, was to seek out what love is supposed to be like. For Maureen, surrogacy is a learning experience too.

The film leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but I suppose that is the nature of the work. After completing any therapy, I’m sure some patients stay in contact while others lose touch. In this case, Kipper & John eventually lost touch. We learn at the end of the film that two years on, Kipper has had some dates, John is in a relationship and Maureen has a boyfriend. After that we don’t know what happened to John or Kipper. They may still be out there, posting on FaceBook or eating a snack even as we speak. The director’s commentary reveals a little more about Maureen, as he stayed in contact with her.

Other questions unanswered though, include the practical application of surrogacy for – pretty much any other case. For what kinds of dysfunction would this be most appropriate? How have Viagra and other medications, the mainstreaming of sex toys, the internet, internet pornography, and laws impacted business? How would a surrogate address female sexual dysfunction, including sexual pain? What steps do surrogates take to minimize the spread of sexually transmitted infections? How does this compare to mainstream sex therapy? How would you find a therapist who is prepared to refer you to a surrogate, or do you seek one out without a referral? What makes a good surrogate? Do surrogates face the same dangers as sex workers? If you have a sex partner, how do you communicate a desire to seek out a surrogate? Is it like starting an open relationship? Is this therapy covered by insurance?
I’m sure there’s more questions even I haven’t thought of.

I think a lot of the therapies Maureen used could have been executed within a mainstream sex therapy setting, without a surrogate. Kipper may have been able to benefit from getting a professional massage at a spa before letting Maureen (or any other partner) give him one. That could have been a homework assignment to address social anxiety around new people, anxiousness about being touched, and relaxation. Professional massage with a licensed therapist isn’t the same as sensual or sexual massage like Maureen was engaged in, and therefore may have been easier to start with. Likewise, if Maureen had had access to the internet, she may have been able to direct John to helpful websites to help address his social skills and premature ejaculation. And self-reflection exercises – like standing in front of the mirror and talking about how you feel about your appearance – that can be done at home alone, with paper & pencil.

As for the movie itself, it’s definitely one of the more… unique movies I’ve seen, even for a documentary. It would be worth watching if you have an interest in sexuality, sexual dysfunction (especially male sexual dysfunction… strong emphasis on male sexual dysfunction,) or possibly sex work.
For everybody else, it’s definitely catering to a niche market. If you have a nosy family, you might even have to hide the DVD from prying eyes. And, because of the sexual content, it may be triggering to those with a history of sexual abuse.

One final note: I would not consider this to be porn. If you rent this expecting it to be porn, you’re probably going to be disappointed. There’s sexually charged scenes, but … it’s… rarely sexy. The final line in the director’s commentary sums it up best: if you’re looking for porn, this is more like “Emotional porn.”

So if you’re looking for a good comedy, thriller, romance, or anything else, look elsewhere.
Basically, only watch it if it sounds remotely interesting. All others, save your time & money.

Interesting posts, weekend of 9/27

09/27/2009 at 6:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, I had nothing of value to contribute this week. Been unusually sleepy for some reason.

Not to worry though. I’ve been writing some posts up, I just wasn’t satisfied with their quality yet. Wound up starting 3 new things at 1 time and couldn’t finish any. They’re getting there.

So in the mean time, let’s review posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

Hofstra University Rape Case Recantation And Anti-Feminists – Marcella looks at where priorities lie when rape accusations are made and when they are withdrawn.

Pursuit of (Gender) Happiness Part One: Looking at the Numbers – There was a Maureen Dowd article published by the NY Times about how supposedly feminism is bad for women because it negatively impacts the # of women reporting happiness. Figleaf (Via Echidne of the Snakes) reports the numbers and what else they could possibly mean.

Vintage Sexism: 1943 Guide to Hiring Women – Career advice among upper management circa WWII.

‘Concern’ for birth rates a cover for racist twaddle– I swear to god if I get one more e-mail forward about how falling birth rates in the US & Europe are bad because the birth rates are high in other countries, I swear to god…

Pink AND Magical! – Gender differences among toys marketed for boys or girls. I’ve been noticing this a lot just walking down the toy stores at Target & other retailers…

Sickie-Poo – Living as the spouse of someone with a chronic illness.

[Greta Christina] “I Don’t Want to Want What I Want” – a different perspective on “Examining your desires.” Why do you think one desire or another is bad? Is that how you really feel or is that peer pressure?

The Politics of Peeing: Test-driving a Go-Girl – A review of a portable stand-up urinary device for women.

Health Insurance, Unemployment and Bankruptcy – This is horrifying but unfortunately I’ve seen it happen to a local family – a major childhood illness brought one family to bankruptcy. And they had insurance.

Is No Sex Still Sex Positive? – Well I should certainly hope the answer to that is “Yes,” you can be abstinent & still be positive about sex.

Not-so-evil internets: making kids better writers – Well that’s encouraging, I just hope it stays that way what with Twitter and all.

There’s defintely more…

Interesting posts, weekend of 9/19

09/19/2009 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Dear internet, I’m glad it’s the weekend.

Posts I found interesting over the last few days. Share links if’n you got’em.

I’d like to start off this week with pelvic health-related news.

(Title unknown) – Please help Quinn & people just like her keep access to their pain medications.

new boyfriend – Servicing the Chassis has discovered a style of pants which does not aggrivate her pelvic pain. I am going to go to The Gap at the next available opportunity & test these pants out. You write that letter, then!

Sex Therapist or Urologist: Which One, When? – okay actually this one sounds more like it’s about penises instead of vaginas & vulvas, buuut, in principle good advice. Every once in awhile there actually is something physical going on with sexual health. And maybe a major problem maybe *shouldn’t* be attributed to, one partner needs to take out the garbage or it’s all in your head or big pharma is trying to invent something to make money off of, stay far away from the doctor’s office. Maybe sometimes it’s real. And, if that’s the case, “There’s no point in engaging in ‘talk therapy’ if the problem is your health.” I should not feel so grateful to see someone actually say this.
Possibly related – When Did Sex Become a Medical Problem?
Um, quite possibly about 2,000 years ago? Or in the 1800s when vestibulitis was described? Or when I started feeling some majorly wrong vulvovaginal symptoms that could not be attributed to a low sex drive? (That’s incidental for me.) It’s not that new. Seriously why is this so hard to understand? I left a comment one this entry to that effect. Why is there no magic blue, pink, orange, whatever the hell color, pill for vulvodynia?

