This is the part that hurts the most. All the evidence, all of the corroboration, all the expert testimony, all the likeable snow white victims in the world won’t make them do the right thing.
There could be video of the whole assault. Hell, he could confess! And it still wouldn’t be enough. Because it’s never been about whether they #believesurvivors or not. THEY JUST DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT SURVIVORS’ PAIN.
⚫ Because they are selfish and sexual assault survivors are inconvenient to their goals and their worldview.
⚫ Because they don’t value women enough to do the work of extending human compassion.
This is the sad reality that took me years as a young, optimistic sexologist to realize. Years and years of
⚫ "maybe they don’t understand"
⚫ “maybe they just need it explained this way”
⚫ "maybe they don’t know how common it is or how painful it is, so if we tell our stories and humanize it for them they will get it…“
…before finally it occurred to me that they understand perfectly fucking well. And they don’t care.
Btw: This "they” I reference isn’t just the Senate today. It’s the police. It’s college administrations. It’s the NFL. It’s the Catholic Church. It’s the news media. It’s every “nice guy” who seems like a perfectly normal rational functioning adult but is on Facebook saying “well I don’t know… she didn’t report it at the time…”
Because pretending be ignorant or judicious or “see both sides” makes you sound like less of a sociopath than that you’re simply cruel.
This is why I do the work that I do.
This is why WE NEED COMPASSION BASED SEXUALITY EDUCATION NOW.
Last week I decided to take a 7 day Self-Care Staycation and was away from work, email, and social media. Friends, you NEED to do this, even if it's only for one day.
This week I READ- for pleasure! 📖🏖️ I took a sexy bath with Ryan and tried my first EVER bath bomb and face mask. 🛀🏼 I went kayaking in some sea caves. 🛶🌊 I worked on a craft project I've wanted to do but have been putting off for literally two years. 🎨
I also did some unsexy self-care like making a long overdue eye doctor appointment and got new glasses and sunglasses and now I can SEE! 😎🙌🏼 I replaced my 5 1/2 year old laptop 💻 and bought new clothes. 👗 I deep cleaned my house and got some new home decor items to bring more color into my home. 🌈🌼 I'm currently in love with my kitchen and bedroom. Self-Care Staycation is EVERYTHING and will absolutely be an annual event. I can't recommend it enough.
Coincidentally, my 10 Day Sexual Self-Care Challenge started today. If you missed the course this time around, grab your spot now for the next one. Nurturing yourself, especially your sexuality, which is the first thing to get chopped when we feel we have a scarcity of time, energy, or compassion, is SO IMPORTANT!
The first hurdle is managing that voice that says "this is so indulgent and I don't deserve this." You DO deserve this nurturing, and that voice is something we address repeatedly in the online challenge. Reserve your seat here because it's limited to 20 people.
Romance is the language of love- it's how you express connection, caring, admiration, attraction, and lust to your partner. There are endless ways to be romantic, but some of the more popular gestures include:
💕 Holding hands
💕 Greeting them with a hug and a cheerful "I'm glad you're home!'
💕 Cooking them dinner
💕 Leaving them a short and sweet love note
💕 Paying them a random compliment
💕 Asking them to go for a leisurely walk together
💕 Giving them a playful squeeze on the butt
💕 Fixing them an ice cream sundae or other treat
💕 Surprising them with a small gift, like a flower weed you picked, a candle, bottle of wine, or piece of chocolate
💕 Drawing them a warm bath
💕 Seizing the opportunity for an impromptu makeout sesh, like I did with my husband Ryan earlier this Romance Month on the beach. The pic turn out pretty sex, eh? ;)
Make this last day of August count!
I've teamed up with CalExotics, my favorite sex toy manufacturer to present you with a new sexual education series called #Sexin60Seconds in which I explain all about a topic, talking ssssssuper fast 💨 to give you as much info as possible in just ONE MINUTE! ⏳⏳
My first topic: How to make sure you're squeezing the correct muscle during your kegel/pelvic floor exercises. Check it out!
It's #WorldEmojiDay! 🎉‼️👍 Emojis are the latest mechanism of human communication to be driven by, or adopted early by, sexual communication. 👅🍆👉👌🍾
From Paleolithic cave art 🎨 to clay tablet writings 📜 from the printing press 📚 to the telephone ☎️ photography 📷 moving pictures 📽️ and the Internet 🌐 sexual communication and expression have ALWAYS been one of the first uses for a new technology.
So embrace the eggplant penis and taco vulva. Using symbols to talk about boning is part of what makes us human! 🍆🍆🍆🌮🌮🌮
Because you are not a half.
