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 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 Thomas A. Foster
Many Americans could tell you that George Washington was tall and that he had false teeth. Why? Although he is disembodied in national symbols such as the portrait on the one dollar bill and the massive obelisk and the capital city that bear his name, Americans are no strangers to George Washington’s body. The history of representation of his physical body illustrates neatly the ways in which the body informs norms of manhood and how masculinity has long been part of his popular image and even our national identity.
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....