2009 A Year in Retrospect

12/31/2009 at 7:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Dear internet, as you already know, we are approaching the start of a new decade. Gather ’round the warm glow of your computer or mobile device to reminisce about times past in an effort to temporarily forget about the chill weather & politically tumultuous atmosphere globally.

I hope you will forgive me, if, around the holidays and certain days important to me personally, I engage in some self-indulgence. (Although I suppose I there’s’ a pretty good chance that I already do that more frequently than I think I do… :/)

I have no resolutions for 2010. I have no personal resolutions, and I have no blogging resolutions. No thanks, I’m good, stay the course, four more years. So instead of taking an anticipatory look ahead, I’d like to take a look back to review some of the posts I’m most proud of here this year at Feminists With Female Sexual Dysfunction – as well as review some other interesting notes.

(Besides, at this time of year, everyone’s doin’ it! I’m trendy! Look at me, I’m doin’ something retrospective for end of year/decade!)

When I started blogging in 2008, at first I felt unsure of myself & what direction to go in. I had an idea of what I wanted to do – talk about feminism and sexual dysfunction, especially their intersection, as someone who actually identifies as feminist and who actually lives with FSD under the pain category. But I was afraid, too. Jitters. Vulnerability. Controversy. Secrecy. I figured that’s probably normal for new blogs. I may have started in 2008, but 2009 is the year I feel like I really started to find my footing & step out into the big wide world of feminist blogging.

I’m not the boss of FSD. I am not THE authority on the topic. I’m just some person with different experiences & perspectives. I don’t think any single person should have that authority to arbitrarily declare what does and doesn’t merit treatment for a sexual health problem, and what that treatment should be… except, perhaps, for the individual patient, for themselves. What I say is not the only answer, it’s just *an* answer, *a* response. Lowercase. It’s not THE answer. But maybe I can somehow reach out and help other people with sexual health problems, or change someone’s mind when they think of FSD. A challenger appears…

This year I feel like I finally started to find my Voice. On the internet, I found some particularly motivating posts and articles and started analyzing them, in my own way. I’ve also read some good books and watched some movies and similarly analyzed them.

Recently I’ve been joined by a few others who have contributed their thoughts as guests and I’ve had a few commenters here as well. It took over a year but I think we’re finally starting to put the “S” in Feminists With FSD. The guest posts stand out because these are real people talking, who are not me, not stats, not so-called experts. The three posts that have been written with the help of others are Guest Post – My Experiences with Vulvodynia and Talking about FSD: Listening to Patients (I call this a semi-guest post because I wrote some of it, but the real content was provided by someone else,) and Guest Post – Cat Introduces Herself. I really appreciate these guest posts. Maybe we’re not so alone after all. These are the kinds of voices I don’t usually get to hear. And so to those who have contributed to Feminists With FSD in comments and in guest posts, I would like to say – Thank You.

An interesting note about comments – I get spam, but, I think probably no more frequently than anyone else. Which is surprisingly given that it’s a blog about sexual dysfunction… I thought I’d be up to my ears in spam for Viagra and Cialis, but that… doesn’t actually happen often.
Instead, quite a bit of the spam I get is for yeast infection treatments! I think I get just as much spam for yeast infection remedies as I do spam for erectile dysfunction drugs. Sometimes the spam is links to porn sites, other times it’s just completely random & allover the place. Those all go in the trash.

My references page is all out of date now and it’s so far gone I just don’t know how I’m ever going to catch up to everything I’ve been citing. The citations happen within posts using links where possible though so hopefully that’s good enough for the blogosphere… still I’d like to go back and update the references page sooner or later…

Now I’d like to do a retrospective… Top 10 Posts I wrote in 2009. Top 10 for one reason or another. Maybe they get a lot of traffic, maybe they have sentimental value, maybe they go against the grain when it comes to discussions of FSD.

10. Any Blog Link Roundup – using the most recent one for an example. I do this because I know not all of my readers identify as feminist and so do not keep up with feminist perspectives of news, and would like to keep these readers in the loop, while possibly teaching a thing or two. Likewise, not all of my readers identify as having FSD so sometimes the blog links educate about that. I suppose most of my content achieves that though. Hopefully achives that goal.

9.  What is “Natural sexuality” anyway? – Okay I don’t know what that means so no one combine those two words in front of me. Especially since it turns out there’s quite a lot of different ways to define or explore what natural sexuality is, so who exactly am I supposed to belive is THE authority on it?

8. Movie review: Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate – I like this review because I think I went deep with it. Deeper than reviews of this movie written by other people.

7. Lies my sex ed teacher taught me – Catharsis, a look back on counter-productive lessons in Sex Education. Hint: It wasn’t a problem because of old timey myths like, it made me want to have sex or because it corrupts students innocent minds. It was harmful because it omitted so much information. It was so incomplete.

6. My experience with alternative treatments for vulvodynia – This is a popular post; a lot of people find it searching for “Vulvodynia homeopathy,” “Vulvodynia alternative meds,” etc in search terms. A lot of people must be interested in alternative treatments for vulvar pain!

5. Healthcare and Vulvodynia – Timely in light of US health care reform, this is what it was really like for me, financially, when I sought treatment for vulvodynia. It can get expensive!

4. The post 20/20 vulvodynia discussion – One of the most popular posts on Feminists with FSD; traffic spiked immediately following the 20/20 episode in question. No wonder – if you google 20/20 vulvodynia, as of 12/31/09, this site is second only to the NVA’s official page!

3. The ugly things people say about FSD – [potentially triggering] A popular post in terms of traffic. I collected several of the most egregious comments I saw posted on other websites & posts discussing female sexual dysfunction. I still believe that attitudes which claim FSD isn’t real, isn’t valid, contribute to these kinds of statements. Unfortunately the view that FSD is a fake “Disease” invented solely by Big Pharma is a surprisngly popular & enduring view, so I know I’m going to run into this kind of thing again eventually.

2. An example of an article about FSD – not as fleshed out as its successor, Talking about FSD: How not to, and Part 2 but for some reason this original reaction got quite a bit of traffic.

1. Vaginismus – A Response to “Open Sesame” – I consider this to be the post where I really found my Voice. This is what got pointed me in same direction I have followed for the last several months. It’s also the post that started to turn a few heads, including FigLeaf’s. Unfortunately I had to close comments because this is the one exception to the relative lack of spam… This vaginismus post was getting spam every few minutes every day so eventually I gave up trying to keep it clear, and I just closed comments. It’s not to stifle conversation, really. It just kept getting swarmed. I think the spammer was either a bot or else a really lonely person with nothing better to do.

And that’s where I’ve been for 2009, in relation to blogging. Where I’ll end up going in 2010, I don’t know…

But as I’ve said before, there is still much work to be done.

Happy New Year, folks. Hope it’s safe & exactly what you need.

Guest Post – Cat introduces herself

12/30/2009 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Hi!  My name (for the purposes of this blog) is Cat, and I’m a guest poster.

I’m hoping to write at least three posts – one about me, my vaginismus, my sexual history, etc.; one about my conservative religious upbringing and how that affected me; one about how I feel about depictions of sex, violence and sexualised violence in popular culture.

So, this first post is all about me.

I have vaginismus.  I discovered this almost two years ago, when I first went to bed with a new boyfriend.  He has an unusually large penis (as far as I would know with my limited experience, see below), and we had trouble finding a condom large enough to fit him.  I think by the time we had found a suitable condom brand and actually got ready to try to have sex, I was freaked out and nervous.  And there was pain, and a bit of blood, and both he and I were weirded out and disturbed by the whole thing.

I wasn’t a virgin then, but I only lost my virginity (in terms of penetrative sex) at 27, due to the aforementioned conservative Christian upbringing.  Before then I had had boyfriends but had not had full penetrative sex with them.  With one I went as far as mutual oral sex, but I never relaxed enough to have an orgasm.  Anyway, at 26 I lost my faith, and at 27 I arranged myself a one-weekend stand with a friend, in order to lose my virginity and start exploring the possibility of a sex life.  By that point I was really fed up of being a virgin, and wanted to know about what this thing was that everyone goes on about so much.

(I still feel as if I’m missing out, and it’s something I worry about a lot.)

I had almost no idea what to do, since the only depictions of sex I had seen were in tastefully lit and faded out mainstream films.  I didn’t know where to put my legs, or how to tilt my hips.  Luckily my friend was much more experienced than me, and 10 years older, and he helped me a lot.

The first night, when we tried actual penetration, I had an episode of vaginismus, but didn’t at the time know the name of it or what it was.  My friend didn’t make it a big deal, and when we tried again the following night I was a lot more relaxed, and we were successful in having penetrative sex.  He’s still the only person I managed that with.

I didn’t get an immediate chance for further experimentation, due to not meeting a suitable man, and anyway my life was significantly derailed at that point by other factors.

[I got a cancer diagnosis, and was effectively out of the dating pool for three or four years.]

The cancer was a big knock to my confidence, with weight gain and a visible scar.  My confidence had never been that high to begin with.  I’ve never been conventionally attractive, and I am tall and clever and combative and have high standards in possible partners.  All of these things narrow the pool of viable men.  I also had depressing and humiliating experiences with internet dating.

So anyway, about 5 years after losing my virginity, I lucked out and met my boyfriend.  He is also tall and clever and combative and has high standards, and we both feel lucky to have found each other.  However, his sexual experience is on a par with mine, and he isn’t in a position to be able to help me through the way my first sexual partner did.

We are still together, almost two years after the episode above, but we still haven’t had penetrative sex.  We do a lot of affectionate cuddling and hand holding, but not much else.

I don’t know what changed in between having successful intercourse with the first guy, and being unable to have it with my boyfriend.  The only other factor (other than cancer, or the passage of time) I can think of was an extremely traumatic pap smear, which left me in tears.

During those two years since my boyfriend and I got together a lot of other things have happened.  We went for a referral to a sexual specialist, and the first one was very good.  Then she retired, and the second one was much less sympathetic.  My guy was involved in a horribly stressful work situation, which ended up with him suffering significant depression and loss of libido, so he wasn’t really able to work on anything with me.  I had some progress with the dilators, but found the whole process difficult and upsetting and lonely, and I found it hard to do without moral support from my boyfriend.

The lack of sex in our relationship really bothered me, but it didn’t bother him so much since he was able to compartmentalise it and ignore it.  Meanwhile, his lack of libido left me feeling unattractive – again – and my attempts to get things moving left him feeling pressurised.

More recently, we have done a little experimentation together again, but no significant progress.


That’s all for today.  I am writing this partly to interact with other readers of this blog, and partly to get it all straight in my head, and try to deal with some of my own issues.  I’m hoping that writing about this, and potentially talking to you all in the comments, will help me move forwards.

Interesting posts, weekend of 12/26

12/26/2009 at 10:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, how has your December been? It’s a month with many holidays for several cultures & religions. Did you do anything for solstice? Will you make any New Year resolutions for 2010?

