Tags: bingo, blogging, communication, female sexual dysfunction, Feminism, FSD, humor, little help from my friends, picture post, sexual dysfunction
[Description: A 25-square bingo board with light blue and lavender accents. The theme of the board is feminist bingo-worthy quotes in relation to female sexual dysfunction. A transcript is below the cut.]
Hey you! You there! At the computer! Everyone! Step right up folks, step right up and come on dooooown! *Fanfare plays, light bulbs flash in the marching ants pattern*
Have YOU ever run into stereotypes and archetypes about what sort of women develop sexual dysfunction? Have you been offered unsolicited advice on what to do about your sex life, which perhaps has quite a few major complications going on? Have you become frustrated with a lack of satisfactory resolution to your problems and feel like you have nowhere to go to talk about them? Are you tired of hearing the same tropes over and over again when talking about female sexual dysfunction?
Well then step right up folks, yes step right up and get ready to play Female Sexual Dysfunction Discussion Bingo!
It’s easy to play along! All you have to do is hang around any discussion of female sexual dysfunction long enough or experience in real life some variation of the experiences described above, and then mark the corresponding box off on your Bingo board. Fill in five in a row up, down or diagonally, and you “Win!”
(Unfortunately I’ve been cleaned out of prizes to give to the winners of this game and in fact if you have FSD then lurking in the comments section of a discussion of female sexual dysfunction is likely to be upsetting at best and triggering at worst…)
Impress your friends!
Annoy your enemies!
Stop in your tracks with the sudden realization of, “Oh my god but I’ve done stuff on this board! I never realized how much it piles up on the folks I’ve been talking about!”
[I am pessimistic that anyone will have this reaction in real life; the most likely scenario that will play out is probably more like: Upon realizing that someone has used variations of the above and upon meeting this bingo board, that same someone will say, “Well this blogger is clearly a bitch and is much too close to her own experiences to be able to look at FSD ~objectively~.”]
Think you can’t play because you don’t got FSD yourself? No problem! Simply support someone who does! You can start by checking your own privileges at the door and listening without judgment to a friend who does have a dysfunction!
Don’t know anybody with FSD? Yeah maybe you should think about that for more than 5 seconds and see if you can think of any reasons why no one has felt comfortable disclosing their sexual health problems to you.
With FSD Bingo, everyone’s a winner!
Yes folks this right here is a brand-new, limited edition addition to the collection of social justice Bingo Boards! Trade with your friends! Complete the set! Gotta catch ’em all! Collect ’em all!
Right-click save (or click and hold) your copy of FSD Bingo today!!!
But seriously folks,
This is another collaborative effort brought to you by me and frequent commenter and sometimes guest poster Flora. (Hence, version 1.2 presented here – I have incorporated elements and feedback from boards we came up with.) You asked, and we delivered.
Everything in the bingo board box is based on real stuff we’ve seen & heard. I’m not making any of this up. Read the archives back far enough, and you’ll probably be able to trace a lot of these boxes back to their original inspiration.
There were even more valid candidates to make it onto the board – I just ran out of room and couldn’t include them all. Unfortuantely there are more than just these 25 pieces of sexist, rampantly disablist rubbish floating around in discussions of female sexual dysfunction. Perhaps some day I’ll release a version 2.0 if this one gets enough feedback to warrant revisions.
Until then, enjoy. Don’t leave home without it!
Transcript follows below the cut in case you can’t see the above image.
Tags: BDSM, blogging, communication, female sexual dysfunction, FSD, little help from my friends, pain, sex, submission, vaginismus, vulvodynia
Last week, I posted an e-mail exchange between me and Ms. Sexability, about reconciling BDSM with a history of painful sex. It’s a question I’ve been struggling with as I become interested in BDSM and kink, and one I don’t think I would be able to resolve in a vacuum.
While I was thinking about this, I saw a blog post at A Femanist View, where SnowDrop Explodes had posted a quote he found to reflect the difference between BDSM and abuse. I’ve been reading A Femanist View for awhile, where I frequently enjoy SnowDrop’s posts about feminism, sexuality, BDSM, and the occasional book review. (He blogs about other topics like politics too, but those listed above are the posts I most like reading.) Seeing as he had just talked about the difference between BDSM and abuse, I wondered if he had any feedback on the difference between painful sex and BDSM, if indeed there is one. I was particularly interested to hear what he had to say, since he is a top. And according to The Topping Book, that means that he is someone who “Can eroticize giving someone an experience that would be unpleasant in real-world interactions” (location 98).
Of course I know that feedback from one person cannot and should not be considered the universal response. Everyone has different experiences and builds their own definitions of sex and kink. I would likely get a different answer if I asked anyone else. However I felt that asking someone who I know is experienced with BDSM would be a good place for me to start exploring, so that I’d have some advance notice on what to expect.