We’re *THIS* Many! – VaginaPagina on LiveJournal turned 8 years old. And 27,000+ members.

And then we have the news which is not necessarily related to pelvic pain.

The Handjob Controversey Continues… – The Evil Slut Clique put up a response to my response to their post about handjobs. I know you wouldn’t think a handjob is anything to get all uppity about right? I’m thinking about their response & hopefully they’re thinking about mine.

My outfit does not consent on my behalf – VaginaDentata started off thinking about the horribly sexist “Booth Babes” at the most recent E3 video game conference, and wound up thinking about BDSM. And really *thought* about it.

Monday Media Watch: Oh NYT, You’ve Done It Again – C. L. Minou looks at how New York Times writer Peggy Orenstein wrote an article that made it sound like the whole Caster Semenya debacle be all about herself. And also she made some priviliaged statements while she was doing that.

This is what an activist looks like – Chally talks about the different forms activism can take, including blogging & writing. Possibly related, New feature: How to organise a demonstration – just in case you do want to go that route, useful tips.

Why I Hate Filling Out Forms (repost) – Queen Emily wrote this piece mostly with cissexual, cisgendered people in mind, so if you are non-trans, it’s worth reading. For Queen Emily, it has been hard & dangerous to seek medical care and travel in a world for which sex & gender are scrutinized & checked.

“How Can Feminist Mums Avoid Being Humourless Childhood-Ruiners?” – it’s really not that hard of a question to answer, and Laurdhel & commentsr answer it succintly.

Domestic violence as a “preexisting condition” – this is a real and completely horrible thing.
Unfortunately related, Credit crunch exploited by abusive partners.
Somewhat related since it’s about health care & coverage, M&M – an illustration of what happens when money (or lack thereof) gets in the way of proper care for patients. It’s grim.

New political cartoon: Bitch If You Do, Broke If You Don’t – I love political cartoons :3 The only thing i have to say to to this one is, “WORD.”

Sunday Comics – I’m also fond of webcomics, including the *NSFW* sexualized ones… to the point where I’m seriously considering paying for a subscription to one adult comic site. I know they have some problems but I just, I like comics. I often forgive the animations & drawings. Is it bad that I already knew about all these before Violet Blue posted about them? I don’t think it’s bad. Violet Blue throws some love out there for Oglaf & Doctor Voluptua, which are high up there on my own list.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed To Work! – ALL TRUE

Where does the word misogyny come from? – it’s actually a very old word.

Securing your WordPress blogs – Technical information for those who use WordPress to host their blogs.

Can I live, Gerson?: In defense of cohabitating – yeah I’m getting pretty tired of the whole “Cohabiting is destroying the moral fabric of the US nation” all the time.

BOBBY!!! – a vingette about neighbors. That’s all; no deeper message.

Actual Headline – Melisssa picks apart the claim that racism has lost all meaning. It hasn’t.

Men, Women, and Cold, Dead Fish: Limits of Brain-Scan Technology for “Proving” Gender Differences – this is awesome since evolutinary psychologists sometimes use fMRI devices to prove their baised claims.

Women who make false rape accusations *don’t* make it harder on real victims. – There is a news article making the rounds about a woman who recanted a rape allegation. SarahMC at Harpyness talks about what the real problems are in rape culture.

I’m sure there’s more…

A symptom of sexual immaturity?

09/17/2009 at 7:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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One of my goals as I roam down the long, lonely winding road of female sexual dysfunction is to broaden my sexual horizons. Perhaps in so doing, I will no longer find myself on a road at all but in the middle of a more level playing field, with beautiful views to boot. In the mean time, I’ve exposed myself to new ideas about sex & sexuality as I go down this path. I have become more open minded than I was at the beginning. I recognize counter-productive advice and turn away from it even as I take comfort in good advice – it’s okay to have different kinds of sex besides intercourse; it’s okay to fantasize and explore safely; and it’s okay to make what would be considered “Foreplay” by most, into a main sexual act, so long as it pleases all parties involved. And, if you ask me, it’s okay to seek medical intervention when things are just so completely out of control that it impacts your quality of life. I know how that is.

One of the main themes put forth by Klein & Robbins in Let Me Count the Ways (the book has some problems but I get what the authors are trying to do,) is that, a lot of sexual anxiety is caused by culture’s (US-centric here, as that is where the book was published,) strong emphasis on intercourse as the end-all, beat-all sex to have. I’ve seen this theme of breaking away from an intercourse-centric view repeated elsewhere, including Anne Sprinkle’s Guide to Spectacular Sex. It is freeing to know that no, you don’t have to meet that arbitrary sexual standard. You don’t have to live in a box or a series of boxes. You can make your own sexuality up as you go along.

It’s a good theory. But in practice, it’s not always that easy…

In real life, over and over again, I come face to face with a depressing reminder – In spite of my best efforts, I am still “Doin’ it wrong” when it comes to sex.

This is not something my partner has ever said to me. This is not something that someone has said to my face in person (yet.) It is the message I receive from the media when it addresses you, plural, for not being able to perform intercourse frequently. Or, for those rare occasions when all the stars & planets are in perfect alignment & I can pull it off, it is still unacceptable to perform poorly. Do a bad enough job of sex, and word could leak out to all your friends or a late-night talk show. “Did you hear the one about…”

Most of the time, I am able to disregard the message of sexual inadequacy. For one thing, I know it not to be true – intercourse may be a rare treat for me, but there are lots of other sexual activities my partner and I are fine with. For another, if I believe that message seriously, I risk falling into the trap of sexual avoidance.

