dealing with pain and dysfunction

A Letter.

Dear Vulvar Vestibulitis,

You are being incredibly distracting.  I have so much work to do, I can’t focus on being in pain right now.  I don’t know why my pain is getting more frequent and more intense, but I seriously do not have time to think about this right now.  Sitting in studio and wondering why, exactly my crotch is so stabby and on fire is not an acceptable use of time.  I encourage you to go away immediately.

Thank you for your consideration,



In Which I Defend My (Nonexistant) Honor

Attention  privileged, puritanical, assholes:  just because I am a godless heathen does not mean that I fuck everything that moves or am guilty of “sexual sins.”  Kindly piss off.

Once again, something about my outward appearance/attitude/loud feminism/lack of religion/something has convinced someone that I’m a total whorebag.

AS A MATTER OF FACT, that almost couldn’t be farther from the truth.  And I can’t say a damn thing about it, because pelvic pain is pretty silencing, and no one wants to hear about it.  So as usual, I channel my rage to the anonymous internet.

First off, how, exactly, is someone with vulvodynia and vaginismus going to find all these partners with whom to be promiscuous?  While I’ve never had a one-night stand or anything resembling one, I think it might go something like this:

[at a party or some other social gathering]

Dude/Chick:  Yo, let’s talk about something like school or music or travel.

Me:  Okay, blah blah blah.

Dude/Chick:  Want another beer?

Me:  Oh, actually I don’t drink.  [I just hold this cup so my hands have something to do and I’m not the only person here without one.]

Dude/Chick:  Yeah, why’s that?    -or- Bye.

Me:  Um, family history, would you like more detail?

Dude/Chick:  That’s cool.   -or- o_O  Bye.

[Somehow miraculously progresses through my social anxiety/general awkwardness to some kind of hookup situation]

Me:  So there are a few things you’re going to need to know before we begin… [vulvodynia, vaginismus, vulvar vestibulitis, no quick movements please, you may scare it]

Dude/Chick:  O_O  BYE.

So as you may understand, I’m a bit confused as to how I am committing these egregious sexual sins that someone else’s god is so upset about.  Is it the part where I CAN’T HAVE SEX?

I think what the real problem here is as follows:  some asshole is uncomfortable with sexuality and is mad that I haven’t joined him in the ranks of obedient followers, ignoring sexual impulse and condemning others while probably still making time to furitively masturbate in the shower, crying and repenting afterward.  You can go on and on about how “everyone’s guilty,” but no one’s gonna convince me that a life of shame is the right path.  Even if I can’t have sex (by hymen fetishist standards, at least), I’m still going to have a damn good time and not feel ashamed about it.  Just, umm… probably not with someone I’ve just met.  And you know what?  Even if I did fuck anything that moves, your ridiculous concept of “sin” is useless to me and has no place in my life.  So, hey.  Fuck off, buddy.

The Malevolent Vag Goes to India

I returned earlier this week from a school trip to India.  It was an amazing trip and I learned a lot, but this space is to tell you all about the adventures of my dysfunctional bits, so, onward!

My group spent the first night at a “guest house” in Auroville, India, near Pondicherry.  The guest house was beautiful, but the name is a bit misleading.  It was more like… rustic cabins in the woods, and with shared bathrooms.  When we arrived (around 2:00 a.m. after an extremely long period of traveling) we were told that there was one bathroom for the 12 of us, plus the other guests.  I went to check it out, as my picky vag is difficult to bring along on camping trips, and to my dismay the guest house bathroom featured a Turkish toilet.  While I’m pretty capable of roughing it in a lot of ways, the whole peeing thing is always a major issue and the squatty potty wasn’t gonna cut it.  A lot of my pain is caused by overly tense pelvic floor muscles, and squatting, combined with the fear of peeing all over the ONE pair of pants that I brought on the two week trip was officially Not Okay.  Luckily (?) my roommate threw a shitfit, as she is not at all capable of roughing it, so we were moved the next night and the rest of the class came to join us later.  I had to use the Turkish toilets twice during the trip, and each time I had a few muscle spasms for the rest of the day.  That’s not easy to deal with during a class trip.  I don’t usually tell anyone about the spasms anyways, because there’s nothing to be done about them and nobody wants to hear it anyway.  It makes walking quite difficult though, as the pain shoots down my legs and sometimes stays in my lower back for awhile.  Unfortunately, it was revealed after we moved that there were bathrooms all over the place and some had Western style toilets that I could have used.  My roommate would have none of it, anyway, but I really would have liked to stay at the guest house for the whole trip.

The wacky period-month continued for the first part of the trip, but stopped after a few days.  I thought that after literally WEEKS of bleeding that I would be done, but that wasn’t the case.  While visiting the temple at Chidambaram (where Shiva danced the world into creation), I started back up again.  Of course I didn’t have my cup on me during our day trip after I had stopped bleeding, so I managed to fashion something out of Kleenex for the day.  Once again, I don’t use commercial pads or tampons because the bleach and chemicals damage my stupid-delicate-flower skin, so of course I was an itchy mess for a little while following the Kleenex incident.  Plus… I only brought one pair of pants in a concerted effort to pack lightly.  Because there’s clearly something wrong with my menstrual “cycle” (I use the term loosely as there seems to be no cyclical pattern whatsoever lately), I also managed to overflow my cup a few times a day.  If you’ve never used a menstrual cup, I’ll tell you right now that it’s pretty ridiculous to be able to do that.  If it didn’t suck so bad and mean that something’s probably wrong with me, I’d be kinda impressed with myself.  To add to the discomfort, I tried to empty my cup in this tiny bathroom at this weird-ass truckstop restaurant that we were taken to during the trip.  Because I’m the clumsiest person I know, I managed to get blood all over myself, my underwear, and the floor.  But only a little tiny bit on my one pair of pants!  I didn’t notice it until a few days later though.  This post makes me sound gross.

