Shorties II

03/21/2011 at 2:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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In the same spirit as the original Shorties, I bring you: A series of posts which were each too small to constitute blog entries on their own. Divided we are weak, but together, we are strong!

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The National Vulvodynia Association’s newsletter for 2010 is posted on their website, here. It includes updates on research and funding, and profiles of researchers who have received NVA-related grants. There are also profiles of medical professionals working towards a more comprehensive understanding of vulvodynia. There’s also updates on educational materials and programs provided by the NVA.

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There’s a couple of reasons I like to post book reviews on this blog. I may post product (vibrator, dilator etc.) reviews in the future; I haven’t decided yet. Again, a reminder: Any reviews I posted here so far, I had to pay for the product in question & I haven’t gotten any compensation for my services.

It’s a blog about sexual dysfunction, especially that greatest bone of consternation, female sexual dysfunction. One of the common themes I read in feminist analysis of FSD is that a lot of it is actually sexual insecurity which stems from ignorance and lack of education. The idea goes something like, men & women are socialized differently and grow up with different expectations & pressures when it comes to sexual behavior. (In other words, differences in sexual behavior between men & women aren’t necessarily inborn.) Women are discouraged from learning about sex & pleasure. Combine this with shitty sex education and you have a pretty good chance of not understanding the influence of gender roles and how your own body works. This in turn is misinterpreted by the individual as “There must be something wrong with me” when experiencing a normal, understandable reaction to sexual stimulation. And the cure for this is better sex education instead of medication. Go read a goddamn book or something!

Improved sex education is great, so that’s one reason to post reviews of sexual guides and products. So every one in awhile you’ll find such a review here – it’s my way of saying, “Hey, here’s something that’s good and worth your time,” or, “Hey, here’s an overrated product that isn’t worth the packaging it came in. Save your money.” Or I’ll post something more nuanced –  “This is good, this is bad, and this part I don’t understand at all.”

However there’s another reason I post the reviews here…
Sometimes all the sex education in the world cannot fix a sexual problem.
Because it doesn’t all come from sexual ignorance.
Many of the sexual guides I’ve read, some of which come highly recommended, do not do a good job of addressing my problem in particular – pain. Maybe it’s because they’re not medical advice books so they can’t recommend treatments. Liability issues, maybe.

I’m doing what I’ve been told to do. I’m getting better sex education. I read the blogs. I buy the sex toys from the feminist sex shops. I have explored my sexual fantasies and will continue to do so. I masturbate to orgasm. I am in love with a supportive partner (the feeling, I understand, is mutual.)

The lady with sexual dysfunction is reading a goddamn book or something.

So why do I still experience dyspareunia?
Why do I still have vaginismus?
Why does my vagina still take so long to recover from vaginitis?
Why is medical intervention the treatment that best addressed the sexual and chronic pain?

Hey wait a second, this isn’t working. I still want to have some penis-in-vagina sex over here and that’s still like, really hard to do. Maybe I’m just not reading books and trying to learn hard enough.

The sex education helps – it’s definitely worth something. But it’s not comprehensive enough for me.

Now we could say here that I am the special snowflake exception to the general rule that FSD is a fake invention designed by Big Pharma and evil doctors; Dr. Leonore Tiefer, organizer of the New View Campaign, said as much when she wrote, “Dyspareunia is the only valid sexual dysfunction and certainly the only important one,” in response to the suggestion that dyspareunia might be better considered a pain condition rather than a sexual problem.

So hypothetically I suppose I could say, “Fuck you all; I got mine.”

Hypothetically. I have no desire to actually do that and in fact I feel dirty for having spelled such a phrase out in text. Excuse me while I swish some mouthwash and/or wash my hands. Is that what I’m supposed to say? Is that the way I’m supposed to feel? Is this the signal that, as someone with dyspareunia, I’m supposed to shut my pie hole when I see folks with other dysfunctions belittled for it?
I maintain that elevating one or some forms of sexual dysfunction as more real than others creates and crystalizes an artificial hierarchy. And it throws folks with sexual dysfunctions other than or in addition to pain under the bus.

