Archive for the ‘ Women ’ Category

I Don’t Know What To Title This

First, I apologize for the absence. Between dealing with major life changes and preparing for more major life changes, blogging has taken a back seat. Coupled with thoughts about things I don’t even know how to begin thinking about, I’ve been reluctant to write and share.

But here I am.

We’ve all heard the statistics:

In the United States, a woman is raped every six minutes.

One in six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Globally, one in three women and girls has been beaten or sexually abused.

One in every four or five college aged women will experience attempted or completed rape during their college years.

The depressing statistics could go on and on, with only minor variations according to who is reporting in what year.

Until recently, none of this had ever hit close to home. Sure, I had an acquaintance in my 9th grade American History class that divulged that she had been raped. She was just a classmate though, and “it was a long time ago.”

Clearly there is a lot that could be said here about society and the culture of rape. I want to place that all aside. My question for you is: What someone reveals that they were sexually assaulted, what can you do as a supportive friend or lover? What if it was recent? What if it was in the distant past? What helps? What hurts? Personal anecdotes as well as scientific research are equally appreciated.

What would you buy with $13,000?

According to a recent Daily mail article, as discussed on Jezebel, the average adult woman will spend $13,000 on cosmetics over her adult lifetime- considered to be 65 years.

As Jessica Coen of Jezebel points out, that works out to $200 annually, or just under $17 a month.  While $13K seems like a hellalot, $17 a month doesn’t. I certainly don’t spend that much, but my makeup kit is pretty basic and I am a big fan of generic brands. It’s tough for me to “splurge” on $6 mascara, and I don’t replace my makeup nearly as much as recommended. I’d estimate that I spend $50 a year, at most. Instead, I splurge on boots. (Can someone figure out how much the average woman spends on shoes in a lifetime? Nevermind, I’m not sure I want to know. )

When I saw the number “13,000,” I was shocked. That is more than half a new car. That is a year or more of college tuition.  But, the more I think about it, the less surprised I am.

The feminist argument might be, “I wish women didn’t feel the need to spend thousands of dollars making themselves conform to societal ideals.” But I’m torn. In reality, I think makeup can be a fun tool of self expression. It’s pretty innocent compared to some of the other things women spends thousands on. If that is where we choose to splurge, than so be it.

How much money do you think you spend on cosmetics? What do you choose to splurge on?

For me, it’s boots and coats, all the way.

International Women’s Day, According to Yahoo!

When I opened up my browser, and went to check my e-mail, I noticed a little Rosie the Riveter on my screen.

After strolling across the Yahoo! logo, she even winks at you.

If you click on the logo, it takes you to this site, featuring women who have made history in the arts, entertainment, leadership, science, music, and sports. While the majority of the women are from Western countries, not all of them are Women of a variety of races, ethnicities, and age groups are included. It even includes links to a variety of women’s issues and ways to get involved. I’m pretty impressed with Yahoo.

The Medicalization of “Female Sexual Dysfunction”

While at Arizona State University’s Gender Studies Graduate Association’s conference, I attended a panel entitled “On Bodies Inhabiting Clinical, Natural, and In-between Spaces.” One of the presenters explored the issues surrounding medicalization of female and male sexual dysfunctions. While the presentation and the argument needed some work, it got me thinking.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

“If you have persistent or recurrent problems with sexual response — and if these problems are making you distressed or straining your relationship with your partner — what you’re experiencing is known medically as female sexual dysfunction (FSD).”

So what are the symptoms? Once again, according to the Mayo Clinic:

“Your problems might be classified as female sexual dysfunction if you experience one or more of the following and you’re distressed about it:

  • Your desire to have sex is low or absent.
  • You can’t maintain arousal during sexual activity, or you don’t become aroused despite a desire to have sex.
  • You cannot experience an orgasm.
  • You have pain during sexual contact.”

Possible causes include physical conditions (arthritis, urinary/bowel difficulties, pelvic surgery, fatigue, headaches, pain problems, neurological disorders, medications that decrease sex drive and ability to achieve orgasm), hormones (menopause, post-childbirth, breastfeeding), and psychological and social conditions (untreated anxiety or depression, stress, worries of pregnancy, conflicts with partner, cultural and religious issues, body image).

Got that? Pretty much anything can cause sexual dysfunction in women. For men, sexual dysfunction is simple. Can you get it up? Of course, for men the physical ability to penetrate is often closely tied with their virility and masculinity. However, for women, sexual dysfunction, as defined by the medical community, includes low sex drive, arousal difficulty, inability to orgasm, and pain.

Much of the presentation revolved around the lack of a “pink Viagra,” or the fact that there is no medical miracle drug for women with “sexual dysfunction.” Instead, the speaker presented the NuGyn™ Eros Therapy device, the first FDA approved product for women who suffer from arousal and orgasmic disorders.