As with the last e-mail, some parts of the following exchange may be triggering.
I asked SnowDrop Explodes,
Would you say the difference is between BDSM & painful sex?
And this is his reply (e-mail is being used with permission.)
The first difference is that BDSM doesn’t have to involve penetrative sex of any kind (v, a or o). So SM play can be a turn-on for both even when “normal” sex isn’t an option.
The chief difference, I think, goes back again to that quotation: “Half of a relationship is the individuals, the other half cooperation.” When a medical condition results in suffering (e.g. painful sex), then that comes neither from the cooperation of the parties, nor from their individual make-ups. It’s an interloper, in effect. And it’s an interloper whose presence is entirely not consensual! In terms of my personal sadism, I like to be the one who’s in control of my partner’s pain, pleasure and combination of the two. Even from a purely selfish perspective, if some medical condition causes her pain when I don’t plan for her to feel pain, then that’s extremely unwelcome. Of course, the overriding concern is always for her safety and wellbeing (i.e. other-focused rather than self-focused) but I did want to get that point in as well.
In a BDSM relationship, where some condition causes sex to become painful, the ideal would always be that the partners involved would cooperate to find a way to carry on, and to make sure that the best available treatment programme was implemented – in a BDSM relationship, I would expect sexual relations to adapt to the condition.
Additionally, I disclosed,
I am particularly interested in your answer since you are a sadist. (No accusation – I think I’ve seen you describe yourself as such.) I realize this is a pretty broad question…
Like okay, I’m at least ~open to BDSM activity but I’m most hesitant to get into the S/M stuff because i don’t know how to reconcile painful sex with the “Good” kind of pain.
You’re a sadist so if you were dealing with someone with a history of painful sex how would you go about doing that?
And he addressed this with,
The starting point is always communication and cooperation. Even though I’m very much Dominant as well as sadist, it all starts with these principles – I get to take control only once we both know what we want from the other.
I’m a masochist as well as a sadist, and you mention the distinction between “good” and “bad” pain – something that is all too familiar to me from the gout episodes I’ve had. I think one of the key distinctions between “good” and “bad” pain is the power of choice that’s involved. “Bad” pain is generally something unplanned, and it’s something over which no one has any real control – there’s no way to safeword out of it, and no way to avoid it once it’s there. There are other distinctions as well, and not all “bad” pain is of this kind (for instance, I always find needles to be “bad” pain, however planned it is and however short-term I know it’s going to be).
So, I would use my understanding these points to talk things through with a (prospective) partner whose history includes painful sex.
The way I would talk about it would put her in control of the situation. My favoured modes of SM play are non-penetrative anyway – spanking, and other impact-play is top of the list – so pleasurable sexual encounters wouldn’t need to involve any penetrative sex. I would talk to her about the concepts surrounding pain as a gift from masochist to sadist. This means that she can determine when or if she wants to try penetrative sex, and to frame any accompanying pain as a part of her gift to her partner. That framing doesn’t work for everyone, I am sure, which is why she has to remain in control.
To make sure she had control of what was happening to her, she would have a safeword the use of which would immediately stop everything. I would not be comfortable with engaging in penetrative sex until I was confident that she knew and understood and *felt* that I would feel no negative reaction to her stopping things, because my first concern is for her.
Naturally, this means that it would be a slow build-up over the course of a relationship before we tried anything involving penetrative sex. In the same way that a sub or masochist partner can set “hard” and “soft” limits, and it is not unusual to see those shift and change over the course of a relationship, I would expect to treat penetrative sex in the same way – she gets to set the pace of how far she does or doesn’t want to go with it.
All of this would be to help put her in control of how much or how little pain she is okay with, just the same as any other kind of SM activity – safewords, negotiation, understanding, preparation, all being key elements to consensual BDSM sex. I would also hope that I would be able to communicate and have it understood that there was no need for her ever to consent to penetrative sex at all, if she wasn’t comfortable with involving that pain as SM play.
It occurs to me that your question also seems to be asking how I would approach introducing her to SM play in general. I think I would approach it with the same care as I would anyone who was new to the physical world of BDSM, so any early encounters would involve light pain only, both of us getting used to her reactions and again, letting her set the pace for how much and how quickly. We’d explore different kinds of pain and find out what is “good” pain for her, and what pain she finds “bad” or unenjoyable. Then we’d build on that as the relationship develops and it becomes clear to her how much control over events she’s willing to surrender to me as her sadist partner.
So the basis would be the same as any BDSM relationship: communication, building trust, getting to know each other, making sure that all activities involving pain are consensual and controlled (or controllable), and above all, making it fun for everyone involved.
