An example of an article about FSD

10/20/2009 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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There’s an article about female sexual dysfunction posted at The Nation. Found via Our Bodies Our Blog. [Edit 10/21/09 – I left two comments at OBOS, hopefully will be taken seriously; the second is a little more fleshed out with an explanation of some other problems I have when the media talks about FSD like that.]

I read it. Both of the linked articles.

I don’t get it.

Unfortunately reading the OBOS entry and the article in question has rendered me completely incoherent with rage so I will not be able to do an in-depth competent analysis at this moment in time.

Why am I enraged? I’ll have to use a short list of points list since that’s all I can handle right now. I don’t have the patience to go into great detail tonight. Let’s just briefly touch upon what’s running through my mind right now:

Well, for one thing, I see that dyspareunia, sexual pain, is not mentioned in either article at all. The Nation article places a very strong focus on orgasm in particular, to the exclusion of female pelvic pain. So sexual pain is ignored and erased. Where did it go? Why is it not there? Instead, we have a focus on questions such as,

How else to explain that a reality as old as god–that the vast majority of women do not climax simply through intercourse–has re-emerged as dysfunction? Or that another grab bag of indicators of dissatisfaction and low desire are renamed as symptoms of hypoactive sexual desire disorder, for which a female Viagra or a testosterone patch or cream or nasal spray must be developed?

But I’m not fully comfortable with minimizing a woman’s desire for higher libido and/or climax through intercourse either. I’d like to explore intercourse in general, whether or not my partner or I climax, so I don’t think it would be fair of me to to say that exploring orgasm through intercourse is unimportant to someone who feels it is. I think it’s great to expand the definition of sex and to improve sexual satisfaction & explore other types of sex besides just intercourse. But I want to leave it on the table too. Keep it as one of many options.

One of the first lines over at The Nation article says, “Sex has been missing from the healthcare debate.”

I wrote an article about Healthcare and Vulvodynia last week.
But then, this blog is micro-small, so it’s not likely that many people noticed.

The lines go on,

“A shame, because sexual health, and disputes over its meaning, reveals most nakedly the problem at the core of a medical system that requires profit, huge profit, hence sickness, or people who can come to believe they are sick or deformed or lacking and therefore in need of a pill, a procedure or device. Case in point: female sexual dysfunction (FSD), said to afflict great numbers of women–43 percent according to some, 70 percent according to others, an “epidemic” in the heterosexual bedroom according to Oprah. Ka-ching!”

I’m still not fully understanding the claim that FSD is profitable. If that’s the case, why is it so difficult for me, someone who falls into the pain category, to find a doctor who is equipped to handle me? My experience is that often, my first line of defense doctors get tired of seeing me after I don’t respond to conventional treatments. I think right now my local gyno probably never wants to see me again.

The article goes on to talk about hysteria. For the most part I don’t find this section of the article to be inherently problematic. Except for the part about “pelvic congestion,” being in quotes, since it is mentioned as a real thing in Heal Pelvic Pain (p. 16)

The article goes on,

How to explain that middle-aged women go under the knife for vaginal rejuvenation, basically pussy tightening, and that young women go under the knife for laser labiaplasty, basically genital mutilation, saying they only want to feel pretty, normal, and raise their chances of orgasm through intercourse?

I had vulvovaginal surgery. It was to address the vulvar vestibulitis pain, and not for cosmetic reasons or to tighten things up (Actually, tightness is a real problem for me – I have too much tension in the pelvic floor.) But there was a minor cosmetic change, an incidental one. So, does that count as FGM too? I asked a women’s health class professor, who is also a practicing nurse, if it counted as FGM before scheduling the surgery. And she said “No.” Does surgery for medial reasons also count as condemnable? Or does it get a free pass for some reason?

Things continue forward.

How to explain that a doctor like Stuart Meloy of North Carolina, a throwback to charlatans who tried to shock hysterics into health with electric charges, has even one patient to test his Orgasmatron, an electrode threaded up a woman’s spinal cord and controlled by a hand-held button that the patient can push (assuming the procedure doesn’t paralyze her) to make her clit throb with excitement during intercourse and reach the grail of mutually assured orgasm?