Quick heads up: I would like to publish some feel-good fluff posts in the next week or two. I know I still have plenty of work left to do, but since it’s year end I’d like to take a break & catch my breath. We shall return to our regularly scheduled vagina blogging shortly. (Actually if anyone has any guest posts that are ready to go, those can go up in the mean time.) Who knows, I may still be able to somehow relate the fluff back to feminism and/or female sexual dysfunction anyway. Or not. For example:

That new Avatar movie has so much marketing in the media, I can’t get away from it. I haven’t seen it yet and I don’t think I’m going to try to watch it in the theaters. I suppose I’m just adding to the hype by invoking its name, but for all the wrong reasons. It cost so much money to produce and all that marketing is going to add costs, I can’t imagine that it will ever cut a profit. It’s going to wind up like that CGI Final Fantasy: Spirits Within movie from the early 2000’s. Beautiful to look at, but it had a crummy plot, cost a bundle to produce, tons of marketing, nearly broke SquareSoft, brought about shakedowns in upper management… and was a financial sinkhole. It did not produce a profit. I guess Square was able to make up for it a few years later by using that technology to produce some Animatrix shorts & then the Advent Children movie, but it took years to get there.
Furthermore, who is Avatar’s target audience? Is it a kid’s movie? Because those blue guys look like Cutesey Cartoon Characters. Yet it’s got these very adult themes of war and colonialism. It’s getting a lot of hype for being a 3D film too but… I can’t see 3D effects in media, so all those 3D effects are moot to me. I don’t know why can’t see the 3D effects. I was born with some eye problems that required several surgeries on them as a youth, and I will always need corrective lenses, and I’m concerned that there may be some eye problems in the family. But at any rate, right now I can’t see 3D effects. Those magic eye puzzles just look like Jumbled Dots to me. Movies that really play up the 3D novelty all look like ordinary 2D films to me, just with really obnoxious in-your-face moments. Those obnoxious moments are designed to really play up the 3D effect, and the rest of the audience reacts to those moments, (“Woah it looks like that car is comin’ right for us!”) but it just looks annoying to me.
But enough about that.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. I hope that this week’s semi-guest post gave you some food for thought; I put the post together & guided the direction but I could not have done it without Uziela’s participation.
I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction. Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sexual health and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive. For this reason, Guest Posters requesting to remain anonymous will also be taken seriously.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Comments made by new e-mail addresses here are auto-screened before going live, so if you want to stay anon use an e-mail address that you haven’t used here before.

Now then, on with the weekly blog link roundup. I was too busy to make a round-up last week, so we’ve got some catching up to do. It’s gona be another big one. Posts I found interesting for one reason or another over the two last weeks. Share links if’n you got’em.

Starting off with vulvodynia-related news: The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation is disbanding. This is (was) a non-profit organization, accessible to doctors and patients, which produced educational materials related to sexual health. I recognize several of the names on its advisory board as doctors familiar with vulvar pain conditions. I’m disappointed to see that TWSHF is disbanding, because they actually take FSD seriously. As another example, TWSHF’s blog linked to an article which also took FSD seriously, Female Sexual Dysfunction: Barriers to Treatment; unfortunately you need to register with MedScape to view this article so that’s something to think about. TWSHF will be transferring its assets to the National Vulvodynia Association. In the mean time, their website will stay up until early 2010. Let’s all download everything off of their website, before it disappears for good.

Vulvodynia, along with several other new search terms, will be easier to look up in peer-reviewed journal articles using MeSH search terms.

Another interesting post went which tangentially mentions vulvodynia was also published at Dodson & Ross – How I Cured My IC and Vulvodynia. Now, this is interesting to me for several reasons. It’s at Dodson’s blog, which is a blog I’m not very fond of. I know I’m supposed to be grateful to her for liberating female masturbation or something like that, but … the more I read of her blog… the less I like to read her blog. Once in awhile there’s something I like but… not… all the time… Not even this time satisfies me. The title of this interesting post is somewhat misleading because the person who wrote in, it sounds like she isn’t actually cured yet. It sounds like she’s better, but not quite there yet, so why are we using the word “Cured?” Why not use the word “Treated?”
I’m seeing a doctor’s name dropped in the post and so I went ahead and googled this doctor… and most of what I’m seeing links me back to websites run by the same doctor or very devoted patients who have been treated for interstitial cystitis. So it’s clear to me that the doctor, who has a Ph.D. and alternative medicine practice rather than a medical degree, has helped some IC patients in the past. And yes, even I have some experience with alternative medicine. I do not currently have IC though so hopefully I will never have a need to navigate through IC doctors and promotions, because I’m so completely turned off by the language I’m seeing used to promote this doctor’s practice. It kind of reminds me of dubious claims I sometimes see made in reference to curing vulvodynia.

On a related note, I would like to take this opportunity to link to two older posts which I think are completely relevant to the above: Scam Busters and the admirable takedown, My Perspective On Claims Made By Endometriosis Foundation Of America, both from Chronic Healing.  In light of the fact that one patient-run website expliticly says, with regard to this doctor’s methods, “If you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say anything,” I would also like to take this opportunity to re-link to FWD’s criticism of the think positive movement.

Under the broader umbrella category of FSD, Holly of the Pervocracy briefly commented on an article about Restless Genital Syndrome that someone asked for her feedback on. I find this post noteworthy because her comment did not sensationalize or minimize the seriousness of this condition. It’s a really brief comment but it’s noteworthy for not being jerky. Which is kind of sad, really.

And then let’s move on to news which is not necessarily vulvodynia or FSD related, but is still interesting.

December is a holiday-heavy month, so here’s some seasonal posts to start the roundup. The Reason for the Season – more of a historical perspective, interesting to me because I recognize that deity name – because my boss brought it up at work! We were just talking about this! And Christmas is also about Sperm Magic – it sure is! Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!!! – reposting quotes about religion and women’s sexuality. Happy Festivus For The Rest Of Us – The video that started it all.
I feel like such a heathen now for posting all these links. You know what, that’s fine, I’m in good company.

December 17 was International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers so there were some related posts building up to that. Privacy for Sex Workers – About web browsing & using the internet with some privacy features. It’s a very useful post for everyone really, not just sex workers, but they are even more at risk than the average person. Arrest the Violence: Human Rights Violations Against Sex Workers in 11 Countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia – some of that violence comes not from clients but from police. This is a good one – a speech that Audacia Ray gave – Guest post: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers…My Thoughts
Possibly related: My 2009 Achievements in Review – Audacia Ray is busy!

Making the rounds on the feminist blogosphere recently was the outing of Copyblogger James Chartrand, who had been running the for-profit site Men with Pens. It turns out that James’ true identity is that of a cis woman who had taken on a masculine name and internet persona, in order to make financial ends meet. When she tried to find work under her true identity, she encountered a lot of barriers, yet when she took on a masculine internet persona, her work became much more respected – and profitable. (So much for living in a post-feminist world where women and men are equally valued in employment…) This situation generated quite a lot of coverage on the tubes. Here’s Figleaf’s Copyblogger Author Practicing What She Preaches about Compelling Post Titles: “Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants”, Frau Sally Benz’s Pens Without Men, What’s in a pen name? at Feministing, Feminist Science Fiction also talks about the Hugo Award, Echidne’s Putting On The Mask, SunGold’s Bending Gender Online for Fun, Profit, and Faux Feminism, Sady’s colorfully titled Sexist Beatdown: Liar Liar Balls on Fire Edition.

[All NSFW] – gender genetics and sexual orientation evolution – Violet Blue links to two articles, one about XY/XX genetics, and one about asexuality.
Violet Blue had a few other posts you may be interested in, excellent post: Ms. Naughty’s Porn For Women Retrospecive 2009 – here VB mainly focuses on one excerpt from a post she’s linking to (it’s worth clicking through to Ms. Naughty’s original post,) VB focuses on a passage about censorship. She also wrote sex toys that will change your life (click through to sfgate to get to the original article.) I would rank a pocket rocket style vibrator, dilators (and lubricant) and blogs up there pretty high.

[All NSFW] – My BREASTS! – The SexAbility blog [NSFW] has been getting more active within the last few weeks. It’s a blog dedicated to disability & sexuality, and this post talks about using hot wax, a BDSM activity, as a pain therapy. But what exactly IS SexAbility and who is the person behind it? Ms. SexAbility published a brief autobiography. And then this may be worth noting – Disability VS Chronic Illness and Self Identified Feminists Responses to their Sick Sisters – She includes people with sexual dysfunction in this group (if they so choose to identify with that group.) It’s okay to do that? You won’t be mad? In this post, she talks about what it’s like to live with a disability. You can try to imagine a time when you’ve gotten sick, except, if you’re a TAB (that means “Temporarily able bodied,” which recognizes that you may not always be but right now you are able-bodied, a term which itself has some charge & problems inherent in it,) you probably got better. Welp if you’ve got a chronic problem, it isn’t necessarily going to go away. And it’s really hard. And you run into people & shit that makes it worse.

Why “What People Think” Matters – a heartbreaking story of being diagnosed with a chronic health problem while serving in the military & what happened after. The comments illustrate the isolation after developing or being diagnosed with a chronic health problem is a widespread phenomenon.Also from FWD: The Perils of Social Media: How Insurance Companies Use Twitter, Facebook, and the Rest of the Internet to Deny Benefits – something enraging and invasive to keep in mind while using the internet.

Health reform opponents offer Hooters gift card – Yep. Nope. Welp. I suppose it’s somewhat moot since the Senate passed its version of the US health care reform bill, but wait there’s more. Chuck Norris: ObamaCare, The Virgin Mary and Slut Shaming, Wow That’s A Trifectar – that’s another big Yep. Nope. Welp.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 84 – [Trigger warning] a blog link roundup as it relates to sexual violence. Links contained may be triggering. Also possibly related and definitely [triggering,] School official calls alleged rape just “hormones gone wild”. Melissa’s on this one with Victim-Blaming a Go-Go [Trigger warning.] It really is victim blaming.

And Now I Am Your Women’s Studies Professor: The Tiger Beatdown Book List – Sady of Tiger Beatdown’s book recommendation list. Also related to books people recommend: Well, I Thought I Was Trendy… – Ily reads books by authors I don’t like, so that I don’t have to. No, I probably still have to read it eventually… god I really don’t want to read it… I’m going to buy my copy used on purpose so it doesn’t generate royalties.Well this is an older title than the New View book (and campaign) so maybe it won’t make my head explode too much. This one is pre-New View.

God finally calls 91-year-old Oral Roberts home – [Potential trigger warning] Oooh, now I remember who this guy was… he’s that guy who has an unaccredited college named after him & spent a lot of church money flying around the country, among other things. And he also said some typical yet still horrifying things about sex:

There is one place in the woman’s body and one place in the man’s body that creates multiplication. There’re not two, there’re not three, there’re not four places, there’re not ten places—there is one place, in the woman’s vagina and the man’s male organ. There’s only one place in the woman’s body where the male organ was designed to penetrate—the vagina!

The only way you ever become one flesh is when the male organ penetrates the woman’s vagina. The only place, the only organs that can come together in completeness is the male organ and the vagina of the woman and they become one—and if you interrupt that in any way, you become adulterous, or a fornicator, or a homosexual. And you introduce a foreign subject; you’ve adulterated. And if in your SEXUALITY you’re outside of marriage with it, and you do anything with marriage outside of the male organ penetrating the vagina, you’re outside creation.

I’m dying. I’m dyin’ over here. I still have pelvic floor dysfunction & some residual vulvodynia over here and reading shit like this kills me. Why are you trying to kill me. But of course, this speech is not just painful to me – he said, in that same speech, so much shit about non heterosexual sex and alternative kinds of sex besides PIV intercourse. He made sexist statements, statements that sounded like they steamrollered right over consent, and it’s just, he’s allover the place. He’s just allover the place right there. Wow.

Can I Get a Witnesss? – a surprisingly positive advertisement found in the most unlikely of places – a tabloid magazine.

Non-controversial Testosterone Research Story Still Surprises: Expectation May Produce Stronger Results Than the Hormone – It’s kind of like measuring the placebo effect, except you tell people to watch out for it. Maybe that’s not what it’s like at all. Anyway read the post.

Harpy Hall of Fame: Phillis Wheatley – it’s a historical vignette about a slave and poet, who I never learned about in school.

A Spark of Wisdom: Why do you expect one of us to be a woman in our gay male relationship? Sexist questions asked of openly gay couples. (They would still be sexist if asked of non gay couples.)

Casual Sex Officially Not End of Entire World, Scientists Find – Sady is SHOCKED to discover this amazingly controversial science fact!!!

