Nov 29 2009

Women getting it up

cold wifeOK, I’m quite late on this one as work has been hellish recently. But here’s the news we’ve all be waiting for – female Viagra has been invented. According to The Sun, it makes ‘girls’ sex drive soar’ (or airbrushed to oblivion it seems). This claim and Flibanserin have been well torn apart by Dr Petra and Neuroskeptic.

In sum, this was a preapproved drug being aggressively marketed for a likely manufactured ‘disorder’, and may be no better than a couple of glasses of wine.

There is of course a problem with the over-medicalisation of social problems, mental health or indeed just life, but female sexual dysfunction taps in to our historical beliefs about female sexuality. Whether nymphomaniacs or laced up prudes, women’s sexuality has been portrayed as a mysterious morass of hormones, guilt and secrecy.

What I also find disturbing is the appropriation of feminist language to sell these products; women deserve to have orgasms and this pill with help reap the rewards of the sexual revolution. This is of course a tried and tested method employed to sell anything from electro-shock Taser weapons to breast augmentation. To criticise these products, these grisly chunks in the vomit of capitalism, is to be anti-women or anti-choice.

Of course what these products do is actually limit choice by their very nature. By framing some women’s lack of sexual desire as ‘something that’s wrong with her head’ means that all the other potential factors – something wrong in the relationship, unsatisfactory sexual partner, stress and anxiety, unfulfilled sexual desires, it being temporary and just one of those things – are not being considered or addressed.

The flip side of ‘women not wanting sex’ is men wanting it all the time. This includes the myth that men think about sex every 7 seconds (tackled here with a number of other bogus stats), but can translate into the far more sinister ‘some women asked to be raped because men just can’t help themselves’.

A simplistic and historically-rooted view of male and female sexuality can at best be misleading and unhelpful and at worst can legitimise sexual violence or abusive behaviours.

So if you’re lacking sexual desire, chill out, have a glass of wine and think about it for a bit, considering what factors might be feeding the problem. Or maybe talk to someone; ideally someone who won’t financially benefit from selling you a pill.

Nov 22 2009

Christmas is coming! Vajayjay present suggestions

The Earth has a filthy mind

The Earth has a filthy mind

One of the best things about blogging is obviously the people you get to meet but also the ‘interesting’ things that people start emailing/tweeting you about. And with a blog with the word ‘vagina’ in the title, my electronic gifts seem to be more interesting than most.

Now, I don’t usually allow ads on my blog (other than for other blogs obviously) but I do want to draw people’s attention to the wide variety of vajayjay-themed products you can get.

I don’t mean the hideousness that is ‘feminine hygiene’ products. I mean those gifts and crafts that celebrate, jubilate and honour the minge.

Call them gash goodies, poonanie presents, labia largesse, growler gratuity, beaver bounty, ok…I’ll stop.

The International Vulva Knitting Circle

Vulva knitting is big. I think this is because knitting has come back in a big way recently and as a way to redefine this for a new generation we have done it subversively. The International Vulva Knitting Circle was started as a way to bring grassroots activism to challenge female genital cosmetic surgery and the commercialisation of women’s bodies and sexuality more broadly. This is about using knitting to politicise young women about their sexuality – “the radicalism of making female genitalia visible”. Hurrah.

There is also a Facebook group.

Vulva Portrait Pendants

Thank you the commenter who first linked to this. These are custom-made vulva necklaces. You send in a picture of your (or your loved one’s) front bottom and the artist makes a pendant that resembles it. My favourite bit of the ad says that if you are too shy to send in a picture, you can describe it. I’d love to meet the person too shy to send in a picture of their fanny-foo-far but not so shy that they would wear it as a pendant round their neck.

All things Yoni

As the title suggests, everything you’d ever want (and some things you wouldn’t) gash-themed is here. Yoni is Sanskrit for ‘sacred temple’ and also translates as vagina. I also like the word because it rhymes with my nickname. Coincidence or cosmic connection? Er, coincidence.

The Velvet Vulva

These are beef-curtain shaped bags and purses which are very much associated with the witch-goddess-earth-power type schtick (“radiating feminine energy” yadda yadda). However, anyone who describes their fanny purses are “portals to the feminine temple” deserves my support. I’d recommend the Big Capacity Bags and the vulva hat which I presume gives you that ‘being born’ look.

Best quote: “Indeed, the labia can be reshaped when damp, but not blown dry.”   This is a lesson for life people.

