Saturday, May 23, 2009

Happy summer, it's Sarah Haskins!

Laundry. We all know it's the Adderol of chores.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thoughts from Anna Rose, Part 9

This is the last in a series of posts about my experiences with a sexual pain disorder, and my journey toward a cure.*

In one of my earliest posts, I wrote about how I had finally found a physical therapist who could see me through to the end, finally, of this awful experience. She pinpointed some specific problems, gave me exercises to do to solve them, and was a supportive and feminist force towards my recovery.

Well, she gave up on me.

She used up all her ideas within a couple months and told me to just keep doing the exercises and call her in a month. She suggested I see a rheumatologist, because I "might have a touch of fibromyalsia." The only thing I know about fibromyalsia is that it's not curable, they just throw pain meds at you for the rest of your life, and so I refuse to have it. I blatantly refuse.

I've been asked what I would do if I did have it. I told that person that they didn't seem to understand. I don't have it. I can't have it. It's not denial. It's refusal. I have come too far and fought too hard to suffer with this for the rest of my life. There's nothing in the world that could make me accept a sexless fate.

This is going to sound circular, but I believe that my belief that I will be cured is what will help me be cured. In simple terms it's mind over matter, but I've seen the concept perform miracles. This is a world that contains firewalkers, long-distance healers, human statues, people who meditate for days in the snow. My father severed his spinal cord, and there's no good reason he should be able to walk today--except that while he lay in the hospital, he spent hours each day on self hypnosis. My mother cured her own depression, simply by admitting the fact that she could. She didn't have to suffer anymore. There is too much crazy shit that members of my species can do for me to believe that I can't be cured.

So, my next step is a strict regiment of energy work and deep massage. It's the only thing left that I can think of. I also just found a book that I'm going to buy called Heal Pelvic Pain, by Amy Stein. It deals with stretching, strengthening, diet, etc. But mostly, it's the energy work I'm going for now. I can feel that there are blockages, I know that I'm oppressed by my own negativity. The accumulation of frustration, rage, betrayal, and defeat that I've felt over the years has left its mark, even as I venture on. It's made my steps drag. I have to get it out of the way before I can truly move on.

At the same time, I'm a big believer in patterns, and in pieces coming together. An old mentor of mine talked about incubating dreams, asking questions that you call on your dreams to answer, in order to help figure out waking life. It's an idea that I've used successfully, and which I had forgotten about. In the midst of finding an energy healer, a friend reminded me of the dream incubation process. She talked about having dreams for years that were suddenly explained by the acquisition of new knowledge. And it occurred to me:

There's something left undone here. There's something that has to happen before I can move on from this: I need to know something, or I need to teach something, or I need to more deeply understand some part of myself, or of sex. There's a reason I'm still suffering, and it may be I'm missing something. So, to make an old turn of phrase more exciting, I'm sleeping on it. Every night I tell my subconscious that I'll dream an answer to this question, and during the day I think about it. I record my dreams. Something will surface.

Meanwhile, I found an expert who can help me figure out what my psyche's got to do with all this. I've seen so much evidence for the interconnectedness of mind and body. I used energy healing to help post-surgery (for TMJ), and it did wonders. I've seen it cure restless leg syndrome. I know it's not a coincidence that many oncological nurses become energy healers. I know that, when I'm feeling worse about sex, sex feels worse. There's a pattern that needs to change, and for that to happen, I need to recognize it. After years of being failed by doctors, I'm learning that maybe this is something I can only help myself with.

Chronic sexual pain is a lonely journey. The path is rugged, and not many travel it. Often, those that should instead choose to turn back, or take the easier rode of surgery and prescription pain meds. But I want my problem solved, gone, once and for all. Treating only my body hasn't worked. Treating only my mind hasn't worked. So now I'll try them together. Energy healing, or the "laying on of hands" is a system where the practitioner feels the energy given off by a patient's body and helps send it in the proper directions. I suggest looking up the systems of Reiki, Healing Touch Therapy, and Jin Shin Jyutsu. They're fascinating, and they work, if you let them. Because although my pain is real, and has physical origins, I believe that to a certain extent, anything we go through is all in our heads.