Whole person + whole person = relationship. ❤️❤️
Despite expressions that refer to one's "better half" and song lyrics and famous movie quotes that romanticize "you complete me" please be advised that you are already complete.
You are already whole.
You are already enough.
You are not peanut butter waiting for jelly to come along and give you meaning. You are already the entire sandwich- on gourmet bread! If you find another sandwich- awesome, now you can both share both, but if not, you're still not missing lunch. Got it? 🍞 #youareasandwich #healthyrelationships
Cunt is considered the most OFFENSIVE word in the English language, a vulgar, abusive word, "a nasty name for a nasty thing."
For me it's a linguistic illustration of how much we culturally despise vaginas, vulvas, and the people attached to them.
If the WORST insult someone can give to the object they regard with hatred and disgust is that they are vulva-like, what does that say about the way we view vulvas?
Cunts are majestic, life-giving, pleasure-producing, works of fucking art. Don't waste this high compliment on low people.
Image via Exotic Cancer
In honor of International Whore's Day.
I saw a meme that said "there is nothing scarier in a capitalist patriarchy than large amounts of money moving from the pocketbooks of rich men to poor women."
Add to this a sex-negative, sex-phobic cultural worldview, and this leaves a highly stigmatized, marginalized, criminalized group of folks just trying to live their damn lives. Not OK.
Sex work is work.
Get more sexologist rants like this plus weekly sex trivia on Instagram @sexdocjill!
Dyspareunia = catchall medical term for “painful intercourse”.
For some of the below conditions, I mean non-penetrative sex in addition to intercourse, and some involve vulva pain in additional to vagina pain.
PS: This list is not exhaustive and is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not intended as medical advice and should not be a substitute for a visit or a consultation with a healthcare provider.
1. Less than ideal arousal
During sexual arousal, the vagina expands in length and width, while the cervix retracts. Increased blood flow to the genitals (vagina, labia, clitoris) increases sensitivity.
If this physiological process of arousal hasn’t fully transpired before the stimulation and friction of sex begin, ouch feelings can occur. Ouch being the technical term, of course.
2. Less than ideal lubrication
The blood flooding the labia/clit/vagina during arousal phenomenon (vasocongestion) is also responsible for vaginal lubrication. Plasma from the increased blood seeps through the vaginal walls, and this is the primary source of vagina lube.
Whether because arousal/vasocongestion was not enough, or if it’s due to other reasons, not having enough lube to reduce friction in the vagina or around the vulva is painful.
Remember going down a plastic water slide as a kid but there wasn’t enough water and your ass cheeks squealed on the way down, leaving your skin behind? Yeah, it’s like that.
Decreasing estrogen due to menopause make the tissues in your vagina thinner, and the friction on the fine skin can cause pain. Reduced lubrication production can also be a factor during menopause- see above.
From STIs like Chlamydia and Trichomoniasis to UTIs and your garden variety yeast infections, many different infections can cause vaginal and/or vulvar itching, burning, or stabbing pains. Yay!
Vaginas can get angry at certain condoms, lubes, and tampons, and vulvas can get wrathful at some soaps and body washes.
2/3 of folks with endometriosis have some sort of sexual function dissatisfaction, including dyspareunia. It is especially wide spread in those who have endometrial tissue that has replanted itself around the vaginal canal and the pain is often described as sharp and severe.
The intersection of gynecological and gastroenterological pain sensitivity is a thing. I don’t fully understand it, nor does it seem the medical research community, but the correlation is there.
Cysts on the ovaries can crowd the pelvic area and cause pain in the vagina during the rigors of sex, not to mention the hormonal impacts- see above.
I put my hand up to your face, your eyes blink in a protective reflex.
Vaginismus is I put my hand up to your vaginal opening, and it blinks in a protective reflex.
An involuntary muscle spasm, vaginismus makes insertion of a penis, finger, toy, tampon, or gynecological tool damn near impossible, and extremely painful if attempted anyway. It can be caused from trauma, past painful vaginal experiences (so pain begets pain), or nothing at all.
A chronic pain of the vulva around the opening of the vagina with no identifiable cause, in my experience it feels like a knife blade in your vag and it’s horrible.
It’s something I struggled with several years ago, and it was awful. Tampons were impossible. I needed a pediatric speculum for gynecological exams and I still winced. Penetrative sex was bloody and tear-filled.
This was around 2009 or so, and thankfully I had a sex-positive Ob/Gyn who took my complaints seriously and treated me successfully. No more vulvodynia.
And I never heard anyone else talk about it until the past year, and suddenly I’ve met DOZENS of folks who are experiencing chronic vulva pain that has either been diagnosed as vulvodynia, or hasn’t been examined yet but sounds a whole lot like vulvodynia to me.