As described in The Vulvodynia Survival Guide, the sexual avoidance trap is what happens when repeated exposure to sexual activity – usually intercourse for vulvodynia patients – continues to be physically painful. Eventually the patient associates sex with unwanted pain. The patient’s libido can drop in response, and if you’re in a relationship, it can start to suffer. That pain-free partner probably doesn’t want to see the patient in unwanted pain & suffering either, but the taboos on having frank discussions about sex can lead to a lot of communication problems. Not all relationships will survive this (probably) unexpected upheaval.
Of course, if you’re actually living with chronic vulvar pain, you probably didn’t need me to explain that trap to you. You may have already stumbled upon it.

This trap is made even wider due to living in a culture that places such a strong emphasis on heterosexual intercourse as the one and only true “Sex.” It is as Dr. Glazer explains in The Vulvodynia Survival Guide

All other forms of non-penetrative sexual activity are relegated to the realm of foreplay, which by definition refers to what people do to get ready for intercourse. With this common line of thinking, afflicted couples avoid “starting what they can’t finish,” as it were. This is a huge mistake (130).

Armed with this knowledge, I’m usually able to ignore negative or counter-productive messages about sex. What I do doesn’t have to be foreplay. Most of the time, I remain confident & eager to engage in sexual activity (at least, so long as my libido hasn’t crashed. And if it has crashed, so far it’s usually due to an infection or a major life event that demands my full attention anyway.)

But sometimes, the message gets through to me.

It’s harder to ignore when it comes from a trusted source.

This time, it didn’t come from Sex & the City or any other HBO television show. It didn’t come from a Jay Leno quip. It didn’t come from my partner as an insult. I didn’t read it in a magazine.
No, this time, the message that I’m still doing sex wrong comes from Evil Slutopia, a feminist/sex-positive/slut blog written by the Evil Slut Clique (ESC.)

Now, I was really enjoying Evil Slutopia; among other things the writers address the failings of Cosmopolitan magazine much like Holly of The Pervocracy does monthly. They talk about how, surprisingly, Family Circle magazine didn’t fuck up re: abstinence pledges. They wrote a scathing analysis of “Modest” fashion.
This is all right up my alley. I like this… these are good posts.

Then the authors took on a non-intercourse sexual activity and what is this I don’t even —

The post in question is described elsewhere as “Hilariously informative.”
I don’t see what’s so funny about it. I read it. I looked at it from a few different angles.
I must have a broken sense of humor on top of broken sexuality, for I fail to see the humor.
Or maybe I’m just too immature to get the joke. You’ll see where I’m going with this shortly.

At first, it doesn’t sound so bad – The Handjob Makes a Comeback. That doesn’t sound so bad, now does it? Innocuous enough. Maybe I’ll like this article too. A safer sex act that’s pain-free and always on my menu, but which has been the butt of jokes, is actually coming back into style? A sex act that is derided, becoming more acceptable & mainstream.
Yes, that is exactly what I’m looking for… acceptance. Less pressure to have sex the way other people tell me to, and so, deal with less anxiety & sexual insecurity.

Except that that’s not really what the post is about at all.

Upon closer inspection, it is clear that the authors feel that hand jobs deserve to remain the butt of jokes & that only immature teenagers engage in them for their own sake:

We mentioned that we didn’t believe anyone over the age of 13 actually still gave handjobs. We have long been convinced that the hand job was a dying art form, relegated to junior high school parties.

Imagine the authors’ surprise when commenters informed them that this non-intercourse, non-oral sex sexual activity isn’t as uncommon as they first thought. Intrigued, the ESC looked into available resources about handjobs, including a book dedicated to the topic, aptly called The Handjob Handbook. The ESC is quick to point out that the description for the book itself includes a line describing handjobs as the,

“lowly stepsister to the far more glamorous blowjob”.

However the ESC is not so quick to point out the very next line in the online description which says,

The authors of The Handjob Handbook think that’s unfair.

I have no doubt that the first bit about the “Lowly sister” line refers to society’s disdain for handjobs & masturbation in general, rather than the book author’s own views. The ESC even makes a statement to that effect,

In fact, men don’t even really need a partner for a handjob… A man can easily… um… take matters into his own hands.

You don’t need to have a partner for masturbation, no. So having partnered handjobs, or exploring male masturbation toys, is redundant and pointless. Male masturbation toys are even worse, what a joke.

The ESC looked for what other people are saying about giving handjobs – when they can actually find people who freely admit it. The clique does not take the time to consider that, maybe views like the ones they harbor, make it more embarrassing to come out openly about expressing sexuality in that way. The authors stumbled across one blogger who wants to share her relationship advice and starts out a post by saying:

You should give your man a handjob whenever he wants one.

The ESC was taken aback by this. This is relationship advice? I myself am reluctant to issue any “You should do x” proclamations on this blog, since I know that “Shoulds” never apply to everyone. The blogger, Advicebootcamp, also talks about having “maintenance sex,” whereas for me if sex ever becomes something I do as a maintenance chore, it will probably be something that, I may not want to do at all for awhile.

But this same exact blogger who gave the handjob advice also openly discloses that,

I suffer from a low sex drive (unless in the throes of the first 3 weeks syndrome). I use the word “suffer” quite deliberately.

I wish I had a high sex drive. I wish I’d see my guy, get wet immediately, drop to the floor and spread my legs every time I saw him. It would make him really happy, and I’d feel a lot less frigid.

Unfortunately, for whatever chemical-soup list of reasons, I can go without sex for scary periods of time – and he can’t. My guy actually has a pretty high sex drive and, like most men I’ve encountered or heard of, requires sex and sexual intimacy to feel loved, successful, and happy.

I cannot help but pick up on her use of the word “Frigid” in serious context – that Freudian, antiquated, grossly offensive code word for “Sexually dysfunctional,” and it sounds to me that her low sex drive bothers her, at least a little. AdviceBootcamp does not openly identify as having FSD and it is not my place to say that she does.  But I recognize that in this case, she has found a way of coping with something that otherwise bothers her.