I said to myself when I read those lines, “Huh, that kind of sounds like the TENS therapy I had tonight at my chiropractic & acupuncture appointment.” So I looked into it, and, sure enough, the diabolical device referred to here was originally designed to treat chronic pain. Reading that ABC article though, I’m not sure where the Nation author is getting the sufficiently scandalous softcore erotica quality lines of “Make her clit throb with excitement during intercourse” from, since the ABC article doesn’t actually say that part. I wonder if that line is in the actual study in question. Is that really how it works?

It just keeps on going.

A terrific new documentary, Orgasm Inc., by Liz Canner, addresses those questions in terms of corporate medicine and the creation of need via pseudofeminist incitements to full sexual mastery by Dr. Laura Berman and other shills for the drug industry.

I can’t speak for Dr. Berman, but I suppose now would be a good time to state for the record that I personally have never once received any compensation for writing this blog. If I get something later, I’ll disclose that if/when the time comes.
I did not think that sexual health & FSD was a “Pseudofeminist” concern. Is that to say that I, too, am a false feminist then, for talking openly about it?

And it doesn’t stop.

Female sexual dysfunction, it turns out, was wholly created by drug companies hoping to make even bigger money off women than they have off men with the comparatively smaller market for erectile dysfunction drugs.

Emphasis mine.
I would disagree with that statement. After all, we have evidence that vulvodynia, which falls into the often-overlooked pain category of FSD, existed as far back as about 2,000 years ago. There’s no way for me to know this 100% for certain, but, I have a feeling that I probably would have developed vulvodynia & vaginismus even if Big Pharma did not exist. There’s a lot of variables going on in the history of my pelvis, but a few warning signs stand out to me now. Hindsight still isn’t 20/20 though…
But looking at what’s been written about vulvodynia for years, and seeing women disclose online that they’ve had it for decades, I feel confident saying that Vulvodynia existed long before Viagra. I’m still waiting on the magic pink pill that will take away my sexual pain & get me in the mood. Right now my main pill options are tricyclic antidepressants and anti-seizure medication, to be used off label. There’s also conventional painkillers like Vicodin. I don’t take those kinds of pills though. Actually scratch that, I have an expired prescription for Valium that I’ve taken maybe 10 or 20 of in the last year when my general anxiety got too strong to manage.

Finally, Rachel at Our Bodies Our Blog put the words female sexual dysfunction in quotes, which is another thing I don’t understand. Is that to mean that FSD is not real? I identify as having FSD. It’s very real to me. I do not identify as being distressed by my levels of libido, arousal or orgasm. For me, those three features are a function of the pain, and sexual pain is my main concern. When I’m having a bad pain day, the triad of libido, arousal and orgsam decrease. Sometimes they can hurt too.

So yeah, I’m not in the best mood and mental state right now. That’s all I have to offer right now, as I wasn’t even planning to do anymore vagina blogging at all this week.


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  1. Oh hell yes. I’ve seen this kind of bullshit on feminist blogs a few times before and it makes me rage so hard I can’t even think straight. (And maybe it’s the result of what I guess I could call my transhumanist leanings, but honestly, I don’t actually see a problem with someone wanting a higher sex drive, or wanting to be able to take a pill for a higher sex drive, or to climax through intercourse more often? Seriously, I just don’t buy the idea that anyone who wants something out of sex that they’re not currently getting is necessarily brainwashed by unrealistic media images of it– maybe they’re just being perfectly straightforward with themselves about their own desires, and if someone can develop technology that can help them with that, I don’t see any problem with it.)

    And when it’s done allegedly in the name of being “body-positive,” it makes me headdesk even harder. I’d think that “body-positive” should include, you know, supporting people’s health, and fucking helping people in pain to not be in pain, rather than skirting the issue and denying that the pain exists. I think that if it were pointed out to some of these people that they’re basically insisting that people in pain are not in pain, and/or denying those people’s existence, they’d agree that it was ridiculous and offensive, but they can’t actually seem to see that that’s what they’re doing when they’re doing it.