And if, for me, all the sex education in the world fell short of actual medical help from professionals, then why should I believe that it would be any different for all of my friends who have sexual dysfunctions that are not painful?
Not that sex education has been completely useless; far from it. I have taken advantage of the information I found useful. (I also tripped over the parts that were counter-productive.) But to deny medical options to women with sexual dysfunction is to remove an important potential treatment, which for some folks may very well be necessary to find sexual satisfaction. And I find it highly disturbing when such options are removed through means of threats & intimidation, shaming, or ableist comments.

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Speaking of dyspaerunia being “The only valid sexual dysfunction and certainly the only important one,” I made this Privelege Denying Dudette meme just for you:

[Picture: Background: 6 piece pie style color split with pink and blue alternating. Foreground: White girl wearing a green t-shirt, featuring an African-American Sesame Street muppet with nine different hairstyles, subtitled, “I Love My Hair.” Has a smug, arrogant facial expression and plays with her long, brown hair. Top text: “ [SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION ISN’T REAL, YOU DON’T NEED MEDICAL INTERVENTION IN YOUR SEX LIFE] ” Bottom text: “ [WAIT, YOU HAVE DYSPAREUNIA? YOU BETTER GO SEE A DOCTOR.] ”]

What? Wait, what’s it going to be, do I trust my doctors or not? Do they know enough about sex to help me or is it an exercise in futilty to even bring up a sex problem? Am I allowed to go to one of the heavily-marketed sexual dysfunction clinics Dr. Tiefer mentioned in Sex is Not a Natural Act when my regular gynecologist gets stumped and refers me to such a clinic? If I take a prescription for sexual pain, am I just feeding the Big Bad Phama Beast and looking for an easy, quick fix? If I get treatment for dyspareunia, does that count as medicalizing sexuality?

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I recently came to a revolutinary conclusion. If your definition of sex positive does not include sexual dysfunction, then your definition isn’t positive enough.

I want to go out of my way to explicitly include sexual dysfunction in sex-positive discussions. Because ignoring it, outright denying its existence, or claiming that looking at sexual dysfunction = focusing on the negative, will not make it go away. Insisting that sexual dysfunction is a lie erases people who actually have sexual dysfunction. As a result, people with sexual dysfunction are excluded from sex-positivity – and I hate that. There is push-back against excluding people with a history of STIs from the sex-positive community by means of negative, stigmatizing language – why not push back for people with dysfunction?

You know what? I have sexual dysfunction. I exist. This is a long- term thing for me that I do not foresee changing any time soon. It will not go away just because you are uncomfortable with dysfunction (and, by extension, disability. These two phobias tend to go tovether, possibly because dysfunction may be viewed as a sub-type of disability.)

Yet even with the dysfunction, somehow, in spite of everything, I am sex-positive. I have made peace with it – or, at the very least, I have made a truce with myself until I can figure something better out.

Insisting that sexual dysfunction isn’t real or that medical options are unwarranted is just going to make it harder to get the care that I and my friends need. It’s true that most people will never experience sexual dysfunction, and so will not require medical options to address it. Nonetheless, inevitably, some people are going to develop sexual dysfunction. Isn’t there a way we can focus on getting support to such folk, instead of trying to sweep ’em under the rug?

Sexual dysfunction and sex-positivity do not need to be mutually exclusive.

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Sometimes, I worry a little bit about my reliance on a vibrator for orgasm. I think that, with enough practice, I probably could masturbate to orgasm using only my (or my partner’s) hands. But until then, I orgasm easily enough with a battery-powered vibrator.

I’m not worried about spending money on vibrators and thus supporting a capitalist system. I’m not worried about using my vibrators during sexual activity with my partner. I’m not worried that he’ll feel inadequate compared to my vibrator. I’m not worried about becoming addicted to masturbation. I’m not worried that I’m supporting the tyranny of orgasm.

The real reason I sometimes worry about using my vibrator is…
…I have this paranoid fear that some day space aliens or a freak accident or a Hollywood movie-esque disaster will unleash an electromagnetic pulse over the USA (home) and all elecronics will lose functionality.
Including my vibrators.
And then I’ll have to find a techno wizard to SteamPunk some kind of hand-cranked or steam-powered vibe for me. Possbily incorporating or inspired by one of the old-time antiques like those found in the Museum of Sex. And it’s just going to be really awkward and frustrating and I’ll probably have a lot of other important things to worry about post-EMP.

