Interesting posts, weekend of 4/24/10

04/24/2010 at 6:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Dear internet, my family life is still in a state of upheaval. I was able to get an original post and this blog link roundup posted in a timely manner, however we’re not out of the woods yet. Can I just say that I’ve had to go to three viewings for family or friends who have passed away since January 2010 and it’s looking like very soon I will be attending another funeral… So if my posts are short and/or sporadic for awhile, there’s your reason.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. 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. Posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

There were a few articles about RGS this week on different websites; some blogs like Violet Blue [NSFW] even picked up on the stories. Amanda Flowers, a woman living in the UK, opened up about her experience with PGAD (Persistent genital arousal disorder) or RGS (restless genital syndrome,) also known as PSAS (persistent sexual arousal syndrome,) after an accident while playing a video game (Wii Fit. It’s a game like Dance Dance Revolution in that the controller isn’t hand-held – you play with your feet, so there’s a risk you could fall while playing.) This story is pretty horrible, do not read the comments. Predictably, lots of people think that RGS is a joke for some reason. This same story was covered on a few other news sites, like FoxNews which is slightly better coverage… and no comments to slog through.  However some of these articles are making the mistake of classifying RGS as sexual addiction. Sex addiction itself is a controversial topic; some sex therapists say it doesn’t even exist, but even if it does, RGS isn’t the same thing.
The best article covering this topic, as described by another patient and doctors, was at CNN’s article isn’t sensationalistic, but you should probably still skip the comments section. Couple of interesting notes from the CNN article – RGS is not up for consideration in the forthcoming DSM-V revision due to lack of study. Lori Brotto also appears in the CNN article, a name now familiar to me since Ily covered her work in another post.
I also looked up one of the facilities named in the FoxNews article, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, since that article talked to a former director of the Center for Sexual and Relationship Health there. The facility offers patient care services, but I’m not sure if anyone working at RWJMS is now is prepared to treat RGS or even if the Center for Sexual and Relationship Health still exists.

The Clitoraid controversy is ongoing this week. Last week, you may recall, I included a few links related to criticisms of Clitoraid, an charitable organization with connections to the Raelians, a religious cult. The organization claims to restore sexual pleasure to women who have experienced FGC, by means of reconstructive surgery. This week Clitoraid and supporters responded to the criticisms – without really addressing the original questions and concerns. I find the response disturbing – both in terms of going on the offense and in terms of oh my god I cannot believe you just said that. One of the published responses even includes a Godwin. So here’s some more posts related to challenging Clitoraid. Again, please bear in mind, it’s not so much the end result that’s the problem. It’s the way in which Clitoraid goes about achieving those results. The way matters, and right now the way doesn’t do a good job of working with the local community.
There’s two from Dr. Petra Boynton, Catching up on Clitoraid and Clitoraid responds to their critics, but key questions remain unanswered – Detailed analyses of Clitoraid’s response. Recommended.
Matt Greenall also posted some of his thoughts about intervention in Burkina Faso. Health practitioners’ role in challenging damaging practice – more on Clitoraid
And Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg is still on top of things though understandably frustrated, Arguing with fools hurts my head. I think I am beginning to understand criticisms of Western (predominantly white) feminism. Yes, I see what you’re saying there.

Some political & current events for you. well, they certainly weren’t regulating: the SEC porn scandal – [NSFW] You may have heard by now that quite a few higher-up employees in the SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission, it’s a government regulation organization) were caught crusin’ porn sites at work. On work issued (meaning, government issued) computers. This taking place in 2008, right around the beginning of the recession the US (and much of the rest of the global economy) is trying to pull out of. Shakesville covered this as well, Nero Fiddled (With Himself) While Rome Burned, the post itself is just a brief article but the comments are mostly worth browsing, I think. Like, I don’t have a problem with porn in and of itself, I think it has the potential to be used for good or evil. But do you have to do that at work? And here I was feeling a little bit guilty about pursuing the headlines on news sites at work when things get a little quiet. Kind of puts things into perspective. And another thing, I’m wondering since 17 of those employees were higher ups – were they checking the new, lower-ranked employees’ work at all? And what kind of corporate culture does that set for the rest of the workplace? And like, where was your IT person?

American Psychiatric Association Tolerates, Largely Ignores Feedback on Teh Trans – Speaking of the DSM-V revision, including gender identity disorder as mental illness is problematic and controversial. So the LGBT Community of Center of New York City and the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center wrote to the APA urging changes. This post fleshes out a few points. Will the APA tune in & listen? Well, they haven’t always been real good about that before. The APA totally could though – earlier in 2010, France became the first country to remove transsexuality from their list of mental disorders.
Notes from a Lecture on Transgender Medicine – Rachel attended a lecture by Dr. Nick Gorton, who is transgender himself and presented slides and some info about treating transgender patients to medical students.
Protesting DADT, diverse GetEqual military veterans, arrested after chaining themselves to WH fence – The White House is really foot-dragging on repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military. During a protest in Washington just outside the White House, several officers including Lt. Dan Choi and Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen were arrested. Sandeen is particularly vulnerable to backlash since she is transgender. This is a message from her.

Harpy Hall of Fame: Dorothy Height (1912-2010) – On April 20, civil rights activist Dorothy Height passed away. The Harpies present a profile of her and her work.
April 20 was also (among other things) Equal Pay Day, which draws attention to the fact that women still don’t earn as much as men for performing the same work. Until we have equal pay, we have Equal Pay Day

Some lighter fare from the Pervocracy. Dog Catches Car – what happened when Holly replied in the affirmative when propositioned in World of Warcraft with “Hay baby wanna cyber???”
Some not-so-light fare also from the Pervocracy. One Page of PUA – messages by pick up artists on a PUA forum. In conclusion, Holly says, “The theme that stands out the most, interestingly, is not manipulation or even straight-up misogyny, but an absolute inability to hear “no.””
I wouldn’t fuck Roissy either – Follow up to the PUA post; this one Holly took a misogynist ‘hotness’ test and picked it apart. Like, the whole thing, picked apart.

Boobquake 2k10 is scheduled for this Monday, April 26. What is Boobquake? It all started here, In the name of science, I offer my boobs. This is in response to a quote by Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior cleric in Iran, who said, “Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.” Boobquake is maybe not exactly the best response to this quote though for a couple different reasons. There are probably better ways to protest and be an activist.

Two posts about dealing with trolls & haters on the internet, particularly within the femblogosphere. It’s not always so easy to dismiss as “It’s just the internet.” LADYPALOOZA PRESENTS! How Amanda Palmer Lost a Fan, or, My Own Private Backlash – This one is in response to the attacks Annaham endured after making a post critical of Amanda Palmer’s Evelyn Evelyn performance. It got real ugly real fast. And SEXIST BEATDOWN: You Are All Just A Bunch Of Stupid Cunts Who Should Shoot Yourselves In The WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY COMMENT GOT DELETED Edition – Sady and Amanda talkin’ trolls & how they deal with trolls. Again, it can get pretty ugly.

Poland’s women leaders – not forgotten – This is about some of the prominent women in politics that Poland lost during the plane crash on April 10th, 2010. (I mean to post about this last roundup but forgot to include a link – my apologies.) This is a painful topic for several people I work with.

Blogging Against Disablism Day will be on 1st May, 2010 – An explanation of what BADD is and how to participate, if you’re interested, is right through that link.  I think I would like to participate this year.

EARTH DAY!!! – a link and video roundup about Earth Day, April 22. Not all fun & games.

Whose voices? – Who gets to talk about disability and why are they considered experts instead of the people living with disabilities?

Presumptively Innocent vs Actually Innocent – [Trigger warning] A fleshed-out comment dealing with presumptions of innocence and false claims of sexual assault.

Privilege and the American Dream – So there was this guy, Adam Shepherd, who wrote a book about movin’ on up from homelessness to home ownership and a cash cushion. An inspiration to us all, right? Well, not exactly. Shepherd has a lot of privilege working to his advantage which not everyone else gets to enjoy.

Anti-choicers on women who get abortions “for convenience” – Picking apart an obnoxious column at a conservative news site. It’s really not a s convenient as you think it is.

Caseface123’s Photostream – Via Feministing, this is a photo project where the photographer asked people to post a sign with their thoughts of feminism on it.

Title IX Loophole to Be Closed – A brief re-post of an article about academia providing sports to women.

Hot Pieces of Ace Channel – a collaborative YouTube channel for asexuals, by asexuals. Via Ily.

