The Opposite of Sex?

first_imgSex is Comedy, says a recent film by Catherine Breillat, which tells of the crude bodily mechanics of actors trying to recreate the passion and peculiarity of sex on screen. And she’s right. Not only do we like to find vicarious amusement in the taboo, but sex is a funny thing in itself. What is most emphatically not funny, it would seem, is the absence of sex. This is something that I have spent much time thinking about, while others have been joking about their latest sexual conquests and misdemeanours. I’m not a prude, or a nun nor even “waiting for the right time” anymore, but a normal, sexually-aware twentyone year old who won’t be having sex for a very long time, possibly never. And this I have had to explain embarrassedly in various states of undress to a number of excited, but ultimately disappointed young men; in doing so I refer to Sex and the City. Episode 50, “The Real Me”: Charlotte announces over power-lunch that her vagina is depressed and shots of a confused Carrie, a sympathetic- looking Miranda and a truly appalled Samantha ensue. But it’s okay: a few antidepressant pills and some vague medical waffle later, Charlotte is pleased to have a happy hole again. U n f o r t u n a t e l y Charlotte’s miraculous cure is an improbable outcome for most real life sufferers of the little-known illness termed Vulvodynia. Most sufferers, including myself, have a burning sensation on contact with surfaces such as tight trousers, tampons and, most upsettingly, penises. Assuredly less funny than no sex, is painful sex. We still feel desire, most can orgasm and a few have uncomfortable penetrative sex, while others are in constant debilitating pain and find it difficult even to walk. Mentally, vulvodynia is extremely hard to come to terms with, even harder for those who are misdiagnosed with sexual anxiety or allergies. A recent survey estimated that nearly ten percent of women suffer some form of vaginal discomfort in their life – only a fraction of whom seek help and in many cases, GPs are oblivious to the disorder. Much like the way in which breast cancer was viewed until the 80s – as an inconvenient and even slightly distasteful condition to be hushed up – it is not really acceptable to talk about vulval pain. Of course things might be different if we compared vulvae in changing rooms, but women are shy a b o u t complaining about this most private region of their body, particularly if they’re afraid that somehow poor hygiene is to blame. This is not the case. No one knows the exact cause of vulvodynia, but it is thought to be hyper-sensitivity or nerve damage, though some sufferers cite anti-thrush drugs as the source. A few months ago, an acquaintance of mine who suffers from Vulvodynia took a knife to her vagina and tried to excise a portion of flesh from her genitals, driven by agony and desperation after a GP told her that the chronic pain she was feeling was probably the product of her imagination. She was hospitalised, required reconstructive surgery and now the area hurts more than ever, but she said however stupid the act and painful the consequences, she is glad that she did it. She is no longer accepting her condition in silence. When I think back to my own experiences, I am shocked at my endurance of excruciating pain for far too long. As tears rolled down my cheeks during sex, my first boyfriend congratulated himself on making my cry with pleasure; I concealed my pain, because I thought I would lose him. Who would date, let alone ever marry, a celibate girl? I dumped him to prevent the need to find out. My next told me he was in love with my soul; sadly, ethereal spirits can’t give you a shag and he was tempted away by a more corporeal model after I told him about my condition. But this is not a bitter diatribe about the male obsession with sex. In fact the only thing I have become cynical about is the idea that sex is necessary. Tracey Cox teaches in Hot Sex and How to Do Itthat sex is a central and essential part of all successful partnerships. Well, currently I’m sexless and happy. Of course it’s a desirable, pleasurable aspect of love, but it’s peculiarly satisfying to know that my boyfriend would rather forgo sex than our relationship. Some say that sex sells, but it’s not incentive enough for all shoppers.ARCHIVE: 3rd week TT 2004last_img


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