Unfortunately, that last link is tempered by some bad news: New study: Microbicide gel doesn’t decrease risk of HIV – there had been some hope that this gel would do something but in a larger study it didn’t work out.

DivaCup: Never Be “On the Rag” Again – I love the way that Carlin markets the DivaCup by saying the same ol’ same ol’ about how menstruation is inherently dirty. By love, I mean hate. Heaven forbid we should get Aunt Flow on our fingers. Also, what, no alternative menstrual pad products for those who can not or do not want to use insertible menstrual products?

Things not to say to me – a continuing series – Delivers what it promises. In this case, living every day as though it were your last. Yeah listen some of us have bills to pay right up until the very last minute sooooo…

Rape and Racism: Why Tufts didn’t care I was Raped – [Trigger warning] – Explores intersectionality.

Warnings To Not Alienate Men – [Trigger warning] Unfortunately I have encountered a few men who have made the same exact threat. A few feminists made them mad online so they have threatened to do less to stop rape. I have seen this.

Discussion Thread: BDSM – [Possibly triggering] It was a discussion thread. Comments are closed now :/ I was a little disappointed, comments closed before I could participate.

Catholic Nurse Cites Her Conscience in Refusing to Help Gravely Ill Woman – A woman needed an urgent, late-term abortion in a hospital. It’s very unlikely that this was a flippant decision. SunGold brought up preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, which can be serious and possibly even fatal in rare but real cases, and it can take place that late into a pregnancy.

Sex Writing FAIL: Chatty Condoms, Dripping Oysters, and One Bullet-proof Pussy – wow that’s some shitty sex writing right there. Some of it is funny, most of it is shitty. Read it to get a taste of Sex Writing: How Not To.

Against the Lysistrata approach – Lysistrata being a play in which women withhold sex from men until they stop fighting a war. The idea of doing that is… it’s inherently upsetting to me. I have a couple of thoughts floating around in my head why. Like… when I read advice that says FSD is caused by an uncaring/uncooperative partner, and maybe if he’d (the assumption is heteronormative in a lot of these articles I read…) take out the trash, his female partner would have more energy for sex. Which I read more as bribing a partner to do chores that shoulda been done anyway, and the bribe is sex. Okay well what happens if the partner does all that and the FSD patient still doesn’t want sex? That’s what it reminds me of right now that I can get out of my head, but there’s more… But this post in particular is more about health care reform, and who gets rewarded with sex for supporting it. Buh…

Star Trek, Star Wars And The Corner: Abandon Sex All Ye Who Enter Here – (Okay maybe the title of this one isn’t ideal since it follows an anti-Lysistrata post but whatever,) Talks about Star Trek & Star Wars. Now, what’s interesting here, is that, that’s a new way of looking at Star Wars from what I’m used to seeing. Usually when I have to listen to people gush on about Star Wars (I can’t stand it,) it’s all about the Good Vs. Evil aspect, Han Shot First, Planets Do Not Work That Way, and Lando’s Betrayal… but this one goes,

Star Wars (or what became of it) ended up being a rather terrible story about a society run on genetic predeterminism.  The police force of the “good old days” were the secretive elite of a crypto-religious sect who fully accepted that at all times, two of their members would be trying to destroy civilization as they knew it.  Membership was based on an accident of genetic luck, and those who lacked the access and wherewithal to get screened at the proper time were out of luck, stuck at the whim and mercy of their telekinetic, mind-altering overlords.  Government was largely ineffectual, a dysfunctional democracy latched onto a decaying royal system.  The entire lesson of Star Wars is that this highly traditional, morally unyielding system fails, and it fails miserably, as the billions of people killed in the Sith insurrection would have testified, had they, well, lived.

No wonder it’s such a conservative series.

I love it. That’s so refreshing!

My Statistics Primer Revisited – As soon as I started reading these posts about stats, I started having flashbacks to my college days. Yes, I remember this… I’m starting to remember how to read the numbers again… But what I’m remembering most of all is my mustachioed stats professor in front of the class on the computer demonstrating how it all fit together and how to make the computer make meaningful charts & graphs. Mustache.

Does anyone EVER read this stuff? – a dissenting opinion on a report about sex trafficking.

Whew. I’m sure there’s more…

Talking about FSD: Listening to Patients

12/23/2009 at 10:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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A few weeks ago, Alternet posted an unfortunately-titled article critical of female sexual dysfunction and of the pharmaceutical industry, “Restless Vagina Syndrome”: Big Pharma’s Newest Fake Disease, by Terry Allen. I looked at the article and presented evidence that “Restless vagina syndrome” does not mean what you or Terry Allen probably think it means. What it really refers to is Restless Genital Syndrome (RGS,) also referred to as Persistent Arousal Syndrome, Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome, or Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder. This causes of this poorly-understood disorder have not yet been pinned down definitively; regardless of the cause, the actual condition Allen referred to manifests as physiological genital arousal & engorgement (sometimes to the point of physical discomfort,) even in the absence of conscious sexual desire and (possibly) frequent orgasms, which may or may not be satisfactory in reliving symptoms. With RGS, these orgasms are frequent enough so that not all of those orgasms are wanted or take place in a safe, socially acceptable setting. I also talked about Allen’s claims about Big Pharma marketing sexual insecurity & questions in research on FSD.

Not too long after, I encountered an interesting post by Ily at asexy beast. Ily, an asexual herself, processed another article on FSD (specifically the controversial diagnosis of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder,) the Women Who Want to Want, quite differently from me. We interacted a little in comments at her blog, and I fleshed out some more ideas here, re: FSD and asexuality.

Most of the time, FSD is an almost invisible topic, except in reference to Big Pharma and the way the pharmaceutical industry markets medications for sexual dysfunction as it relates to libido, arousal & orgasm. The pain category of FSD is frequently overlooked under this umbrella term, and certainly the idea that anyone could ever too much arousal or experience too many orgasms runs contrary to what most people think of as a problem. Restless genital syndrome is so new to research & so misunderstood that authors and so-called experts applaud labeling it “Fake.”
Asexuality is simultaneously almost invisible, and was overlooked completely in the Women Who Want to Want article. You can imagine then (but with a few exceptions, you cannot possibly empathize,) how awkward it must be to be asexual and yet have a sexual health problem that might benefit from medical intervention.

Shortly after all that, I received an e-mail from a person who prefers to remain anonymous. “Uziela” sent me a link to a boingboing.net article, writing, “This article is me.  I don’t mean metaphorically; I was interviewed for this article…”

The article in question is The woman who can’t stop orgasming.

And the topic of the article is a day in the life of a woman who has Restless Genital Syndrome.

To Terry Allen, who referred to RGS and labeled it “Fake,” and others who claim that FSD is a made-up disease, I would ask – are you really willing to invalidate the experiences of women who live with real sexual health problems?

What Uziela did not share at the time of her interview for boingboing, is that in addition to RGS, she also has vulvodynia and identifies as asexual (or demisexual/Gray-A, as she is in a long-term romantic relationship with a cis man.) She contacted me and wishes to address the intersection of these areas in the interest of raising awareness.

Asexuality in and of itself is not a problem. In anticipation of where I’m sure your next thoughts are going, no, Uziela feels that her asexuality evolved independently of the vulvodynia & RGS. She writes,  “I did not become interested in boys during elementary school, throughout middle school, or in high school. I kept assuming that I was a late bloomer, although in high school I asked myself if I was, in fact, a lesbian.” Her sexual orientation is likely not related to RGS & vulvodynia. This means a couple of things: It is possible to be asexual and still experience sexual health problems, and, conversely, if you do have sexual health problems, that in and of itself may not (likely will not) change your sexual orientation, and it may not have anything to do with orientation at all. However, Uziela has run into attitudes that say asexuality in and of itself is a bad thing. “The first therapist who I told that I was asexual told me that it was an unhealthy attitude or something to that effect. I fired her.” This is frustrating, especially in the context of a therapy relationship. Uziela has “Considered seeing a sex therapist at some point just because they might be more familiar with some of this stuff… but it’s a double-edged sword. You never know how they’ll approach my disinterest in sex… ie particular kinds of sex.”

As Uziela puts it –

I think the world can use more sex positivity, always, but there are WAY too many blind spots; I find there’s a huge focus on the belief that all women are straight, want PIV sex, can have it, should seek it, etc.
Some of us are not straight; some of us are queer: gay, or bi, or pan.  Some of us are asexual.  Some of us don’t want PIV.  Some of us are straight AND don’t want PIV and maybe that doesn’t even have to DO with a pain issue.  Some of us are poly.  Some of us don’t identify as women.
We are not all kinky sex goddesses.  Some of us don’t even want to be.
These blind spots can be incredibly frustrating for those of us who are standing in them.  I attended a women’s college, and while I was there, a huge running joke was the fact that the Health Center had this huge sexuality blind spot. In their intake, they would ask if you were sexually active.  If you said you weren’t sexually active, they generally didn’t believe you.  If you said yes, they’d ask if you were using birth control or protection.  If you said no, they’d ask why.  It never occurred to them that a large percentage of our population was lesbian, even though the college was very queer-friendly and out and positive, the Health Center was clueless a lot of the time.

Related to dealing with health service professionals, Uziela told me about her experiences looking for competent doctors. Her experience was,

Mixed.  When I first started having persistent arousal, I didn’t even know what I was experiencing.   The first few doctors I saw passed the buck: the gynecologist sent me to a psychiatrist, who passed me back to the gynecologist.  I saw other psychiatrists, who decided, using strictly checklist criteria and a hammer, that I must be a bipolar nail.  There were three years when I didn’t even know what I was experiencing had a name…

It probably didn’t help that Uziela’s sex education was sorely lacking. Over the years, she and her classmates learned about puberty and heterosexual sex. “We had birth control and condoms… and ‘some people are gay’ but not … ‘how to have safe sex.’ Not … ‘what consent is.’ They did a lot about ‘OMG STDS OMG.'” And her sex ed class did not cover female orgasm (and certainly not RGS.)

It was through the internet that Uziela was clued in to what was really going on in her body. Upon reading an article that finally described what she was going through, Uziela

“Contacted Dr. [Irwin] Goldstein’s office that same day. It took a while to find space for an appointment, but he ran a gamut of tests.  In the process, I learned some interesting things:  He confirmed the diagnosis of what was then (and still is sometimes) called PSAS, he told me I had Vulvodynia/Vulvar Vestibulitis/Vestibular Adenitis, and I found out that I’m missing a major artery in my vagina and have labial fusion, two things I never would have discovered on my own.  The latter two don’t impact my health at all, but it just goes to show how much mystery a woman can have surrounding her own parts.”

However, the doctors were invasive during the diagnostic procedures,

What I remember most was the doppler ultrasound.  Dr. G did an ultrasound of my vulva, and there were SO many people in the room.  Here I am, lying on my back, naked from the waist down, with the soles of my feet together to put my body in the most useful position for the test.  There’s the doctor, the technician, maybe a couple of nurses, a few other people, other doctors and medical students, I think.  It just made me want to laugh.  They all came to see me, because I’m a medical rarity… when I was diagnosed, there were 100 patients worldwide.  Nobody knows how prevalent persistent arousal actually is, because most people won’t TALK about it.  The more doctors know, the better.”

As it turns out, life with RGS isn’t always as pleasurable as fantasizes make it seem to be. Violet Blue may be fascinated by the idea of “the persistent fantasy of unlimited orgasms, without physical barriers,” but life with unlimited, instantaneous orgasm is harder than it sounds. From the boingboing article,

“Every time I do something, I have to evaluate my situation. Where am I? Are there other people around? How well do I know them? What is the likelihood that, if I don’t get someplace private in time, things could get complicated? Can I make noise? (Being vocal isn’t necessary, but it helps release more of the pressure.) I avoid triggers — things like music with heavy bass, vibrations from riding a train or an idle car, cold air, musky cologne, darkness, stress, scary movies, romantic movies, unexpected touch, a full bladder… If my heart rate shoots up too high for too long, I flare up. I avoided exercise and gained a lot of weight. One time, I was hugging a male relative and I felt an orgasm arise… Now, I try to avoid hugs in general unless I feel ready for them.”

