Interesting posts, weekend of 5/16/10

05/16/2010 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Dear internet, I had nothing of value to contribute this week. I’m still working on a draft book review/report/first impressions and then I have more drafts followed by more drafts. Writing (and everything else) is coming slow this week, since I’m not feeling too great.

Don’t forget, I’m also on Twitter now. I don’t fully understand exactly what I’m supposed to do with it, but it’s there.

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.

Something strange is going down re: The Pill, or rather I should say media coverage of hormonal contraception… What I mean by that is, I think that, for the last couple of years, The Pill has been an untouchable subject in women’s health care. For example, I noticed that for all her criticism of Viagra and medicine for sexual dysfunction, there was a conspicuous absense of a critical analysis of The Pill in Dr. Leonore Tiefer’s Sex is not a Natural Act. I wondered why that was, why was The Pill not subjected to a social construction analysis? It had a very strong impact on women’s reproductive choice and sexual expression, especially in the US.
It’s undeniable that it may cause side effects, and some of those side effects are serious. Certainly I experienced side effects and I’ve talked to other women who also noticed problems after going on the pill. But not everyone will experience side effects; I know a woman who’s been on the same brand of birth control for almost 20 years with no noticeable problems. Other times, chronic conditions conflict with one another, and it’s worth it to stay on hormonal birth control as an accommodation even if it is causing problems in other areas; for example, endometriosis and vulvodynia.
Some authors do criticize The Pill in feminist & sexuality texts, but with a heavy-handedness that even I find too prescriptive. You have to be very careful about the way in which you critique The Pill. For example, I was not fond of the following description in Sex Tips for Girls – this is one of the first, if not THE first, sex book I ever bought, towards the end of high school. And it was in the humor section and it’s mostly out of date because it was originally printed in the 1980s but it was a stepping stone and this is what author Cynthia Heimel said,

“At first glance, birth-control pills seem like a great idea. You pop one in your mouth each morning and never get pregnant. What could be more adoreable? But don’t take them. Just don’t, that’s all… [She goes over a long list of like every symptom that HBC could ever cause as reasons not to use The Pill,] …Also, lots of girls who take the pill get hairs on their chins. Long, coarse, dark hairs that are singularly unattractive and stupid” (p. 48)

Was not fond of scaring girls and women into using her preferred method of contraception (the author used a diaphragm at the time of publication.) Not to keen on the bit about making readers feel insecure about the way they look. And even though I had bad side effects while using the pill, I can’t get behind Inga Muscio’s comparison of its use to “Napalming” the body in Cunt (p. 61). Amanda Marcotte disapproves of Laura Eldridge’s way of critiquing The Pill.

But last week was the 50th anniversary of the FDA’s approval of oral hormonal contraception. And some of the history behind the origins of HBC as we know it was brought to my attention, and it ain’t all pretty. Bianca I. Laureano (I linked to one of her articles last week too) wrote up, Why I’m Not Celebrating the Pill, which looks at the history of exploiting Puerto Rican women in its production.

Studies are coming out which support anecdotal evidence (skip the comments!) provided by women who have said for years that their sexual appetites decreased while on the pill. This particular news article isn’t ideal though… some issues I have with this article include: I wish the author had focused on the pill and left Flibanserin out of the equation. Yes I know you’re probably trying to stir up marketing and controversy so you have new material for future articles but I’d have preferred to go more in depth with The Pill in and of itself at this time… Also I’m trying to confirm one of the interviewee’s claims in that article. K. Wallen said (and then author Catherine Elton finishes up,)

“We know that long-term relationships increase the risk of female sexual dysfunction — a condition easily treated with a new partner, which is many times more effective than any drug or hormone,”Wallen says (although it has been shown to be true in medical research).

I’m interested in finding the source(s) in medical literature Elton and Wallen are referring to. If you find it, please let me know.

On top of this, let’s not forget one of the doctors interviewed by 20/20 briefly mentioned the tentative link between hormonal birth control in some vulvodynia patients, which really could use more study.