Erasing the history of birth control in America – It’s been 50 years since the approval of hormonal birth control pills in the US. This post looks at something that Time magazine overlooked – early testing of The Pill on Puerto Rican women.

5 sources of assumptions and stereotypes about S&M – This is more an exploration of where negative BDSM stereotypes come from rather than what those stereotypes are, but you can probably infer what those stereotypes are just from the rest of the reading.

I’m sure there’s more….

Let’s Read Books – Sex is not a Natural Act, conclusion and final thoughts

04/20/2010 at 10:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Well everyone, I did it. I finished reading the feminist & sexologist text Sex is not a Natural Act and Other Essays. Three months and 244 electronic annotations & highlights later, bloggin’ all the way. I felt a huge sense of relief upon completion. My brain is fried, so finally, I can settle down, decompress, play some video games and read a fun book! …Just as soon as I get to bloggin’ the last section…!

The last section in the book is titled The Creation of FSD. These five essays were written in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Actually, I don’t have much to say about the final chapters individually, and I am anxious to articulate my final thoughts on Sex is not a Natural Act as a whole.

Although I learned a great deal about social construction, feminism (especially second-wave feminism,) and the modern history of sexual medicine from Sex is not a Natural Act, my understanding, experience and opinion of female sexual dysfunction remains largely unchanged. Sex is not a Natural Act is a feminist response to sexuality and medicine, but I certainly hope it is not the only feminist response. I feel that there are several points which need improvement. In fact I’m frustrated that Tiefer rarely, if ever, seemed to consider the other other (othered) side of the equation. In shielding as many women as possible from receiving the diagnosis of and medical treatment for FSD, much of what Dr. Tiefer says is alienating and stigmatizing to me, someone who benefitted from that very type of intervention.

What I mean by that is on the one side we (supposedly) have goons in white lab coats promoting quick & e-z, if expensive, medicalization as the solution to all of our sexual health problems. On the other side stands feminism, social construction and anti-medicalization. According to Sex is not a Natural Act, the two positions are incompatible. The media serves as mercenary in this sex war, serving both sides. The talking heads on the side of mainstream sexual models and medicalization far outnumber the feminist & sociological sexologist journalists, but I think it is the feminist counter-attacks that cut me the most deeply.
And trapped in the gulf separating the two, the no-man’s land, are all ordinary folks who experience sexual problems. Who do you trust? Here in the gulf too, is is the third perspective – someone like me – for I’m a feminist living with sexual dysfunction, and ultimately I am the one who is burned by the fire from both sides. Dr. Tiefer does a good job looking out for women who in her judgment do not have sexual dysfunction, but in doing so, her work inadvertently stigmatizes those who do identify with the term. And I fear the strong anti-medicalization stance with little or no wiggle room for those who can be treated with medication makes getting effective treatment (and respect & understanding from peers and doctors) harder, even for the minority who would benefit from that option.

So I don’t have much to say about these last five or six chapters because: The last section of the book is a relatively smooth, easy ride. The bulk of the challenges – figuring out how to decipher Tiefer’s writing style, learning about social construction, tamping down on my own rage-rage-rage reactions – are behind me, in the earlier sections of the book. Most of the essays in the last section were written for laypeople and an audience outside of academia. That means there’s less academic jargon and less re-reading of passages for me. Nonetheless, there’s still some far-out there statements, for example, “The impact of all these long-lasting hard erections on women’s anatomy, women’s preferences, and women’s well-being is unknown” (location 2774). Even with the context of this quote available to me (the purpose and use of Viagra,) I still don’t understand what’s suggested here… frequent intercourse with an erect penis alters a woman’s anatomy, craving for erect penis, and sense of well-being long term?
The last section of the book is short – on the Kindle E-book version, the last section starts 75% of the way through, or so it seems at first glance. I thought I was facing a huge chunk of material, but it turns out that the last 15% or so of the Kindle edition is bibliography and index (which is basically useless on the Kindle because the index is micro-print small. Besides, having an index in an e-book is moot since you can use the built-in search feature.) So the last of the written material is actually about 10% of the E-book. Some of the essays in the last section can be found elsewhere online for free, and I’d read the available essays previously.

The first chapter, “Female Sexual Dysfunction” Alert: A New Disorder Invented For Women, is a re-printed article from now-defunct US-based feminist periodical Sojourner: The Women’s Forum. (As of the time of this blog post, unfortunately Sojourner’s website no longer exists and their backup does not include full text of the article in question.) I’m not too fond of the title right off the bat for reasons that I’ve probably harped on about on this blog before. (Notice that FSD is in scare quotes. Two little grammar punctuation marks inadvertently nullify even my experience of FSD as a falsehood.) To put it briefly, the Sojourner article is a call-to-arms to protest a medical conference on FSD held in Boston in 1999. In the article, Dr. Tiefer asked, if the doctors and drug companies were truly so interested in women’s sexual well-being, then why weren’t feminists and representatives who could speak for women included in FSD research? (location 2782). The conference nonetheless took place.

The next chapter, A New View of Women’s Sexual Problems by the Working Group on a New View of Women’s Sexual Problems, can be found online in two parts at Our Bodies, Ourselves. This is Part one, this is Part two, so you’ve got the full text there. It’s a brief summary of an alternative, feminist perspective on women’s sexual health problems. It looks fine on paper, right? Well I believe that there is still room for improvement, particularly in the execution.

The third chapter, The Selling of “Female Sexual Dysfunction,” can be read as a follow up to the first chapter in this section, and as a feminist response to the big 1999 conference on sexual dysfunction. The essay was printed in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 2001, but the text reads as a speech. I’m not 100% certain that it was given at the conference in question though – I know Dr. Tiefer attended and gave a presentation but I can’t confirm that this is the one. There’s two quotes in this essay I’d like to draw your attention to. When addressing readers (presumably conference attendees,) Tiefer states, “Fortunately, women started not only the women’s liberation movement, but the consumer movement” (location 2876). Then, “As both a feminist and a sister researcher, then, let me call on you to include these five issues in your research:” (location 2881).
I’m going to articulate some of my final thoughts on the book as a whole here in the middle of the post.
I’m interested in focusing on something other than the five areas to be considered in future research, but they’re important and the real reason Dr. Tiefer wanted to get the conference’s attention in the first place. So if you’re curious, the five areas can be summed up as: studying all sides of medical intervention for sexual problems, looking outside of a bio-mechanical model of sex, not caving in to commerce, remaining critical of scientific studies, and opening the field for study by non-doctors. There’s actually a sixth point too, integrating feminist studies into sex research (Locations 2882-2992). Which is all fine & dandy.
But there’s one thing about these two quotes that tripped me up while I was reading. And that thing is…
Waaait a minute… “Sister researcher?” As in… some grand sisterhood of women? Of feminism? What sisterhood? A sisterhood among researchers only? Whose liberation movement? Are you my sister? These were two key words that made me think of Renee, who recently has had to write, for what must feel like the hundred millionth time, that she is not a feminist, there is no but, so don’t confuse her with one. She’s not part of that sisterhood. Why would Renee do that?
A long-term criticism of feminism is that the history of feminism (especially that which developed in the USA) hasn’t been very kind to marginalized women. The history of feminism largely favors white, able and cis-bodied, middle class women. Women who do not match that description are still to this day excluded from feminist activism, sometimes deliberately, sometimes as a function of privilege. (Admittedly, I could probably be doing a better job of reaching out to marginalized women too.) Believe it or not, there are feminist icons of historical importance who have made racist, classist and/or transphobic statements. So bear in mind that many women do not identify as feminists and do not identify as part of any monolithic sisterhood… and not because of stereotypes of feminism perpetuated by the media. It’s not always because the media says feminists are all a bunch of hairy-legged man-eaters. Rather, not all women identify as feminists because feminism has burned them. That is a carefully thought out, calculated, conscious decision: rejection. Because feminist icons erased women whose experiences did not match their definitions of what feminism stood for.
So these two quotes, combined with some additional statements throughout the book, make me think that perhaps Dr. Tiefer’s type of feminism is not as inclusive and welcoming as it could be. It should be welcoming to all; however, I certainly do not feel safer after Dr. Tiefer speaks out on my behalf. This is in spite of the fact that she does acknowledge the importance of considering race and class on society and sexuality, and even though she does think about the sexual health & well-being of LGBT persons – at least in her academic writing. It’s a bummer chug along reading about theory that’s all well & good on paper, then to trip over stumbling blocks in the execution.