It’s a lot to have to take into consideration, and it leaves Uziela with feelings of vulnerability:

“One thing I’ve noticed is being this aroused long term makes me think like a prey creature.  I note within myself a sense of paranoia — that people will discover me when I lose control, that this will incite them to the point of an angry mob and they will visit violence upon me.  I realize this is rather unlikely; people are more likely to be uncomfortable and move away, but since most humans seek privacy and safe places for sex, apparently my brain considers me to be in a chronically vulnerable state.”

Uziela is not the first person to describe having to take these outside factors into consideration before going about her day due to RGS; an earlier article from 2002 describes a case study where for one woman, “The problem [RGS] made it difficult to get through the work day, and prevented her from leaving the house otherwise.”

Interestingly, the boingboing article includes one line which says, “Because of a vulvar pain disorder I have that sometimes comes with PSAS…” [emphasis mine.] Uziela has confirmed that she has vulvodynia. This is the first time I’ve heard RGS connected to vulvodynia, or more correctly, vice versa – first time I have seen vulvodynia connected to RGS. I can definitely imagine that RGS could be connected to pudendal neuralgia, which is correlated with vulvodynia. During our conversation, Uziela described experiencing some mysterious spasm symptoms which may be related to restless leg syndrome or an overactive bladder. But that RGS and vulvodynia have a relationship, comes as something of a surprise to me.
Yet I know that vulvodynia frequently does overlap with other chronic conditions, such as IBS, IC, fibromyalgia, and more. That overlapping of chronic conditions happens often enough so that the NVA is working with a website dedicated to understanding overlapping conditions. And indeed, Uziela does have some other chronic conditions besides RGS & vulvodynia that need simultaneous management, including fibromyalgia and PCOS.

However, it is not clear what the real cause of Uziela’s RGS is. I asked if she had any clues as to what caused her RGS –

“The best guess I have is the hormone onset. I was on Provera [oral pills; not the depo provera shot] to regulate my cycles. I discontinued in … October or November.  In December, i started having symptoms… And I was 16(?) when they started giving it to me.”

There are some additional hormonal factors at work – “I get my [hormone] levels checked once or twice a year.  I know I don’t have low testosterone; although mine’s in range of what’s considered normal, since I manifest PCOS anyway, my doctor thinks my testosterone might be too high for *me* — and given that my sex drive is rather atypical, I know it’s not a hormonal deficiency.”

My own vulvodynia issues may be related to hormones as well, at least a little; I had been on oral birth control pills for about two years at the time of diagnosis. I have seen a study which suggested that hormonal birth control may sometimes be somehow related to vulvodynia later on in life, and that 20/20 television segment on vulvodynia (which was never named as such in the segment for some reason…) birth control pills were explicitly mentioned as a possible cause. I have also heard similar anecdotes from other women with vulvar pain. (Still, I don’t want to panic any readers. I know many, many women use hormonal birth control pills for years without complications. My own sister has been on birth control pills for over ten years.) How hormones could play into RGS however is not as clear to me.

What limited exposure to literature on RGS I’ve had before, suggested that it may be related to damage to the pudental nerve. And during her exam with Dr. Goldetein, the doctors did find signs of  nerve damage. But where that damage came from, is a mystery – Uzelia does not remember ever having a serious injury to that area in her lifetime.
Uziela shared with me that there are several other possible causes for RGS; some proposed areas for further research include “Neurologic – Central, [brain and spinal cord changes or injury,] Neurologic – Peripheral, [changes or injury to local nerves in the pelvis,] Pharmacologic, [SSRI withdrawal may be related,] Vascular and Other.” These areas of investigation merit some urgency, as many patients are distressed from having their lives interrupted by  recurrent, invasive sensations that are rarely fully resolved.

Despite the persistent arousal symptoms and frequent orgasms, Uziela does not have intercourse, “Partly due to the asexuality (I have no desire for it) and partly due to the vulvodynia (I see no reason to seek out pain).  My sexual female friends tell me that when a female gets sufficiently aroused, they have a nigh-irresistible drive in the direction of penetration.  I have never experienced this, which is part of what drove me to decide that even though I seek sexual stimulus as a result of PSAS/PAS/PGAD/RGD, there’s definitely an aspect of asexuality there.” She did mention to me that some asexuals can and do engage in sexual activities including intercourse, but, “It’s a spectrum… most of the more vocal asexuals I see in the community are in one of two categories:
‘ew sex no / don’t touch me…’ ‘meh sex, but I don’t mind doing it.”

That Uziela does not have sexual intercourse with her partner does not impact the quality of their relationship. Like myself, she is in a long-term, long-distance relationship, and she and her partner have occasional visits together. Her partner is aware of the asexual community, and they are both careful about respecting each others’ boundaries. “In the early stages of our relationship, we had discussions regularly on the subject of boundaries, both his and mine.  We made lists of activities: Do, Don’t Do, and Try Once.  (This description probably makes me sound significantly more sexually adventurous than I actually am.)”
Ironically, Uziela may now be more interested in sexual activity than her partner – “In the past few years, he’s hit andropause, which is a true irony, because now he’s even less interested in sexual activity than I am!  (Although I am not “driven” to sex like the average person, I, like many patients, find that the sexual attention of a partner can be more productive in at least temporarily resolving persistent arousal than anything we can do ourselves.) This is a delicate situation, as Uziela must be careful not to pressure her partner for sexual activity, and vice versa.

Note what reason was not cited as a reason for passing on intercourse: relationship or partner dissatisfaction. In fact, Uziela says, “I wish I could see him more often; sometimes I think he is the closest another person has ever come to truly understanding me, and I mean this in every sense of the word.” It may also be worth noting here that Uziela was not in a relationship at the time of the vulvodynia or RGS symptom onsets. So in this case, Uziela’s sexual health problems are not due to an inept or insensitive partner. To insist otherwise would be to place blame and create needless relationship stress.

Currently, Uziela manages RGS mostly by avoiding triggering situations, and is able to manage the vulvodynia since she only experiences pain on contact.(Unfortunately, that means pelvic exams can still be painful.) Her experience of orgasm is more or less intense depending on how long she has been in a state of physiological arousal. In the right situation, some of these orgasms can be enjoyable, but there is a caveat just to mention this: “There’s a stigma about talking about that as it causes people to dismiss our suffering and it gives the impression that it’s not a Problem when in fact, it still is.” One of the problems is that Uziela has little to no control over what situations she is in, so sometimes orgasm can be frightening or dangerous. Most of the time, orgasm returns Uziela to a “Baseline” state but does not completely resolve the RGS symptoms.

Despite the challenges she lives with, Uziela would prefer not to have a major, abrupt medical intervention for her RGS. Some treatments are more extreme than others, and all of them come with potential side effects, which can be serious. While we were talking about life with sexual health problems, we both mentioned that even when symptoms are managed, they could still exist on some level, just below the surface. It’s something we are likely to live with long-term, and a sudden disappearance of symptoms would be unnerving. Uziela also has some concerns about living with RGS long-term, as there have been other patients who find it difficult to reach orgasm over time, and thus are not able to find even temporary relief. Simultaneously, finding doctors and friends who are aware of the existence of such sexual health problems, and are willing to speak frankly about them, is in and of itself a challenge, and one that patients like she and I will continue to navigate long-term. At this point, Uziela’s RGS is less invasive and less intense than it was a few years ago and because of this, she is able to focus on other areas of her health and life.

Note: comments to this post will be under additional scrutiny & moderation. The boingboing.net article allowed some comments of a dismissive and/or presumptuous nature to go through which will not be tolerated here.

Movie review – Ginger Snaps

12/15/2009 at 9:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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A couple of months ago, I had my first taste of so-called feminist horror cinematography, in the form of Teeth.

That first taste of feminist horror tasted bad. Bad enough so that I was almost totally turned off by the notion that such a thing as “Feminist horror” could exist. Teeth has gotten mixed reviews and reactions around the internet; I thought that having vulvar pain myself I’d somehow be able to sympathize with the main character, or at least get a kick out of the revenge aspect. But it turned out to be too violent, nonsensical & over-the-top campy for me. Teeth didn’t work out; I didn’t like it, I don’t recommend it.

While I was checking out what other people were saying about Teeth, I learned about another feminist horror film that was supposed to be very good – Ginger Snaps, a werewolf movie with feminist themes. Werewolves? What, like from Teen Wolf & Twilight? I filed Ginger Snaps in the back of my mind and figured I’d get around to it eventually… That time is now.

It’s not Halloween season anymore, which is a shame, since part of the film takes place on Halloween. It would fit right in with a monster mash-up movie fest. But on the other hand, we do have Ginger Snaps‘ anthesis playing in US theaters right now – Twilight: New Moon. Vampires vs. Werewolves… a movie & book series criticized for the way it depicts the main female character, vs. a movie which merits a feminist critique for different reasons. I can’t say I’m particularly fond of either vampires or werewolves, actually. I could either go see the Vampire movie right now which has a few shirtless werewolves and themes of abstinence in it (or at least in the book series it’s based off of,) or I could see a werewolf movie that centers the female characters as one of them goes through menarche & puberty.

Welp New Moon isn’t available on Netflix yet, so we’ll go with Ginger Snaps. Werewolves win this round…
And, it turns out, werewolves win my approval too. This… is a surprisngly good movie. I… liked this.


Ginger Snaps takes place in the town of Bailey Downs during early Fall. Some weird shit has been going down in town – pets & strays have been getting mangled and killed by an unknown beast. This is the setting in which we meet 16-year old red-haired Ginger Fitzgerald and her 15-year old sister Brigitte. Ginger is clearly the dominant sister, with a protective streak when it comes to Brigitte. They’re very close – they share a bedroom and have taken a vow to be together forever: “Out by sixteen or dead on the scene, but together forever.” They rely on each other, and I suppose they have to – their parents, Pamela & Henry are very laissez faire. I actually like the girls’ mother, Pamela – she seems mellow & respectful of her daughter’s boundaries, and is willing to answer their questions without shaming them for asking in the first place. But Pam & her husband seem distracted by marital problems (Pam mentions counseling at one point in the film,) and high school is a very rough time to live through. The girls’ don’t have many other friends to talk to, so they turn inward. Their interests include all things goth, trash-talking their peers and taking staged death photos of each other. (For this reason, the movie may be triggering to people with a history of self-injury.)

Neither Ginger nor Brigitte has started menstruation as of the beginning of the film, although Ginger has been experiencing some recent cramps & discomfort. She has also started developing secondary sex charactersitics, including larger breasts relative to Brigitte. Several boys at the girls’ school have been eyeing the sisters and harassing them. During gym class one fine day, Brigitte and Ginger dis another rival student, Trina, who then targets Brigitte during a field hockey game. This time, Ginger fails to protect her younger sister. Trina pushes Brigitte onto the ground and into a dog corpse, another victim of the Beast of Bailey Downs.
How no one else noticed a dog corpse lying in the middle of a gym field before that, is beyond me.
The girls decide to exact revenge that night by sneaking out and hurting or killing Trina’s pet, a big burly dog, then staging the scene to make it look like the Beast of Bailey Downs killed it.

While the girls are making their way to Trina’s house, they encountered yet another pet corpse. This seems like it will work out well, as they can use it to scare Trina into thinking her dog has been killed. While trying to move the body, Brigitte notices blood on Ginger’s leg. Ginger hadn’t been feeling well all day, and the blood comes from her first period. It comes as a surprise to both girls; Brigitte even lets out an “Ew.”