I suppose one final word needs to be said, about whether or not this whole description depends upon the assumption that she would feel pain anyway. The idea of including painful sex as a negotiated form of SM play almost seems to put pressure on her to feel some sort of pain from penetrative sex, and of course that’s not a good idea either, so I would be careful about letting it be about potential, rather than actual, pain – so that if it turns out that it doesn’t hurt when she does it with me, then it doesn’t seem like *that’s* a failure, either.
Going back to what you said about your own openness towards BDSM, but not sure how to reconcile “good” pain with painful sex: I think the advice I would give there is what I described in my outline of how I’d deal with the issue with a partner if she had a history. Different people experience different kinds of pain as “good” or “bad” – I don’t like needles, others love them; some people hate scratching, I love it! So you can treat “painful sex” as “bad pain” (at least at first) and instead try some of the other sorts of pain that our bodies have to offer, and see what works for you.
I think this is a very interesting response. He is also familiar with “Bad pain,” like the gout he describes, and there’s nothing fun or planned about it. It shows up whether you want it to or not.
And there’s a lot of communication going on in this scenario – this being a scenario in which a woman partner who lives with dyspareunia is also submissive, or receptive to a top. (Eventually I’d like to think and talk about topping with a history of sexual pain as well.) Any new activity is introduced gradually and limits are allowed. And even if you’re engaged in a S/M scene, there’s still no need to engage in penetrative/insertive activities, which would cause pain. It sounds to me like SnowDrop is reluctant to ask a woman engage in penetrative activity, knowing that doing so may hurt. Even though he enjoys BDSM activity as a top, SnowDrop doesn’t want to cause unwanted pain!
We e-mailed back & forth a little bit more,
Some of the sexology & self help books I read recommend incorporating BDSM activity into your sex life when there’s a problem, but they never explain *How* you would go about doing that. I think there is a difference between BDSM and painful sex too – for one thing with BDSM there’s some enjoyment from the sensation and activity, but with painful sex it’s no fun at all.
And he replied,
The thing about the self-help books strikes me as strange, because if BDSM isn’t your thing, it’s not going to help (no matter how useful it might seem). I recall that there was a proposed study into the way masochists’ brains process pain compared with vanilla folks’, but it didn’t get approved for funding, which is a shame – it might have revealed something useful about pain management. I think for some masochists, a lot of it is about context (for example, a lot of masochists who are also submissive say that there’s a world of difference between a spanking that’s for fun, and one delivered as a punishment), but I know that doesn’t work for everybody (or for every type of pain). So I guess maybe the self-help books are trying to help their readers to put the pain in a better context so it’s associated with pleasure instead of “bad sex”. But again, unless you are predisposed to making that link, I’m not sure it could ever work for most people (besides which, painful sex may well be the type of pain that isn’t amenable to such an approach in the first place).
I think some people assume BDSM is just an extended form of foreplay, while for others it’s the whole point of the sexual interaction (which is why it’s possible for me to say that it needn’t involve penetrative sex at all).
And he also wished me luck.
A couple more points were made on the last exchange. Although I’m becoming interested in BDSM, I know that it’s not going to be right for everyone. It’s not a panacena for pain or dissatisfaction with your sex life. And that’s okay too! I believe that many of the principles involved with BDSM (notably, clear communication,) can carry over into vanilla relationships, but not everyone wants to engage in the activities usually associated with kink. There is nothing wrong with that, if it’s not for you, it’s not for you. Pressure to perform any kind of sexual activity is still pressure.
That’s all I’ve got on BDSM and painful sex for the time being! I’d like to return to this topic some time in the future to look at topping, and see if I can get some practice under my belt in the near future.
Tags: BDSM, blogging, communication, female sexual dysfunction, FSD, little help from my friends, pain, sex
Last week, I wrote up a post about my impressions of The New Bottoming Book, a beginner bottom’s guide to BDSM. I’m becoming interested in BDSM, but I still have questions about it. I’m particularly apprehensive about pain – since I have a history of sexual pain to begin with, I need some help understanding the difference between incorporating pain into sex play vs. painful sex.
So I decided to ask for help!
My interest in BDSM is new, but it’s not coming from out of the blue – I’ve been thinking about it for awhile. A few months ago, I contacted Ms. Sexability from the eponymous blog, SexAbility [NSFW.] Then I got sidetracked for like 5 months, which is terrible on my part I know… Ms. Sexability and her co-contributors have been blogging for several years now about sex and sexuality, BDSM, queerness, and disability. I had been reading her blog for a few months when I started thinking about BDSM, and she was kind enough to take the time to help me out with some tricky questions.