    (And “make her clit throb with excitement”? Holy crap, writer, are you sure this stuff that you’re supposedly condemning isn’t secretly turning you on? Because yeah, it sure sounds like she’s writing some horrible porn there.)

    Seriously though, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to disabilities causing actual sexual dysfunction, spewing this kind of crap is as offensive as claiming that transgender people are sadly brainwashed by the gender binary and need to be given therapy and convinced to be happy with their bodies as they are, the poor things, rather than allowing them to omg mutilate their bodies, it’s so horrible. (So every post-transition trans person I know who’s really happy with themselves must be lying to themselves 24/7, I guess.)

    I think that, at the root, flinging that shit at both trans people and disabled people, allegedly in the name of feminism, often comes out of people who think the way to work with their own privilege is through checking off tickyboxes, basically– go down the list of “well-known” forms of privilege (race, class, gender, sexual orientation), figure out which ones you have and don’t have, and then consider yourself enlightened from there, or something. Except it just doesn’t work that way, because privilege can have tons and tons of subtle manifestations, some of them concerning issues that the vast majority of people aren’t even aware are issues– you have to keep asking yourself all the time “what do I take for granted that this other person/group can’t, and how can that distort my perspective of them and their needs?”, rather than just going down a bunch of tickyboxes of major well-known differences between various groups.

    That, and when acknowledging the issues of a certain group is something that a significant number of people in a more privileged group apparently find threatening, the group in question tends to get kicked to the side. Some self-proclaimed feminists don’t care much for trans people because they have some precious theory of gender that the existence of trans people violates in some way, so they’d rather try to convince them that they’re “sadly misguided” than acknowledge that abuse of their own privilege can put real people’s lives and health at stake. And I think a lot of “sex-positive” feminists don’t want to acknowledge FSD as real and legitimate because if they did, they would have to admit that it could happen to them, and oh noes, would that mean they wouldn’t be sex-positive and liberated any more? If someone is predicating their definition of being a sexually liberated woman on their ability to have intercourse all the time, then yeah I can see how it’d be pretty damn intimidating to admit the possibility that it might happen to them, too. But rather than acknowledge that this is a pretty stupid and limited definition of sexual liberation, they just run screaming to cover it up with crap about “oh those poor poor misguided people, there’s nothing wrong with them at all, it’s these evil doctors that convinced them they have a condition that doesn’t exist!” Yeah, try having all that nonstop sexually liberating intercourse with FSD and then come back and tell with a straight face that it’s all those evil doctors conspiring to invent conditions for money.

    (Here’s a hint, guys: if you encouraged doctors to treat women with FSD as real and legitimate, and encouraged more research for treatment and cure, maybe the idea that it’s something that might someday happen to you too would become less OMG UNSPEAKABLY SCARY MUST GO INTO SCREAMING DENIAL THAT IT EVEN EXISTS RIGHT THIS SECOND? Yeah, just a thought…)

    So ugh, I really wish I knew how to get the message through to people that this is not a bunch of frivolous hysterical women who’ve been convinced by trashy late night Showtime movies that all women should have sex constantly and orgasm during intercourse at the exact second their partner does, this is a disability issue. Considering how many people basically fail to get disability issues in the first place even when they don’t involve anything sexual, yeah. I really admire you for speaking up, though. I might even try saying something myself one of these days next time an “article” like that comes up, if I can manage to type coherently through my rage.

    (BTW, your blog is awesome.)

  2. […] health, Sexuality, TMI, vaginismus, vulvar vestibulitis, vulvodynia I want to go back and revisit a post from a little over a week ago, my response to an article at The Nation about female sexual […]

  3. […] I saw several problems with the article in question, and have written about some of these problems not once but twice. And when it comes to talking about FSD, I’m still not out of steam […]

  4. […] lot to learn yet. And I’ve only been able to start thinking about it thanks to running into a handful of feminists on the internet who suggested that’s a valid point of view, or who were at least […]

  5. […] a disability is a very a new idea to me. For the record, this isn’t my original idea – first I heard it from Flora, then Ms. Sexability. (Flora also contributed to this post, so keep reading.) […]

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