Ginger’s menarche just happens to fall on the night of a full moon.

Unfortunately, upon noticing the menstrual blood, Ginger is immediately attacked by the Beast of Bailey Downs, perhaps attracted by the blood. The monster drags her into a wooded area. Brigitte and Ginger eventually escape and make it back to their house, but their parents aren’t there, and Ginger is unwilling to go to the hospital to treat her injuries. Meanwhile, during their escape, the Beast is struck by a passing van and dies. (Werewolves in this universe are not so strong that only silver bullets can kill them.)
Back at the house, Ginger’s wounds have already begun to heal remarkably fast. She’s clearly distraught, and still dealing with menstrual pain, but trudges on to school the next day anyway.

It soon becomes clear that since the night of menarche and the animal attack, Ginger has been going through some changes. Brigitte worries for her elder sister, who starts acting much more aggressive – in every respect. Ginger becomes more confrontational in general and develops an interest in the boys at school. She is attracted to one in particular, Jason, and spends less time with Brigitte. In an effort to relieve her heavy menstrual cramps and bleeding, she even tries drugs for the first time (In this case, marijuana.)
It just so happens that Ginger’s first drug use takes place in the same van that killed the real Beast of Bailey Downs. The van’s owner, Sam, and Brigitte know something is happening in town with all the animal killings and then the Beast’s death. Since Sam is the only other person Brigitte is able to connect with, and because he does not reject her fears as absurd, (after all, he saw the Beast with his own eyes the night he struck with his van while driving,) she begins bonding with him while they research werewolves. Brigitte tells Sam that she is the one who was bitten by the Beast, in order to cover for her sister. Sam & Brigitte eventually decide that the best way to cure werewolfism is to use a dose of Monk’s Hood plant, which grows only in spring, and so isn’t available even in Sam’s greenhouse.

It was somewhat ambiguous at first, whether Ginger’s personality and physical changes were due to normal hormonal shifts associated with going through puberty, stress, or whether the changes were due to the beast attack. Ginger and Brigitte get some feedback from a school nurse, who schools them on what to expect when you’re going through puberty, and Ginger seems assured that what she’s going through is within the realm of normal. (Appearantly the girls’ public school did not include comprehensive sex education.) The nurse also offers condoms, since Ginger can now become pregnant if she has sex. (This would have been an interesting sub-plot! Pregnant she-werewolf transformation! But the directors didn’t take it in that direction.)

But then Ginger’s body begins to change. We see Ginger’s razor is covered not just with ordinary body hair, but with tufts of fur. In fact, she’s growing quite a bit more body hair where none was before – particularly around the animal wounds she endured. As the days go by, Brigitte finds that Ginger is even growing a tail. Of course, that’s not a change usually associated with menstruation. Additionally, over the course of the film, (it spans about a month,) Ginger’s hair goes from red to white.

Against Brigitte’s advice and the school nurse’s warning, Ginger and Jason have unprotected sex, which winds up infecting Jason with the same werewolfism she is infected with. (He does not realize anything is wrong until he urinates blood and subsequently becomes more aggressive.) Ginger returns from her first sexual encounter visibly distraught, and Brigitte finds out the real reason why – Ginger killed a neighbor’s little pet dog on the way home. The sex wasn’t great, but it wasn’t upsetting in and of itself either. What was more upsetting was the uncontrollable urge to tear living things to pieces.

Although Ginger has held it together up until then, she reveals the fear she’s going through while these strange changes are happening to her body. The only thing that satisfies her is killing, as in the case of the little neighbor dog. As the film progresses, Ginger’s bloodlust only grows, until at one point she compares the pleasure of killing to the pleasure of masturbation: “It feels so… good, Brigitte. It’s like touching yourself. You know every move… right on the fucking dot. And after, see fucking fireworks. Supernovas. I’m a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.”

Brigitte tries to help her sister, piercing her with a silver ring – a gift from Sam. It’s not meant to be a purity ring in the sense of abstinence, but rather in the hopes of purifying Ginger’s body of the infection.
It’s not a bad idea, but because this isn’t a typical Hollywood variety werewolf, the ring has no effect.

Brigitte also helps Ginger tape down her tail in the morning before going to school. Brigitte is growing up, and is becoming a protector of her elder sister.

But Brigitte is not fully grown yet, and she is still the target of other girls at school. The girls’ rival, Trina, continues to bully Brigitte. Ginger reacts with rage, attacking Trina and geting in trouble at school. Later, Trina shows up at the girls’ house, claiming that her dog has been stolen by Ginger. (The viewer never finds out if this is true.) Trina and Ginger get into a major fight at the house, and Trina dies.
She did not die by Ginger’s hand directly on camera – she tripped and hit her head on a countertop.
The girls quickly act to hide the body, leaving only two fingers out in the yard by accident. While burying the body, Ginger bitterly reflects on the kinds of woman one can be – “Slut, bitch, tease, or the virgin next door.”

Things are getting serious now, with a human death involved and Ginger’s increasingly aggressive behavior. The girls make plans to flee, but their plans are quickly derailed. Luckily, Pamela has brought home a boquet of Monk’s Hood plants from a local craft shop. At the first opportunity, which happens to be the morning of Halloween, Brigitte locks Ginger into the bathroom, partly to protect the public, and to protect Ginger from herself. Brigitte brings the plants to Sam’s greenhouse and they make a dose of anti-werewolf serum. Sam reveals that he knew all along that Ginger was really the bitten girl, not Brigitte.

On the way home, Brigitte runs into Jason again. He, too, is becoming more aggressive, and his looks are changing as well – he looks like a mess. Brigitte tests the anti-werewolf serum on him, which works. As soon as he is injected, his aggressive behavior stops and he wanders off. Monk’s Hood is safe to use Ginger.

Meanwhile, the girls’ mother has discovered Trina’s disembodied two fingers left out in the yard from earlier. At first, she dismisses the fingers as props used by the girls during thier photoshoots. But just in case, she seals them in tupperware… she’s clearing getting suspicoius. Her suspicions are confirmed when she unburies Trina’s body in the shed. She goes looking for her daughters.

But where is Ginger? She escaped from the house and went to school, where she killed a teacher. This is the first human death at Ginger’s hands that we know of; it is not the last. Brigitte finds her sister at school and offers to help her by volunteering to help clean the body up. But before Brigitte can get started, Ginger kills another victim, the school janitor. At this point, Ginger is all but lost. She is enjoying killing so much that she wouldn’t even want to be cured anymore. And she knows that if she was returned to a normal human state, she would have to face the consequences of her actions – she’d surely go to jail.
The girls get into a major verbal fight. The viewer is starting to learn that Ginger hasn’t just been over protective of her sister while they were growing up – she’s been manipulative, too. I’m wondering if Ginger’s alpha personality is the reason Brigitte is so introverted. For if the girls had no one else to turn to but themselves, and Brigitte was always expected to follow her sister’s orders, then she would have been stifled for her whole life.
Ginger leaves the scene, intent on killing Sam. Brigitte takes off after her.

Pam, who has been out looking for the girls, catches up with Brigitte. Pamela knows that Ginger is the dominant sister, and that Trina’s body was probably her doing. Still, Pamela loves her daughters & is willing to sacrifice everything to protect them both, even if it means leaving her husband & burning down their house. But first, they need to find Ginger, and go to Sam’s greenhouse to find her. Brigitte leaves her mother behind.

By now Ginger’s face is almost completely unrecognizeable and has clear animal features. Her hair is totally white, and when she reveals her body to Sam in an attempt to seduce him, she is covered in scar tissue. It’s like her body is just wasting away. Her body was changing gradually, but, perhaps because it’s been about a month since she was first bit, the transformation is accelerating. (I didn’t catch if Halloween takes place during a full moon for this film. That would have been cool if it did.)

Brigitte catches her sister before Ginger is able to kill Sam (but he is seriously injured.) Brigitte even sacrifices herself to save Sam, and hopefully, her sister. She cuts her hand and applies it to Ginger’s, passing on the werewolf infection to herself. Brigitte tells Ginger, “You wrecked everything for me that isn’t about you.” Now both of them will need the Monk’s Hood cure, which is available back at the girls’ house. Sam knocks Ginger unconscious and loads her up into the back of his van. By now her transformation is almost complete & we see glimpses of her changing body. This part looks like it was done good ol’ fashioned costumes & puppet work, not CGIs. The effect is mixed – it looks like the transformation is tangible, but the monster costume looks fake & rubbery. The wolf mask isn’t able to express emotion, it’s frozen in a snarl.

Sam & Brigitte arrive safely at the house, but Ginger, now fully transformed into a werewolf, escapes into the house. Naturally, Sam & Brigitte follow, hoping to get the Monk’s Hood medicine prepared.
For some reson, although the house clearly has electricity available, no one thinks to turn the lights on to make finding Ginger easier.
Brigitte and Sam agree to lure Ginger out then inject her with the medicine, but Sam is attacked and dragged away by Ginger.
The next scenes are the climax of the movie. Brigitte follows the blood trail to Sam, still alive but not for much longer, and Ginger. Ginger does not attack her sister. Instead, she just watches to see what Brigitte does… Brigitte tastes Sam’s blood, but rejects it. She is unwilling to meet the same fate as her elder sister, and unwilling to die. This enrages Ginger, so she kills Sam. Brigitte escapes to their old bedroom and pulls a knife out of their dresser drawer to defend herself with. She has a syrine full of the Monk’s Hood medication, but before she has a chance to use it on her sister, Ginger attacks.
And impales herself on Brigitte’s knife.
As Ginger lays dying on the ground, Brigitte looks around their room at all the photos & knicknacks they’ve collected over the years. She approaches Ginger’s body and stays with it until Ginger finally stops breathing. It’s a sad sequence… they were very close sisters for their whole lives, but in the span of about a month, everything fell apart.

And that’s the way the movie ends.

We do not know what happens to Brigitte or her family after this. I hope that Brigitte would have used the medication on herself, to cure the werewolfism before it got severe. (There is a sequel, and a prequel to this film, so I suppose I could find out if I wanted. I heard the other movies in the series aren’t as good though.)

The film was made in 2000, and it shows – it looks great on DVD, good sound quality, decent music. There aren’t any shoddy early-generation CGI effects. CGI, on the one hand allows for more detail, but often sacrifices a feeling of realism. Everything looked like it was done with costumes & puppets where needed, but at times the costumes are stiff.

The dialog is believable. It’s got a lot of cursing, but I recall my own teenage years and the number of f-bombs sounds about right. There is a lot of dark humor.

All of the characters have personalities that are consistent from scene to scene, which is an improvement over Teeth. Because the characters all have clear personalities, it’s easy to emphasize with what they’re going through – particularly Brigitte’s anguish over her sister drifting away.
But Ginger is scared too – her body is changing, and not in the expected way. While she tries to keep her fears under control, at times they bubble up to the surface and she breaks down trying to maintain a brave face. Even as she starts exercising autonomy, she is losing control of herself to the infection. Yet she retains some memory of who she truly is up to the very end. Ginger, in wolf form, attacks Brigitte, but only after Brigitte finally broke free from her elder shadow’s sister – Brigitte rejected her.

Although I have a sister myself, I found I could not personally relate to these sisters’ relationship. My elder sister has always been significantly my elder, and we struggle to have any connection at all. There was no race to menarche or lording her sexual maturity over my childishness. I was a child. She was a teenager. End of story. She was older, she had decision-making authority – or at least, she would have, if she had ever babysat me. I never needed to clean up any messes she may or may not have been making, because if she was making any at all, she kept them hidden.
It’s always been that way. I have never had any sisterly relationship to lose.
Yet because I am on the outside of that relationship – I paid more attention to the movie and enjoyed the challenging dynamic between the two.