Because my period was so irregular and stop-starting, every few days was like the horrendous second-day-period.  The worst possible cramps, backache, kicked-in-the-crotch-achiness, and the whole deal.  I brought the bottle of painkillers that I was prescribed at my last specialist visit just in case.  I took a couple of them the weekend that I got them, while I was visiting NYC.  My stomach was killing me that weekend, but I figured it was stress or something I ate.  Obviously it couldn’t be the pills, because I specifically said that I needed something that wouldn’t hurt my stomach–not like aspirin or ibuprofen, which absolutely kill me.  So I wanted to take some in India, and my roomie asked what they had given me, as she also can’t take ibuprofen.  I said I didn’t know, I didn’t really think to check because I just needed to take *something* safe, so I had just been popping them without looking.  So I look at the label, and it’s just something really generic, just white tablets with IBU 600 printed on them.  Hmm… IBU, IBU… what could that be?  And then it clicked.  THEY FUCKING GAVE ME 600mg OF IBUPROFEN.  It took me awhile to figure out, because, hey, that would literally be the stupidest possible thing to give to someone who asked for a painkiller other than ibuprofen.

In conclusion, I need a new specialist.  I decided a long time ago that I’m not going to fuck with any doctors who can’t manage basic listening skills.

So now I have no painkillers, but hopefully soon I’ll have no periods (or at least better periods).  This morning, I got Implanon placed into my left arm!  I’ll make another entry all about Implanon as soon as I have time.  Have a lovely weekend, dear readers.

My Dysfunctional Monologue

I finally saw the Vagina Monologues performed live on the Cornell campus.  I think it made me sad.  Or maybe that’s ’cause I lost my job yesterday.  Who the fuck knows?  Whatever, time to shout into the vast tubes of the internet.

For this entry only I am going to ignore the issues of sexual violence that are discussed in the Monologues and that are a big part of V-Day.  I absolutely recognize and appreciate what V-Day does to raise awareness about violence against women, but this entry is solely comprised of my personal reactions to the experience of seeing the Monologues performed by my peers.  Ahem.

Seeing women up on stage talking about vaginas is a pretty powerful thing.  There aren’t many spaces where that is acceptable, really.  It’s fun and happy and gleeful to hear women speaking positively about vaginas.  Unless you hate your vagina, in which case it’s kind of upsetting and confusing.  Okay, so it’s not that I hate my vagina.  At least, not all the time.  It does some cool stuff.  It bleeds, and I can use that to feed my houseplants.  If I try really hard it can make sounds, and that’s amusing sometimes.  And I’ve always thought I’ve had a pretty good-looking vulva, if I do say so myself.  But hearing women who could just as easily be me–hey, a white/tallish/female Cornell student isn’t hard to find–talk about how great sex is and how they’ve come to love their vaginas… well, it kind of pisses me off.

Why can’t I be them?  What’s wrong with me?  Why did I get the shit end of the vagina stick?  Why can’t mine just work properly and have great sex and be loved?  Forget my classmates, why can’t I be a tree or a bird or the sky or an ornamental shrub, perhaps a Hydrangea?  Sure, it’s melodramatic, but then I wouldn’t have to consider these issues at all.

But that’s not the case.  I am me, and my body is dysfunctional.  How am I supposed to love my vagina if it hurts?  Many of the positive parts of the Monologues can’t resonate with me, because I’m not used to discussion of sex beyond heteronormative/penetrative.  I know that “sex” is much more than what our narrow cultural narrative allows, but penis-in-vagina is so deeply ingrained into my schema for “sex” that I can’t separate the two.  I can’t (yet) discard the idea that sexual intercourse is sex, and therefore I am dysfunctional for not being able to engage in it.  Even though I’m luckier than some and can experience pleasure under the right conditions and if I concentrate real hard, I still associate my vagina with pain.  I have primary vaginismus, meaning that I have experienced pain every. single. time. I’ve ever attempted sexual intercourse, from the first time ’til whenever the last time was.  And that’s not fun or happy or gleeful at all.

Beyond all that, what I wouldn’t give right now to be comfortable in skinny jeans.  (I wear them anyway ’cause I’m a hipster.  If only I lived somewhere warm, I’d wear skirts every day.)  Even if I get past all of my sexual hang-ups, I still won’t be able to ride a bike.  I think what the hugely limited discourse about pelvic pain is missing is that vulvodynia affects women in ways that don’t involve a penis at all.  I can’t love my vagina until it’s pain free–whether in cute pants, lacy underwear, on a bicycle, sitting down, walking, or, yeah, filled up with someone fun.

Just because I’m in a pissy mood, I’d like to state for the record (and for any radfems that might stumble across my wee little blog) that “someone fun” could take a lot of different forms or gender expressions in the future.  I’m dealing with pain and dysfunction for myself.  If I take 60 botox shots to the cunt, it’s because I REALLY WANT TO WEAR PANTS AND SIT DOWN.  Not because I’m under duress from the patriarchy, not because uh oh the boyfriend might l-l-l-leave me if I don’t.  Okay?  Got it?

You know, I think what started as sad and whiny just became pretty fierce.  I’m ready to love my vagina.  If that means physical therapy, fine.  If that means shedding old ideals of what does and does not constitute “sex”, all the better.  With any luck, by this time next year I’ll be up on that stage professing it with the best of them.