One area where I’m tripping up in the execution of a new, improved view of women’s sexuality, is on several instances of ablist language throughout Sex is not a Natural Act. Little instances of ablist or at least questionable language appear at multiple points throughout the book, particularly with regards to mental illness. It’s not meant to be inciteful – I think – pretty sure it’s just privilege – but little flippant uses of ablist terms like “Crazy” can add up over time. I lost track of how many ablist statements there after awhile – and keep in mind that these essays were written over the course of many years. So unfortunately, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature, and an area where there’s room for improvement.
On the one hand, the fact that I notice the ablism throughout the book is partly because I myself am aware of people with disabilities as an oppressed group, a point of view made prominent recently by the participants of FWD, and prior to FWD, disability activists on the internet at large. But FWD, and the feminist blogosphere as we know it, did not exist while Dr. Tiefer was writing most of her work. However, Dr. Tiefer has been a feminist activist and a psychologist for more years than I have been alive. It’s clear to me that she’s very well read and has done her homework. In all that time, did she encounter critiques of feminism by people with disabilities? Maybe, something just like this interview with Anna?
On another hand, the picture becomes even more complicated if we are willing to entertain the idea of FSD as a disability in and of itself (an interesting, new-to-me idea which I cannot claim as my own.) This is a very different perspective, and one that even I struggled to accept – precisely because Dr. Tiefer’s work so far has made it so hard to consider. So it’s still new to me and I’m still thinking about how this alternative view would work as a theory & in practice. Yet this FSD-as-disability may very well make sense for at least some people, seeing as chronic pain falls onto the spectrum of disability, and sometimes disability & sexual expression overlap.

The fourth chapter is a bit meta – It’s a book review! Book Review: A New Sexual World – Not! is a review of the 2001 version of For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction and Reclaiming your Sex Life. What a coincidence – I have a copy of For Women Only! I have the revised 2005 version of For Women Only, which changed the subtitle to, A Revolutionary Guide to Reclaiming Your Sex Life – the Sexual Dysfunction part of the title was removed for some reason. So we don’t have the same exact copy, Dr. Tiefer reviewed the 2001 version. I’m wondering if she maybe got a preview copy that was altered a bit more before it’s final release?
Unfortunately I am caught with my pants down, as I have the book, but haven’t gotten around to reading the whole thing yet. But since Dr. Tiefer and I are on the same page with having access to a book, I took some time to skim through and see what she was so skeptical of.
And here again is where some of my final thoughts come out, in the middle of the post instead of at the end:
The introduction to the revised edition of For Women Only says that the authors don’t take an exclusively medical perspective when treating their patients. At their practice, “Most problems tend to have both medical and emotional roots, and feed on each other” (Berman & Berman, xiv). They’re willing to use medical intervention AND sexual psychotherapy. Which is more like the balance I’m looking for in addressing FSD. According to Dr. Tiefer, sexual problems are treated with either one approach (medicine) or the other (sex therapy) exclusively, and never the twain shall meet. I interpret Dr. Tiefer’s position as pushing for an exclusively therapeutic approach without the involvement of medical doctors. This is because non-biological problems “Account for the lion’s share of women’s sexual problems,” (location 2785) so if you fall into the minority with a diagnosable physical problem, I can only conclude that you’re a minority of little interest. So I interpret Dr. Tiefer’s approach as pushing for a one-size-fits-all social construction treatment in much the same way she claims doctors push for a one-size-fits-all biological approach to FSD. Neither way alone works for me; I need both. In practice I’ve been doing the social construction side alone, on my own, through a feminist lens.
And in looking through For Women Only, some, but not all, of the patients have both physical and intangible (emotional, relationship, etc.) problems which complicate their sex lives. There’s a duality that might benefit if addressed from both sides instead of one side exclusively. Nicole had surgery for vulvar cancer (Berman & Berman 2005, 4) as well as relationship problems and insecurity with masturbation. Paula had cancer and was treated with multiple surgeries, including surgeries in her pelvis (2005, 11). An anonymous patient went through surgery for vaginal prolapse without actually having vaginal prolapse (pressured by her boyfriend,) and lost sensation inside of her vagina (2005, 16). Gail had never had an orgasm, but she did have vulvodynia (2005, 39.)

For example, in the one case study Dr. Tiefer focuses on, new patient Nicole noticed sexual side effects following laser surgery for vulvar cancer, and use of antidepresants. Not tricyclic antidepressants for pain either; we’re talking about SSRIs which can sometimes have sexual side effects (Berman & Berman, 2001, 4). So I honestly do not see how medical intervention for sexual side effects following pelvic surgery and use of SSRIs is inappropriate. I mean, what a coincidence, I had vulvovaginal surgery too and yeah, things feel different down there now. I don’t miss the excess nerve endings and I still self-lubricate when aroused (maybe not as much as I used to, but that’s what bottled lube is for.) For Nicole maybe having surgery so close to her nerves wasn’t a good thing. So how is medical examination and intervention not an appropriate post-op treatment to offer to cancer patients? Especially since Nicole had laser surgery. Now I don’t know if this is true of vulvar cancer, but what I read in the journal articles suggested that, IF you must go through a surgical approach for vulvodynia, talk to your doctor and see if you can avoid lasers.
Nicole’s treatment wasn’t limited to medical intervention, but she couldn’t be given long-term sex therapy counseling at the Berman clinic, probably since it’s so far away from her home in Kentucky. So in addition to a prescription for Viagra, Nicole was “Referred to a trained sex therapist in her hometown for further treatment” (Berman & Berman 2001, 8).
None of this is satisfactory to Dr. Tiefer and she runs down a long list of criticisms with the handling of Nicole’s care under the Drs. Berman, followed by a more general critique of For Women Only. She expresses a hope that For Women Only is just a flash in the pan while the ubiquitous feminist health text Our Bodies, Ourselves book continues to sell. The same Our Bodies, Ourselves that as of 2005 printing has about 1 & 1/2 pages on vulvodynia. In fairness, OBOS is currently working on a revised edition which will maybe, hopefully contain more details on sexual health problems that do not make up “The lion’s share of women’s sexual problems” (location 2785). Because I gotta tell you, it’s real frustrating and time-consuming (needlessly so) to not be aware of medical factors that can make sex turn out to be a bad experience. Dr. Tiefer claims that “The message of the Berman’s book is that… there’s more to know about (and worry about) in your genital neuroanatomy and blood flow than you’ve ever dreamt of” (location 2908). So to her, the book is designed in such a way as to make women worry about all the things that can possibly go wrong downstairs. Meanwhile, I wanted to know everything about my own anatomy, because I couldn’t even identify what was causing my pain at first. I like one of the lines in the intro for The V Book… “Your Private Parts Shouldn’t be Private to You” (i).
Basically, I still cannot reconcile Dr. Tiefer’s anti-medicalization stance with the fact that every once in awhile, women with FSD genuinely benefit from medical intervention. The anti-pill sentiment freaks me out because I don’t know if the sentiment extends to managing chronic pain. But even if it doesn’t – I still can’t dismiss from my mind the way other women who do not have pain but do have other sexual problems must feel. Why should I be helped but not them?

Last chapter in this section, and it’s a short one. We’re almost done now. The Pink Viagra Story: We have the Drug, but What’s the Disease? is one of the newer essays, printed in 2003, and can be read as a brief recap of the history of the medicalization of sexuality, with a splash of culture & current events mixed in. I think the most interesting part of this chapter is the slow creep of women’s sexual medicine. It’s 2010 now, and this essay was written 7 years ago, but there still isn’t a magic pill for FSD. Turns out diagnosing women’s seuxal problems wasn’t as easy as everyone expected, and “This has led to scientists’ epiphany that women’s sexual lives are contextualized, that is, that sexual experience depends as much or more on social context (relationship, cultural background, past sexual experiences) as on genital functioning” (location 3023). However, men still get to enjoy the benefits of male privilege so the context of the formation of men’s sexuality is ignored (location 3030.) I would say that that context is at least in part, what is now called Rape Culture by some feminists. The book doesn’t say that, but I think that’s what it’s getting at. Anyway, the quest for Pink Viagra continues. (Really, though, I think much of the quest for Pink Viagra depends on people not understanding how Viagra works in the first place. According to Violet Blue, regular ol’ blue Viagra has the same effect on women as it does on men. It’s just that cis women don’t have a penis, which when erect is considered a visible sure sign of arousal & desire. Even if that’s not why it is erect.)

