By Lara Freidenfelds
What would you do if you desperately wanted to have a baby, and your spouse had HIV? In the mid-1990s, the introduction of highly-effective HIV drug regimens turned HIV from a death sentence into a chronic condition. People with HIV and their life partners could begin to imagine creating families and living to see their children grow up. But it was not until 2014 that researchers and policy-makers approved a prophylactic regimen that effectively protects against HIV-transmission even without condom use. (It still is not officially condoned for family-building purposes, but some physicians are willing to prescribe it for that purpose.) For almost two decades, HIV-discordant couples faced a special kind of infertility: it was childlessness caused by the threat of illness, by fear, and by a traumatized, cautious public health and medical community that could not move beyond its initial message, that “only condoms prevent HIV transmission.”
A new e-book, Positively Negative: Love, Pregnancy, and Science’s Surprising Victory over HIV, takes us into the lives of two couples who lived this history.
by Cara Jones
On April 24, 2014, radio and TV personality Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified internist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Southern California, fielded a question on the syndicated radio show Loveline from a man named Kelan whose fiancée had what he called a “multitude of conditions:” endometriosis, Interstitial Cystitis, lactose intolerance, and “no stomach lining” (0:30:07 to 0:32:51). Before the caller could ask his question, Pinsky interjected:
These are what we call sort of functional disorders. Everything you mentioned,
everything you mentioned, are things that actually aren't discernibly pathological.
They're sort of — they're what we call "garbage bag diagnoses," when you can't think
of anything else, you go, "Eh, well it's that." So, it then makes me question why is she
so somatically preoccupied that she's visiting doctors all the time with pains and
urinary symptoms and pelvic symptoms, and then that makes me wonder, was she
sexually abused growing up?
By Jenna Tucker
I grew up in a culture obsessed with sexual ethics. As part of a group of Christian teenagers in the Midwest in the 1990's, one thing we all knew, for certain, was that our religious and moral identities were directly linked to our relationships to sex. It was the culture that birthed virginity pledges and organized for abstinence-only sex education. I remember going to one of those Protestant mega-gatherings with youth groups from all over the country. The speaker gave us two messages that I carry with me to this day. The first was that we had to stop relying on our parents' beliefs and develop our own relationship to God. The second was that we should not have sex and that anything that gave us sexual pleasure was sex. He was trying to head off our questions. Sex was bad, but what was sex? Could we have sex that didn't risk pregnancy? Could we masturbate? What if we were engaged?
by Nicole Foti
You may have noticed the recent hype surrounding the “little pink pill” or “pink Viagra,” a pill used to treat female sexual dysfunction, or FSD, a condition affecting nearly 50 million women nationwide. The FDA’s latest rejection of the drug flibanserin has caught the attention of a number of media outlets and women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women (NOW), who are questioning the motives behind this decision. Why does the FDA refuse to approve any drugs for women with sexual dysfunction, while men have five to choose from, plus another nineteen generic brands of these drugs? After reading many articles indicating that FSD was, in fact, an epidemic affecting millions of women (possibly myself included) and that the FDA was being outright sexist in their reluctance to approve drugs to treat it, I decided to do a little research. Instead of finding answers though, I seem to be left with questions. One in particular is: what are we treating here anyways?
By Elizabeth Reis
What frustrates me about the circumcision debate is that both sides exaggerate their claims. Maybe this happens with most controversies, but I am particularly attuned to this one because I have been researching the history of circumcision in the United States. A recent article by Brian J. Morris and others in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings overstates the health benefits of circumcision and downplays the risks. They argue that the public health benefits (i.e. reducing sexually transmitted diseases) are so great that circumcision should be mandatory. Mandatory?
by Nicole Lock
I didn’t discover my clitoris until I was a freshman in high school. It may have been mentioned in some measly sexual education class, but it definitely failed to register as the only organ with a purely pleasurable function. If the teacher had mentioned that over 8,000 nerve endings exist on the clitoral glands alone, while the internal structure had bulbs and legs that were also sources of pleasure, my ears definitely would have perked up. The clitoris has a history of being glossed over, not just in sexual education courses, but also in medical research. It wasn’t until 1998, when urologist Helen O’Connell published her findings regarding the internal structure of the clitoris, that the medical world finally had a true understanding of its size and scope. The organ, so central to female pleasure, has endured a long history of cultural and social norms that have hindered its appreciation and understanding. The Western history of the clitoris has many lessons to teach us about the ways female sexuality has been misled, discounted, oppressed, and even enjoyed.
By Carrie Adkins
Can we all just finally agree that the ratings system currently used by the Motion Picture Association of America is misguided, outdated, and increasingly irrelevant?
I realize I am not saying anything particularly original or revolutionary here, as people are basically complaining about the MPAA everywhere and all the time now. These complaints vary, but most of them fall into two major categories. First, there’s the inconsistency issue: the ratings sytem seems to be applied subjectively and arbitrarily. So, for example, using the word “fuck” more than once is supposed to result in an R rating, except sometimes, as with The Social Network, it inexplicably doesn’t. Meanwhile, the sexually explicit The Wolf of Wall Street avoids the NC-17 rating for no perceptible reason aside from being directed by Martin Scorsese, while less explicit (but sadly Scorsese-less) films either have to cut material for an R or else accept the NC-17, knowing that the NC-17 typically results in much lower profits. This situation was discussed perceptively by director Jill Soloway, who was forced to make a number of cuts to Afternoon Delight in order to avoid an NC-17.
By Helen McBride
In 1999, Sweden passed the Law against Procurement of Sexual Services, criminalizing the purchase of sex, which punishes johns but not prostitutes. Worldwide, the law is considered a progressive way to improve the lives of sex workers while also combating the root causes of exploitation in the industry. Currently up for debate in Northern Ireland’s government is a similar measure, a new law, titled the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which seeks to limit human trafficking in Northern Ireland. Clause 6 of this bill emulates the Swedish model in an attempt to criminalize those who pay for sexual services. Problematic, however, is the lack of distinction made between individuals who choose to become sex workers and those who are trafficked.
There are two family pictures in a box of photographs that are the only few I have of my father and me. My mother always told me my father doted on me and I was definitely becoming "daddy's little girl." Yet, the images of a seemingly happy family are overshadowed by the knowledge that at the time these two pictures were taken, my father had or was raping his stepdaughter: my teenage sister.
By Helen McBride
Last Saturday at an Eminem concert at Slane Castle, outside Dublin, Ireland, a 17-year-old woman was photographed performing oral sex on two males. Unsurprisingly, these photos went viral on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’ve been hopeful of Twitter and Facebook recently. In particular the discussion surrounding the #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend inspired a lot of thought about what gender and feminism mean in 2013 and has served as a much needed reminder for white feminists like myself to check our own privilege. That spirit of hope has taken a hit with the Slane Girl Story. Within two days of the Eminem concert, Twitter exploded into a slut-shaming bonanza. The hashtags #slanegirl and #slaneslut trends have taken on the appearance of a free-for-all, cruel, glee-filled, slut-shaming stampede.