By Sean Cosgrove
Questions in public discourse surrounding the issues of human gender and sexuality seem to revolve around (unchallenged) binaries of female and male, and hetero or homosexual. Now, that they exist in this form currently and shape our lived experience is absolutely true. That they have always existed, however, in the guise(s) that they do now is not, and it can be dangerous to assume the unchanging nature of these constructs when talking, particularly, about social policy.
By Ashley Baggett
It is day 3 of “Vagina Week” and today we hear from Ashley Baggett who discusses Wolf’s mysterious “mind-vagina” connection and the problematic analysis of Victorian medical history.
In reading Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, I could not help but focus on the immense problem with, among many things, the “mind-vagina connection.” She argues that an intense connection exists between the female mind and her vagina, a connection so deep that women’s sense of self, creativity, etc, are essentially controlled by their vaginas. My first reaction when I came across that phrase was to throw the book on the floor. Serious ramifications exist for such a claim, and as a self-proclaimed feminist, Wolf should have been aware of this. After I calmed down, I retrieved the book from the corner of the room and tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I found my initial response to be repeated over and over again. I wanted to scream “how can she not see this argument has been made already but to the detriment of women?!?”
This may come as a shock to some of you, but I have a difficult time talking about sex.
[I will pause a moment while my friends, colleagues, and former students pick themselves up off the floor and recover from the raucous laughter that I’m sure they just engaged in.]
Okay. Let me clarify: I have a difficult time talking with my son about sex.
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.
“Don’t expect it to be flat,” is what the nurse said to me just hours after I had given birth to my son. You know she must have seen me glance in the mirror as I was climbing, actually dragging my beat up body into bed. I look at her and said, “huh?” “Your stomach, don’t expect it to be flat,” she pointed to my enlarged abdomen, “Many women think that once they give birth, *poof* their stomachs immediately go flat.” Since I had never experienced a flat stomach ever in my lifetime, I kind of smirked, looked in the mirror one more time, and thought, “it will go down.” But it never really did, especially when I found myself pregnant a year later (yeah, what was I thinking). In that time between the birth of my son and then the birth of daughter, I thought a lot about how I wanted to look as a mother, but it wasn’t until I made the conscious choice (well really my hubby did) not to have any more children, did I really begin to assess the historical and contemporary meaning behind motherhood and attractiveness. This led me to think more about the MILF and the idea of the sexy mama.
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….
By Carolyn Herbst Lewis
There is much ado these days about E.J. James’ Fifty Shades series. While some folks are defending it as sex-positive, others condemn it for promoting female powerlessness and submission. The problem with much of the commentary is that since nobody wants to be a jerk and give away the story, most stop at the Red Room of Pain and the BDSM contract between 27-year-old Christian Grey and 21-year-old Anastasia Steele.