And that’s pretty much all. There’s a short conclusion, We Need Theory, We Need Politics, which much to my own surprise acknowledges the importance of understanding “How psychology, biology and society interact and change” sexual excitation (location 3554). There’s some case studies of Dr. Tiefer’s clients cited as examples of problems in US sexual culture. Basically in the end, there’s still a lot of story left to be told. Dr. Tiefer offers a little advice on where to start studying sexology and tells the reader to “Figure out how those gender theories actually apply to yours sexual desires.” (Location 2074). Okay. Can we get some practice going too? Can we see how these theories actually apply to real life?
That’s basically what I’m trying to do with this blog. Figuring it out. Working on it. I’m still under 30, so I’ve got plenty of time…

And sometimes, all those theories… don’t do a very good job of applying to me. Sometimes they do! Sometimes sex & gender theories are great! Sometimes I appreciate being able to look at FSD through a feminist lens! But sometimes, to someone like me, maybe some of the theories… not so much. I recently read this very interesting essay by Carol Hanisch, better known now as The Personal is Political. And I’m still mulling it over in my mind and reading interpretations of what the essay meant. But one line in the introduction to the essay explains,

“Political struggle or debate is the key to good political theory. A theory is just a bunch of words— sometimes interesting to think about, but just words, nevertheless—until it is tested in real life. Many a theory has delivered surprises, both positive and negative, when an attempt has been made to put it into practice.” (Hanisch, online.)

So to me, I think that revising the dialog on FSD has yielded some unexpected, and, at times, unpleasant surprises.

But what right do I have to complain & critique in the first place? Let’s face it – I’m no expert on sex; I have very limited experience with any sex. I have no relevant credentials to my name, no Ph.D., no M.D., no relevant degree, no published books, no license (except to drive,) no medical authority. I cannot offer advice, merely perspective… And even that perspective is skewed. I’m a regular person with female sexual dysfunction. All I have is this blog and a history of pelvic pain problems. A blogger with sexual dysfunction, which some sex & gender theories state is an invented falsehood and from which I believe stem some very ugly statements about FSD and the women who live with it. Can anyone then trust me, take me at my word, at face value? Or have I been brainwashed by the media and the phallocentric medical community and so am a lost cause, a casualty, collateral damage.

Yet I am compelled to speak my experience aloud, though it flies in the face of mainstream wisdom. In doin’ things different, I may very well be doin’ it wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Whew. What a trip. That certainly was a journey into reading. Finally, so far when I finish books for book review purposes, I like to suggest who might be interested in reading the work in question. For Sex is not a Natural Act, I think that the target audience is primarily feminists, sex therapists and/or sexologists, college students and teachers. I’m not sure if it would be appropriate for everyone living with sexual dysfunction. It sure wasn’t easy for me to get through, that’s for sure. Maybe the book would be of interest to people with sexual dysfunction who already have at least a basic knowledge of feminism or a budding interest in it. I’m not sure I’d advise going in without some scaffolding to build on.

But you want to know the worst part of finishing Sex is not a Natural Act…?

Cover for New View book

[Description: A white lady’s hand holding a green-and-purple book over a yellow background. The book is clearly titled “A New View of Women’s Sexual Problems.]

There’s another book just like it!
“There is another Skywalker!” Omg, you guys, come on, you guys. You’re killin’ me over here. You can’t be serious! There’s more?? I have do this all over again??

Okay, fine, I will read this. I will do this task. But not right now. I need to chill out for awhile & read some fun books first. Looks like I’ve got a lot left to learn… I wonder though, if perhaps anyone else, has something of value they can learn from me, too.

Interesting posts, weekend of 4/17/10

04/17/2010 at 9:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Dear internet, 2010 has not been a good year, and April has not been a good month. Without sharing too much about my personal life, there’s been some big and little interpersonal & family shakedowns around my life this month. I may have to skip making new posts (and working on my drafts) this week, so heads up on that.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. (I feel I could be doing a better job of reaching out to marginalized people in particular – open to suggestions on how to improve that.)
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. Posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

A few weeks ago, during March, the F-Word blog posted an article by S, who lives with vulvar vestibulitis. Supportive comments in response to that article have now been posted. March comments on features and reviews, up now! You are not alone. Check out the original post, Painful vagina? Your poor husband!

Kate has directed vulvodynia patients to a new article, but you need MedScape access to read the whole thing. I do believe that this abstract from PubMed is the abstract for the article in question. So if you have journal database access, check it for Guidelines for the Management of Vulvodynia.

A few blogs have been picking up on this ABC news article, Are We a Step Closer to a Viagra for Women? – I’m sure that we’ll be seeing a lot more chatter and backlash about this and Flibanserin over the next few months. And I have absolutely no doubt that it’s going to get real ugly real quick. People with sexual dysfunctions, brace yourselves.

Submitting to pain (by Suzie) – This post isn’t about the BDSM kind of pain, it’s about living with dyspareunia. For some reason Suzie never explicitly uses that word, but she describes some situations of women living with painful sex. She notes the influence of culture and expresses for the desire that the medical community to take an interest in sexual pain. You and me both, Suzie.

Question of the Day – “What are your favorite characters from music, literature, movies, etc. who express a healthy (i.e. consensual) sexuality with which you identify?” – I could not answer this question. None. The closest matches I can think of are Charlotte from Sex and the City and I don’t identify with her, and Susanna Kaysen, who is a real person and not a made-up character.

STPs: sexually transmitted poisons – [NSFW] There was an episode of House like this – some compounds like hormones and poison ivy can be transferred to a partner during sexual activity. I don’t know how likely this is to happen or to have happened to women with vulvar problems. To be on the safe side though, even I have my partner use the same detergents & soaps as me when we’re together since I try to minimize irritation.

A controversy over Clitoraid has been developing over the last few weeks. Actually, I suppose it’s really been developing for months or years, as this isn’t a brand-new thing. But the following posts came to my attention only this week. Clitoraid is a charitable organization whose goal is to restore sexual pleasure to women who have experienced FGC. This is done through reconstructive surgery to work with remaining clitoral tissue. Depending on who you ask, the clitoris is the ultimate female sex organ, or it is but one of many pathways to sexual pleasure. So how could anyone possibly critique reconstructive surgery after FGC? Well, the program isn’t free of criticism. A loose coalition of Feminists Challenging Clitoraid mobilized within the last few weeks to set up an online petition requesting that sponsors of Clitoraid reconsider their support. Good Vibrations, one of the sponsors of Clitoraid, was at first staunch in its support but within just the last few days, dropped support under group pressure, and is seeking out a better way to support women who have experienced FGC. Other Clitoraid supporters have resolved to stand by the organization. Please bear in mind, it’s not so much the end result that’s being examined so much as the way in which the goal is accomplished. It reminds me of criticisms of some breast cancer awareness organizations and marketing in the US. So here’s some posts related to the April 2010 Clitoraid controversy.
Asking questions about Clitoraid – Dr. Petra Boynton is looking at several features including the parent organization, treatment effectiveness and yes, an ongoing theme at this blog in recent weeks, social constructions.
Clitoraid confusing genuine well-wishers – This post takes a look at the Raelians, a religious organization connected to Clitoraid.
Some thoughts on Clitoraid and the ethics of intervention – This article points out that there were already hospitals in Burkina Faso which could already provide reconstructive surgery and looks at financial considerations, as well as cultural issues.
As of today, almost all of the posts in the April archive of Can? We? Save? Africa? talk about Clitoraid and explicitly state what Feminists Challenging Clitoraid is concerned about.

Following up on the F Conference – Chally gave a presentation at a feminism conference. It addressed some shortcomings of feminism, like the failure to recognize and reach out to oppressed women – like women of color, disabled women and trans women. Feminism to this day needs to work on intersectionality.

Welcome Home – [Trigger warning] A story of dehumanization and foul treatment by a traveler at the hands of US Customers & Border Patrol.
See also –  Confronting Citizenship in Sexual Assault – [Trigger warning] If there are laws that allow police to check on the immigration status based on what they consider a reasonable doubt, what does this mean for sexual assault victims?

We Are the Dead: Sex, Assault, and Trans Women – [Trigger warning] C.L. Minou wrote a guest post looking at the dangers trans women in particular face with regards to sexual assault.

