book reviews, healthcare

Dr. Jen Gunter gets real about menopause in her book, The Menopause Manifesto…

I hate going to see physicians. At this writing, I have not seen a medical doctor since 2010. I have not seen an OB-GYN since 1995. I realize that avoiding doctors, especially at my age, isn’t the wisest policy. Sometimes, my reluctance to go to the doctor causes me anxiety. Unfortunately, I had a really terrible experience with an OB-GYN that has made me a bit phobic. Still, I realize that at 49 years of age, I am teetering on the brink of menopause. I’m not there yet, but I know it’s coming. That’s why I downloaded Jen Gunter’s book, The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism, which was first made available on May 25, 2021.

I first discovered Dr. Gunter on Facebook. She has a popular Facebook page where she discusses current events that relate to feminism and women’s health. I like her a lot. I think I would even consider seeing her as a patient, if I lived in a place where that was possible to do. She’s a straight talker who is relatable and even funny, and I get the sense that she’s not only knowledgable, but she also cares.

Gunter wrote another book called The Vagina Bible, which was published in August 2019. I haven’t read that book yet, mainly because I figured I’d rather have it in printed form. I think most reference books are better when I can page through them manually, rather than read them on a device. But I’ve enjoyed The Menopause Manifesto so much that I decided to download The Vagina Bible. I don’t think that will be the next book I read… I need to take a break from reading about women’s health. But I do plan to read it, because I’ve discovered that Gunter is good at marrying facts with an entertaining writing style.

I like that Dr. Gunter blended her own personal experiences with menopause with medical science. Her personal touch made her seem more relatable and “human” to me. I’ve found that a lot of physicians come off as not like regular people, even though I know intellectually that they are most definitely human. Still, it felt like I was reading something written by a girlfriend as I learned about what probably awaits me when Aunt Flow finally packs her bags and vacates permanently.

I’m sure I’ll soon be well acquainted with “hot flushes” and night sweats… Dr. Gunter doesn’t like the more popular term, “hot flash”, because she says it’s not a particularly accurate description. “Hot flash” makes it sound like the sudden heat is something that happens in a second. According to the doctor, “hot flashes” take longer than a flash. At this point, I will take her word for it. I haven’t experienced one yet, but I know they’re coming. My mom and sisters have all had them. In fact, I remember when my eldest sister went through menopause. I was sitting next to her and she said, “Oh, I’m having a hot flash.” I kind of shrieked and shrank away from her. She laughed and said, “It’s not contagious!” I like that Gunter discusses these phenomenons that women universally go through with candor and humor, backed by medical facts and cutting edge research. She also adds pithy comments like, “I just want to acknowledge the ‘suckitude’.”

This book includes a broad array of topics, including contraception and the risks of “change of life” pregnancies. She does include a lot of her personal opinions, to include her views on men and vasectomies. She thinks men need to “step up” more and get “snipped” so the burden of birth control doesn’t fall entirely to women (since a lot of men prefer not to wear condoms every time they have sex). Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of women who pressure men to be permanently sterilized. My husband was pressured to get a vasectomy for his ex wife. Then they got divorced, and she had two more kids. Meanwhile, I was never able to have children in the easiest way.

I suppose if I’d really wanted to have kids, I could have made it happen, but it would have required a great deal of expense with no guarantee of success. Bill also had his vasectomy reversed, which was definitely an ordeal. Fortunately, we didn’t have to pay for the procedure, since the Army did it for free. However, the reversal was not painless, nor was it simple. I think it’s irresponsible to present vasectomies as if reversing them is easy and will always end in success. It’s not easy and doesn’t always end in success, and I know this firsthand. I did like that Dr. Gunter described vasectomies and tubal ligations as permanent birth control, because that is precisely what they are, and what they were intended to be, even if they can be successfully reversed in many cases.

Anyway, the point is, I disagree with Dr. Gunter on her views about pressuring men to have vasectomies. I don’t think it’s right to push elective surgeries on someone else, especially since they will have to live with the outcome. I wouldn’t like it if my husband tried to pressure me into having elective surgery, although I am very grateful that he chose to have a vasectomy reversal for my benefit. But that’s just me. I also realize that my opinion isn’t necessarily a popular view, and I understand why it isn’t popular.

