Vaginas are magical. These self-cleaning, elastic, muscular life and love canals that can give amazing amounts of pleasure to their owners and others are sophisticated in both design and function. But with great complexity comes the great potential for system hiccups.
The common umbrella term for many hiccups is “Vulvovaginitis” and describes any irritation of the vulva or vaginal areas. Often the irritation comes in the form of painful swelling or itching caused by an external factor irritating sensitive mucous membranes. (Ever gotten something in your eye, be it infection or irritant? Same idea. ) Many cases of vulvovaginitis occur because of an imbalance of naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts and sometimes parasites or viruses.
But don’t fret! These are easy to remedy. Here’s a handy guide to the more common causes:
Aside from crazy Halloween parties and the SF Giants winning the World Series, this weekend also saw the first anti-feminist conference, held in Switzerland. Lately, I’ve seen some men’s groups popping up that equate feminism with an all-encompassing hatred of men. Let’s set the record straight.
What Feminism is Not
A hegemonic ideology. The stories we hear about feminism tend to fit the accepted schema (Socialist Feminism, Separatist Feminism and PostModern Feminism) but, in truth, feminist theories are highly divergent.
A movement to destroy men. Social power is not a zero sum game. The reason this idea persists is because a) media gives the mic to the most radical viewpoints (Teabaggers anyone?) and b) people increasingly tend to focus on news items that confirm, not challenge, pre-existing beliefs.
A conspiracy among women. Put five people in a room and have them order one pizza. Getting that small group to unanimously agree on pizza toppings is enough of a struggle. Getting hundreds of thousands of people to agree on how to ensure women’s rights is a never-ending argument and a far cry from conspiracy.
Putting Feminism Into Context
The one thing I think anyone calling themselves feminist will agree on: women have a right to agency, a right to make decisions about their lives. In short: CHOICE. And the forgotten fact attached to this is that women have historically (in some parts of the world, currently) not had a say in their lives. Continue reading Feminism is not Misandry. Seriously.→
I don’t know if you can help me, but maybe you know somebody who can.
I am 34 years old and unable to have a penetrative, penis-induced orgasm. I have been having clitoral orgasms since I was 18. Just about anybody can make me orgasm with their finger or mouth. I can also come if I touch my own clitoris during penetration. But nobody has been able to make me come from penetration alone.
I have two amazing male partners right now, one of almost three years, and the other of almost one year. Both of them are open to helping me and trying different things, but so far unsuccessfully.
I know that I have trust issues. I know that I don’t fully trust either one of my partners and am not sure I am emotionally able to fully trust any man.
I don’t know what other emotional blocks I may have.
Please let me know if you have any recommendations for me.
Thank you! Blocked Vagina
Dear Blocked Vagina,
Thanks for writing to me about this; your question is a very common one among women.
People love explaining human sexual behavior with evolution. If a behavior exists, it must be because of evolution…right?
In a recent study, among 827 women who self-reported on sexual behavior and fantasies, those women in the 27-45 age range reported the highest frequencies of sex and fantasy. The study authors explain this with evolutionary theory: older women compensate for their aging uterus by being hyper-sexual. Essentially, they’re saying an aging female brain incites more sexual desire in order to compete with younger (and ostensibly more attractive) females.
Here are my critiques of this analysis:
Nulliparity. If the evolutionary explination is correct, you would find that nulliparous women (those that have never borne a child) would have higher rates of sexual fantasy and behavior than women in their age cohort with one or more children. Pregnancy and childbirth are hard on the human body so it makes sense to level off sexual desire with age if a woman has already had children and women with no children would have more of an impetus to be hypersexual. An earlier study by the same researcher found no difference on account of having children or not.
Does not account for fecundity. Women with higher fecundity (fertility) would be less likely to need this adaptation because they get pregnant easily.
Fails to address social factors. The social taboo against female desire for the sake of desire can compel younger women to avoid sex and actively resist fantasies. Factor in roommates, ability to assess or obtain a sexual partner and sexual confidence, and an argument for social conditioning emerges.
Simplifies evolutionary theory to explain one strategy. Multiple mating strategies and behavioral adaptations exist within the same species. I’ve written about oversimplification of evolutionary theory in media before.
No cross-cultural or longitudinal comparisons. If the “cougar” approach to mating is indeed an evolutionary adaptation, you would find this phenomenon in many locales and points in history. I checked into data from the Kinsey Studies and the evidence is a bit muddled concerning frequency. Women reported a gradual rise in solitary sexual practices (ie jillin’off) but the website summary does not state when that behavior begins to level off.