Pulitzer or No Pulitzer, Kathleen Parker’s a Moron: Real Men Actually Do Talk About Vaginas in Public – Conservative writer Kathleen Parker recently won a Pulitzer Prize. … … …Keep in mind this is the same Kathleen Parker who has written about how rough the world is on the poor menz and how women shouldn’t talk about their vaginas in public. She’s written much more than that though…
She’s not the only one who won an award though – Advocate honors social justice leaders – Feministing looks at some new inductees into Advocate for their social justice work.

Bullying and the Wall of Silence – [Trigger warning] – What happened when Thomas tried to intervene in school bullying, which supposedly was prohibited under a zero tolerance policy. With that policy in place, bulling wasn’t reported for what it was.

Susannah Breslin: Certifiable Asshole – [Trigger warning] Susannah Breslin does not understand what trigger warnings are and why feminist-oriented websites in particular include them when talking about material that may trigger bad memories in readers. Safe space is difficult or impossible to maintain, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try and extend some courtesy. See also I Write Letters from Melissa, [Trigger warning] who explains more on what trigger warnings are and why they’re presented.

A first step in a feminist direction: The Healthy Media for Youth Act – Two congresswomen in the US have proposed new laws on media, based on research from Girls, Inc. and Girl Scouts Research Institute. This could counter negative, unrealistic, and dangerous depictions of women and girls in the media.
See also, another iteration of I Write Letters – this one in praise of Britney Spears, for releasing the before-and-after pictures from a photoshoot. The before and after pictures point out exactly what was done in Photoshop to make Spears fit a more conventional definition of beauty, and, in the process, meet a beauty standard far out of reach to most women.

A few simple facts about abortion – Nebraska passed a law restricting abortion in the state, under the guise of fetal pain. However most abortions take place well before the cut-off and, as Jill said, “there’s no strong evidence that fetuses experience pain.” But wait, there’s more! Nebraska to pass extreme, first-of-its-kind anti-choice bill – this one would “require doctors to screen women for mental and physical problems that could pose as a “risk” after getting an abortion.” So these two bills chip away at reproductive rights.

An OYD Airline Rant – Airline passengers with disabilities are not always treated with the same respect and courtesy as able-bodied passengers, they are discriminated against and this discrimination is defended. Keep in mind this is happening while full-body scanners are being pushed for, restrictions against drinking or getting up to use the bathroom are being enacted.

April 16: National Day of Silence – Day of Silence is s day in which students remain silent even during class, to draw attention to harassment of LGBT peers. I remember several students in my high school classes participating in the National Day of Silence. FWD put together a roundup of posts related to the Day of Silence.

I’m sure there’s more…

Book Review: First Time

04/13/2010 at 7:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A question: Is an erotic graphic novel considered “Erotica” or “pornography?”

To be honest, this question might be better left for a later, more dedicated post, as for the time being I’d like to focus on this book review as just that – a book review. But in the mean time, as I am still forming my thoughts on this question… To me, the difference between erotic graphic novels and comic book porn skates a very fine line. In my opinion, erotic the graphic novel First Time fits better into the category of erotica – no doubt the presentation is controversial, yet there is no doubt denying that all of the vignettes are artfully presented.

I first heard about the graphic novel First Time from Feminist Review. I already knew I have an affinity to drawn and cartoon porn & erotica, but I had no experience with an in-print version – partly because for a long time I had no safe space to hide such a tome. I put the book on my wish list, and kind of forgot about it for awhile, until recently. Having cleared off some paperbacks from the shelves in favor of electronic titles for my Kindle, I ordered it up and within a few days a surprisingly large package arrived at my door.

The first thing I noticed about First Time when it arrived was the sheer size of it. This isn’t a graphic novel – it’s a monster!

I mean, look how big this thing is! (Note: This is a picture of the back cover, in order to keep this post ~mostly SFW.)

[Description: The back cover of a large, red, square book on a yellow background There’s a UPC code on the lower right of the book cover.]

Now compare this to some of my other graphic novels (nerd alert!):

[Description: Three graphic novels, left to right: The blue cover for JTHM, the conclusion of the comic book adaptation of The Dragons of Spring Dawning with a picture of an armor-clad woman & five-headed dragon on it, and the same red cover for First Time as seen above. All on a yellow background. The First Time graphic novel is clearly much larger than JTHM & DoSD.]

It’s really big! It’s bigger than most of my other comic books. Hardcover, too, so there’s no way you’re going to be able to hide this in your purse or read it in public at the bus stop.This is a book that will be restricted to the bedroom, or, if you’re adventurous, the coffee table. And I’m surprised that for the quality, (It’s one of those books you almost feel bad about cracking open to read) it costs less than $15 on Amazon. It’s not much more expensive than a manga comic volume.

First Time is a series of 10 short sex stories illustrated by different artists. I think some of these artists & the author are using pseudonyms, because I’m having a very hard time looking their biographies and other artistic work online. The unifying theme is that all of the stories are told from the perspective of a woman experiencing a new sexual situation for the first time. That includes first time intercourse, but it also covers a woman’s first time buying a sex toy, visiting a sex club, engaging in a threesome, etc.

One thing I really like about First Time is the wide variety of artistic styles. With a few exceptions, changing artists between new chapters of an overall story is a feature I’ve come to look forward to in graphic novels. Here, the character designs, weight, shading, degree of abstraction, etc. changes with each chapter. No two stories look the same, and I’m surprised to report that there’s no “Anime” chapter. Some of these styles look … familiar to me… I don’t recognize any of the artists’ aliases in the table of contents, so perhaps it’s just a coincidence. Everything in First Time is in black and white, which is kind of a bummer because with webcomics at least, everything looks better in color. The artist I liked best was Dominique Bertail, who shaded his first-time story of pegging with shades of gray. Other artists took a stark black & white only approach, which works, but feels less fluid to me. Indeed, several artists use mostly angles & boxy shapes for their character designs, and the last chapter is so heavily cubist that it looks more like Explosion in a Shingle Factory Nude Descending a Staircase than a couple watching a pornographic video together for the first time. In contrast, the line art in First Time 1 + 1 is so tight, curvy and fluid that it feels more like a cartoon. My brain fills in the gaps between panels well for this chapter and I can almost see the characters moving frame-by-frame.

Some of the art changes during stories as well, to reflect the situation. For example, in First Time Submission, the line art shifts from well-controlled in some places to shaky and wild during sex, I think to reinforce a sense of forfeiting control.

There’s a decent variety of content and sexual activities depicted, and everything could theoretically happen in real life – that means there’s nothing otherworldly fantastic that can happen only in fantasy. Most, but not all of the stories have happy endings. One of the stories ends in heartbreak, and as FR points out, one of the stories about an inanimate sex doll wise beyond her years material doesn’t really fit in well with the rest of the theme.

Areas for improvement: There’s a narrow range of body types depicted, so it would have been nice to see more variety. Also, color.

At about 100 pages with relatively little text (the pictures do most of the talking,) First Time probably won’t take long to read through unless you like to pour over the little details in the art. Which you should do because some of this art is beautiful. The artists weren’t stingy with their ink and the amount of work they put into this project.

Yet for all the uncensored pictures of naked people having sex, none of the stories really fired up my libido while I was reading. No, I would say First Time is more “Erotica” than “Porn.” If it is porn, then it certainly falls into the “Alternative” realm rather than mainstream. It’s more “Sit quietly and contemplate sexuality, then build a fantasy later on,” rather than “Wow that’s pretty hot” instant gratification. Your mileage may vary.

I would say that First Time might be appropriate for someone who already has experience with written erotica, and is interested in exploring visual depictions of sex, but is not quite ready for or fully comfortable with pornography. If you know for sure 100% that porn isn’t for you, this may be pushing the envelope. It may be of interest to those who do enjoy pornography or to comic book collectors. As it turns out, there’s actually a sizable niche market for erotic comics, and Eurotica has produced more than this one volume.

If you choose to spend the ~reasonable $15 or so via Amazon, make sure that you have a private place to store it when you’re not reading it. First Time is highly conspicuous, and you might not want the kiddies accidentally discovering it while pouring over your X-Men and Justice League collection.

Full disclosure note: As with all books reviewed on Feminists with FSD so far, I had to pay for this book out of pocket with my own money, and I receive no compensation for writing this review.

Interesting posts, weekend of 4/10/10

04/10/2010 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dear internet, I’m interested in improving my writing skills. Although I have received high grades and even academic awards regarding my style, and have seen some comments ’round the tubes that suggest to me that my writing is okay, I still feel insecure about it from time to time. What is a good resource for improving one’s writing skills? It’s Elements of Style, right? Do I need Elements of Style if I already own (but haven’t started reading) Writing with Style?