Overall, I think this book is useful, especially for women in their 40s and 50s. It’s well-written, yet personable and sometimes even funny. Dr. Gunter has a lively, honest, and engaging writing style. Even though I don’t necessarily agree with some of Dr. Gunter’s opinions, I like that she’s all about empowering women, busting myths, and encouraging her readers to take good care of themselves. I think that’s what a book about menopause should do. I’ve read other books about women’s health, some of which were pretty terrible– perhaps because they were written by men. Dr. Gunter doesn’t condescend to her readers. She comes across as an advocate and a friend, and she delivers frankness with kindness and empathy. We should all have access to physicians like Dr. Jen Gunter! If you can’t see her in person, try reading her books! Or, at least, visit her page on Facebook or her official Web site, which are both linked in today’s post.

Well… I’d like to go on with this book review, but Noyzi the Kosovar monster dog is barking at me, demanding a walk. He’s come a long way from the scared pooch he was last fall. Below is a video I took a little while ago. He’s being even more insistent as I write these last sentences, so I guess I’d better heed the call before he goes nuts. He didn’t get a walk yesterday, because Arran went in for a dental… I guess I’m hearing the protests now! Arran is also growling menacingly, so I’d better give them their daily stroll.

Noyzi NEEDS his walk NOW.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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healthcare

A little TMI from T.I. and yours truly…

A good morning to everyone. There’s nothing like waking up, reading the daily news, and coming across a dishy item about a 39 year old rapper who takes his teenaged daughter to the gynecologist and demands that the doctor check to see that her hymen is still intact. I rubbed my eyes and wondered if it was true. But I’m sitting here listening to the podcast, Ladies Like Us, with Nazanin and Nadia, and T.I. Tip Harris is the guest. He’s talking very frankly about his life… and that of his children. And then I saw an article in the Washington Post about these revelations, which are just so completely fucked up that I can’t even fathom it.

T.I., otherwise known as Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., has made it an annual habit to accompany his 18 year old daughter, Deyjah Harris, to the gynecologist. Apparently, this began when she was 16. After Deyjah’s birthday party that year, he put a sticky note on her bedroom door that read “Gyno. Tomorrow. 9:30.”

He continues: “So we’ll go and sit down and the doctor comes and talk, and the doctor’s maintaining a high level of professionalism. He’s like, ‘You know, sir, I have to, in order to share information’ — I’m like, ‘Deyjah, they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there anything you would not want me to know? See, Doc? Ain’t no problem.'”

So as I’m reading about this, I picture this poor teenaged girl lying there on the table, no doubt in a flimsy hospital gown, and wearing no undergarments. It’s her first time being examined, which I remember from my own experience was very nervewracking and embarrassing. Her father and a male doctor are standing there talking about whether or not she still has her hymen intact. The male doctor, to his credit, lets T.I. know that the hymen can break for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with sex. Lots of women have lost theirs riding horses and bikes. I participated heavily in both of those activities when I was a teenager, but I remained a virgin until I was 30 years old and married for two weeks. I don’t think I still had a hymen when Bill and I finally consummated our marriage, but I sure as hell was a virgin. Just ask Bill!

But then T.I. says, “Look doc — she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bikes, she don’t play no sports, man — just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.” He added: “I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.”

What the fuck! Where the hell is her mother? If I had a daughter and her father tried something like this, I would kick his ass. And what is up with the doctor, allowing this to happen? HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) allows for patients to give permission to medical professionals to share their private information with others. However, it seems to me that if T.I. is comfortable enough to force his daughter to go to the gyno with him in tow, she probably wouldn’t be comfortable in asking him to GTFO of the exam room. If she had, she would likely pay for it later at home. It saddens me that the gynecologist didn’t do a better job of advocating for his patient, whose private medical information is now international news.

“Women are even murdered for want of a hymen”… and yet, a lot of women don’t have them, even if they’re virgins. Hymens are like baby teeth. They serve a purpose before puberty. At age 47, I still have a baby tooth myself, but I don’t think I had a hymen when I had sex for the first time.

Speaking of gynecologists, Canadian OB-GYN Dr. Jen Gunter, author of The Vagina Bible, has also weighed in on this. She shared the above video on Facebook. I see it was uploaded on November 1, which makes it especially timely today. She also posted on Twitter about why hymen testing is not a “thing” and T.I.’s actions are so completely inappropriate and abusive. Included in Dr. Gunter’s tweets is this screenshot from the World Health Organization.

I hope T.I. is paying attention to this and won’t subject his younger daughter to hymen exams. And I hope the doctors who see his daughters insist that he leave the room.

The first gynecological exam can be very stressful. It certainly was for me. Here’s where I will share even more TMI, so if you’re squeamish, you may want to stop reading. I have no shame, so I’m going to write this very personal story for the interested. Regular readers may have already read this.