We corresponded, though it took awhile longer before I felt ready to start talking about this topic here. With a scaffolding of understanding provided by The Bottoming Book though, I think now is a good time.
I wrote up an e-mail to Ms. Sexability: [The link and non-italic parts may be triggering:]
What’s on my mind is, one of my blogger-friends posted a link to one of those “What kind of person are you?” quizzes, and the topic of interest for this particular quiz was what kind of BDSM (if any) you are into…
I was struggling with some of the questions about pain though. Since I have experienced unwanted sexual pain, when the quiz asked things like, I enjoy the idea that my partner wants to inflict pain on me. I like being threatened with pain. After sex, I enjoy seeing the evidence of the pain I experienced during sex… I was really struggling with those questions. I’m sure the author means wanted pain & wanted marks, but all I could do was flashback to the dyspareunia… I couldn’t get around it. It’s not a trigger, per se; all my sexual experiences have been consensual, but I hear the word “Pain” in the context of sex and, bam, I’m right back at the ring of fire.
I’m interested in both topping & bottoming. But I feel like, if I can’t get around the memories of sexual pain, I won’t make as good of a bottom as I’d like to be. Or as good of a top, if my partner wants to inflict pain on him… I’m likely to go too easy on him. Rationally speaking, I know BDSM isn’t a contest and I’m not going to be compared to anyone else. And I know that if I’m not into pain at all, it shouldn’t be a problem – I can talk to my partner about that & he’ll honor whatever I want.
To boil it down, how do I reconcile a history of sexual pain with the painful aspects of BDSM?
To which she responded (e-mail response is being used with permission:)
Well, I’m no expert on this topic, because I’m actually into D/s and Bondage more then into SM, and generally do sensation play, and use SM techniques like flogging, waxing, beating with nerf bat etc. for physiotherapy reasons and as a form of pain management, but I’ll give you my ideas and instincts anyways, for what they are worth.
It helps. I think, it helped me.
A few points I found particularly interesting: Ms. Sexability uses some BDSM practices, such as sensation play, for pain management. She’s written about this topic before [NSFW]. And she makes a distinction between Good Pain and Bad Pain. I like the use of deep massage as an example of “Good pain,” because that’s something I’ve personally experienced firsthand.
I have had a few deep tissue massages and I think it’s a very good example of Good Pain. A deep tissue massage can hurt a little while it’s going on – but at the same time it feels sooo good… A good masseuse encourages me to give feedback on whether I’m comfortable and if I’d prefer harder or lighter work, and so far I prefer firm pressure. And I relax completely during treatment – which surprised me the first time, since relaxing like that is usually difficult for me to do. At a treatment a few months ago, my masseuse was really working my calf muscles over. She had my right calf in what felt like a vice grip, and moved her hands up my leg with that same pressure. It was a very intense sensation, bordering on pain, but at the same time I didn’t want her to stop on that leg. My left leg, she had to take it easier on, since that’s the leg that pain sometimes radiates down when I’m in bad shape. After a deep tissue massage, I may be left sore for a day or two, since those muscles get worked over much more than what I’m used to, but I experience some benefits too – I’m more flexible and energized for days. I love it. I love the non-professional massages my partner and I give each other, but deep tissue massage by a professional is something I pay money for! I’m about due for another deep tissue massage, in fact.
I also appreciate that Ms. Sexability acknowledges emotional & psychological pain as important to consider. BDSM can involve intense emotions & feelings, not all of them physical – and it’s okay to make distinctions between good and bad pain there, too. And it’s okay to have those emotions. And it’s okay to go through a period of grief when sex hurts and you cannot or can no longer engage in activities that you wanted. I know I grieved.
The desensitization exercise suggested above, is one I’ve heard and seen elsewhere, and something that I’ve been working on. My techniques are a little different, but I’m open to incorporating more kinky activity into my process too. Reading between the lines, desensitization and learning to associate touch with pleasure was one of my instructions for dilator treatment post-vestibulectomy! Learn how to associate physical touch with good feelings. It can take a long time, especially since I’m trying not to rush. For me this means dilators, clinical physical therapy and both touching with my partner (we’re not actually married yet but at this point everything’s inevitable,) and maybe sometimes inserting something into my vagina when we’re together, maybe even to orgasm for me. I’m learning how to associate vulvar & vaginal touch with good experiences. Sometimes I backtrack, and I’m trying to accept these backtracks.
And she makes another important point, to take your time.
I really enjoyed this response, and, if the comments on the Bottoming Book review post are any indication, there are some BDSM practitioners and activists who are willing to lend a helping hand to beginners. There’s a lot of good stuff here, and it’s very reassuring.