Also, I have updated the About page to reflect a comments policy. I haven’t had any big problems with comments so far, so this is not in response to anyone or anything. I’d just like to continue to not have any huge problems with comments. There’s also a brief mention of guest posters on the About page now. The References page, unfortunately, is still way out of date & needing attention sooner or later. I’m procrastinating on that one because I find the job of correcting it overwhelming.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. Did you all get a chance to read Flora’s guest post this week?
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.
A quick note: I’ve been told that if you’re using FireFox in private browsing mode, it may appear as though a comment left here went through. But for now the way I have the comment moderation set up is that new e-mail addresses here don’t auto go through until I have a chance to look at and approve it. So I think you need to exit private browsing mode & you’ll see your comment is in moderation.

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

It’s NOT about Your Diet – I do not necessarily agree with or endorse Abigail’s approach to dealing with chronic pelvic pain, however, I liked this post. She tried the whole restrictive diet thing and it didn’t work for her! No sense tormenting yourself with waiting for something if it’s not right for you and it’s interfering with your enjoyment of other things.

Sex addiction (By Suzie) – I’m enjoying this post on sex addiction more than many of the other flat-out denials I’ve run into. It doesn’t really look at sex addiction so much as reactions to it.

The Pain is real even though you can’t see it – Renee lives with chronic pain, and this is a post about it. There’s many facets to living with chronic pain and Renee touched upon several of them – in the media, some of these facets like difficulty food preparation and physical contact (limited spoons) and how other people perceive you, these facets don’t get much coverage.

This is what war looks like: leaked footage of Iraquis and Reuters employees being massacred – [Trigger warning] This is a big story this week, but I’ve seen some news sources taking different approaches to it… What we have here is a disturbing video of a massacre by the US army was released by the website WikiLeaks. Blogger los anjalis at CureTogether has some thoughts on the video too.

Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and the Confederacy Commemoration Month – He didn’t even mention slavery.

Ungodly – [Trigger warning] The Catholic church sexual abuse cover-up continues. This post talks about the abuse that took place in one remote Alaskan community after a known abuser was dumped there.

Let’s Get Another Ladyfriend On The Supreme Court This Time Around – Justice John Paul Stevens of the US Supreme Court is retiring. The harpies suggest that Obama appoint a woman to replace him. Several possible nominees, men and women, are listed.

Fighting Ableism Fights Sexual Assault – [Trigger warnings] Part of an ongoing series as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This one looks at disability and sexual assault, as people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable because they may be dependent on their caregivers.

Code red on feminist woo – A response to the Laura Eldridge post from Bitch magazine last week. Hey, wait a second… So, why is it okay to criticize & sensationalize sexual dysfunction medication like Viagra medication by writing articles with titles like “Dying for sex: The FDA approved Viagra quickly – perhaps to quickly,” by Brownlee & Schultz in 1999 (Tiefer, location 2506,) but Eldritch’s likewise controversial claims on HBC are swiftly skewered? Is it because of Social Construction? Is it because HBC is older? I don’t know.

Okay, This Is Ridiculous – A critique of a poorly-written article that claimed if 90% of US women breastfed, lots of lives and cash would be saved. Well there’s just a few problems with that… like guilt-tripping the women who don’t breastfeed for whatever reason.

Constance McMillen: I was sent to a fake prom – Some follow up to the Constance McMillen prom controversy. You may recall that her school claimed it canceled the prom in response to her request to attend with her girlfriend, and wear a tuxedo. Instead, two proms were set up, one unofficial-official which the rest of the student body was invited to and a fake-official prom that only seven students attended. Two students with developmental disabilities were also sent to the fake prom. How bigoted is Itawamba County?

Cosmocking: UK Cosmo! – Globetrekking Holly picks apart Cosmopolitan in Europe! Oh wait – wait there’s not much to pick apart here. What? Cosmo isn’t so bad in the UK.

Guest Post by Sin Nombre: Story Time – An example of what transphobia in action looks like.

Oral Sex is Sex: Since Pleasant Associations Aren’t Reminder Enough, Jayme Waxman Takes a Different Approach – The definitive answer.

Against martyrdom – Against sacrificing yourself in marriage. This concerns Laura Munson, whom I read about many months ago & remember – her husband approached her wanting a divorce and she refused. Yes, Amanda linked to the original piece. Marcotte isn’t impressed by Munson’s self-martyrdom approach, sacrificing herself, and even her husband, to save a marriage.

The Derailing for Dummies site is down. Bird of Paradox has reconstructed it for reference & archival purposes: Derailing for Dummies mirror.

I wasn’t going to link to these Tiger Beatdown posts at first, but they got more interesting as time passed, much like a fine wine or so I’m told since I have no appreciation for alcohol. It all started with some comments left over at SEXIST BEATDOWN: The Male As Male In All His Complexity Edition, (regarding men’s studies not to be confused with male studies class,) followed up by a dissection of said comments (and then even more followed) at WHY TIGER BEATDOWN HAS JOKES ON IT: Turns Out Some Motherfucker Had To Ask Me, then the most recent post in BonerGate 2k10 is Thank You For Subscribing to the Newsletter for the We Don’t Care About Freddie’s Boners Foundation, which doubles as a pledge drive if you enjoyed Sady’s handling of the situation.

I’m sure there’s more…

Guest post – Heteronormativity and FSD

04/05/2010 at 7:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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[Dear internet, we have a guest poster today! The following was written by Flora, who provides her own introduction:]

Hi, I’m Flora. I am honored to be a guest blogger here, coming at the issue from a background of having multiple disabilities, which has ultimately resulted in my viewing my FSD as being like any other disability. My views are strongly informed by the social model of disability, rather than by a medical-model approach. (Please remember that the social model of disability doesn’t mean that no one needs medical help, or that many disabilities don’t cause genuine impairment– it’s just that society regards some problems as “normal” and makes allowances for them, prioritizes medical treatment for them, and those problems are therefore less disabling. In any case, what the medical model of disability means, in the language of the disability rights movement, is viewing a disabled patient as a collection of defects and malfunctioning body parts, not as a whole person. Being in contact with this attitude was not good at all for my mental state. I avoided seeking treatment for a long time because the medical tendency to reduce full human lives to collections of symptoms and dysfunctions was so terrifying and dehumanizing.)

I should also mention that an effect of another one of my disabilities is hypergraphia, so fair warning: expect long posts from me. I’ll try my best to not throw in too many extraneous words just for the sake of writing, though.

And, oh yeah… sometimes, I’m angry. Hopefully, everyone reading this should be familiar with the “argument from tone” fallacy. I have a big block of PTSD-related issues to plow through in trying to empower myself and get effective treatment, and I’ve been frustrated by the medical profession and the mental health profession, especially the latter, when trying to talk about this stuff. I’m chipping away at it, very slowly, but long story short, I have a right to be angry about social and medical attitudes towards FSD, female sexuality, disability, and emotional distress, and I can’t always turn my frustration into something you could say at a tea party. It’s not about you, unless you’re a person who actively uses your privilege to perpetuate those attitudes.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about when and how I first discovered I had FSD, for now. (I have vulvar vestibulitis and interstitial cystitis, which  developed at the same time and which I thought were one condition for years; they seem to tie in with a few other things I experience, which seem to all relate in one way or another to oversensitized nerves sending pain and injury signals when there is no injury. I probably have vaginismus too, although I think that’s inevitable when nearly every single experience of any type of penetration has been painful.) I was 17 and it was a traumatic time in my life for other reasons, and the bare facts of what happened symptom-wise, stripped away from everything else that was going on emotionally at the time, probably sound a lot like many other women’s.

Basically, things that were “supposed” to feel good or at least neutral were painful, and I was feeling every time I urinated like I had a low-grade UTI that never fully went away. My gynecologist couldn’t find any infection, and my family wouldn’t talk about it with me. I found a description in a book (this was over ten years ago) of vestibulitis, and thought “hey, that sounds like what I’m experiencing,” but I couldn’t find any resources specifically about it. I was afraid to look for them out of fear that I’d end up being told it was all my fault and that there was no hope for me. So I spent years avoiding any kind of relationships, and pretending, whenever I could, that it didn’t exist, although, of course, that didn’t make it go away.