I am 47 years old and, to date, I have only had two “gyno” exams. Both were done at the behest of the U.S. government, because I was going to be moving overseas. The first exam happened when I was 22 years old and needed a Pap smear and pelvic exam prior to joining the Peace Corps and moving to Armenia for two years. At the time, I was still considered a “dependent”, since I was under age 23 and my dad was a retired Air Force officer, so I was able to get my physical done for free at a military treatment facility. Actually, I probably could have had it done for free anyway, since this was for a government assignment. But I spent my whole young life going to military doctors, so I wasn’t particularly afraid. In retrospect, I wish I had sprung for a civilian doctor.

Anyway… it was April 1995, and I had to drive all the way from Gloucester, Virginia to Hampton, Virginia– city of my birth. Fort Eustis, which is in Newport News and was closer to my parents’ home, has medical facilities, but did not do women’s exams at the time. In fact, the doctor at Fort Eustis told me that I didn’t “need” an exam, since I was sexually inactive. However, the Peace Corps required that I have one done, so off I went to Hampton– probably a good hour’s drive from home.

I arrived at the hospital on Langley Air Force Base, which is where I would have been born, had the hospital’s maternity ward not been full on the day I entered the world. I was totally unfamiliar with the place, since I had always gotten my routine medical care done at Fort Eustis or the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, Virginia. I finally found the women’s clinic, which had pictures of babies all over the dingy walls. I filled out a typewritten form about the particulars of why I was there. I was alone and very nervous. A kind nurse tried to reassure me that the female doctor, an Air Force major who was an OB-GYN, would be gentle. I wasn’t so sure, but I tried to relax until I was called into the exam room.

The doctor was a white woman wearing an Air Force uniform. I still remember her name, but I’m sure she’s long forgotten me. She seemed older and kind of masculine to me, although she was probably in her 30s. I was directed to pee, then get naked. There was a paper sheet on the table that I was to get under. A black nurse was also in the room, supposedly to “chaperone”. I remember thinking she seemed kind of over it and unsympathetic to how nervous and upset I was.

So there I was, lying on the table as this doctor also told me I didn’t “need” an exam, since I wasn’t sexually active. I told her I needed to get it done for my Peace Corps physical. She said “Very well,” then proceeded to use a metal speculum that was too big. It hurt, and I let out a surprised yelp of pain. Noticing that the speculum was too big, she removed it and used a smaller one, which also really hurt. I screamed and felt very lightheaded– I was probably hyperventilating a bit, but it also hurt so much that I seriously thought I was going to faint.

“Hon, if you can’t be quiet, we can’t do this exam.” the doctor said in a stern tone of voice. I HATE being called “Hon”, probably moreso now because of this incident. But since I didn’t want to go through this again with another doctor, I bit my lip and she finished. She told me to get dressed and see her in her office, which I did.

I sat across from her at her desk as she told me that she hadn’t gotten “world’s best exam”, because I had been so tense and uncooperative. However, despite that, it looked like “everything was okay down there”. She advised me to lose weight, since she somehow knew I would be gaining weight in Armenia (I actually lost a lot of weight in training, but gained some back). Then she asked me if I wanted birth control. Since I wasn’t having sex at that point and my periods weren’t a problem, I said no. She sent me on my way, and I drove all the way back to Gloucester feeling totally humiliated and violated. My parents– particularly my mom– were quite unsympathetic. I was very happy when I got a postcard in the mail, indicating that my exam results had been normal.

It took another twelve years before I had another “gyno” exam done. I had tried to have one done by the Peace Corps Medical Officer at the end of my Peace Corps assignment in 1997, but I ended up freaking out and refused. That was a similarly embarrassing incident that I’ll save for another blog post, since this one is getting long. For now, I’ll fast forward to 2007, when Bill was in Iraq and I was preparing for our first move to Germany. The Army required that I have a physical and be screened for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). I did end up having to enroll in EFMP because I was once treated for depression, but again– another rant for another day.

So in 2007, I was fortunate enough to have a kind friend who was very familiar with the medical staff at DeWitt Army Hospital (now defunct) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. She helped me choose a very understanding physician’s assistant who, at that time, was doing well women’s exams. She has since moved on to cardiology.

Anyway, this P.A. was gruff at first, but then I explained what had happened at my first and only gyno exam in 1995. She then proceeded to give me a completely painless exam, which caused more tears– partly because I was so relieved to be done with it and partly because I now knew that the first exam shouldn’t have been so painful and traumatic! There was no chaperone when the second exam was done.