I freely admit my bias when it comes to evolutionary explanations, especially concerning desire. The biggest reason is that the evidence is contrary to my experience as well as many of my female friends. When I was a teen my sexual desires came into conflict with basic social acceptance. I felt horny but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even realize that masturbation was an option for me. Instead, I supressed everything I felt between my legs and was constantly frustrated. One time, at 16, I was so horny I actually cried.
And no wonder. If the recent public outrage and ridicule of Taylor Momson’s vibrator comment is any indication, young women are still being shamed about their sexual desire.
I’m not in Time’s “old lady” category just yet (27-45, WTF?) but I definitely fantasize more and have more sex. Why? I don’t feel ashamed about it. Simple as that. Cheers to getting older and learning when to not give a fuck about others’ opinions.
Note: I am not saying that biological factors are meaningless in this case. Rather, a completely biological explanation is insufficient to explain human sexual desire.
I won’t lie: I like it and I would rock that outfit. But I’m not a superhero from an Amazonian Paradise.
Female comic book characters fascinated me as a child because they dressed sexy and kicked ass. To be sure, that sexiness devolved into a tired sex-sells marketing scheme with scantily clad female characters playing supporting roles with lame powers. But at the outset, with Wonder Woman especially, there was something awesome about a woman expressing sexuality just to express it.
Sexual modesty does not equal empowerment for women; in fact, quite the opposite. Controlling female sexuality is a hallmark of gender inequality.
Shelby Knox wrote an excellent piece for Women’s Media Center that provides a great historical background as well as a solid argument for the original Wonder Woman character.
I found my own argument in a graduation present from my amazing friend Lydia W.
Breaking the chains of Man’s Superiority, Prejudice and Prudery. In hot pants. My hero.
Last week I went to Santa Cruz to see “The Lost Boys” on the beach boardwalk. That campy horror flick is a classic from my childhood and it looked a little different this time around.
The movie is still brilliant, of course, but a line in the film bugged me to no end. Gramps is talking to his freshly-divorced daughter and remarks “Lucy, you’re the only woman I ever knew that didn’t improve her situation by getting divorced.”
There is a strange social myth that women are pulling a fast one with divorce and leaving men in the poor-house. On the radio this morning I heard women quipping about alimony payments of the obscenely wealthy as if this is the norm for everyone else. It’s not.
Overall, women experience a 27% decline in standard of living while men experience a 10% increase after divorce. The big reason? Women taking on more domestic and primary caretaking work than men. You can’t really put “MOM” on your resumé.
The subject is complicated and I want to read more about it, but my finances are a big barrier right now. I can’t justify spending money on academic journal article access right now.
If you would like to read more about this subject, check out the following articles:
According to anti-rape campaigns, women (but apparently not men) have many modern tools against rape: self-defense classes, walking in groups, avoiding getting drunk and being aware of their surroundings. What we don’t have is an comprehensive anti-rape campaign with one simple message to would-be rapists:
Campaigns raise awareness about rape by debunking myths, providing statistics and offering ways for potential victims to protect themselves. But the campaigns and discussions rarely address the rapist.
When we only spotlight the victims we create a disembodied construction of a rapist as a supporting character in rape prevention discourse. The rape victim is the focus while the rapist is an auxiliary entity. Meanwhile in the real world, rapists are related to us, work with us and go to the bars with us. They are our friends, lovers and family members. Rarely are rapists complete strangers hiding in the bushes.
Realizing that many of us have known or do know someone that committed rape is an uncomfortable truth. Focusing on victims is mentally convenient, especially in a culture places the onus of sexual responsibility on females. Since we’re already taking birth control and keeping male sexual desire in check it makes sense for us to prevent rape, whether through wearing teethed condoms or by starring in anti-rape commercials.
Once you’ve endured the burning pink flesh tint, ripped the right patches of hair, washed with minty shampoo, dyed your pubes, and bling’d yourself out, uh, down there, the next step is to put a smoothing buffer patch between your lady junks and your tight-ass pants.
Enter: The Cuchini. Their website text sums it better than I can:
Hey Girls. Camel Toe might be hot… if you are a Guy!! But who wants to be the one sporting it? Some secrets are meant to be kept. As we have evolved, hair down there is a thing of the past. As the landing strip and Brazilian wax have become prominent in today’s world, there is no bush for the cush. And though Camel Toe may be a hot topic… it’s not to the gal sporting it!
I have another solution: stop wearing such tight ass pants if you don’t want the world knowing you have labia. You do not need to look like an anatomically neutered Barbie doll.