But that’s as much of my personal history as I’m willing to talk about for now, other than to say that pain should always be taken seriously and not blown off. What I wanted to talk about was the role of heteronormativity in the diagnosis and treatment of FSD– whose pain is considered valid and why. Like a lot of people in the world, I’m not heterosexual. I guess the best label to describe my attractions would be “pansexual,” but all of my most emotionally intense relationships have been with women. This apparently changes some people’s attitudes towards whether I need or deserve treatment for my pain. It shouldn’t, but it does. So my first post here is about heteronormativity in FSD treatment.

So… heteronormativity is hard to define, but it encompasses a lot of things. Some of the things I can think of that it includes are: assuming that everyone is heterosexual by default until proven otherwise, that heterosexuality is the most normal and natural means of human sexual and relational expression and superior to non-heterosexual expressions, that sex means heterosexual sex and specifically intercourse, and that heterosexual relationships and sex are more loving, meaningful, purposeful, fulfilling, and gratifying than non-heterosexual relationships and sex. And structuring all sexual and relationship advice around this assumption, all medical guidelines, all erotic material, all sexual toys and devices, all views of the path your relationships, sexuality, and life should take.

It also, in my opinion, includes some other assumptions that leave even certain types of heterosexual relationships out in the cold: the assumption, for instance, that everyone is monogamous and that monogamy is natural/superior for everyone, and that all couples are cisgendered and that being cisgendered is superior and the only natural means of expression.

Anyway, that definition out of the way…

The vast majority of the medical profession is very heteronormative. If you are a woman, you are assumed to have a relationship with a man. If you don’t have one, you are assumed to want one. If you have one, you are assumed to be having intercourse, or to want to have intercourse eventually (waiting till you’re married etc). If you say you are sexually active, you are assumed to be having intercourse. And that even if you do other things besides intercourse, you still see intercourse as the “highlight,” as the only real important sex act.

As an example, here’s a questionnaire. There’s a large section on sexual pain. Great– that’s something that’s bothering most of us, right? There are a grand total of thirty questions you can only answer if you’ve had intercourse in the past six months. Very detailed questions about the onset, type, location, etc, of pain. Of the questions you get to answer if you haven’t had intercourse, a high number of them are things like “When did you last have intercourse? How often was your partner’s penis able to enter your vagina? How long have you been able to tolerate thrusting? How often did you experience pain due to intercourse? Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?” (Sorry. I… use humor to make this stuff more bearable for me, a lot.) And why all the questions about “penile penetration” and “your partner’s erection”? What if your partner doesn’t HAVE a penis to begin with? Then you don’t deserve as much help, apparently– even if you want penetration of some type.

Is anyone seeing the problem with this yet? A woman in a heterosexual relationship in which she’s at least attempted intercourse is automatically going to appear to have “more symptoms” by the test’s measure of it than a woman who has just the same number of symptoms and the same amount of pain, or more, but isn’t in a heterosexual relationship in which she’s attempted intercourse. And will therefore be regarded as more in need of treatment, as automatically deserving of a higher priority, than a woman in a same-sex or asexual relationship, or one who has never had a relationship or attempted intercourse before, regardless of  sexual orientation.

It would have been just as easy to replace many of the references to intercourse with references to vaginal penetration of any kind, not necessarily by penis– heck, the first things I experienced my symptoms with were fingers and tampons. The one time I was ever in a relationship with a man involving any kind of regular sexual activity, I knew intercourse was already out of the question, because finger penetration was already much too painful for me most of the time.There’s also a kind of covert heterosexism lurking in the idea that somehow, a woman can’t already have an awareness of her own FSD symptoms and know exactly what parts hurt the most before being “enlightened” to it by penile penetration making her go OW. It might also tie into the sexist/heteronormative idea that women are unaware of their own sexuality or lack sexuality until they’re the target of a man’s sexual attention, but in any case, it’s bogus. I did not need a man sticking his dick in me to be aware of the location and severity of my own pain, and I resent the idea that heterosexuality adds extra “credibility” to my pain that I don’t get otherwise, because I can’t check off any of the many tickyboxes about intercourse on a list of symptoms (and thus appear to be showing “more symptoms.” You want to see “more symptoms?” Do a pelvic exam and watch me yelp in pain, no penises required.)

Then again, the way symptom surveys will automatically prioritize you more if you’re heterosexual may stem directly from the unspoken assumption among many doctors and therapists that the only reasons women ever seek out treatment for vulvodynia are so they can have intercourse, or have babies. During my one semi-long-term heterosexual relationship, I tried to explain to a (male) therapist that I was experiencing pain every time my partner or I tried to put anything in my vagina, even something small. He asked me if I was having intercourse with my male partner, and I said no. His response (paraphrased) was, basically, “Well, why is it a problem, then?”

And this seems to be way too typical, from what I’ve seen and heard elsewhere. That a woman who isn’t in a heterosexual relationship, or any relationship at all, or isn’t planning on having children in the near future, somehow has “no reason” to want to not experience excruciating pain every time she puts something in her vagina, or even rubs the skin around it too much. How about, she might want to use penetrative toys in a relationship with another woman, or during masturbation? How about, she might want to be able to use tampons? How about, she might want to not have to worry, or at least worry less, about wearing certain kinds of clothing, or sitting in the wrong position, or what type of fabric her underwear is made of, or what kind of detergent it’s washed in? How about she might not want to be in pain any more?

You’d think the last one would be the most obvious of all. Would anyone’s attitude change if I flipped the question around when they asked me “why do you want treatment for this?” What would they say if I asked them, instead, “Why do you believe I want to be in pain?” Put the onus on them to answer, to account for why they believe I should be all right with pain as my default– not on me for why I should want to at least feel less of it!

Then again, for all I know, the assumption that I should be expected to put up with the pain might be an extension of sexist/heteronormative ideas, too. Naughty woman, getting into a relationship with another woman? Wanting to put things into your vagina for your own pleasure, not a man’s? Well, you deserve the pain, then! The only thing that should ever go into a vagina is a penis, attached to a man, in a committed monogamous relationship! It belongs to men, not to you! And the only time women should ever have sex with other women is where men can get off to it! It’s no wonder your vagina broke, since you weren’t using it properly, didn’t you read the instruction manual?

(Obviously, I’m being facetious, but it’s actually not too far off from what I was told by my mother– her reaction was basically “Why are you putting things in there in the first place? You put things in there, that’s why it hurts! It’ll stop hurting if you leave it alone and don’t touch it!” She had some issues, yes.)

The amount of misogyny that still runs rampant in the fields of gynecology, obstetrics, and urology, though– sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle– is very disturbing. I probably don’t need to give specific examples. If you’re reading this, chances are you probably have either personally experienced it or known someone who has.

And chronic pain problems in patients of any gender (but more often with women, generally speaking) tend to be blown off and pooh-poohed by a lot of people who will try to convince you that you are just experiencing “normal little pains” that are within the reasonable range of what most people expect to have to put up with in the course of their life, and you, you’re just being a spoiled brat with an entitlement complex, thinking you’re entitled to a pain-free life in a way other people aren’t. Except that most people with pain issues of any kind, by the time they get around to actually having the nerve to ask a doctor about it, have already experienced a lot more pain than most people ever expect to have to put up with as any kind of routine thing, and have probably already been told repeatedly (most likely by people who don’t know much of anything at all about how pain works or how it’s measured) that their pain is normal or just caused by some kind of stress or overexertion, so they should just put up and shut up and stop whining.

I was recently trying to write something about how male promiscuity is perceived, versus female promiscuity, and realizing that it was difficult for me to say anything from my own experience. It’s something I have talked with other people about, with friends, about the idea that only monogamous relationships can be healthy ones, and about slut-shaming and fear of rape making it more difficult for women to have multiple partners or open relationships. The thing is, while I can understand all of this on an abstract level, and have wondered abstractly about whether I want to be monogamous or not, it’s not something I want to experiment with now– explaining to one partner “no, you really can’t touch me here, no matter how much you or your other partners liked it, it really hurts” is hard enough, let alone several partners. I’ve had a few opportunities to experiment with responsible casual sex, but I’ve never acted on them, because I didn’t want to negotiate the explanations, because I was ashamed, because I felt (at the time) that my body was inadequate, because it wouldn’t stop causing me pain. Why would someone settle for me when they could find someone who didn’t have FSD?