As such, I'll end my series with a quote from Susanna Kaysen's book, The Camera My Mother Gave Me. It's a memoir of her experiences with chronic sexual pain:

"Don't separate the mind from the body. Don't separate even character - you can't. Our unit of existence is a body, a physical, tangible, sensate entity with perceptions and reactions that express it and form it simultaneously. Disease is one of our languages. Doctors understand what disease has to say about itself. It's up to the person with the disease to understand what the disease has to say to her."

I will be cured. I just haven't figured out how.

Anna Rose

*If you have chronic pain during intercourse and you know you have no history of sexual violence, you may have a pain disorder, and you should see a doctor. Get opinions from several different kinds of doctors, especially non-conventional if possible.

To read the whole story, take a look at the whole "Thoughts from Anna Rose" series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

School's out - we're going on vacation!

As all of our readers on campus know, exams are winding down, and our writers are heading home for the summer. Thank you, to everyone who made the first year of Equal Writes such an enormous success - we couldn't be happier with the quality and diversity of the posts, and our readership has expanded significantly over the past eight months. It's hard to believe that we just started this year. But we're incredibly happy that people at Princeton have been so plainly eager to engage in a dialogue about feminism and gender issues. And all of your devoted readership made that dialogue happen!

Thanks again and congratulations to our founder, Chloe Angyal, who's graduating, and congrats also to our seniors (Jordan Bubin, Franki Butler, Jordan Kisner, Molly Borowitz, Beverly Nwanna, Angie D., and Roscoe Cafaro). We're sure that they're going to do amazing things next year, and some of them will be writing articles next year about their post-Princeton lives, so stayed tuned!

Many of our writers are taking a much-deserved break until the fall semester, but others will be traveling to exciting foreign countries or working at home on issues related to gender and feminism, and will be posting occasionally. Amelia will be posting weekly from Vietnam for the first half of the summer, and Josh will be posting from Brazil when he can. So keep checking the blog over the summer - there probably won't be a new post every day, but the material that we will be putting up will be very exciting. And we'll be back in full force when Princeton resumes in September. So stay with us - the Equal Writes you know and love is just going on vacation!

Lots of love,
Amelia and Josh

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More women are seeking abortions

In the wake of President Obama's Notre Dame speech and last week's Gallup poll about Americans' views on abortion, many abortion clinics are reporting record numbers of abortions. An article in the LA Times links these numbers to the recession, saying that clinics are also reporting that more women are postponing pregnancy and switching to long-term contraceptives, lasting 5 - 10 years.

And these aren't single women who don't want to be saddled with a baby and just neglected to use contraceptives. Destiny Lopez, the director of the Oakland-based ACCESS, said, "We are seeing women who have children, who in another economy would probably have their second or third child, but now can't because they feel so insecure about maintaining their job or losing a job...Women are really having to make thoughtful decisions whether now is the right time to get pregnant or not."

In the article, Kimi Yoshino highlights the ways that the recession is also making it very difficult for some of these women to pay for abortions. In some cases, as women scrambled to get money together, they found that by the time their insurance had come through, they were too personally opposed to the idea of a second-trimester abortion, when they had planned to have the abortion in the first trimester. And some clinics are likewise being drained by the recession. The Women's Choice Clinic, one of Oakland's oldest feminist abortion clinics, closed its doors recently because it couldn't cover its bills.

The bottom line, though, is that women are having to think much harder about whether they can afford to have a child - in the article, Yoshino reports, "A recent Gallup Organization survey conducted for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that nearly one in 10 married woman indicated that the economy was a factor in their decision to postpone a planned pregnancy. That same survey found that one in five women is more concerned about having an unintended pregnancy than a year ago and about one in five women is more conscientious about using birth control."