It’s not clear whether Ginger would have still drifted apart from her sister so much had she not been attacked by a werewolf. It’s possible – Ginger holds menarche over Brigitte’s head several times, lording it over her younger sister as a sign of greater maturity and authority. Some of my own girlfriends did this within our own circle of friends once we started entering puberty. But if the attack had never occured, Ginger would probably have not acted so aggressive & dangerous. As it happened in the film, Brigitte had to clean up Ginger’s murderous messes. Perhaps, in the absence of the werewolf attack, Brigitte would have had to clean up different kinds of messes for her sister.

The girls are understandably frustrated, living in a suburb with few outlets for creativity and activity – and what few outlets there are, are regulated either by their own peers & rivals, or by adults. The girls’ most private & creative outlet is their simulated self-injury and death photography, but when they present their work to a classroom, their teacher takes offense.

I was very impressed with this film. It’s enjoyable because it’s well done overall. It’s not always scary – there’s plenty of blood & gore, but it’s more of a drama than a spooky film. You don’t have to watch it around Halloween to enjoy it. It’s probably worth a rent from the local video store or Netflix next time you have a craving for a good drama, or something with a hint of feminism.

Interesting posts, weekend of 12/13/09

12/13/2009 at 6:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, I can’t seem to find the Holiday Spirit this year. I feel like the holidays are happening around me & I’m just watching from the outside. Oh I decorated a Christmas tree, yes, and I ordered gifts for those dear to me, but I just feel… detached. I’m not sad, but not excited either.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. Come on people, these posts don’t just write themselves.
I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction. Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sexual health and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive. For this reason, Guest Posters requesting to remain anonymous will also be taken seriously.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Comments made by new e-mail addresses here are auto-screened before going live, so if you want to stay anon use an e-mail address that you haven’t used here before.

Also, a Happy Hanukkah to Jewish readers.

Now then, on with the weekly blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting for one reason or another over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

[Trigger warnings] – The Transphobe Who Can Ruin Your Day – this week started out with transphobia from Julie Bindel (she has a history of making transphobic comments in the past, among other things.) Unfortunately, there was more transphobia later on in the week, posted originally at the Bilerico Project, which is supposed to be a group blog for LGBTQ folks and their allies. The post, “No” to the notion of transgender was so bad, it had to be removed, but only after other bloggers & responders like C.L. Minou and Lisa & commenters at QT spoke out against it. There was another clearly transphobic event this week, a lawsuit was filed against a McDonald’s for refusing to hire a transgender worker. The manager of this particular store also went out of his way to leave a horrible voice mail for the prospective employee.

The hymen has been renamed to Vaginal Corona, so everyone start calling it that instead. This name reminds me more of the sun than the beer of a similar name. I suppose this is all moot to me though since don’t have a hymen or vaginal corona anymore post-surgery. Or if I do, I sure don’t notice it. The PDF booklet files related to this topic are of some use too so check them out.

[Trigger warnings] – Not too long ago, you may have seen some advertisments from Method, calling on increased awareness of what chemicals go into cleaning products… and this message was put forth by means of depictions of sexual harassment & assault. Melissa of Shakesville (and others) called Method out. There were two horrifying responses to this call-out. A writer at the blog AdRants lashed back against the backlash against rape culture. Then, AdAge magazine published an editorial which also minimized the importance of understanding sexism & sexual assault triggers in advertising. As Melissa explains, this sort of attitude is why changing the tv channel isn’t enough. Wow these marketers are really dedicated to not listening to their own target audience. Need some help understanding what rape culture is? Try this week’s Today in Rape Culture.

The price of prescriptions – After Cancer posts links to charts & graphs about how much it costs for health care.
There’s another post with helpful charts & graphs this week, Climate change and neo-colonialism.
A video & analysis of charts re: climate change: Stunning Statistics.
Not exactly charts & graphs, but in light of the fact that Houston, Texas has elected an openly lesbian mayor, some maps re: the 2008 presidental election, results of which run not just along state lines but urban/rural area lines. Yep, that’s Houston, Texas, y’all

Uganda Drops Death Penalty, Life in Prison from Bill – [Trigger warning] – But Uganda still has a long ways to go with regard to an anti-homosexuality law.

Regrets? I’ve Had a Few… – I like this – a new take on those “Top 100 books YOU MUST READ” lists. Instead, we have here a list of Books I Regret Reading. I love it :3 Lol, look how many best sellers are on the list. Lol, look how high up Holden Caufield is ranked.

First Timer’s Kit – It’s a product review. For sex toys.
Another product review: Sexism in America: Alive, Well, and Ruining Our Future – This sounds like an interesting book, especially the chapters on sexism after the 60s, but it also sounds like it would be a hard book to read. I wasn’t able to finish The Feminine Mystique because it pissed me off too much. It’s not a bad book it’s just that the descriptions of what was happening made me angry to think about.
Another book reivew: Book Review: Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich – I am still a negative person because I still can’t stand positive-think-your-way-out-of-anything philosphy. Also not fond of positive-think-your-way-to-riches.

Cosmocking: January ’10! – I love these posts. Holly picks apart the newest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Barack Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize – Unfortunately, as Renee puts it, And thus begins his justification for enlarging the war in Afghanistan, while promoting the American right to police the globe as it sees fit.  No where in this speech did it mention the history of atrocities that America is responsible for.  He found time to praise Regan and Nixon, both of whom engaged in actions that were illegal and horrific.  As I read over the speech in its entirety, I once again found myself asking this is the man that represents peace?  His speech was all about justifying war.” Meanwhile, my own mother heard the speech and told me she started crying when she heard it. What.

Silver Lining of the Recession…Not So Much – There were some hopes (If they can be called that,) towards the beginning of the recession of ’08/’09/’10 that as jobs turned over there may be more women employed in higher-up positions. It didn’t work out that way. For all the job turnover, the top rungs of the ladders still look about the same.

Unga Bunga! White Sale Gooood! – What the eff?! Eye-catching title & eye-catching picture at the post, which is actually about evolutionary psychologists using … evolutionary psychology to explain shopping trends in terms of biology. What.

Two from Violet Blue: best sex books of 2009! – delivers what it promises, as chosen by VB. The list leans towards erotica but there is some non-fiction in there as well. And behind the leweb talk: 24 hours later – VB had to go through IT Support Hell to get her presentation on the future of sex & technology started at a tech conference. Once she did she gave a talk that touched upon many topics. She has taken the time to link to resources on the topics covered. Interestingly, she does not seem to fear the dreaded Orgasmatron the same way mainstream media does when it’s talked about re: use of by women with orgasm problems. But I am not so sure that the reality of living with unlimited, instantaneous orgasms is all its cracked up to be… be careful what you wish for.

Attention, Ladies! A Man is Here to Help! – About That Guy who comes into feminist spaces to educate the wimminfolk on how to talk to mens and what we should talk about and what’s important and let’s all give That Guy a cookie for showing up and sharing his opinion with the feminists. Oo, let’s not.

Psychiatry’s civil war – QT looks at the controversy surrounding the upcoming DSM-V revision, from a transexual perspective. The article linked to & the editorials accompanying it raise some hard questions.

December 17: Intl Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers – Mark your calendars if you’ll be in the Manhatten area around Dec. 17 (although you can still support this event from afar if you will be away from the area.) Audacia Ray says it is, “a day on which sex workers and their allies gather at vigils around the world to mourn our dead and bring attention to the continued acts of violence and injustice faced by sex workers. It’s a tough event, but a necessary one – because sex workers are so stigmatized, they are often disrespected in both life and death. Our community must come together to memorialize those who have been taken from us, and support each other in the ongoing fight for justice and rights.”

Ask Professor Foxy: How Do I Tell New Partners About Past Trauma? – [Tirgger warning] – a reader writes in to Professor Foxy about how to disclose a past history of trauma.

I’m sure there’s more…

Chaser Image – Candy that sort of looks like a vulva

12/09/2009 at 8:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Let’s lighten the mood a bit – I found these pieces of candy that sort of look like vulvas. Or maybe I’m just projecting my own thoughts onto them. I’m not censoring the images because these were sold as-is in little see-through boxes at a candy store, so if it’s good enough for the candy shop it’s good enough for me.

These are maple syrup candies, so they’re basically pure sugar. If you’re on any kind of restrictive diet (low-oxlate, anti-yeast, etc.) these probably won’t fit in. The lighter and less detailed of the two pieces is blended with cane sugar. The darker & more frilly piece is pure maple sugar. They both taste sweet and have a texture like dissolving sand.

And here they are together.

Am I seeing something that isn’t there? I was about to eat these two and went, “Waaait a minute… what am I looking at here?” The other pieces of candy looked like snowflakes and random yet symmetrical designs.

The ugly things people say about FSD

12/08/2009 at 9:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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Big Honking Warning: The following is a collection of some of the most hurtful & harmful comments responding to articles & blog posts about female sexual dysfunction I have found within the last few weeks. Nothing here is supportive or helpful, and so if you personally struggle with any type of sexual problem, I suggest bypassing this post entirely.

I have already written at length about some of the troubling claims & statements I find when I read news articles & blog posts about female sexual dysfunction. Often when the articles are published online (which is where I usually find them,) there will be a section at the end for logged in users & guests to post comments about the article in question & get into new discussions.

Very often, comment sections are land mines. This is not just a phenomenon limited to discussions about sexual dysfunction, of course. If you have had internet access for any length of time, chances are you already know what I’m talking about. You might read a perfectly well-reasoned and sensitively worded article (or not) about a political event, a movie, a local celebrity, a medical condition, etc. Finally there will be a comments section, a place where interested parties can theoretically share their own thoughts. Different forums have different comment moderation policies, ranging from zero moderation to (theoretically) safe space, with variation inbetween.

Sometimes there will be something of value to take away from the comments section, especially if an article is intended to be supportive. Someone with personal experience in the matter at hand may point out flaws in an author’s language, or offer resources to more information on the topic at hand. Other times, comments are less than helpful. The comments that stand out the most  though, are often the worst, most hurful ones. They are the unavoidable, spotted-too-late Ice Bergs (“Right ahead!”) floating among a sea of free speech.

I have bumped into several of these Ice Bergs, which scrape along my armor, and will likely continue to bump into them, although not willingly and certainly not on purpose. I just kind of find these things.

When it comes to counter-productive comments about FSD, it is my personal belief that attitudes which deny the existence of FSD and which contribute to a mystique about women’s sexual health foster this type of egregious commentary… and of course, at least a little bit of misogyny.

My own comments come after each quote.

As a man who knows some things about women, (I read jezebel!) I can say with 100% certainty that the cause of FSD if such a thing exists, is almost always the incompetence or disinterest of the male partner. [He reads Jezebel, and Jezebel is representative of women, therefore he knows about women! Actually no, Jezebel does not represent me, so you know nothing about this woman. According to this guy, FSD (which probably isn’t even real,) is all the male partner’s fault, because obviously he isn’t “Doin’ it right.” This also means that singles & lesbians never need to worry about FSD, because they have no male partner.]

“Listless Vagina Syndrome” =”Unskilled BedPartneritis” and/or
“Excess Housework Disorder”
[Who is the Inflamed Bed Partner? (The -itis prefix indicates inflammation.) Is it the FSD patient herself, or her partner? Well as a matter of fact I did have inflammation in my vulvar vestibule, so I guess that in and of itself makes me a bad Bed Partner. According to this comment, the proper treatment was to do less household chores.]

My vagina is listless. She just sits around the house all day long in her pajamas, listening to the Smiths and drinking peach schnapps straight from the bottle. It’s kind of disturbing, to tell the truth. [Playing into Harding’s made-up term “Listless vagina syndrome,” which must be the exact polar opposite of what restless genital syndrome really is, haha isn’t that funny. I didn’t think it was funny.]