My guess about the uptick is there's more comfort with talking about vaginas these days and less shame about it.
But talking about it is just the first hurdle. The medical community has been slow to show priority about understanding this condition- where it comes from, why, and how to treat it more effectively.
A rudimentary Google Scholar search yields just 9,000 returns for “vulvodynia”. Comparatively, “erectile dysfunction” yields 208,000, and ED doesn’t feel like one’s penis is being stabbed, so that seems fair, but I digress.
SO WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE VAGINA OUCH?
Make an appointment with your gynecologist. Advocate for yourself. Don’t accept a half-assed answer from the MD or any minimizing of what you are experiencing.
Get tested or ask your doc about pain treatment during an STI outbreak.
Try different positions.
Try different condoms and vulva-friendly body wash.
I’m going to say it again because it bears repeating: USE LUBE!
Talk to your partner. Again, advocate for yourself and what you need (more kissing, sex acts other than penetration, more gentle touches, whatever it may be).
Make an appointment with your favorite sexologist and sexual wellness coach to strategize sexual technique, communication with partner(s) and/or doctors, and emotional management approaches to work through the process.
HERE’S WHAT NOT TO DO:
Yes, these may be explanations, but ultimately sexual activity should NOT hurt, and it doesn’t have to.
Guest post by Takeallah Rivera.
Oftentimes, when “sex education” and “sex positivity” is mentioned, people immediately think of preteens and teenagers. It is time to change that!
It is possible to use age-appropriate tactics to promote sex positivity among small children! If there can be a national Head Start program for toddlers to prepare for college, there is no reason why they should not get a “head start” on learning about sex, bodies, and autonomy! Here are three ways we can promote sex positivity among toddlers:
Use Anatomically Correct Terms
It is very uncommon to hear the anatomically correct terms for genitals- “down there” seems to be the most widely used term at parks, playgrounds, and preschools.
Using “cutesy” words to describe body parts not only creates confusion about our anatomies , but also creates a sense of shame around bodies and sexuality. Normalizing words such as “penis, vulva, vagina, breasts, nipples, and anus” enables toddlers to learn at an early age that body parts are not shameful and prevents stigma from being formed about bodies.
Furthermore, if instances were to arise, a child would be fully capable of communicating to a trustworthy adult about the encounter; for example, a child stating “I was touched on my vulva” is more clear than saying “I was touched where the sun doesn’t shine”, which could mean an armpit, a foot, or a shoulder.
Teach Your Toddler About Consent- Then Practice What You Preach!
Consent is the most important concept of comprehensive sex education, and normalizing consent is the first step in creating sex positive children.
Consent can be applied to any scenario- from the dinner table to the playground. Encourage your children to develop boundaries by asking them questions, such as “How did you feel when (insert friend/sibling’s name here) did that?” and “Did you say it was okay for (insert friend/sibling’s name here) to touch you?”
Asking these questions allows for children to assess their own feelings and to create solutions to issues that arise, rather than a parent/guardian/caregiver to dictate solutions.
Parents, you aren’t off the hook! This applies to you as well!
After you teach your toddler about consent, practice what you preach! Get into the habit of asking your toddler “Would you like a hug?” “Is it okay if I pick you up?” “May I have a kiss?”
It is natural to want to console an upset toddler, but asking for consent to enter a child’s space further promotes autonomy with your little ones.
*Also, for the love of all things feminist, please don’t force your children to hug or kiss strangers or other family members.*
Choose A Pediatrician and Dentist With Feminist Values
Ahh, the doctor’s office. A place where many parents come in with high hopes and leave flustered, embarrassed, and frazzled.
Well-Child Check-ups can be nerve-wrecking for toddlers. In an examination room, a toddler can feel outnumbered, overpowered, and vulnerable, which can lead to a less than cooperative patient and an unpleasant experience.
Select a physician and dentist who engage directly with your child (instead of talking over them and only engaging with the parent), such as stating “I am going to check your vulva/penis now, if that is okay” or “Can you open your mouth so I can check to see if your teeth are healthy and strong?”
A doctor and/or dentist who values your child as a patient and an individual is key in building trust and alleviating anxiety when it is time for a check-up.
Let’s set our youth up for success! It is never too early to teach children about boundaries and their bodies!
Takeallah Rivera is a Full Spectrum Doula, Reproductive Justice Activist, Writer, Childbirth and Breastfeeding Educator, and Survivor. Through her work as a Doula and Educator in her community, she continues to advocate for reproductive justice and education equity. You can find her at www.takeallahrivera.com.