Sunday, May 29, 2011

Attack

So I saw that some people linked my blog, which I appreciate because it gets the word out.

What I didn't appreciate were the direct attacks on me, my religion and my intelligence level in the comments to the posts. I'm not stupid. I interact with the world on a daily basis. I have a whole lot of non Jewish and non religious friends. I don't have vaginismus because I'm religious. I don't even have a lack of information about sex solely because I'm religious. I had a lack of information about sex because I happened to approach the wrong source to tell me about it. I didn't know much about my own anatomy because I never used tampons (instead I used pads) and therefore it never occurred to me to randomly stick objects inside of me.

Whether or not I were religious right now, I'd still have a medical condition called vaginismus, something I don't think that most of you understand. Vaginismus is a mixture of a psychological and physical condition where the muscles of the vagina literally panic and don't allow penetration to occur. They freak out. They say stop, dangerous, scary, no entry. This is something I need to work to overcome and a lot of other women like me need to work to overcome. And instead of being compassionate and seeing how that is a struggle that ought to be respected, a lot of you are just blaming me for my religion. You also talk about me like I'm an idiot and unable to see beyond its tenets, calling me a "prisoner" of it or talking about how my religion has ruined me.

Seeing as the majority of you don't know anything about my religion, how dare you attack it? And attack me? Who are you to know me, judge me; how do you even know anything about why I chose this religion? You don't even know what my religion has to say about sexuality, which is, by the way, that it's the most beautiful, wonderful, amazing thing ever. I have a very positive view of sexuality and was brought up with the idea that it's pleasurable and holy; my only issue is actually performing the act.

Shame on you for attacking me and what's more important, the women I represent. I'm a woman who has a form of sexual dysfunction; in my case, vaginismus. And I'm working to get over it and beyond it. You should get on board with helping make sexual dysfunction less taboo rather than just shouting each other down in order to see who can do a better job of blaming the woman who has it.

19 comments:

head of the table said...

I found your blog via Metafilter and I'm really proud of you for sharing this story. You're right, this is not your fault, and it's not any woman's fault. You are doing a great mitzvah to show the world that these problems are real, but can be overcome.

plonit said...

This is exactly why I think you are so brave in writing this blog, because words in the public sphere get interpreted by different people different ways. There's a saying, though, that all press is good press -- the more it gets discussed, the more it gets out there. Just the knowledge in the back of someone's mind that sexual dysfunction exists can make them deal with it easier if it comes up in their lives.

The truth is, though, that up until the 1950s, when the Kinsey Reports were published, women were supposed to be disgusted with sex, because they were higher spiritual beings. But naturally, a woman who did not enjoy sex with her husband was considered frigid and cold. And that's barely the beginning of what was not known and misunderstood in terms of human sexuality. Sexual dysfunction is a huge, huge issue, one that is at least as stigmatized outside religious communities as in them. Patients feel so ashamed because they've been led to believe that the only dysfunction is ignorance, and they feel like they need more exposure instead of medical help. But as you know, ignorance is not the issue, and some people just never get help for it because they are embarrassed. You are putting yourself out there for these people, so that they know they are not alone, and so that others can open themselves to this difficult issue. And that's so amazing.

To be honest, I literally laughed out loud at the ignorance of some of the commenters. It's always nice to read opinions by people who care more about expressing their opinion than actually having something meaningful to say. If everyone in the world really found it easy to enjoy sex and have orgasms, Cosmo and the like would be out of business, not to mention the men's magazines, with articles like 'have more pleasure' and 'how to have an orgasm', etc. The statistics confirm that the overexposure to sex in our culture has not resulted in all women having tons of orgasms. Articles like this http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ReproductiveHealth/sex-study-female-orgasm-eludes-majority-women/story?id=8485289 are published every week.

This is one of my pet peeves -- just imagine one of the ruder commenters explaining sex to their kids with that language. Their kids absorb the attitude and zero information, the same way they claim that all religious kids do. Unfortunately, religious groups do not have a monopoly on ignorance, or sexual dysfunction.