Maybe this isn’t the ladies’ fault. Maybe it’s dudes’ fault for not being sexy enough. [This comment reflects heteronormativity, encourages body image insecurity by the partner, and is clear partner-blaming. Would you ever say something like to the partner of a cis male experiencing erectile dysfunction? “Maybe he could get it up if his sex partner was hotter.” That would not go over well if used on me…]

I can “lick” this disease;-) [Oral sex from this person cures all FSD, which is appearantly now a contagious “Disease” rather than a “syndrome” or “disorder.” To this commenter’s credit though, the author of the article linked to here also called FSD a “Disease.”]

Women who can’t always have vaginal orgasms keep trying as hard and as fast as they possibly can. This gives the man a 99% chance of finishing first, which in Darwinian terms is optimal for procreation. It’s not personal. It’s not sexist. It’s genetic. 100,000 generations of your ancestors got it right. A male orgasm is a score for a potential baby. A female orgasm is just a teaser to keep the woman constantly interested. [Evolutionary psychology to justify general assumptions & sexism (yes it is.) Also, this person somehow knows exactly how all 100,000 generations have had sex – the “Right” way, at that, so by extension there must also be a “wrong” way I wonder where this commenter gets that 99% statistic of orgasming first? Wait, actually now that I think about it – what does ejaculation have to do with FSD anyway? What we were talking about again?]

I think there would be no problem with women’s desire if they were sure they or their partner were sterile. Solve this problem for people and you will never want for wealth. [Uh I think this commenter was saying something about contraception then tied it back into desire somehow? I have no idea what the “Problem” referred to here is, fertility? Infertility? This also ignores desire or ability to respond sexually which may change as an individual ages or takes medication that contributes to low libido.]

If women never ate wedding cake there would be no need for Viagra for women [Sorry, can’t figure out how to link to this exact comment; it’s the second one down as of 12/7/09. I can’t figure out if this commenter is referring to women who eat cake at their own wedding, at another person’s wedding, or if it’s just yet another fat-phobic comment in general.]

What people are saying about vulvodynia specifically (NOBODY WITH VULVODYNIA READ THIS PART):

So you can’t fulfill your prime genetic directive? Be thankful. There are enough human beings on this planet. There are also enough sexual activities to totally bliss you out, even if you don’t choose intercourse. [Human population growth means some of us don’t get to have the sex we want even if we don’t want kids. Also, forgets that vulvodynia can leak out into areas besides sex and childbirth.]

Sorry for your pain, an shit….but why is this “News”?  …what’s the precise percentage of the world’s population who have to deal with this?….compared to rampant unchecked political corruption, genocide, slave labour, the concerted and systematic rip-off of the middle-class by the monied overlords, the systematic destruction, and abridgement of civil liberties, Two fucking limited Mid-Eastern “World Wars”,…etc., etc., etc.!
[Obvious troll, obvious misogyny, “Look over there!” distraction technique to minimize the real pain that some women go through. Why even comment at all?]

i disagree with the article the doctors are just out to get money you dont need to go and see them it will go away all on its own. So dont be scammed by them i wasnt and i am still going strong i had that pain but i started eating healthy and washing down there keeping that area clean that is the main reason that most women get diseases is because they dont cleanse themselves down there. So here is a lesson for all keep it clean and eat healthy and you wont have any problems. That is how i beat the pain no doctor is going to stick something up me that has been who knows where! [Where do I even begin?! This could be another troll. There are women with vulvodynia who have it for decades, so there’s a very good chance that it will not go away on its own without treatment. Vulvodynia is not a “disease,” it’s more like a syndrome – a collection of overlapping symptoms, and it’s not contagious. Overzealous cleaning (ex. with soap in & around the vaginal area) can throw the pH balance off & just make infections worse. I certainly don’t have any food triggers and even those who do eat very healthy can still struggle with vulvar pain. Vulvodynia sometimes arises as a result of injury as well, so to say “Eat right and bathe” forgets about injuries & nerve damage. Finally, the last line seems to advice against ob-gyn visits in general. The speculuum used at an appointment may have been inside of vaginas, but it will be sterile.]

What people are saying about vaginismus: (SKIP THIS PART IF YOU HAVE VAGINISMUS):

having a painful first experience is understandable. not being able to get it in….well that implies either a physical deformity or the 2 partners being complete idiots…
2 virgins usually have awkward or bad sex, but this is ridiculous….false question or really stupid person. or go to the doctor immediately cause something’s majorly wrong!
[This person has never heard of vaginsmus or chronic pelvic floor tension, therefore, vaginismus & pelvic floor dysfunction do not exist. Except not really.]

One last interesting note relates to what is NOT being said in the comments section of some articles, or rather, what is censored.

A few months ago, 20/20 ran a television special covering vulvovaginal pain. The actual condition being discussed was “Vulvodynia,” but for some reason that word was never spoken aloud during the program. A supplement article posted at ABC’s website allowed comments. Or, didn’t allow comments, as the case may be. If you will click here to go to a discussion page and glance through the comments section, you will find many words censored out, replaced by “####.” Three or four # signs replaced use of the word “Vagina” and “vulva” in some instances. This is very … contradictory, for a news article that’s about vulvovaginal pain. Why would you censor the word “Vagina?”

Seriously, how is this helping anyone?

I don’t know why I make myself slog through these comments. I think I need to step away from the computer for awhile and not slog for a few days. It is draining.

Buried amongst the crap piles, I do often see positive, supportive, and even helpful comments attached to articles. The problem is that the only way to reach them, is encounter destructive comments like these.

Interesting posts, weekend of 12/6/09

12/06/2009 at 7:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Dear internet, my skin has been so itchy in the last two weeks. It’s not just my vulvar tissue either, it’s my whole body. Arms, legs, head, neck, face, back, everything. And I’m already using a soap and laundry detergent for sensitive skin. I don’t think my skin is dry, it’s not peeling flaking, red or rashy, it’s just itchy. I don’t know what I can do about that since I’m using hygiene products that my body usually likes. What changed? The weather, I guess. Cold out now.

We had our first Guest Poster here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction this week. I am always looking for more Guest Posters. Rhiannon was willing to disclose some personal information for her guest post, however if you would like to be a Guest Poster and want to remain anonymous, I’ll understand.
Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sex life and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Please be careful when leaving comments on this post if you wish to remain anonymous though; if you’ve left a comment here previously, it will auto-go-through (It’s just a setting of WordPress.) Use a different e-mail address and your comment will remain screened so no one will know you left one except for me. Of course if you’re just using your internet identity anyway and aren’t too worried about being anon then just use the e-mail you used before and I’ll know it’s you. If you left a comment here before I mean.

Now then, on with the weekly blog-link roundup. It’s been a busy week on the tubes.

Accepting pain. – I don’t understand this lack-of-tension-in-the-face-of-pain phenomenon either.

Duchess Camilla Bowles Does Not Want Beyonce or Lady Gaga On Her Video Phone – I like this line best: “There can be do doubt that this video was created to satisfy the male sexual gaze but to deny their right to make it, asserts that women don’t have a right to be sexual or display their bodies at will.  Whether or not we agree with how their sexuality manifests itself is irrelevant in a culture which continues to attempt to discipline women into chastity.  The good girl keeps her legs closed, until her husband demands his daily access meme is still alive and well.” It also features pictures of shirtless actors to further makea point.

What’s In a Name? Trouble. – I love myths & legends & what’s neat is that I already knew the origins of all 3 mythological women named in this post. The comments are interesting too, touching upon other mythological women. Also from fBomb and lighthearted: Utena, Feminism, and the Vision of All Possible Worlds – I have DVDs of that anime series I haven’t watched yet.

Posts about porn: Figleaf’s “Does He Like It, Baby, Does He Like It?” Is Porn Ever Bad For Men’s Sex Lives? – Watching it might make you less in-tune with what your sex partner really wants, because you’ll think they want something else. and Violet Blue’s actually, most commercial porn is dangerous because it might bore you to death. – She points to a study that suggests that maybe it’s not as dangerous as it’s made out to be.. alas, the sample size of the study wasn’t big.Violet Blue also appeared On Oprah this week to talk about porn.

The Maguindanao Massacre – [Trigger warning] Chally summarizes the November 23 massacre in the Philippines.

Pam Spaulding put up two posts pointing to two different conservatives who are writing about why they can no longer identify with the US political right wing: Don’t pass out – Little Green Footballs post: Why I Parted Ways With the Right and Andrew Sullivan joins LGF’s Charles Johnson in kissing off the current ‘conservative’ movement – I think these posts would be particularly interesting to my own partner, who wants to be fiscal conservative and yet cannot reconcile his own political beliefs with the destructive politics associated with conservativism.

A Left-Handed Commencement Address – Excerpts from a commencement address given by Ursula K. LeGuin. She is definitely a feminist and a GOOD author, if you haven’t her science fiction & fantasy, you are missing out. (Warning on the EarthSea novels: These are without a doubt among the most frightening depictions of death & darkness I have ever seen.) Speaking of authors, The She-Devil Speaks – My mom has this book, The Life & Times of a She-Devil on her bookshelf & I was wondering what it was… I may not read it though, since Becky says, “These days, however, it seems that the 78-year old Weldon is turning into that formerly radical but increasingly loony aunt you’re afraid to invite to dinner for fear she’ll embarrass you in front of your friends (see also: Greer, Germaine).” This is followed by some quotes by Weldon herself and… Oo… I see what you mean… maybe I’ll pass…

December 1 was World AIDS Day, and we have two posts of interest (among many): World AIDS Day at Shakesville, featuring a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Today is World AIDS Day, featuring a proclaimation from President Barack Obama.

Bad Sex in Fiction Awards: “A Negative View of Women Leads to Bad Sex Writing, as Well as Bad Sex Generally” – Short post; the title pretty much says it all.

13-Year-Old Girl Commits Suicide After Classmates Spread Nude Photos – [Trigger warning] – Cara explores reasons that you probably won’t find in mainstream media, for the suicide of a 13-year old. She was bullied after sending a photo and victim-blamed.

You know how I mentioned in last week’s blog link roundup that Betty Dodson’s blog is not one of my favorites, to put it nicely? Well here are some more reasons why: Would You Give Up Tampons/Pads for a Menstrual Cup? – Oh Good God, NO! What, menstrual cups but no mention of GladRags or resusable menstrual pads? I can’t use those insertible menstrual products! Also, Sex Hurts & Sometimes I Bleed – it’s great that Betty suggests lube & orgasming more frequently but it took a nurse in the comments to point out that when pain’s involved there may be something anatomically, physically going on, so a visit to a doctor may be warranted.

Rapist’s Lies Just Bad Judgment If Rapist Drunk? – [Trigger warning] this victim-blaming Ask Amy column has been making the rounds on the feminist blogosphere. Unfortunately this is yet another example of victim-blaming in the wide world.

Another piece of news that’s been swimming around the feminist blogosphere relates to a probably satirical piece about “Cheetahs” (Cougars = women over 40, pumas = women over 30, and now Cheetahs – even younger.) It’s a shitty piece of satire and it’s been getting torn the F up all week. When Joke Articles Attack: Rise of the Cheetah, NYO Fail, Part the Second: In Which I Discuss Slut-Shaming, Satire And Her Sons, Scaredy Cats: Women’s Reactions to Men Who Are Terrified of Cougars, Pumas, and Now, Evidently, Cheetahs, Sexist Beatdown: Tiger and Cheetah Edition, No woman anywhere should ever be good enough, and probably my favorite blog post of all on this topic – Know Your Female Feline Metaphors – now THIS is more like satire!

Another failed piece of satire: Rape: The Method. by Josh Brorby – [Trigger warning] remember Chris Surette, the guy who’s school newspaper submission was so bad the school charged him for harassment? There’s another one just like him, although this one claims “Satire!” And then has to apologize when it backfires so badly.