There are clearly some very tragic stories out there, and the lesson is that we need to be funding early abortions and birth control much better than we are now, as well as providing resources for long-term contraceptives. If women are aware of these options, perhaps they won't have to seek an abortion, or have to make the agonizing choice to have a second-trimester abortion. And, as always, better health insurance would make these decisions much easier for all of these women, who are suffering through an incredibly difficult process.

Via Jezebel

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No sex theme parks in China

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

The picture on this article, published in the New York Times yesterday, is striking: in it, workers pull down a giant mannequin of half a female body, wearing only a red g-string. The accompanying article is even more interesting: the first sex theme park in China has shut down before it even opened. Maybe I'm incredibly naive, but I wasn't aware that sex theme parks existed in America (they do, and in London, and apparently all over the world, as Google informed me). It doesn't seem surprising that the Chinese would object to such a park - I'm very involved with sex-positive activism, but the idea of an "orgasm tunnel" or a dummy that one gropes to find erogenous zones (I swear, both of these exist in a sex park in London), doesn't seem so much sex-positive as just plain bizarre. But the Chinese sex park's creator, Lu Xiaoqing, said that he wanted the park to be available for the public good. He commented, "Sex is a taboo subject in China, but people really need to have more access to information about it."

According to the article, the Chinese are at once more prudish and open than we are - prostitution and "massage parlors" are incredibly common, but parents rarely talk to their children about sex, and the government often censors works of art that contain graphic depictions of sex. So I'm not sure how much a sex theme park would help convince parents that they really just need to sit down and have that embarrassing talk with their kid, but at the same time, it seems better for a teenager to go to a sex park where they would be given information on safe sex and condoms (one of the park's promised attractions), rather than sneaking into a "hair salon." I don't think the park is a bad idea - and if it lived up to its promises of sex technique “workshops” and a photography exhibition about the history of sex, as well as lessons on the proper use of condoms, I don't think it should have been closed (or subjected to so much furor). But I don't think that opening one sex theme park would have changed China's dialogue about sex.

Either way, however, the park isn't happening. And it certainly looks like China (like many countries, including our own) has a lot of work to do before it can, as a culture, approach sex in a healthy way - even the NYT uses weird language to talk about sexual freedom, describing the city where the sex park was going to be built as possessing "loose moral standards." Now what the hell does that mean? Does it just mean more prostitution behind closed doors? Because if a sex theme park isn't going to get built, then there certainly aren't going to be more radical reforms, like, I don't know, comprehensive sex education. And for goodness' sake, what if a someone goes to the "orgasm tunnel" and then doesn't visit the safe sex booth? The potential problems abound!

Sex education with...what now?

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Meghan McCain
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Stephen Colbert accuses Meghan McCain of being more liberal than President Obama...what? I like Meghan McCain - she's one of that rare breed, a reasonable Republican (just kidding!). Seriously though, I think if the Republicans know what's good for them, they need to be listening to her.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Quick hit: More reasons to love Nicholas Kristof

For those of you who don't read the New York Times opinion section quite as religiously as I do, Nicholas Kristof writes consistently and eloquently about the plight of women in third-world countries. He's an incredibly important voice for women's rights worldwide, and this week's column is no exception. In it, he reminders us about just how many women are dying in childbirth worldwide - and how preventable their deaths are. Kristof writes:

"It’s pretty clear that if men were dying at these rates, the United Nations Security Council would be holding urgent consultations, and a country such as this would appoint a minister of paternal mortality. Yet half-a-million women die annually from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth without attracting much interest because the victims are typically among the most voiceless people in the world: impoverished, rural, uneducated and female."

I'm glad that Kristof is helping to give these women a voice - and another reason that I'm incredibly grateful that President Obama has reinstated funds for the U.N. Population Fund. If you're interested, here are some organizations that are doing crucial work to make motherhood safe for all women.

The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood
Averting Maternal Death and Disability
Pathfinder International
Family Care International