After the exam, the P.A. gave me a big hug and talked to me for a few minutes until I calmed down. The exam had been so stressful that my blood pressure was sky high. She was convinced that I had high blood pressure, and I had to prove to her I didn’t by submitting to a 24 hour blood pressure test which involved wearing a monitor that took my blood pressure every twenty minutes. I was left with a bruised arm and a diagnosis of white coat hypertension. To this day, simply walking into a military hospital makes my pressure shoot into the stratosphere. That’s why I haven’t seen a doctor since 2010, even though I know I could use some screenings.

I think about those times having those exams done, as bad as they were– and how much worse they would have been if I had been a teenager and my dad was in the room with me, demanding to know if my hymen was still intact. I don’t have a problem with the fact that Deyjah’s doctor was a man. I saw a female doctor and she turned out to be horrible. I think male doctors are capable of being kind and sensitive when they do pelvic exams and Pap smears, just as I know some women doctors are insensitive and cruel when they do them. Doctors who are treating teenagers should be mindful that teens aren’t always in a position to say no when their parents demand to be there for an exam. Deyjah Harris probably didn’t feel like she could refuse to allow her dad to supervise her gyno exam. BuzzFeed notes that Miss Harris liked several tweets criticizing her dad for not giving her appropriate privacy. My guess is that she would have preferred that T.I. not have inserted himself in the exam room and demanded a “hymen check”. And shame on the doctor for not telling T.I. that hymen checks are not a “thing”!

Now that Deyjah Harris is eighteen and in college, she is legally an adult. Why her father is still so interested in her virginity is beyond me. I truly hope someone understanding talks to her and lets her know that her body belongs to her, and that her self worth isn’t tied to virginity. It’s extremely inappropriate, possessive, controlling, and just all around fucked up that her dad cares so much about virginity, even pointing out that “virgins are no fun”. I just can’t stand it. It’s just totally creepy and misogynistic. Yuck.

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What’s on the “vagenda” today?

Last night, I watched a video by Mr. Atheist. I had seen his channel before, but I’m not sure I ever stopped to listen to any of his commentary. I couldn’t resist last night, though, because he did a video about The Transformed Wife, aka Lori Alexander. I have written about Ms. Alexander myself on more than one occasion. She’s a blogger and book author who vehemently condemns feminism.

Last year, Lori Alexander wrote an explosive blog post about how men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos. Her comments about debt free virgins spawned lots of rebuttal blog posts and videos, including one by yours truly. I would link to my comments about Lori’s assertion that American men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos, but my old blog is currently on lockdown (ETA: I have since reposted those posts and you can find them through the tags for Lori Alexander). She’s written similarly ridiculous articles that people pay too much attention to, like the time she opined that women doctors are “ruining the medical profession” for taking med school spots from men and not staying home to spawn children. I’m sure many people follow her simply to ridicule her, but she also has her supporters.

I don’t pay a lot of mind to Lori Alexander myself. I only read her most ludicrous posts, and generally only when someone else links them. I find her writing style annoying and her ideas insulting and embarrassing, so I don’t give her much quarter. However, some of the things she says and writes are just so stupid that I can’t help but laugh. And since today is a rainy Friday morning, I figured I’d share Mr. Atheist’s hilarious take on The Transformed Wife’s commentary on shows like The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie. Are you ready for this, y’all? Lori Alexander condemns these two classic, family friendly shows from the 70s and 80s as promoting feminism!

WHAT?!

I enjoyed Mr. Atheist’s enthusiastic and entertaining comments on Lori Alexander’s comments about those nasty G rated TV shows of yore. I decided to subscribe to his channel. This morning, I’m listening to Mr. Atheist’s August video about Lori Alexander’s thoughts on birth control. She HATES it. She thinks everyone should be having huge families, even if they are not prepared to take care of children. She says children are “blessings from God”, and that before birth control, women knew that their purpose in life was to have children. Well jeez, I guess my life has been wasted.