Phew! long comment. Got a little annoyed. Bottom line: don't let the bullies pull you down. Rock on, SJG.

anony said...

hey,

i saw your blog linked on heshy's blog, and i don't think it's your religion's fault that you have this condition, although some people think it might be the stress put on shomer negiah that is leading to the spread of this kind of thing— i don't think it has anything to do with you, it's a long-going debate about shomer neigiah on that blog, and this is more ammo for the sides.

that being said, i can somewhat relate to your problem. although i've never had a sexual experience, i am 21, and when i was 17 i was diagnosed with panic disorder, so it was like my whole body was reacting. i've struggled with it ever since and it is probably the worst thing that ever happened to me. the muscles in my back would tighten up like someone was pulling my shoulders together, and i would feel like you do the second before you get in a car accident— for days. i couldn't sleep and i even contemplated suicide.

i finally found help when i went to a psychiatrist and got medication.

i was wondering, have you been to see a doctor that can prescribe pills? there are many muscle relaxers and anti-anxiety pills that might be able to solve your problem.

i'm just saying, as upset as all this has made you, sometimes you need more than counseling to solve your problem— and maybe you could get off the medication within a month once you got the hang of it.

Civ said...

I once saw this show "strange sex" and it had a Muslim girl who had the same condition. They also have very similar practices as Jews- no sex til married, children right away, afraid to tell parents... Thr girl went to a clinic for this that saved her marriage. Look into it.

itgetsbettersjg said...

I have the same condition as you and like you, I had a very positive view of sex growing up. I was so excited for my wedding day so we could finally "do it" and I thought that because I was such a touchy feely person I'd have no problem. But that wasn't the case and unfortunately it was painful and traumatizing. But after a few years, we finally "got" it and it's getting better.

I think you should have your hymen broken. It definitely helps. I had that done I think the very next day after I couldn't have sex. It just makes it easier in the end because mentally you don't think I have a wall blocking and there's less of a psychological reason for it to hurt. To have your hymen broken isn't even a surgery, it's a two minute process where the gyno takes her fingers and scissors them, essentially cutting it. It's a millisecond of pain and then it's over. It helped make sex less traumatizing.

And for all the haters, it really is not a religious issue. I really had a good education in sex, had a really good kallah teacher who really went in depth about sex, had an amazing gyno who was very understanding to my issue and actually referred me to sex therapy (which I declined because I wanted to try to work it out on my own), and I had a very supporting and loving husband. I WANTED to have sex. I was EXCITED. But it just didn't work out. It's been difficult, but I've realized that the guy isn't supposed to shove himself in. It's a gradual process where he goes in gently and as you get more wet and relaxed he can go in deeper. And it's all about practice.

mpaz said...

Me gusto tu blog! animo!!
saludos abrazos! Chile!

thinkingwoman said...

If you haven't already, visit a gynecologist who specializes in vulvar pain and get a referral to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation.

Boxed Whine said...

SJG, People will always use the anonymity of the internet to be a douche. I especially like the gay guy that thinks that just because he saw some straight porn that this is not possible. This is to be expected when a blog such as this hits the mainstream on Metafilter. When will internet commenters stop being such fucktards? I don't know. But stay your strong, sassy self.

Molly said...

Ok, it makes me SO mad that people chalk this issue up to you being Orthodox. It is so NOT related. I know girls who aren't religious who have it, and we've discussed it in my human sexuality class.

Also, thank you! We are NOT anti-sex. Seriously. And how are we supposed to solve sexual issues if people get all nasty towards each other? Support and love people, support and love!

ysabet said...

Having a physical condition like this is hard when you're faced with responses that boil down to 'It's all in your head, crazy person.'

Whilst some *is* in the head (anticipation anxiety and fear of inevitable pain), the actual pain, tenseness, sensitivity and root cause is not.

I sympathise. It's rough.

looeee said...

go re-read the metafilter comments.
aside from the ignorance (which gets corrected further down) you will find them incredible supportive

Franny said...

I found your blog via metafilter too, and I would like to extend to you my good will and emotional support. Most of us are nice, sometimes the site just has a hard time having a civil discussion that involves religion at all.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with the saying, "Haters gonna hate", but I think it applies here. Don't let the haters get you down.

scarpetta said...