The ESC tries to understand where Advicebootcamp is coming from…

Aha! It makes a lot more sense to lend your man a hand “whenever he wants”, if you’re refusing sex to him on a regular basis. (We’re not saying anyone should ever have to have sex or substitute a handjob for sex out of guilt, and we’re not making light of any issues or circumstances that might cause low sex drives or sexual incompatibility in a relationship. We’re just saying that her suggestions seemed pretty sexist and ridiculous without that background info but now make a little more sense.)

If it makes more sense with that background information, then why bring it up at all? And why handle it so clumsily?

Unfortunately, that same paragraph presents a whole new slew of problems.

So now, I’m “Refusing sex to him [my boyfriend] on a regular basis,” by not having, the kind of sex that the ESC tells me is “more grownup kinds of sex.” Whatever that even means.
Is the childishness of the handjob anything at all like Sigmund Freud’s assertion that only sexually immature women have clitoral orgasms, and that real, mature women can have vaginal orgasms from penetration alone?

I notice that oral sex is mentioned over & over as a one-up from handjobs. I’m often willing to enjoy this kind of sex, too, yes.
But there are times when I don’t want oral sex. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I have a headache & moving my head around is going to aggravate it too much. Maybe we already had oral sex and are in the mood for something different.
Maybe I don’t need to justify my reasons at all. Maybe there is no reason.

But perhaps any reason I could give will run too close to one of the ESC’s friends, who,

once explained to us that she found handjobs useful for those times when she was with a guy that shewouldn’t want to give a blowjob to”.

To which the ESC responds with,

Either you want to be involved with the penis or you don’t… If he’s too gross for you to go down on, then why are you hooking up with him at all?

“Either you want to be involved with the penis or you don’t…”
“Don’t start what you can’t finish.”

Maybe my reluctance to give of myself wholly to my partner’s penis, doesn’t actually have much to do with him at all. Maybe he’s not “Gross.” Maybe it’s all me… does that mean I should abstain from so much as starting any sexual activity? Would that be leading him on?

But the ESC  just keeps on going like that. It just gets worse.

We’re sure that the occasional handjob would help to keep peace in a sexless relationship… but for a couple with a more “normal” sex life, it just seems a little boring and inadequate to choose the HJ over all the other awesome things you can do.

Ouch. There’s that word again, “Normal.” Thus implying that, my sex life is not normal.
And normal, is good.
And, even though I would consider handjobs to be a type of sex, if you’re not meeting the ESC’s definition of “Sex,” then your relationship is sexless.
This quote really throws people without “Normal” sex lives under the bus, too. Not normal? No one even wants to think about you!

But alas, a handjob, in and of itself, is inadequate as sex play. From a comment left by one of the authors:

We did say that we’ve used the handjob as part of foreplay. It is merely the handjob for the sake of handjob that mystifies us.

Foreplay. As in, something leading to “Real” sex, rather than something to enjoy by itself. Something that must inevitably lead to more.

In so describing the  handjob as lowly & immature, you succeed only in denying me and my partner sex that we both enjoy.

And so I must be the only one to stand up and say…
No more of this! No more, pedestalizing certain sex acts to the detriment of others!
And while we’re at it, no more, questioning, devaluing, tossing other sex acts into the gutter! No more telling me what one act or another means, instead of letting me construct my own meaning! No more!
No more “Oh that’s just foreplay, intercourse is the main course” bullshit.
You think we could maybe stop doing that? This is not the only example I have seen. It’s not always handjobs, and I could probably use these same arguments with regard to almost any other non-intercourse sexual activity. It is just the most recent.

What I’m reading between the lines is another iteration that my sex life is weird, I’m weird, my partner and I are weird for choosing to keep handjobs in the sexual activity rotation – among other things. This is not a rational decision made by two thoughtful, creative, consenting adults.

And I come away from the post feeling more sexually insecure and uncertain than I did when I went in.

Interesting posts, weekend of 9/13

09/13/2009 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Dear internet, what a week again.

A short update on my UTI – I’m still not sure if the Levaquin is working or not and I’ve been drinking quarts of water & cranberry juice for the last three days in an effort to flush this out of my system. Drinking quarts of fluids, to the point where I began to feel somewhat lightheaded last night. Oops. That could be the antibiotic causing the lightheadedness, or the water, or it could be just me – but I am going to eat some more solid food today & cut back on the fluids a bit, and hope that the urinary burning doesn’t return.

Anyway, on with the weekly blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last few days. Share links if’n you got’em.

Cosmocking: October ’09! – I still love these posts by Holly. Picking apart bad advice given by Cosmopolitan magazine.

The financial sector, where women are paid less, get 80% lower bonuses and face entrenched sexist culture – This is about the massive pay gap in the financial industry in the UK, but it could certainly apply to the US as well as other countries. It’s pretty bad – the gaps are huge and start out early on, women employees still face blatant sex discrimination & harassment and long, inflexible hours.

The No-Sex Class: Reporting vs. Instructing in News About Sexuality – There is going to be a book on female sexuality published in the near future, but so far no one has gotten ahold of a copy. So in the mean time, Figleaf looks at a table of reasons men & women give for having sex – and it’s suprisingly symmetrical.

What If I’d Taken All The Bad Money Advice I’ve Been Given By Dudes? – First I should say that I just love the idea of “Feminist finance.” Second, the article itself – f.f. reminisces about bad money advice given to her by so-called “Experts.” She did the math herself, rejected their advice and came out ahead for it.
Also possibly related – The Obstacles to Work – This is a Feministe post about how hard it was to find work after grad school. Those long, inflexible work hours I mentioned from the F-Word blog… illustrated here. If you’re a working mom or caregiver, that kind of work schedule can make it too hard to find adequate, affordable care for someone who is dependent on you.

