By Carolyn Herbst Lewis
Sixty years ago, a great many Americans spent the final weeks of the summer of 1953 thinking about sex. Five years earlier, a hefty scientific volume on the sexual experiences of men had become a surprise bestseller. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male detailed the sex lives of 12,000 American men, revealing incidences of masturbation, premarital and same-sex encounters, and sundry secrets that shocked, intrigued, reassured, and infuriated the nation. Now, it was the ladies’ turn.
There appears to be a nationwide obsession with female reproductive health and, by extension, women’s sexual performance, and its relationship to the state. Women’s access to reproductive health services and the means to exercise full sexual autonomy (which, for heterosexual women, means birth control, including the option of abortion) has been regulated and, in some states, denied under both public and private insurance plans. Meanwhile, lawmakers have chosen to ensure that male sexual performance and the pleasure it brings is available even to those men who are on Medicare. Earlier this year, female lawmakers across the country, fed up with this sexual double standard, began introducing legislation targeting male sexual and reproductive health.
By Adam Turner It was 1921. A time in America remembered for activity, life, and energy. But Arthur was tired. A merchant, 57 years old, he'd lived with chronic arthritis in both knees since his late 30s. Recently the pain had been getting worse. Arthur had trouble walking just one or two city blocks. And it wasn't just his knees. He didn't feel as ambitious as he used to. He felt his memory was failing. He also noted a "distinct decrease" in his sexual potency. Rather than take these changes in his body as just the signs of aging, Arthur sought the services of a doctor who might help him. The doctor Arthur went to see was Harry Benjamin.
Going to a doctor, you generally expect a remedy to your problem. In fact, some times you might demand a cure even when there may not be one. (Now, be honest- How often have you visited a doctor’s office with a cold or a stomach virus and said, “But I don’t want it to run it’s course! Isn’t there something you can give me to make me better?!?”) Pain during sex can prompt visits, however uncomfortable they might be, to your general practitioner, urologist, or gynecologist. And, you expect results. After all, problems in bed can lead to other consequences- strain in the relationship, inability to conceive, linking sex with negativity rather than pleasure or enjoyment. Yet, barring an obvious physical problem, pain during sex, for women, is usually classified as vaginismus or dyspareunia- both mental disorders.
This view of female sexual dysfunction probably wouldn’t be as disturbing if this didn’t have sexist roots dating back over a century....