Obviously I don’t really know how EMPs work and I don’t really care. Everything I learned about them, I learned from movies.

I think about this with about the same frequency that I think about the Zombie Apocalypse as a real thing. Which is to say, not very often except for maybe after watching a movie about a zombie apocalypse or a post-apocalyptic setting.

FSD news from the NVA and the DSM

02/10/2010 at 1:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Three acronyms in one blog post title?? Better get everyone up to speed on what we’re talking about here. Food for thought:

First, there is a new E-Newsletter from the National Vulvodynia Association, addressing vulvodynia-related news (Vulvodynia falling under the pain category of female sexual dysfunction.) Please note that this E-Newsletter is not to be confused with their research newsletter. Please be sure to check the NVA E-newsletter out.

Included in this newsletter is some discussion about researchers who have been given awards and grants. One interesting upcoming study will be on vulvodynia, pregnancy & childbirth. I’ll be very interested to hear the results so I can make a better informed decision if/when my time comes to bear a child.

Another news bulletin I find interesting is this:

NVA on Capitol Hill

NVA Collaborated with Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) staff to include strong language on vulvodynia in Congress’ FY2010 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Appropriations Bill. NVA also participated in a Capitol Hill meeting attended by the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, who subsequently designated vulvodynia as a “high-priority” area of research. In 2009, four of the 20 vulvodynia researchers who submitted NIH applications were funded.

Neat! Government attention.

And of course there is also mention of vulvodynia in the media, including tv program coverage and new books. I bought some of those books but it’s gona be awhile yet before I even get around to them!

In the newsletter there are also calls for volunteers to participate in ongoing scientific vulvodynia research, so if you’re interested, check it out.

Then, via Helen @ Questioning Transphobia, we also now have access to a draft of the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.) The final version of the DSM-V is currently slated for release sometime in 2013. So be sure to check out that draft, too!

Why is this important? There’s a couple of different reasons; for one thing gender identity disorders and sexual dysfunctions are listed in the DSM, (yes even sexual dysfunctions caused by medical/health issues,) which is a powerful force behind having disorders recognized, researched, diagnosed, and treated. The manual is not without a fair share of controversy, however, particularly from a feminist perspective.

There are also some new sexual health diagnoses up for consideration, including hypersexual disorder (but not Restless Genital Syndrome? Is that up for consideration, and if not, why?) sexual coerison disorder, sexual disinterest disorder in women and men (related to hypoactive sexual desire disorder,) and, notably, Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder. This would include vaginismus & dyspareunia not due to a medical condition. (Pain due to a medical condition would still be under code 625.x – vulvodynia falls under this category.)

So if you’re snowed in today like I am, there’s some fresh reading material for you. In the mean time, I’m still working on my summary of the 3rd section of Sex is not a Natural Act and Other Essays to go up sometime within the next few days.

New NVA e-News letter

10/19/2009 at 6:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A new issue of NVA Update is available to anyone interested. (This is not to be confused with the NVA Newsletter, which requires National Vulvodynia Association membership (anyone can join,) or a payment if you do not wish to become a member.)

Back issues of NVA Update are available here.

This is a useful feature; it contains news updates, recent research, links to lots of other resources, and books of interest. While the primary audience for the newsletter is anyone familiar with vulvodynia, these updates might also be of general interest to chronic pain patients, as there is often overlap.

Without copying & analyzing the entire newsletter, I felt that one interesting thing about this issue is, it sounds like we were heard after the 20/20 special aired – the newsletter acknowledges some of the comments made about the program, notably the censorship (The word “Vulvodynia” was never spoken aloud during the show,) the lack of detail on treatments (including surgery & physical therapy,) and the small case study used for the program (3 women.) I addressed some of these concerns about the 20/20 special here. We said something – looks like we were heard. Let’s not stop the dialog here – there is still much work to do.

The NVA even issued a press relesase about the show.

That’s all I have to offer for now.


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