The Cunt Coloring Book

I actually really want this for Christmas. OK, if you’re old enough to colour this in, you’re probably too old to be colouring-in. But sometimes its good to have something to doodle with when on the phone or in work meetings.

I Heart Guts – Uterus

Great shop for all your gut-themed needs. You can also get plush diseases at Giant Microbes so that you can combine a plushy minge with the clap, frinstance.

The uterus is also the third bestseller behind the heart and kidney.

A couple of things that I notice from these: there definitely is a trend for the celebration of the vagina in defiance of the accusations of being religiously unclean. But also that this is mostly emanating from the US/North America. Are we slow to pick up on this in Europe or is it just not that much of a statement here?

Nov 4 2009

Time to talk periods

This was originally posted at The Lay Scientist.

A while ago I wrote a post at Vagina Dentata about periods. I was sick of menstruation being a hidden and taboo issue and one that we as a Western society fail to talk about. That post got the biggest response I have had both in terms of comments on the blog and in person from women and men alike.

This response included a great post from Arikia (The Millikan Daily) about tampon scarcity in Brooklyn – yep land of the free, with not a red mouse between them.

My main point was that ‘having the painters and decorators in’ was a feature of pretty much every woman’s life for most of her life. We’re all blobbing, so why is it so rarely talked about? Because it’s dirty that’s why – Biblically unclean.

Girls and boys are rarely told about the ‘stuff’ that happens to the opposite sex during puberty and beyond. It leads to fear, misunderstanding, shame and repulsion. The natural functions of women have for millennia resulted in the notion of women as fundamentally filthy (and not in a good smutty way). If you touch a woman during her monthly period you will be unclean till evening (Leviticus, which is all about the periods, and sleeping with animals). It has spawned a fascination and abhorrence with female functions and feminine ‘dirt’.

But this means that an important and recurring aspect of women’s lives doesn’t get discussed. There are gruesome facts about perioding that rarely get mentioned: that you shit differently, sometimes it hurts so much you vomit, it can make you uncoordinated and bump into things/knock things over, your breasts can swell and hurt, you get incredibly hot at night and can’t sleep, you get water-retention and go up a dress-size (BTW these things don’t happen every time or all at once, that would be really inconvenient).

All women have had to make make-shift sanitary towels out of bog-roll at one time or other. We’ve all had to get blood stains out of our favourite pants and jeans. We all have stories about when we found out about what periods were, when we started, the chats with our mothers, sisters or teachers. But those chats were always hushed and never involved men.

But since that blog post I’ve come across some more interesting posts and issues. I was writing from my own experience and so very much contextualised what I was saying as being a ‘Western’ issue. But of course it isn’t. While the period taboo is a pain in the vadge in the UK, it is a serious developmental problem in poorer countries around the world.

This is a brilliant campaigning film by the Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) program which helps local women in developing countries “jump-start their own businesses to manufacture and distribute affordable, quality, and eco-friendly sanitary pads.”

So it seems ‘menstrual silence’ can lead to girls missing out on school and women missing out on an income.

This reminded me of the equally excellent Dignity! Period campaign in Zimbabwe where one of the added consequences of the economic crisis is that women cannot afford sanitary products. This in turn affects their health, education and threatens their dignity. For many ordinary women sanitary products are a ‘luxury’ that they can no longer afford or access, as many manufacturers have fled Zimbabwe causing shortages of the products.

The common factor in the UK, US, Zimbabwe and Uganda is the ‘menstrual silence’. How many times do sanitary products get talked about in terms of human necessity? We have broken the taboo on talking about condoms (Vatican notwithstanding) in order to address HIV/AIDs, we need to break the taboo on periods to talk about the very real affect that they have on women’s lives and health and the very real need that women have for sanitary towels and tampons.

These aren’t luxuries. I don’t feel like I’m indulging myself when I buy them (even though I’m likely to be buying 5kgs of chocolate at the same time). And the thought of having to fashion a towel out of leaves and rags while having limited or no access to toilets and/or cleaning facilities is too grim to contemplate.

And if you think I’m being prim by suggesting that tampons/towels are a human necessity – you think about bleeding (including blood clots and womb lining) for a week into what is already a warm, moist, bacteria-loving area covered in hair and consider not being able to keep that clean. Then think about that taking place in a hot climate where you have to walk a lot. Is this seeming like an issue now? If so, go and donate to:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research blog is a thing of wonder and introduced me to SHE.