The Myth of Mind Blowing Orgasms – Betty Dodson & colleagues look at the bad advice given by Sex Advice Books. These books tempt readers with promises of incredible sex lives, but do they deliver? Well, no, not really. Sometimes the advice is good, and I have a few favorite sex books that I’d recommend. But I’m skeptical of these ones promising things like ‘Mind blowing orgasms,’ too. Dodson touches upon aging and low desire as a “Problem” or not (But she does not look at dysparunia in this post… No one ever does…) On a possibly related note, Sex on the Web – Carlin”s own Blog Link Roundup. Possibly related to the blog link roundup, Naomi Wolf to write the history of the vagina. Ehhhhh… uhhh… well at least the comments are somewhat amusing.
Also possibly related and, possibly ironic for me to be linking to it in the context of Dodson’s criticism of sex advice books, [Greta Christina] Getting in the Mood – Gretra Christina at the Blowfish Blog actually acknowledges how hard it can be to go from not having sex, to, having sex. And offers some suggestions on smoothing the transition.

Has Feminist Blogging Gone Mainstream? – Description of a NetRoots panel discussion about feminist blogging. According to the panel, it’s becoming more mainstream (and indeed it is quite useful & informative for me to read news from a feminist perspective.)

Rep. Joe Wilson yells “You Lie” at the President during address to Congress – Who is this clown? Oh… I see…
Definitely related: “What’s the matter with South Carolina?” – Daisy Deadhead answers the question.

What I Wish People Knew About Cancer – a frank & in-depth discussion of what it’s really like to live with cancer long-term. It ain’t all pink ribbons & hope.

Let Me Exploitain You! – (Trigger warning) Melissa picks apart a horrifying article by a sports writer who tried to use Jaycee Dugard’s abduction to talk about – sports articles. And how awful it must have been to, not have access to sports articles while held in captivity for 18 years. Wtf?

Alabama Supremes uphold criminalization of sex toy sales; store owner will continue to sell them – It’s legal to have sex toys in private in the state of Alabama, but it is not legal to sell them. This is… pretty horrifying, if you ask me, since, I pretty much need dildoes. Multiple ones. In various shapes & sizes. Like, dude, my vulvovaginal specialist gave me a set of glass dilators after surgery. I am one of those people who really does need it for “Bona Fide Medical Purposes,” so… like why should a store or doctor be allowed to sell dildoes to me but not anybody else? You really gona go after a store or doctor for that?

Intercourse – a book review of the infamous Dworkin book, from an asexual’s perspective.

Caster Semenya: Part 2b of the Women Athletes series – This is a detailed article outlining an update on South African athlete Caster Semenya and sex testing in general in the Olympics. It’s a really bleak situation; it looks like the media may have gotten ahold of the tests before Semenya herself, and in the wake of the controversey, she has withdrawn from sports. Definitely related – Caster Semenya Update. The thing is, those reports about Semenya – they aren’t even confirmed yet. Unfortunately, these unconfirmed reports nonetheless have forced Semenya to withdraw from a race. Is that what’s going to happen now? Pushed out?

I’m sure there’s more links & more I could say…

Another infection? When will this end?

09/09/2009 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I haven’t been healthy since June.

I have developed a urinary tract infection. This follows the vaginal, and other, infections I was fighting all summer. I don’t know if they are all related. Those vaginal infections were due to some species of Candida yeast and some species of Gardenella bacteria. And they hit me at the same time in a double-whammy. Both broke through my defenses and both survived the first round of treatment.

It is not clear whether the urinary tract infection is related to the vaginal infections. Strangely, my vagina & bladder feel fine… I always thought that UTIs were supposed to be intensely painful, with urinary frequency & urgency. When my relatives & friends have dealt with UTIs, they were completely taken out of commission for days. Yet I’ve been walking around, going to work, dealing with a sense of malaise…

Mine’s not acting the way I expect it to. No fever, no urinary urgency, just some post-urinary burning that is eased by diluting my urine with lots of water & cranberry juice. This is all isolated to my urethra…

…And, unfortunately, my kidney & groin lymph nodes.

Oh how lovely. A UTI that doesn’t follow the usual course of symptoms, thus making it even harder to identify. How typical of my body, to throw something at me that bends or breaks rules. And it’s in the kidney too, threatening my long-term health.

And let me tell you, it was a real trick trying to identify that lymph node pain. Since I already have pelvic floor issues to begin with, and I had done my pelvic floor stretching exercises the night before figuring it out, I had a hard time differentiating between normal post-exercise pain vs. unusual pain.
But I hadn’t stretched THAT much… and I had done nothing else to exhaust my legs that much during the long weekend. Wh-what is this? Where is this pain where my leg meets the rest of my body coming from? There shouldn’t be that much there… did I do something wrong?

Then I remembered that there are lymph nodes in my groin.

Oh, right. That. …Okay so it definitely IS an infection I’m dealing with here, and not some vulvodynia-related oddity or structural abnormality out of the blue. It was, and remains, my greatest fear, that this UTI is a hint of what interestial cystitis must be like… what if this is the beginning of IC for me…?
The nodes are reacting. They are trying to fight for me.  It must be an infection.
I do not believe the lymph nodes are swollen. They just hurt. It is a tired-pain. It drags on me.

When I noticed symptoms, I ran to the doctor, thank the powers that be that I actually have insurance and could even afford to run back & forth to the doctors several times this summer. If not for my insurance I would have not been able to afford medical treatment for some or all of these infections. I have been checking the insurance statements as they come in. If not for insurance, I would have racked up several thousand dollars of medical debt within 3 months. ($1,000+ of that was for a blood sample as part of a general wellness physical exam. I hadn’t had a physical since January 2007.) But with insurance, I “Just” had to pay, a few hundred dollars total over the course of the summer instead.

Ow. My budget.
Ow, my vag.
Ow, my urethra.
Vag & urethra win this round…

Of course it doesn’t help my wallet that several of the treatments I’ve taken this summer, for the vaginal and now urinary tract infections, failed. Thus forcing me to return to the doctors for different, stronger meds. I’m still responsible for co-pays but my god I’d be in deep if not for insurance. Would I have had to wait until the UTI developed into kidney failure then be rushed to the emergency room at the hospital…?

While I am grateful for the insurance blanket, and for having an employer who will let me leave work to run to the doctor’s office, I am not fully satisfied with my experience with doctors this summer.