Eros therapy device

How does this work? Well, according to the website, “it is a small, hand-held medical device that uses a gentle vacuum to improve your sexual responses by increasing blood flow to the clitoris and external genitalia.” It is recommended that you use the Eros Therapy device either prior to having intercourse or therapeutically without intercourse.

It costs $395.00 and requires a doctor’s prescription.

On the one hand, this is really cool. The medical community is (finally) recognizing women’s need for sexual satisfaction. Women will know that they are not alone, and that other women experience similar difficulties. Sexual problems can be explained as a genuine medical problem. Hell, some health insurance providers will even cover the cost of the Eros Therapy device.

However, I am not sure how Eros differs from other vacuum sex toys that have been on the market for many years, although I suppose it provides a socially acceptable alternatives for women who would never step in a sex store.

Clitoral Pump, $26.99 at Eden Fantasys

Playgirls signature pump n' please, $26.99 at Eden Fantasys

Additionally, the medicalization of FSD and the Eros therapy device seem centered around the notion of penetrative sex. If a woman doesn’t experience sexual pleasure while engaging in penetrative sex with a male partner, something is wrong with her.

Let’s look at the four symptoms again:

  1. “Your desire to have sex is low or absent.” According to the Eros website, the increased blood flow to the genital area may result in increased clitoral and genital sensitivity, improved lubrication, improved ability to achieve orgasm, and ultimately increased overall sexual satisfaction. However, it is not going to make up for a unattractive partner, a stressful life, or the exhaustion of raising children and working full time. While it might aid in physical desire, it’s not going to cause mental desire, although thinking about sex more may eventually cause more desire.
  2. “You can’t maintain arousal during sexual activity, or you don’t become aroused despite a desire to have sex.” This happens, yes, and may be due to prescription medications or hormonal changes. It could also be that the sexual activity a woman is not engaging in activity that feels good, or she has not had sufficient foreplay (physical or mental) prior to engaging in sex. Women’s sexual response may develop slower or less apparent that men’s, but that doesn’t always mean something is wrong.
  3. “You cannot experience an orgasm.” Many women do not experience orgasms from penis-in-vagina sex, because they do not get the clitoral stimulation they need. Perhaps, we should be looking at what sort of sexual activities women find pleasing. Manual stimulation, maybe? Oral sex, perhaps? A combination of one or both of the above, with or without penetration? The Eros device draws blood to the genitals, making them more sensitive, as does any other form of arousal. It seems the ultimate solution may be learning one’s own body and educating one’s sexual partners(s). Eros might help with that, but it surely isn’t the only solution.
  4. “You have pain during sexual contact.” There are a couple of issues with this one, and pain can be a result of multiple causes. If the problem is insufficient natural lubrication, perhaps some lube is the solution. Lube is good. It’s always good. Even if you have sufficient natural lube, extra lube makes it better. If the problem is involuntary spasms of the vaginal muscles (vaginismus), gradual dilation may be necessary. If that problem is insufficient attention to the woman’s pleasure, then it is a relationship issue.

I think it is good that the medical community is recognizing female sexual pleasure as a valid concern. However, I am not sure a medical diagnosis and a fancy sex toy is the solution. The broad definition of FSD suggests that most women are inherently disordered. Has any woman not experienced one or more of these symptoms coupled with a distress about their sexual experiences? The quoted statistic is that 43% of women experience FSD at some point in their life. If so many people have this “disorder,” should it really be considered a disorder. 43% is almost a majority, and I suspect that more people experience symptoms but do not discuss them.

According to the medical definition of FSD, I was disordered before I even turned twenty. At one point, my inability to maintain arousal and reach orgasm was an issue that troubled me and my partner separately, and ultimately our relationship together. There were a couple possible causes, including a medication that I was taking. It was when we stopped worrying about the elusive orgasm, and we spent a lot of time exploring our own and each other’s bodies that these worries disappeared. Fuck, I couldn’t stop cumming, but it took time to get there.

Maybe FSD should not be defined as a disorder. I certainly don’t know everything about sex, but I do know that women have varied sexual reactions and experiences. Male sexual dysfunction is defined by the inability to achieve/maintain erection. Medication can fix that. For women, hormone therapy may enhance sex drive or reverse some effects of menopause. However, the issues of low desire, inability to maintain arousal, inability to achieve orgasm, or pain may well have to do with the types of sex a woman and her partner(s) are having or not having. Before we label women’s sexual experiences as disordered, it seems like we should examine our familiarity with our own bodies and our communication with our partner(s). The disorder may reinforce women’s feeling that there is something wrong with their body, instead of encouraging women to find their own path to pleasure. I fear that FSD is yet another example of medicine based on a male model, forgetting the fact that women may experience sex very differently than men and that, for women, sex can be a complicated experience.