Maybe I should look elsewhere for a different writing style but you see I saw that Time article via Feminste which I read on a regular basis. And that’s a post in which some commenters leave female sexual dysfunction “In quotes” for some reason. Actually some of the comments on this Feministe thread are not as bad as I expected. Somewhat surprised that there weren’t more folks claiming FSD is always 100% fake and manufactured.

And that’s all I got regarding The Pill right now. Very surprised to see that maybe it’s not so untouchable of a subject after all.

Actually scratch that, on second thought it’s not all I have regarding The Pill. There was a series of posts on Disability and Birth Control at Deeply Problematic.

Just in case any of you are now saying, “But what about birth control for men?!” I have just the thing for you: Ultrasound as male birth control?

Edit: I don’t know how long this has been there, but I saw this how-to guide on Babeland last night. From Painful Sex to Pleasurable Sex. I put it in the “Interesting posts” category on the sidebar because I think it’s very interesting to see a well-known sex toy retailer acknowledge that it’s not so easy for all of us.

PCOS – A post about living with polycystic ovary syndrome, from the perspective of a photographer who is well aware of beauty standards and the symptoms PCOS has on her own skin.
Fibromyalgia Awareness Day 2010 – Contains some links and a video (no transcript available @ this time.)
May is also Multiple Chemical Sensitivity month. (Via FWD)
Guest Post by Tasha Fierce: A Matter of Strength? Meds Vs. No Meds – I don’t have much constructive to say other than I really liked this post and I think you should look at it.

President Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagen to be the next member of the Supreme Court. Her work, positions on issues and personal business (unfortunately) are being investigated.  Pres. Obama to nominate Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court via Feministing and Initial Thoughts on Elena Kagan and What A Progressive Judge Looks Like via Harpyness. At the end of April, Diane Lucas wrote about racism in the Harvard Law School. Kagan has been involved with racist and sexist disputes at HLS.
Also political this week, surprising news about former first lady Laura Bush. Former First Lady Laura Bush: In favor of legal abortion and gay marriage – Whaaat? What took you so long to say so?

Science says! – Translating science into lay terms to make a good story and then having to go back and re-translate it back into science because that’s not what it really said. Don’t forget to stop by and look at Holly’s Cosmocking: June ’10! Featuring the line, “[Sperm are] like little Roombas, they can figure out when to turn.”

Don’t Tell Us – Gizmodo’s response to a Jezebel article about an upcoming Hollaback iPhone app. I’m actually very much looking forward to this app though I hope I never have to use it.

Top 10 Myths About Immigration – Something which would impel one of my not-very-close-friends to immediately start his big ol’ truck up and come banging on my door with a pitchfork and torch if I posted this link on FaceBook. (I’m thinking of un-friending him but I find his statuses simultaneously amusing and appalling.) Via Feministing.

The Colour of Beauty: White Girls That Are Painted Black – on racism in the fashion industry.

Hazarding a New Definition of Virginity? – Exploring the definitions of virginity & how heterocentric it usually is.

Vintage Video Sexism: Kissing is for Whores – Wow. This is very paternalistic and slut-shaming. This video puts a lot of pressure on young men and women to remain virgins until marriage (so what if they don’t marry? What if they’re not hetero?) and then of course you’re suddenly supposed to drop your virginity and automatically know what to do…  (What if one or both of them have problems when they do go to have sex? What if they’re still not ready?)Plus, oh my god, the music in the background, oh my god. You know, I can get over the dated look and hair and fashion but bad audio just ruins everything for me.

17 May is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – And tomorrow is May 17!

I’m sure there’s more…


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  1. K,

    I’m so thankful for your weekly post roundup. I appreciate the effort you put into organizing these posts for your readers!


    • Whew, good to know it’s appreciated. It’s tricky you know? Not everyone here has pelvic pain, and not everyone identifies as feminist. So I’m trying to write for both sides at once.

  2. Thanks for the link to the Babeland article. That… basically does a really good job of addressing one of the questions I asked in the BADD post, about why sex toys weren’t marketed with people like myself in mind– it’s good to know that at least one company does.