I don’t have the sex life I want. I haven’t ever been able to have anything close. And the thing is, the one I want isn’t some porn-movie ideal in which everyone always has explosive simultaneous orgasms from intercourse. It’s got a healthy acknowledgment of the fact that even between normally passionate couples, sex just doesn’t always work out. It can even deal with things like requiring lots of advance notice for penetration of any kind. And I’m afraid that the only way for me to get adequate treatment will be to lie about myself, about my relationships, about what I want, because I am afraid that doctors will not take me seriously when I say “I want treatment”– even if it’s just about wanting to experience less pain!— unless they believe that I have a relationship with a man, who has a penis (no relationships with trans men, everyone knows they’re not REAL men!), and that what I want out of the treatment is for him to be able to put his penis in my vagina so that I’ll feel like a Real Woman ™, the end. Oh, and maybe have babies someday too. That those are the only possible  “right” answers.

I’ve heard people say that if men got vulvodynia, it would be taken seriously, and this is probably true, but for both men and women, heterosexuality is still definitely privileged when it comes to who gets taken seriously about sexual dysfunction and who doesn’t, among doctors who even acknowledge it exists.

Interesting posts, weekend of 4/3/10

04/04/2010 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
Tags: , ,

Dear internet, what a week. Somehow we went from having months and months of heavy precipitation to beautiful clear skies & sunshine. Unfortunately before the sun could arrive, we needed to get through even more rain. The ground has been fully saturated from so much moisture over the last few months, and with nowhere else to go, the new rainwater caused flooding in some areas. Including my basement. What a mess! My family saw that the basement was starting to flood early on and so we were able to ‘manage’ the damage for the next 48 hours, but it wasn’t easy. We threw anything that could absorb water at it and got real creative. But it’s hard, physical work, so we’re exhausted! The water down there never got high enough to be measured in terms of inches, but there were multiple leaks coming up through the floor and especially the sump pump pit (We don’t have a sump pump, just the pit…) So that was just one of the worst things that could go wrong for everyone in my neighborhood.

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. We will be featuring a guest post this week.
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.
A quick note: I’ve been told that if you’re using FireFox in private browsing mode, it may appear as though a comment left here went through. But for now the way I have the comment moderation set up is that new e-mail addresses here don’t auto go through until I have a chance to look at and approve it. So I think you need to exit private browsing mode & you’ll see your comment is in moderation.

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

First up relating to dyspareunia related news, and via multiple sources (but not the NVA, at least not yet.) Check it out! MTV and NVA!!! – I cannot confirm yet that the NVA has anything to do with this actually. But what’s going on is that, MTV is looking to interview participants for an upcoming program, True Life: I Can’t Have Sex. The bulletin from the Vulvar Vestibulitis Support Network says,

Producers from the MTV series True Life, are interested in interviewing women between the ages of 16 and 28 who suffer from vulvodynia/painful intercourse.  If you are willing to share your story on national television, please send an e-mail to with the following information:

–  Name
–  Age
–  Are you in a relationship or single?
–  If you’re in a relationship, is your partner willing to be interviewed?
–  What symptoms do you experience?  When did they start?
–  If applicable, what condition have you been diagnosed with?  When did you
receive a diagnosis?  How many health care providers did you visit before
being diagnosed?
–  Have any treatments improved (or worsened) your symptoms?
–  How does your condition affect your life?
–  How has the condition affected your sex life, marriage or relationships?
–  Daytime phone number and e-mail address
–  Current photo (please attach)

Please try to limit your summary to 1-2 paragraphs.

(I’d parse the post but that’s the entirety of it – Julieann if you want me to cut some of this out let me know & I’ll change it around.)

I’ve seen some rumblings about this True Life program before, it’s been in the works for awhile. I’m apprehensive about it, because I’m concerned about the potential for exploitation & what direction the editors are going to take it in. I’m worried it will be insensitive & inaccurate. But MTV is interviewing women who have had that experience of sexual difficulty or impossibility, including vulvar pain bloggers like traveltothesky so hopefully it’ll work out well. Keep your fingers crossed.

The Women’s Therapy Center blog has a post about some research relating to women’s health which may be of particular interest to pelvic pain patients.

Also, Coming Soon: 2010 Women’s Health Heroes Awards – Nominations for the 2010 Women’s Health Heroes award from Our Bodies, Ourselves is now open. Nominations close April 30. Voting starts May 3 and closes May 7. You may now nominate someone who has, in your opinion, made strides for women’s health. Doesn’t necessarily have to be a doctor; I saw last year that Dee Troll from some of the Yahoo! Support groups was nominated, but did not receive enough votes to receive the award. Here’s a list of people who have been nominated in the past, to give you an idea of who you might like to include! If you would like to make your nomination be anonymous, I asked about that last year and was told it’s possible to do it that way by requesting as much. You may want to e-mail someone in charge to confirm that’s still allowed this year but it was fine last year.

This past week was home to several -days (apologizes if I’m missing any) including: Passover, Easter, April Fool’s Day, LGBT Health Awareness Week, International Transgender Day of Visibility, and World Autism Awareness Day (It is now autism awareness month.)

Another topic that’s been going around the tubes for the last week is an old timey study on women’s sexuality – from all the way back in the day of the Victorian era. Clelia Duel Mosher of Stanford University conducted an early survey on the women’s sexuality, way before Alfred Kinsey. Turns out that the stereotypes about Victorian women weren’t true (I’ll refrain from using the other f-word here.) Found out about this through various sites from Violet Blue [NSFW] to and the Sexademic. What a shame that this information was denied to me during my college years even though in some classes we mentioned Kinsey!

There’s been a lot of blogging about the Catholic Church’s, and the Pope’s, awareness of and involvement in protecting pedophiles. These are just two examples from Pandagon, and they may be triggering. The next round of excuse-making for rapist coddlers and 1963 letter: Pope Paul VI aware of pedophile priests; Vatican plans immunity defense for Benedict.

A few links from Feministing: Iceland bans strip clubs: A victory for feminism? – I’ve seen this topic causing a flap in some blogs, for example the BPPA. Feministing’s conclusion is that “This is not a feminist victory.” And provides some of the reasons why.
Scott Roeder Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole for 50 Years – Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. Tiller, has been sentanced to prison with no chance for parole. I have no doubt that this case will be appealed but he will be spending the rest of his life behind bars. This is the harshest sentence that could be doled out, and is appropriate given the chilling effect that Tiller’s murder has had on reproductive rights.
Health care reform includes $250 million in funding for abstinence-only education – Unfortunately the health care reform bill will support abstinence-only education for students.

Girls Will Be Girls – [Trigger warning] about bullying among girls, including Phoebe Prince who committed suicide. See also: Law enforcement moves to take bullying seriously [trigger warning.] Having gone through bullying myself I find this topic very upsetting. I’m very surprised to see that law enforcement is getting involved now, since my experience was that rules for enforcing anti-bullying policy were always very lax, except when zero tolerance was applied to the victim of bullying and the victim was punished by school administration.

Where the Boyz Are – About gender in education and careers.
Also from Echidne this week – My Feminism Series – a quick list of links to some of posts on feminism.

Snake Oil? The scientific evidence for popular health supplements. – Here’s a really neat graphic site that shows you how useful some common dietary supplements are (via kataphatic.) This may be of interest to some readers, as I myself take a few of these supplements and maybe you do too.

What are our expectations for the 2010 Congressional elections? – Predicting political trends.

Stigma Kills: A Concrete Example – Little instances of -ist language and actions, in this case ablist, can eventually pile up & lead to very dangerous, deadly consequences.

The Angry Tranny: Tone Arguments and Trans Women – On silencing trans women using tone arguments.

The Economics of Blogging – Renee has had to change her RSS feed setting and is trying to earn money through blogging.

Salvation Army attacks sex-positive activist through its human trafficking email list – It sounds bizarre, but in its laudable efforts to stop human trafficking, the Salvation Army, led by two prominent members, went after a sex-positive blogger and activist.

FAQ: What is “slut-shaming?” – a new diligently-researched post at the FF101 blog about what slut shaming really is, why it happens, consequences and what can be done to address it.

This week’s latecomer to the roundup is Reproductive Writes: Keep Talking: An Interview with Laura Eldridge (via Feministe.) It’s about the dark side of The Pill & prescription birth control. I mentioned something similar to this in part 4 of our continuing series of the sexology book I’m reading – the author of the book left out mention of HBC & prescription birth control, which in light of the rest of the conversation about prescription sexual medicine, research and marketing, I feel is a major omission. Luckily this article at Bitch magazine came along and made up for the oversight in a conveniently timely manner.

I’m sure there’s more…

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