If the Cuchini is strange as a product, the website is even weirder. The front page has an awful camel-toe song set to Beach Boy’s “Cocomo”.
Aaahhh, the shaming power of parody songs. And the mystifying power of poorly picked product mascots. Come on. A shy yet seductive camel-human hybrid in a bikini?
Maybe we’ll soon see a male version of this called the “Kendoll” for hiding your man junks while wearing super-tight hipster pants.
I’m not saying camel toe isn’t a little unsightly, just not for the reasons Cuchini claims. When I see camel toe I cringe thinking about the pinch of fabric between labia. I wonder if the patches make it more uncomfortable.
At the very least, I think the Cuchini makers need a different video on their front page. How could they pass over the classic Fannypack track “Camel Toe”?
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Every last one was a male-centric plot line. Nearly every last one is an action movie. All of them were directed by men, produced by men and starring men. Women are a minority behind and in front of the cameras. (For insight as to why, read this Salon’s roundtable with 10 powerful Hollywood women).
So what’s the real dirt on women and power in this country? Gender equality isn’t as equal as this guy is shouting about. Yes, women are making gains in education but at a time when educational systems are crumbling. Yes, women make up 52% of the workforce but in low paying positions. In the Forbes top ten richest there are two women from the Walton Family (Wal-Mart) but their wealth was inherited.
Really, the U.S. ain’t doing so hot with gender equality. According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks #31 out of 115 for equality. Read the WEF report here, relevant snip below:
The Global Gender Gap Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four critical areas:
Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio
The Index’s scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men.
This was out of 115 countries. When I read about women’s lives in other parts of the world, I really want to cry. Rape, honor killings, systematic abuses, minimal autonomy. Horrifying. We so often forget that in our own country, women have only really been making gains over the last century. Women around the globe need a leg up after centuries of unequal treatment. Please read this article in the New York Times about women’s rights around the world.
So to the haters out there: women’s rights are still an issue. We’re making progress, but not enough. I struggle to understand why people (usually men) direct such vitriol at women trying to succeed in life.
What boggles my mind even further is that Matthew Fitzgerald’s writings center around women as shrewd manipulators using sex as bait. I read his book’s Amazon reviews to get a feel for his audience and what I saw…well, it’s disturbing to think he’s right about any people in the world. But what he says resonates with some. In half of the reviews people exclaim “OMG! Women are totally like that!” but the only women I’ve seen use their bodies for financial gain were sex workers. So, women of the world using sex for manipulation: stop lying. Go ahead and be a sex worker. It’s OK. Just be upfront and tell the guy you’re fucknig him for rent money or a new purse.
And to the guys complaining/writing about those women: stop dating them. There are plenty of women that enjoy their financial freedom. There are also women that enjoy sex for its own sake.
At the heart of his writing, and much of the anti-feminist parading as anti-misandrist writing, is a very true frustration.
Are Equality Policies Rooted in Sexist Thought?
“The modern man walks around on eggshells, afraid of saying the “wrong thing,” scared of showing his natural sexual interest to a woman, scared of being scorned, humiliated, or even fired — scared of his own true self.”
Exaggeration (and heteronormative) but a phenomenon I see with some men of my generation. They’re…. Peter Pans? No. Hesitant is a better word. Prone to inertia. And I think the writer is on to something when he points out the role of politically correct speech and sexual harassment charges.
Before you get all riled up: sexual harassment is serious. Anyone in a position of power manipulating an underling sexually deserves punishment. But the way we lay out the law sometimes hinders equality and political correctness can be an ineffective solution.
I am thankful to have laws that prevent my higher-ups from sexually harassing or coercing me. But I resent a law on the books stopping someone from calling me “babe” or “chick”. I’m a grown woman and I should be able to easily say “Stop it”. If I have to, take the matter to a higher-up and keep pursuing it. There is something creepily paternalistic about some of the sexual harassment guidelines, particularly when schools use suspension as a behavioral intervention for inappropriate touching. I am also frustrated with a world that lumps flirting with sexual harassment, that pegs any sexual move from a guy as predatory and aggressive. Sexism underlies these policies. We assume men to be sexually aggressive and women always dislike sexual attention and need outside intervention. The regulations are necessary but we need to look at ineffective and harmful aspects of these policies, lest our solutions create more problems than answers.