    I guess… this might be a bit personal, so feel free to email me instead of replying here if you can answer any of this, but: do you have any experience with the two penetrative toys they mentioned in the article? Is it all right to experiment with penetration if you haven’t had a vestibulectomy? (I know under some circumstances I’ve been able to handle finger penetration, when I was really, really relaxed– I don’t see it as the entire highlight of my sex life when it can happen, definitely not, but it’s something as far as knowing what my own body will and won’t handle.)

    • I don’t mind answering questions about the dilators here.

      I have not used the two brands, Oasis & Silk, mentioned on the Babeland article. I don’t like the bulbous head on the Silk and other dildoes, it spooks me. That’s something I’d like to work on later.

      However I have used a set that’s similar to the Oasis kit. I have used the Berman set (as in Jennifer & Laura Berman) of dilators. Babeland doesn’t sell it, but GoodVibes does. I think it would be less expensive than buying the whole Oasis set, and you’d get one more intermediate size.

      It’s okay to experiment with penetration without having had a vestibulectomy, but I would not do so unless you’re having a good day or you have some pain management regimen – prescription meds, sitz bath, whatever works. Personally before I had the surgery, any and all penetration hurt. I could sort of handle it, for a few … seconds… the first few times I tried intercourse, but even fingering and using skinny dildoes hurt. I tried. It was possible to have something in there – it just ended badly. Never had pain-free penetration before.

      One other thing to keep in mind with the dilators – you probably need to start out with a smaller width, but very skinny dildoes (I think of less than 1 inch wide) tend to feel pokey on the inside. The nice thing about the wider dildoes is they don’t poke around.

      • Just looked at the Berman set– the main problem I’m seeing with that is that the smallest size is somewhat larger than I’d want to start out with. But, I will keep it in mind for the future– thanks for sharing your experience.

        I did once find a page selling a set of dilators with a large range of widths, although IIRC, it was also a bit pricey. Wish I could remember what it was called. Besides the price tag, the other issue I had was that the page selling them just generally had a very medical-model approach– hard to describe, but it was like they were trying as hard as possible to make this sound like a medical thing and not a sexual thing. I guess some people think emphasizing the sexual part would make it seem “low-brow” or sleazy or something, but… as I think I’ve mentioned before, there’s something about certain kinds of medical attitudes that makes me feel like I’m being cut into a collection of malfunctioning parts, and I kind of appreciated Babeland’s approach in the article because they were so down-to-earth about, hey, if you’re reading this, it probably is about sexuality for you.

        I guess what I’m aiming for at this point is to see if I can get my body to start to associate any kind of penetration at all with anything other than bad pain, on a more consistent basis. Sort of along the lines of the stuff mentioned in your BDSM post. And I’m not expecting any great breakthroughs when I’m not getting any consistent medical treatments specific to FSD, but it might help me cut down on the PTSD stuff that comes up whenever doctors examine me. (And therefore help me with going to see doctors in the first place, when… right now, the fear is often too debilitating.)

        • It sounds like you’re referring to Soul Source Enterprises. They have two sets of dilators and they’re both colorful – and expensive! I like that you can order each individual size as needed, but the more you need, the pricier it gets! They don’t vibrate either.

          But on the other hand the material for the dilators marketed for vaginismus are made of silicone rubber which is easy to clean and it’s supposed to be a stable material. Chemical stuff isn’t supposed to leech out of good silicone toys. You can’t use them with silicone lubricant though.

          I get what you mean about it feeling very much like they’re operating on a medical model. Their website is much more clinical in nature, and they don’t like to any exclusively sexuality-themed websites.

          I was thinking about ordering two of their dilators actually. Like I said, I’m not quite ready for more realistic or bulbous toys yet so a lot of the dildoes I’d like to get otherwise in the sizes I’m looking for, are out of the question. Either the dildoes curve (which I’m not used to) or they have a larger tip. I’m looking for something with a tapered end, which the Soul Source dilators have.

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