So get down on your back, spread your legs, and get to babymaking, you childless JEZEBELS! (for the clueless, this is NOT what I actually believe)

Lori is also an anti-vaxxer, claiming that vaccines are FULL of toxic chemicals. It doesn’t surprise me that she says these things, since she is anti-education, especially for women. She seems to believe that a woman’s main purpose is to pump out babies and keep house. However, the science behind vaccinations is solid and has been around for centuries. Don’t want to take the newest ones that don’t have many decades of proven success in preventing communicable diseases? Alright. But children in 2019 should not be getting the measles and dying of encephalitis. Children of 2019 should not have to worry about deadly or crippling diseases like polio, rabies, whooping cough, or rubella. Children who cannot be vaccinated due to their age or health concerns should not have to worry about getting sick because they are exposed to unvaccinated children who have been exposed to communicable diseases that could have been prevented through immunization.

Anyway… although I didn’t take the time to listen to Lori Alexander’s videos, I like Mr. Atheist’s thoughts on her nonsense. I especially like him because he is an ex Mormon and ex Mormons are some of my favorite people. They’re usually brave, smart, and have good taste in books and music. On another note, Mr. Atheist apparently had some technical difficulties on the “birth control” video and Lori sounds kind of like Foamy the Squirrel of the “Neurotically Yours” cartoons. Check him out.

This is still a classic. I think Foamy’s thoughts on life are more valuable than Lori Alexander’s.

I also like that Mr. Atheist came up with the word, “vagenda”. I think I’m going to incorporate that into my daily language. I’ll take a minute to think about the parts of my body that make me female and create a “vagenda”… but my vagenda will not include vaginal steaming, because according to Dr. Jen Gunter OB-GYN, and author of The Vagina Bible, vaginal steaming is a waste of time and potentially dangerous. Yes… I will listen to Jen Gunter over Gwyneth Paltrow any day. And I will listen to voices of reason like Mr. Atheist over religious quacks like Lori Alexander any day. Check out Mr. Atheist’s YouTube channel if you have a chance. He’s pretty good, even if he does have a habit of over pronouncing words like “button” and “important”.

MOVING ON…

I’ve been on another one of my 7th Heaven kicks lately. I don’t know why, but I really get a charge out of watching that show, even though it also makes me want to throw things at the screen. 7th Heaven was supposed to be a Christian values family friendly kind of show. However, look at the cast and you’ll find that some of the actors have kind of headed in the direction of the Diff’rent Strokes cast. Stephen Collins, who played the annoyingly sanctimonious and irritating Revered Eric Camden, was outed as a pervert back in 2014.

Eeew.

I am now at the part of the series in which Revered Chandler Hampton, played by Jeremy London, shows up. His character is wholesome, wise, and handsome. And yet, he and his twin brother, Jason London, are also no strangers to law enforcement. Jeremy London was arrested for domestic violence and did some time in rehab. Jason London, who guest starred in an episode about the evils of smoking, got busted at a club, was arrested, and crapped his pants in the back of a police car.

But these incidents are not what is prompting commentary about 7th Heaven today. Back in 2000, Stephen Collins was still a very bankable actor, as well as a hack author (seriously, I read his horrible novels– definitely not RevCam material, but truly awful), and wannabe musician (Pat Boone’s record label released his warbling). Collins also did some acting for video games, notably for a game called Code Blue, which was developed by a company called Legacy Interactive. I happened to be a big fan of Legacy’s interactive video games pertaining to health care, and they had quite a few of them 20 years ago. At the time, I was in graduate school earning my master’s degrees in public health and social work. I found healthcare interesting, and since I had no social life, I would sometimes kill my free time by playing games on the computer.

Yesterday, I went searching for the game, Code Blue, which had so helpfully killed my limited free time in the year 2000. Lo and behold, I found someone’s uploaded video of Stephen Collins playing Dr. Matt Clark on Code Blue. You know who else was on that game? Ann Dowd! That’s right, Aunt Lydia of The Handmaid’s Tale was the nurse in that game! At first, I thought she was Felicity Huffman, mainly due to the hair. The late Kathryn Joosten, who was on Desperate Housewives, was also a player. I am impressed by the level of star power Legacy Interactive invited to this classic game.

Aunt Lydia and RevCam in a hospital setting!

I miss these kinds of games. I waste too much time and money on pay to play games these days. Even The Sims 4 isn’t doing it for me lately. And yes… although Collins wasn’t outed as a pervert back in 2000, I found him just as irritating and wooden on this video game as I did on 7th Heaven. But some people are so annoying they’re entertaining.

Here’s a link to Dr. Jen Gunter’s book, which I will probably purchase myself at some point.

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LDS

Reason #255 why I don’t like Mormonism…

Today’s post is about sex. Don’t read it if you’re squeamish or don’t like TMI.