What do you think? Is the diagnosis of FSD a step in the right direction, or does it disorder women’s experience (given that 43% of women- according to statistics- experience symptoms)? Is the Eros a medical breakthrough or a socially acceptable sex toy?  What advice should medical professionals give women who are experiencing sexual difficulties?

A Short Olympic Observation + My Mom

Yesterday, I was discussing the Olympics with my mom. Specifically, we were talking about the women’s alpine race and the crashes a few of the athletes took.

She is about to go on a ski trip, and said it made her nervous. I said it made me want to race down a mountain and fly through the air after launching myself off a jump.

And then, my dear, educated mother said, “I just worry about those girls.”

There we go, women athletes can’t be athletes and they can’t be women. They are simply girls who need to be protected.

A Short Olympic Observation

While watching the Women’s Alpine Ski competition on NBC this evening, I noticed the announcers (names anyone?), referring to the athletes as girls.

Curious, I pulled out a piece of paper.

From 9:18 EST until the end of the women’s ski competition, the athletes were called “girl/girls” five times and “woman/women” three times.

That broadcast was then followed by men’s speed-skating and snowboard half-pipe. Never once were those athletes called “boys.”

I realize this is an observation based on limited data. I’m curious what you have observed in the Olympic coverage available in your area, especially if you are out of the United States.

Review: Unleashing Feminism

I am a member of BookMooch, where I can give away books I no longer want in exchange for books I do want. You never know what books will be available, so sometimes, I like to select random books recommended for me through whatever algorithm the site employs.

Unleashing Feminism: Critiquing Lesbian Sadomasochism in Gay 90’s, a collection of radical feminist writings was one such book.

The key words drew me in. Feminism, check. Lesbian, Sadomasochism, check and check.

I tend to mark books when I love them. I underline quotations. I dog-ear the pages containing meaningful passages. While this books is as destroyed as many of my favorites, it is for the exact opposite reason. Few books have made me so angry.

One reviewer on Library Thing wrote, I have read many books in my day, feminist and otherwise. The arguments are poorly contructed at best and downright offensive at worst.” I couldn’t agree more.

The central argument of this book is that lesbian S&M is inseparable from Nazi genocide or American slavery. As a solution, all true lesbian/feminists must separate themselves from the S&M culture of mainstream queers, preferably through lesbian separatism. (Now this book was written in 1993, but I’m pretty sure that most people had realized by then that lesbian separatism was not a feasible solution.)

Though this book contains brief discussion on consent, the radial feminist authors continually question a woman’s ability to give consent and claim her desires. No woman can possibly genuinely want to explore S&M. She’s stuck under Nazi rule. She’s stifled by continued racial inequality. She’s used to police brutality. Rape is part of her daily life. This is what angered me the most.

Mr. Sexsmith explored the idea of consent and agency in the post “Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top”, in which he discusses coming to terms with being masculine, queer, butch, sadistic, a top, and a feminist.

‘I didn’t realize how little trust I had in others until I started playing deeper with BDSM. Because I would tell myself, it’s okay, she wants to do it, but then I would think, does she really? Maybe she wants to because I want to. Maybe she wants to because society tells her she should want to. Maybe she wants to for fucked-up reasons, like she thinks it’s okay for her to feel humiliated and less than me because of her own internal misogyny … but that was me not trusting that what she said was true…”

He goes on.

‘This was an issue of agency, in feminist terms – my not trusting my lover to communicate with me what she wanted, to explain to me how far I could go, and my not trusting that she would let me know if I was going too far or too hard, either with her physical communication or her words or both, was me not trusting in the agency of my lover. I have to trust that she will tell me, she will let me know, if I am going too far…”

This is a fabulously worded example of how feminism, at its best, recognizes the agency inherent in each women. An empowered woman can claim whatever she wants and needs, sexually and otherwise. This is the essential point that the authors of Unleashing Feminism missed.

That doesn’t mean that everyone should explore S&M. You can be 100% vanilla and be entirely happy, and this is entirely fine. However, to me, feminism means acknowledging women’s agency. This is the very core of my feminist beliefs, and the reason the close-minded nature of the book irked me so.

The book did contain some good points. Surely, there is too much violence in our culture. It is a fact, the Nazis employed sexual sadism to dehumanize their victims and establish “power over.” The service sector is disproportionately populated by women, the sex industry included. Women are raped. S&M can be traumatizing for abuse survivors.

However, the Holocaust did not happen because of sexual sadism. Men also participate in the sex industry and boys- like girls- can be victimized. Not all men are evil. Some are genuinely loving, caring, and respecting. Some people have never experienced abuse, rape, or violence (myself included), and may choose to explore S&M with few or no personal hangups.

For a book presenting itself as academic writing, the examples presented throughout the text are poorly sourced and often entirely fabricated.

In short: Don’t read this book. And if you do read it, expect some total crap.