Patrick Stewart speaks to Amnesty International about Violence Against Women – [Trigger warning] I had no idea Patrick Stewart lived through that… A YouTube video of Stewart describing what it was like growing up with an abusive father. It’s a pretty powerful speech.

Dr. Carhart targeted by anti-choice activists – First Dr. Tiller, now extreme anti-abortion advocates move on to the next target… of course if he is injured or killed they will deny any direct involvement.

Which Is Worse: Reality TV or the commentary on it? – A questionable TV show on compulsive hoarding leads to likewise questionable posts & commentaries on the same over at Jezebel.

Romance and sexuality in Harry Potter – Born out of a discussion thread at Shakesville, a detailed analysis, with evidence presented, of the not-progressive relationships depicted in the Harry Potter series.

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon – Feel good post summaries the plotline of the Twilight: New Moon movie using LolCat macros. One more Twilight, New Moon’s success means women hate sex. Obviously. (Not really.) I see there is a commenter with vulvar pain speaking out there… It is interesting, even to me, and something probably worth blogging about, this, pressure to have sex/not have sex & then this movie comes along where the main characters can’t have sex and… I don’t know yet.

Backlash! – No, it’s not just you, I’ve been noticing more misogynistic advertisments lately too… I know that’s a long term trend, but lately it’s especially so.

Moving towards solidarity – a latecomer to this week’s roundup; Laurie Penny writes about transphobia within the feminist movement.

Also, one last thing – Oldie but goodie, an Ask the Expert column addressing various pelvic pain problems. Unfortunately, it’s not very useful though since a lot of the advice boils down to, “Talk to your doctor.”

I’m sure there’s more…

Different reactions to different articles

12/05/2009 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Everyone experiences sexuality differently…

It seems everyone also experiences reading & writing about sexuality & sexual dysfunction differently. Before we go on with the weekly blog link roundup, there were two interesting reactions to two different articles on female sexual dysfunction this week. I was going to include these in the regular link round-up but it got too long.

First we have Women getting it up over at Vagina Dentata, a feminist & science blog. Naomi MC wrote a response to news about Flibanserin, an antidepressant drug that may increase women’s libidos, and so may be useful for some women with low sex drives.

MC raises some concerns about Flibanserin and links to two other pretty good resources on the topic, but I’ve got some concerns about the way her concerns are worded.

She says, “But here’s the news we’ve all be waiting for – female Viagra has been invented,” but that’s not really accurate. Viagra doesn’t create sexual desire in and of itself, it just makes a physical response to arousal more noticeable by increasing blood flow to the genitals. The thing is it’s easy to confuse actual sexual desire with signs of sexual arousal. It’s not clear to me if MC already knew that and was just playing up on this misconception for rhetorical purposes.

It’s also not clear to me if, in the next line, where MC says, “In sum, this was a preapproved drug being aggressively marketed for a likely manufactured ‘disorder’, and may be no better than a couple of glasses of wine,” which ‘disorder’ we’re talking about – are we talking about the broad blanket term of female sexual dysfunction in general or are we talking about the specific, more controversial diagnosis of hypoactive sexual desire disorder? Because female sexual dysfunction is a broad blanket term. Under the usual definition, it usually encompasses problems with libido, arousal, orgasm, or sexual pain. There are alternate models of sexual problems, and the percentage of people who have a genuine dysfunction depends on what study we’re looking at, and who’s asking. But, since FSD encompasses pain – the one valid & important dysfunction, according to Dr. Leonore Tiefer – (I’m definitely not okay with minimizing the impact of other sexual health problems for other women,) and because I’m personally distressed by what I’m living with here, I have it. What I’m going through is real. Which is why I’m concerned when I see words like, “manufactured,” used when talking about FSD. But if we’re talking about the specific diagnosis of hypoactive sexual desire disorder, then I have a better understanding why that’s more controversial.
I’m still don’t agree that it’s entirely a made-up disorder though.

There’s some other paragraphs in the post of interest about sexual violence and a historical view of female sexual dysfunction, & then comes, “So if you’re lacking sexual desire, chill out, have a glass of wine and think about it for a bit, considering what factors might be feeding the problem.

Emphasis mine, because this…
Is probably one of the worst things you could say to someone like me.
I can only speak for myself of course, as a pelvic pain patient. What I’ve gone through is, people have said this to me. Bad gynecologists have said this to me upon becoming frustrated with my repeat visits without problem resolution. When the usual medical treatments don’t work, the gynos defaulted to “It must be in her head. If it’s in her head, she should just get a little tipsy and loosen up.” Of course it turned out that my problems did have names and could be treated medically, so the “Relax and have a glass of wine” advice always raises red flags to me. It suggests that whoever I’m talking to is not familiar with the less common gynecologic conditions, and so is not prepared to help me. Time to find a new gyno.

There is another way I interpret the “Relax, have a glass of wine” thing:
Do you really think I haven’t sat down and thought about it?
Do you really think that other women who have serious sexual problems, maybe not pain but problems with arousal or libido or orgasm, don’t think about it, and ruminate on it, possibly night after night with a glass or three of wine in hand?
After considering what other factors might be feeding the problem – what then, when no factors can be identified, or when they can but there is little that can be done about it? What happens when identifying stress and modifying lifestyle to reduce stress doesn’t improve quality of life?

(The last problem I have with this statement is mostly a personal preference. Except for a few times a year, and a few sips at a time then, I don’t drink.)

The last line MC concludes with is, “Or maybe talk to someone; ideally someone who won’t financially benefit from selling you a pill.”

The thing is I have absolutely no idea who this “someone” would be. There are no suggestions listed…
A doctor or gynecologist? There’s a risk there that a doctor or gynecologist could have a vested interest in prescribing a pill to a patient complaining of low libido. (Although in my personal experience, the risk of having sexual complaints taken seriously is slim-to-none, and the patient may have to press hard for a medical treatment.)
Should someone with low libido talk to a sex therapist? Theoretically a sex therapist also has a vested interest in drawing out treatment for an extended period of time, although I would expect a good, ethical sex therapist would want to keep costs as low for a patient as possible. But then if the therapist is able to write prescriptions, then they may also suggest a medical option. That may be reserved as a last resort, but when it comes down to that last resort, does that mean the sex therapist is untrustworthy because they have recommended a medical option?
Should a patient with low libido talk to her sex partner? Probably if she even has a sex partner; what about singles? Between the taboos against frankly talking openly about sex and sexual health problems, and ignorance about female sexual dysfunctions it may be a bit tricky to determine if a friend or family member is trustworthy and knowledgeable enough to talk to. My own family is fairly supportive of me now, but when I first tried to explain to them (multiple times) what was happening to my body and why that was important, they didn’t believe me.
Well I suppose online support groups are always an option… If you have a computer.

Overall Women getting it up is a bit contradictory to me too, since, in an earlier post, MC explicitly said,

It is a concentration on “doing sex right” which leads to the medicalisation of male and female sexual ‘dysfunction’. I don’t deny that sometimes drugs and treatments for sexual dysfunction are necessary and beneficial to individuals but often, and certainly historically, we are being told that there is a right and wrong way to have sex and if you’re not doing it right then you have to be corrected.”

I’m definitely aware of the pressure to do sex right vs. doing it wrong, but, here we have a drug treatment for something that for a few women is probably a very real sexual dysfunction and so might find beneficial… I still think we can re-frame sex to reduce pressure to perform AND explore medical options at the same time. At least, I sure hope we can do both at the same time because that’ s what I need the most. To explore only the social & historical construction of sex, or only medical explanations for sex, backfires against patients like me who need both.

Then we have an interesting post at Asexy Beast, a blog written from the perspective of an asexual woman.
The thought that keeps popping into my mind is with regard to this particularly interesting post is, “So an asexual woman and a woman with sexual dysfunction walk into a bar…
What I mean by that is, I can’t figure out what the next line in that setup is but there’s something going on there…

Background information: A few days ago, an article was featured in New York Times Magazine, Women Who Want to Want. It’s an article about female sexual dysfunction as it relates to low or absent sexual desire, specifically the controversial diagnosis of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD.) The article does not examine sexual pain or orgasm.

I briefly touched upon this article when I did the weekly blog link roundup for the week of 11/28/09. My opinion at this time is about the same as it was at time of reading. That is, I found the article to be interesting, well-researched, and sensitive in dealing with female sexual dysfunction and the women who have it – at least, definitely sensitive compared to other recent articles about female sexual dysfunction, which I’ve blogged about here before. Women Who Want to Want includes my first exposure to Lori Brotto, who researches sexual desire and will have a direct influence over the next DSM revision regarding female sexual dysfunction.

Ily’s reaction to Women Who Want to Want is very different from my own. From what I’m reading, the article was a lot harder for Ily to handle than it was for me. I thought the article was relatively sensitive to women with FSD, but Daniel Bergner and Brotto steamrollered over asexuality and asexuals. Ily says,

It made me cringe to read that women in Brotto’s support group were told to repeat, “‘My body is alive and sexual,’ no matter if they believe it.” Maybe some of those people could really identify as asexual, and could be helped by knowing there is a community of people who are very much alive, and yet aren’t sexual. Even the women with low/no desire who would never call themselves asexual, or obviously are not ace, would probably have a lot in common with us anyway. What is Brotto thinking?

And what comes to my mind here is that, yes certainly the body can be alive and asexual at the same time. It does sound vaguely Freudian to me, to say, “Alive and sexual.” Is equating the two the same as eros, a drive to live & love? I’m asking because although I have read some of Freud’s work and am somewhat familiar with it, I’m definitely no expert & I could use some help here. I’m still struggling to figure out exactly what eros is.

Ily and I both recognized names that appeared in Women Who Want to Want, but we recognize different names. I recognized Dr. Leonore Tiefer’s name towards the end of the article because she is such a prolific writer on FSD – and because I disagree with her a lot of the time. Ily had not heard of Tiefer before, but she had heard of Brotto. Brotto has been involved in researching asexuality, and Ily noted how odd it was to not even mention asexuality in an article about low or absent sexual desire.

Not mentioning the possibility of asexuality when talking about various sexualities and libidos, is probably an omission on my own part too.

Ily and I interacted a bit in the comments (I was a tired that night so I wasn’t at my best over there.) I know I’m probably doing a very bad job of including asexuality in my thoughts when I write about FSD. But on the other hand, I don’t want to slap a label of dysfunction onto someone who identifies as asexual, especially if that someone is perfectly comfortable with who they are. No distress, no problem.

But one complication when talking about low libido and asexuality is that, if you actually live with female sexual dysfunction and talk about it, there’s a pretty good chance that someone may have flippantly said to you, or will say to you, “Well maybe you’re just asexual. I’ve run into that myself. It’s not accurate, and it wasn’t said in good faith by someone who was actually familiar with the asexual community. Asexuality is a real possibility for some women who have absent sexual desire, yes, but used by or on the wrong person, what could be a comfortable identity, is an insult instead. Possibly an intentional insult, a dismissal, a denial of an individual’s stated sexuality.

At the same time, despite popular belief, nonheterosexual orientation is not a cure or prevention against developing sexual dysfunctions. Online, I have met heterosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and pansexuals with vulvodynia. (I’ve only met one other woman in flesh & blood who confided to me that she has vulvodynia, so if I know anyone else in real life with this problem, I don’t know it.) I haven’t met anyone who disclosed to me that they are asexual and are living with vulvodynia, but I can see no reason that asexuals would be immune to it, or other sexual health problems. (I’m thinking I probably haven’t run into asexuals with vulvodynia because the spaces I hang out at do spend at least some time talking about sex, so those spaces may feel less welcoming to an asexual.) But if an asexual does develop what is usually considered a sexual health problem, is it still a sexual problem or is it purely a health problem?

So Ily’s post was particularly interesting to me because raises a lot of new issues to me that I hadn’t considered before, but probably should try to in the future.

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