Which leads me to an uncomfortable question, still unresolved in my own mind: when we create policies to spur equality through encouraging preferential treatment for disadvantaged groups, should those policies only be short term? By carving them in stone will we, over time and gains in equality, have laws with unequal treatment? And are we sending the message that women need this protection permanently? We certainly need to give a leg up to historically oppressed and disadvantaged people but at what point can we resume an even playing field? Do permanent laws of preferential treatment hurt in the long-term and uphold racist and sexist ideals?
The Blame Game
Whatever the answers to the above questions, one thing is certain: we cannot sit and point fingers at other groups or nebulous ideologies. Yes, it’s comforting name our monsters but ultimately misleading. Men are not at fault for all the world’s problems. Women are not at fault for the current masculinity crisis and anxieties. Feminism (whatever you think that is) has not ruined gender relations. Agitated, yes, but that needed to happen. The old gender order wasn’t working.
But when we agitate a cultural bedrock like gender roles we need to think critically about how to reconstruct gender relations in society. Some would say eradicate gender, but I disagree. You will find cultures with two, three, four, five or six genders but you will not find gender-less socieites. So while I feel so sad when I see inflammatory, gender-stereotyped, sexist analysis that plays the blame game, I know it’s a mistake to write it off wholesale. Just because someone else won’t engage in critical thought (or provide any evidence to back their claims) doesn’t mean the frustration isn’t valid.
The problem is not feminism or women withholding sex. It’s that we need a new construction of masculinities, alongside femininities, that deal with harmful aspects of male gender while encouraging men to shine and succeed in life. We need to deal with the sexist man-bashers of every gender. We need to deal with restrictive gender roles in general because the times, they’re a-changin’.
First there were just orgasms. Then Freud came along and declared female orgasms fell into either the immature clitoral or mature vaginal category. And thus began this century’s strange preoccupation with women attaining every orgasm type, like kids collecting baseball cards.
Already had clitoral? Experienced the remote lands of vaginal? Well move onto the mystical G-Spot orgasm. Or perhaps you’re skilled enough for the big, bad blended orgasm. Don’t worry if you haven’t gotten there; Cosmo will give you enough advice to keep trying.
In reality, the only true type of orgasm is the hypothalamic orgasm. That little section in our brains releases a delicious orgasmic chemical cocktail in our brains with enough pleasurable stimulation.
When it comes to female orgasms we focus on the area being stimulated, hence all the different categories and “types” of orgasm. And it isn’t just women’s magazines devoting discourse to this idea. In my early sex education training days, several professionals repeatedly taught me that a clitoral orgasm is different than a vaginal orgasm. Even Planned Parenthood gives primacy to the theory of distinct orgasms:
“Although some researchers believe there is just one type of female orgasm, others believe that stimulation of these two parts of the genitals can cause different types of orgasm. During a clitoral orgasm, the vagina becomes longer, and it causes a pocket to be formed beneath the uterus. During a vaginal orgasm, the uterus drops lower and shortens the vagina. Stimulation of both the vagina and clitoris can cause a blended orgasm, the third type of orgasm. All these orgasms may feel different from each other.”
On one hand, it’s not illogical to categorize orgasms by stimulation source. But the idea behind the categorization is that some orgasms are superior to others, an idea that drives Cosmo sales every month. Read their article and achieve sexual enlightenment by finding your G-Spot.
Feminist writer Anne Koedt argued against this hierarchy of female orgasm way back in 1970’s “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm“, pointing out that the vagina contains far fewer nerve endings and any importance placed on vaginal stimulation served straight men more than it did women. In Koedt’s construction of female sexuality, the clitoris is the puppet master:
Although there are many areas for sexual arousal, there is only one area for sexual climax; that area is the clitoris. All orgasms are extensions of sensation from this area.
Weirdly, Koedt’s argument towards clitoral orgasm centrality operates within the very Freudian paradigm she railed against. We have orgasms from nerve ending stimulation. Though nerve endings exist abundantly in the clitoral structure (about 8,000) nerve endings exist everywhere else on the body. Substituting the clitoris for the vagina does nothing but rearrange the sexual stimulation hierarchy and ignore that nerve endings exist in the vagina. For some, those nerve endings feel amazing when stimulated.
When I present sex ed lectures, my favorite question to ask participants is: “What are the two largest sexual organs?”
The answer? Brain and Skin. Stimulating skin sends signals to the brain, which processes the sensations and releases the appropriate neurotransmitters. That’s an orgasm. No clits, vaginas or G-spots to define it. If you’re still feeling unsure or confused about the social construction of orgasm vs. the physical realities, I recommend reading Heather Corinna’s With Pleasure: A View of Whole Sexual Anatomy for Every Body.
Tune in tomorrow for suggestions on how to have an orgasm!