How typical of my experience with ordinary run-of-the-mill doctors. They lost my urine sample.

How do you lose a urine sample… the sample that would have answered all questions – what am I facing here and how do I fight it?
So we don’t even know exactly which strain of bacteria we’re dealing with here. If it even is bacteria. Something strong enough to survive a week of Bactrim, anyway. What  resists Bactrim? Did I do something wrong in the past to breed resistant bacteria? HOW WOULD I KNOW?

So I had to go back to the doctor when it didn’t respond to Bactrim.

Unfortunately by then I had already started the Bactrim antibiotic, and was on day 6 of a 7-day course. I left a urine sample at the follow up visit, but since I was already on medication, it is doubtful that the culture will grow anything. If what I have is some kind of weird strain of bacteria, or a resistant strain, will enough show up in my urine to grow in a lab culture, even if I was on antibiotics?

So we are fighting in the dark.

Levaquin, for one week, once per day, 500mg.
I can’t tell if it’s working.
If Levaquin fails, what next?

Where are these infections even coming from?

How is it that I am developing infections that can be exacerbated by sexual activity, when I myself am not sexually active with a partner?

I’m not even having sex.
Even under a broad definition. My libido has been crashy for much of the summer, because of the infections. Certainly no partnered activity is taking place, as my partner is out of state. I’ve been keeping my dilator kit as clean as possible, even using a condom over them after the vaginal infections cleared.

And with this infection dragging me down, my pelvic floor is out of commission again. No sense trying to dilate if doing so risks pushing more germs up into me.

Looks like I’ll be taking a few steps back this fall.

Happy Birthday, Feminists with FSD

09/07/2009 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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One year ago this blog went live.

Technically it’s older than 1 year, since I registered it with WordPress a few months before making the very first post. I had been planning to do something like this for awhile, but never had a chance to start cranking out content until September 2008. Allow me bit of self reflection now on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

I’m just as surprised as you are that I was able to keep on going for a solid year. A year in internet time is a pretty long time, although I maintain that internet time is slowly but surely starting to match up with real time as the web (if not its userbase) matures.

I’m still here. And I am still working with the vulvodynia & vaginismus. (Hooray, I spent another whole year dealing with FSD in the pain category. Except by “Hooray” I really mean, “Oh god I can’t believe I added another year onto the vagina saga. Why do these things take so long?”) And I still have quite a lot of work to do both on myself and on this blog…

The blog is still ~tiny, even by internet niche market standards. Tiny readership, tiny. Not a lot of incoming links from other blogs, although when they happen, they are much appreciated thank you.

Who out there on this big ol’ internet, is actually interested in this sort of thing? Feminism AND sexual dysfunction? With a stronger focus on physiological sexual difficulties and medical treatments? Not exactly popular or easy topics to talk about. Controversial to talk about too, since everyone seems to have their own idea for what sex “Should” be like. So many rules…
Controversial also because of different views of how to treat sexual dysfunction, if it even needs to be treated at all. I’m more open to acknowledging biological problems as possible culprits, and so it follows that I’m also more open to medical intervention than sexologists like Leonore Tiefer.

The blog title is Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction, but I suppose I could just as well have called it A Feminist with FSD. Singular, not plural.
I haven’t had any guest posters yet (Any one want to volunteer?) I know there’s a way to allow guest posting in WordPress but since I haven’t tried it yet, I don’t know how it works. I haven’t actively recruited guest posters either though, so I need to be more open to doing that.
The thing with actively recruiting posters – how do I do that without being invasive? Sexuality is such a private thing for so many people. There’s so much judgment & scrutiny about sexual activity & morals. If you fail to meet arbitrary performance standards in bed, or if you speak up openly about sex, or disobey unspoken cultural norms, you can get harassed.
I don’t want to approach someone out of nowhere and be like “Hay buddy wana write about your deeply personal sexual experience on a public blog?” Is it acceptable to recruit if another writer opens up on their own blog first?
Consider this your invitation.

There’s several sexuality and/or feminist books I read that I haven’t posted reviews for. I’d like to get around to those reviews, just in case they’d be helpful for others.
And then there’s still other books & materials I haven’t read and want to post reviews for when I get around to reading them. But there are so many… I keep accruing these books and the pile just grows.
I’ve considered writing reviews for things besides books too – lubricants, dilator kits, accessories, etc. Tangible things mostly… But I was thinking there may be a way to work in massage too, as a way to relax & treat the muscle tension.

On a related note, I really need to update my References page. It’s outdated since I read more books & I think I can actually delete some references that I don’t include direct quotes or paraphrases from.

Meanwhile, bloggers keep on blogging around me, and sometimes I feel compelled to stop whatever post I was working on, and start a new one as a response. I actually have several topics in the work-in-process queue that have never seen the light of day. Unless I accidentally hit “Publish” before I was ready & then had to call it back quickly. Oops.

Then there are topics that neither bloggers nor books cover comprehensively. News articles come out or posts are made on websites about some such topic I want to touch but haven’t gotten around to yet. Or personal events happen in my daily life that are worth mentioning here.

But if I haven’t talked about those controversial news topics yet, it’s because it will leave me incredibly vulnerable, and I’ll definitely have a minority opinion.
I want to talk more in detail about the vestibulectomy surgery. I want to talk about what it’s like to me, post-vulvovaginal-surgery, when I see other bloggers, feminists & doctors talking about genital surgeries (usually about how problematic they are.) The short preview is: I feel like I’m collateral damage, here! You know I’m standing right here, right?
I want to talk about why I don’t want sex therapy.
I want to talk about relationship advice columns & columnists – I still haven’t found one I consistently like.
I even have “Fluff” posts in process – I haven’t finished writing easy slow news week posts.

I think I spend too much time working on drafts. I have too many draft posts in the queue right now. I go back and touch up each of them from time to time, but I’m still not fully satisfied with them. And I don’t like to publish posts before I feel ready.
Perhaps I should just say “Fuckitall” and post things before they’re perfect. They’ll never be perfect anyway.