I was reading your blog and I was wondering if you have been to a doctor for anti anxiety medication or muscle relaxers. If your muscles had to relax, wouldn't it then be not perfect but easier.

I hope that you don't take offense to my suggestion. I'm not saying you are mentally ill or anything. But if the issue is tension, why not use medication as a tool to alleviate the tension.

Regardless of what you do, I wish you the best of luck. I also know that there are MANY women with sexual dysfunction and you are not alone.

Sora said...

Note how, in their world, it is shameful to experience sexual dysfunction. In the Orthodox world, you receive support and love.

The secular world puts sex on such a high pedestal that anyone who experiences difficulty with it is made out to be a freak and told to be ashamed of themselves.

In the Jewish world, we recognize that it's not your fault and that sexual dysfunction does not detract from your humanity.

Just food for thought.

(PS - I'm linking you on my blog, The Bunny Box. Usually it's about cooking, but I'm making an exception for you. :)

Sharon said...

I can not believe I didn't come across this blog sooner!!! I could have written your first 2 posts word for word. Growing up watching movies of what it's 'supposed to be like" and the 'pleasure' that people in the world talk about - I would have never imagined such a thing existing. INTERCOURSE BEING PAINFUL?? Never. No one described it like that. mayyyybe people say the first time hurts- but ALWAYS?

So the night of our wedding it was excruciating and we weren't able to. And every day that passed made me feel like more of a failure. I told my OBGYN who kept saying i should 'relax and use more lube' but it did not do anything. I just felt pain.

To make a long story short I b''H was able to eventually suck it up and do it but ever time it felt like I was being cut open by some sort of large piece of sand paper. And the after-pain burned and throbbed for the rest of the night.

I lived like this for a year and a half until I was finally referred to Dr. Richard Marvel - a pelvic pain specialist. NOT a regular OBGYN but a specialist that deals with exactly what I have. He diagnosed me with Primary Vulvar Vestibulitus- which I am sure you have heard about. A lot of people with Vaginismus developed it due to the fact that they actually have a medical condition called vulvar vestibulitus which in short is an intensely large amount of nerve endings in the vestibule (the hymen area and the skin around it) which create an INTENSE pain and burning sensation when touched. Now if its that sensitive when touched- imagine what it feels like when something's coming in and out and in and out moving it around... Pain is not even the word to describe it.

Because the pain is so strong, women develop a 'FEAR OF INTAMACY
AND EXPECT PAIN and tighten their muscles- which is Vaginismus. But if a woman has PVV (VULVAR VESTIBULITUS) no matter how much therapy she gets, the pain will not go away due to the fact that the pain is REAL - not just in the head. It's due to the nerve endings in the vestibule. My doc told me about a procedure he said will work for my pain, to remove it. I was very skeptical but I did it since I did not want to live my life this way and wanted to do anything to give 'real life' a chance. I ended up doing the surgery - it's called a vestibulectomy. The recovery was PAINFUL and hard. I needed to use vaginal dilators from the smallest size up to the biggest size, to stretch out the area from forming scar tissue, and to EMOTIONALLY PREPARE MYSELF.

The doc said ''if you expect the pain & anticipate it- your muscles will tense up and you will still have pain. But if you relax, since now the source of that real pain is gone,(with the surgery) you will have pain free intercourse." It took a WHILE. But a few months later, after prepping myself with all the dilators, we were able to try intercourse. We were very careful to make it a very romantic relaxing evening, we stayed at a nice hotel/went out to eat/had a drink/etc. And we were able to be together for the first time. It was painless. I cried tears of joy. It was the most amazing thing to NOT feel pain with intercourse. It took time, but now 9 months later I actually even feel PLEASURE with intercourse sometimes. Sometimes I regress when I am not relaxed, and my muscles tense up, and it hurts again, but NEVER like it did before the surgery.

Sad Jewish girl, I know exactly how you feel. And the pain you're going through. I started an email for anyone who has this so they can email me for tips and help - its HelpForPVV@gmail.com.

I think you should be seen by a pelvic pain specialist so they can see if the vestibulectomy is for you. If so, you can be having pain free intercourse in under a year. Feel free to email me. Hatzlacha!!