Sometimes my posts are only about feminism OR sexual dysfunction, but not both at the same time. I try to aim for covering both when I can, of course, but sometimes I can’t figure out how to work one or the other in. I’m hoping that these exclusively feminist or exclusively sexual dysfunction posts are still acceptable though, since, maybe if you’re a feminist reader you don’t usually read about sexual dysfunction (or the only things you know about sexual dysfunction comes from one other source, so you never really thought about it any other way.) On the other hand, if you have sexual dysfunction, maybe you never thought about feminism & how it might teach you a thing or two and maybe make life ~not easier, per se, but, it could provide a deeper understanding of why things are the way they are and possible ways to change them.
Or maybe you’re like me – both self-identifying as a feminist, and dealing with some kind of sexual dysfunction, and in stumbling across these one-or-the-other posts, you know you’re not alone.

But by the time I do finish working on whatever post I was making starting weeks or months ago, is the topic even still relevant? Is it outdated already? Do I post it regardless, even if it’s in response to an old post, book or study from like a year ago?

Sometimes instead of making a whole separate post, I’ll comment on other people’s work, but this is rare compared to others. You don’t see me pop up in comment sections too often, although I read several popular feminist blogs (definitely not all of them.)
I feel that I rarely anything of value to contribute in comments. Nothing original anyway – most of the time I think a lot of my comments would simply be “I agree” or something like that. Once in awhile I’ll have a different perspective or I’ll have done research on a topic so I can provide a personal or historical example of whatever’s being discussed. In which case I’ll say something.

I try to keep blogging on a fairly predictable schedule, which is fairly reasonable for me to maintain. I aim for one original content post per week + the weekly blog link roundup. I haven’t apologized for not being able to keep up with the schedule, since, I don’t think I’m important enough for anyone to actually care if I disappear.
Keep in mind, in my secret identity, I work full time in a completely unrelated field, so my only opportunity to think, act, read & write is when I have time off. And I have other interests outside of feminism & sexuality, so I like to do other things during my downtime too.

I’ve been considering whether or not to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo/NaNoBloMo… but I think if I tried to write 1 post per day, there’d be a LOT of filler. What would I have to talk about that doesn’t require too much time & effort to produce? “Today my vagina feels like X.” “Today at work I peed 10 times.” “I bought a new video game today and it sucks.” “I am stresed out at work and as a result my pelvic floor is tense today and it is being very uncooperative.” “I met a puppy today and it was cute.”
I am not confident that I can stay on target & maintain a level of analysis in my content that I am comfortable with, under such strict time presures. If I had to make something each day, I may as well just use Twitter.

I’d like to take this moment to review some popular search engine terms that point readers here:

20/20 vulvodynia – (And lots of variations on this term)  Speaks for itself, you’re probably looking for this post, analyzing an episode of the program 20/20′s vague coverage of female sexual pain.
hair stuck in clitoris – (Again, lots of variations on this term.) I knew I wasn’t the only one this happens to! No one ever talks about that! Yeah sorry to hear about that. That’ll happen sometimes… ouch! Sorry, still haven’t got any advice on how to prevent or treat that.
vulvodynia homeopathy (And acupuncture or alternative treatments) – Has a mixed track record for me. It’s up to you if you want to try it. I guess I’m one of a relatively few who wrote in great detail about this topic.
watch teeth – I’ll save you a few hours – it’s a bad movie m’k. I should probably like it because it should be the ultimate revenge flick. Nope. Don’t like it. Still no good!
my first sexed teacher (And variations on this theme about sex ed teachers, some rather disturbing) – I have a feeling  you’re probably looking for porn… Whoops. Haven’t got any here. What a disappointment it must be to find the polar opposite here.

I commented to my boyfriend about about that last search engine term. His reponse:


Yeah it’s kind of like that.

So there we are then. Some self reflection on this blog’s one-year anniversary.
Incidentally, this blog was “Born” under the sign of Virgo.
There’s a joke there somewhere… There’s got to be some kind of humor in that. Born under the sign of the virgin… There’s something ironic there… can’t quite put my finger on it…

Right now my plan is to “Stay the course! Four more years!”

Stay tuned…

Interesting posts, weekend of 9/6

09/06/2009 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Labor day weekend. Weekend means it’s that time again – weekly blog roundup. Post links if you got ’em.

My Healthcare Has Already Been Rationed – For all the concern about a single-payer program potentially cutting off care to US citizens, let’s not forget that in practice, insurance already limits what kind of care you can expect to get.

I Want To Play, Too – It’s a post about women who play video games – or who would, if the industry wasn’t, still, after well over 20 years, full of problems – marketing, development, sexism built into the story… it just keeps happening.

Feminism 101: “Sexism is a Matter of Opinion” – This is a repost of a 101 concept for those less familiar with feminism and sexism. Melissa compares patriarchy to the Matrix; I’ve always thought of patriarchy more like the Nazca Desert Lines of Peru. You can’t see it when you’re on the ground, and so part of the pattern. Feminism gives me the wings I need to fly over it & see the big picture below. On a related note, Feminism 101: On Anger.

Feminist Fathering: “Cool to the Max” – I wish my dad was a feminist.

The McCafferys want others to use their story about vaccination – I would have one more aunt right now if she had not died of whooping cough as an infant.

Research On Perception Of Consent – Marcella looks at and beyond a study that examined how hierarchical world-views influenced how individuals perceive consent.

Open thread: Sex education. Why are we so afraid? – This is a post that looks at sex education outside of the US, and invites comments, with mixed results.  Also from Cycads, Book cover of the day: The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III. What? I think I might have one of those. Sometimes I think it is possessed by an angry spirit. Except not really.

FOXSexpert: 8 Sex Myths About Women – Surprisingly not terrible.

American Women Athletes Part Two: How intersex athletes are punished by the gender testing system – This is a comprehensive post with some quotes that need to be considered, as well as links to further resources.

Quick Hit: HealthBase Cures All Ills – I think this is of particular note because I notice that entries on vulvodynia & related female pelvic pain conditions are  starting to proliferate on health sites. Often those health sites just aggregate existing data from around the internet & compile it in one place. But when you do that you can wind up with results like these. It’s also a really funny post; make sure you read the comments on this one.