Dr. David S. Ribner said...

Hi, I am Dr. David Ribner. The link to my article on unconsummated marriages was in error. If anyone would like the article sent by email, please forward a request to matzeel@hotmail.com. Any questions about this or other topics concerning sex in the religious community are welcome.

Anonymous said...

Hi!
Im really glad to read ur post! I didnt even know about erections til I was seventeen, and sisnt understand their significance until at age 21 i left orthodoxy, as a virgin, and only then met a penis (and a tampon). I also was unsure which hole to use!! =). I was able to have sex but usually when i was doped up on some drug.
For a while I thought i was lesbian because a penis was not attractive to me...And there was less of a taboo against touching women.
Bottom line is my first sexual partner was non-Jewish and very free about sex...so i experimented with porn, stimulation and erotic literature.
Which helped.
I know I reacted hith disgust to sex and was helped through it by a thoroughly un-repressed sexually active non-Jewish man. I was lucky though my mother might disagree.
I think sexual education would help, graphic and detailed with tips and pointers for young engaged women, although i understand if a rebbetzin would be unwilling to bring pictures, or even unable to broach the subject.
Good luck tho!
Its about time!

Anonymous said...

I just want to thank G-d for guiding me to this blog. When I stumbled on this blog and began to read, I was immediately overcome by tears due to the intense emotion the experiences aroused in me.
I am 26 years old, have been married for over 2 years and have suffered from this disorder. It is a true understatement if I say that this condition has made me feel isolated from society and from myself. Time and time again I have felt as though I was a failure, a sad excuse of a wife/woman, and a burden on my husband. .
I feel a sense of grief and loss that I’ve not experienced what we we’re told that we will experience.. I too come from an orthodox (Muslim) background, and contrary to the ignorance portrayed by some people, despite my religiosity, I was raised with a positive view of sexuality and do not blame my religion for this issue. I am also very ‘educated’ (whatever that means)- and am a practising psychologist. If anything, I have consistently found peace in knowing the majesty of G-d and his ability to help me through all difficulties. I too have heard many people blame religion- I just can’t fathom the ignorance some people have shown!
I guess the unfortunate thing for me too was that I didn’t learn about sex from proper sources, and just went with what most people had told me about….Unfortunately, no one amongst my circle of family and friends have ever raised this particular issue, and no one even suspects the difficulties my husband and I have been facing for the past 2 years… so you can only imagine the frustration I feel when the fertility and baby questions start coming forth..
I can recall a few occasions where my husband and I felt as though we were making progress.. and to be fair, we did make some. I think a huge problem with that was that we tended to exaggerate the extent of the success, which inadvertently placed a decreased amount of urgency on the need to seek some sort of tried and tested intervention…
I recently ordered the dilators and after reading a little about it, I feel that there is hope for me too.
I think the biggest burden I need to overcome is the psychological burden of not feeling normal and feminine because of these barriers my husband and I have faced. I think that if this issue was not so taboo, the psychological burden would have been significantly reduced and I would have sought intervention much earlier, instead of engaging in acts of self-loathing..
I just want to thank you for your blog- I can relate to literally every part of your experience which challenges any further notion that I am abnormal and isolated from society. I am more motivated than ever to resolve this issue, through G-d’s help, and when I do I vow to be heavily pro-active in the role of raising awareness of this issue, perhaps by running community workshops for women and support groups so that at the very least people in the future can benefit from what I didn’t benefit from in the beginning.
I pray that G-d grants us all patience and success in our attempts to restore our self-esteem so that we can continue to build a healthy and fulfilling marital relationship.

Al said...

askenaz guy here, secular hebrew nationalist, not dati. tons of sexual experiences with east asian girls who actually are physically small down there. One particular experience with a nice Filipina young woman. Months upon months of her experienceing physical pain to the point where I mostly didn't bother to try to go in. Long story about why I stuck round, I still don't understand it myself, why I bothered

Then one evening, just as I had to actually depart that country to return to active US Marine service, we flew out of her province capital, up to Manila where the international airport is. We had intercourse BUT this time she had a fully normal experience. No known reason AT ALL why the change occured.

The moral of the story? Keep Trying.