Your Thyroid, Your (Sex) Life, and Weight Loss – also worth considering for those dealing with sexual health problems.

I’m sure there’s more…

Book review: Sex Toys 101

09/03/2009 at 8:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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By now it should be understood that I have an interest in sexuality books, and am always looking to pick up good and/or unique ones when I can. One such book of interest is Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide, by Rachel Venning & Claire Cavanah – founders of Babeland. I first read it about a year ago and got sidetracked before I could post an in-depth review, so let’s not delay any further.

The first thing I have to say about this book is that, it’s a very ~*~pretty~*~ book. It’s filled with rich, full-color photography of sex toys & sex toy accessories. If it were any other topic, (or if you’re a very open person,) it would fit right in on your coffee table in plain sight. Some of the text is written in colored boxes away from the rest of the body of work, to emphasize one point or another. Even if you don’t read the words, you might still like the pictures.

The second thing I have to say about Sex Toys 101 is that, it covers a lot of ground in a relatively small package – it weighs in under 200 pages, so a voracious reader could potentially burn through Sex Toys 101 in a day or two.

The topics follow in some sense of order, although you could start on any chapter & skip the parts you already know. It begins with an overview of sexual anatomy, followed by sex on the brain – ways to communicate & explore your sexuality. Then there are several chapters dedicated to describing different types of sex toys, lubricants, and how to choose & how to use them. These toys are broadly categorized as vibrators, dildoes, and anal toys, but in practice there’s a lot of specialization and overlap. Although Sex Toys 101 is written with primarily a feminine audience in mind, it does include one chapter about toys aimed at men. There are two chapters that talk about BDSM – these chapters contained a lot of information that was “New to me.” The last chapter covers safe sex, although technically with all the safety tips scattered throughout the text, the rest of the book is really about safer sex anyway.

For the most part, I felt welcome to indulge in Sex Toys 101, unlike with other sex books. Often when I’m browsing for new books about sex, I feel left out. “Oh these books aren’t for me. The authors wouldn’t even know what to do with me.” This was especially a concern to me going in, since I knew that the book was going to include quite a bit of discussion on toys designed for vaginal insertion, and that’s not always an option for me.

But Babeland, with its long history in business, has encountered all kinds of clients, and tries especially hard to make sure women feel welcome in its stores. So I figured even if I couldn’t participate in one activity or another, the book would probably have something else to offer.

And indeed, that’s what happened – yes there is some discussion on toys designed for vaginal penetration, and the only graduated dilator kit that makes an appearance is the 3-tier Silk line. But some of these phalluses can do double-duty as vibrators and/or for use in strap-on sex, and/or, I imagine, as another transitional step in the dilating process if you’re not *quite* there yet. And luckily since the scope of the book isn’t limited to discussion of phallic objects, there were other topics and toys that I definitely felt more comfortable with.

That said, one area of discussion did leave me feeling left behind, and that area is the G-spot. I felt the book put a very strong emphasis on finding & stimulating the G-spot in females. According to Sex Toys 101, the G-spot is the in front of the urethral sponge, a “a ring of erectile tissue that surrounds the urethra. It contains glands that when aroused release fluid into the urethra.” (20) Stimulating this area when aroused can be pleasurable, and may lead to female ejaculation. The book includes pictures & descriptions of many sex toys designed to stimulate this spot.

But how would you even find the G-spot if inserting objects vaginally hurts? How do you reach the G-spot if you have vaginismus and/or vulvodynia?

Or what if you find it and it just doesn’t do anything for you?

I’m at a point where I’m often (but not always; never always,) able to handle internal stimulation comfortably, and I’m certain that I’ve found my own G-spot… but I’m not at a point where I enjoy that part of my body. So far when I stimulate the G-spot, it just feels weird & uncomfortable, not pleasurable.

Am I doin’ it wrong, again?

I take some comfort knowing that I am not the only one who is skeptical of the hoopla over the G-spot. It’s as Betty says – “Naturally we felt like we were missing out on something special.” Indeed

There’s a couple of other potentially questionable areas. When discussing “A short history of vibrators,” the authors do not question whether the women who were treated for “hysteria” were actually comfortable having a strange person bring them to orgasm. Sex Toys 101 contains a lot of swear words (“Asshole,” “Fucking,” etc.) which I personally feel put off by; your mileage may vary. And the book ends abruptly – there’s no epilogue, no testaments from satisfied clients, no list of additional resources. The story just stops at the end of the chapter on safer sex.
It does have an index though, thankfully.

Additionally, the book was published in 2003, so some of the information has become outdated – and new toys have been produced since then. As an example, at the time of publication the only two non-latex, non-lambskin condom options available in the US were the Durex Avanti condoms and the Reality female condom (both polyurethane.) But Durex is phasing out the polyurethane Avanti in favor of polyisoprene Bare (Source: I e-mailed Durex!) and there are other polyisoprene condoms now available, such as Lifestyles Skyn. I can’t say I approve of Durex phasing out the Avantis; I like them. Guess I’ll have to stock up…

One thing to keep in mind, the “101” in the title is right – This book has a broad scope and touches upon many different topics, without delving too far into detail about any of them. For those who are just starting to embark on the road to sexuality – this is a good place to start. You’ll find lots of interesting ideas to think about, and you may find some paths worth exploring alone or with a parnter.
But if you’re active on sexuality messages boards online, the book may not have much new information for you. Or, if you have a strong interest in a one or more specific aspects of sexuality, such as BDSM or anal sex, you might be better off buying another book dedicated to that one topic.
On the other hand, if you’re a sex enthusiast, you might like reading through the book and just adding it to the collection. You may take some comfort seeing some of your favorite toy-buddies in vibrant full color photography. The back  cover describes Sex Toys 101 as being “The first fully illustrated, comprehensive guide to the world of sex toys,” and while it’s not alone anymore, it set the bar pretty high for this new generation of sexuality books.

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