I recently started following Dr. Jen Gunter on Facebook. Dr. Gunter is a Canadian OB-GYN who advocates for women. She is the author of The Vagina Bible, which I haven’t yet read. She also provides abortions and fights for women’s reproductive freedom. It’s no secret that I’m a big believer in letting women make their own choices regarding pregnancy, childbirth, birth control, and everything else that comes with being female. Although I have never been pregnant myself, and therefore, have never had an abortion, I strongly believe that women should have access to them. The reason they have them is no one else’s business but theirs. Dr. Gunter cheers for causes I believe in, so I follow her.

Last night, Dr. Gunter shared this blog post. She writes that she was inspired to Google “premarital exams” after reading a viral Reddit post from a woman who claimed her ex fiance’s father wanted to check her hymen before they got married. I saw that post myself and was shocked by it, although after thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized that even in 2019, this kind of shit is still going on. I’m not sure what belief system the Reddit poster’s ex fiance’s family follows, but I do know there are legalistic religions out there where this kind of thing is “normal”. Thank God the Reddit poster called off the wedding. I’m sure her would be father-in-law’s demand to examine her genitalia was just the tip of the iceberg of what she would have been expected to tolerate if they had gone through with the wedding.

When Dr. Gunter Googled “premarital exams”, she found an article put out by the University of Utah’s department of OB-GYN about “premarital exams”, as well as an ad. Dr. Gunter was obviously shocked to read about this offering in Utah. She clearly hasn’t had much exposure to Mormonism. Good on her for that. Dr. Gunter also noticed that there is no similar “premarital exam” offered for men by the University of Utah’s urology department.

I was one of the first people to comment on Dr. Gunter’s Facebook post. I am not LDS myself, but thanks to Bill’s ex wife’s insistence on converting to Mormonism and raising his daughters in the religion, I have become very familiar with the culture. The “premarital exam” may not be a terrible thing on the surface. Basically, it’s a gyno appointment for young women who are about to get married. LDS women typically marry young and a lot of them are virgins on their wedding days. So they go see the doctor to talk about sexual stuff that, apparently, they never learned in high school, college, or at home… or from personal experience. They might also come home with “dilators”, which, in blunt terms, are instruments that are intended to help the woman get herself ready for penetration.

For about $150, you too can train your vagina, just like some young LDS women do before they marry… In fairness, there are cheaper versions available. This one appears to be “top of the line.” I remember hearing about the dilators for the first time when I took a Psychology of Women class at the University of South Carolina. But they were supposed to be used to treat vaginismus, which is when the muscles down there are too tight.

Dr. Gunter was clearly horrified by this exam, and she offered quite a rant about it. I don’t blame her for being horrified. She seemed especially upset about the dilators and antibiotics on hand in case of a urinary tract infection. But then she goes on about how women marry women, and that having severe pain during sex might actually be because of the man being a “lazy lover”. I suppose I should have also mentioned that a lot of LDS men who are getting married for the first time are virgins, too. In fact, Mormons are discouraged from masturbating. While I’m sure that’s a rule that is frequently broken, those who follow it probably don’t know much about what pleases them sexually. They might not even know what an orgasm is and how it’s supposed to feel.

I’ve shared this a few times, but it bears repeating. These guys are being yelled at for doing what is natural and instinctive. They’re all legal adults, and presumably, mostly virgins. Imagine them on their wedding nights.

As I’m writing this post today, I’m thinking about two young LDS people on their wedding night. They’ve waited all this time to have sex for the first time. They’ve recently taken out their “endowments”, which means they’re probably wearing underwear that is definitely not sexy… and they’ve been taught these underwear are “sacred” and have to be handled in a special way.

But when it comes to having sex, neither of them knows what the hell they’re doing. They’ve spent their whole lives having to talk about their “non-existent” sexual habits with their bishops. Sex is dirty and sinful, unless it’s intended to make babies, which you are only supposed to do after you’ve married, and the wedding must be between one man and one woman. Plenty of gay and lesbian Mormons have gotten married to straight people because that was what was expected of them. So, imagine too that you’re not even attracted to the person you’ve married. That person is “temple worthy”, though, and can take you to the “Celestial Kingdom” and bring new spirits to the Earth who are waiting for families that they’ve chosen (seriously, these are LDS beliefs).

Now we turn them loose to have sex for the first time… can we say disaster? Hopefully, they are attracted to each other and married for the right reasons. But, as I have discovered in about twenty years of unofficial study, plenty of them aren’t and haven’t. And their first time having sex just plain sucks.

I remember reading Deborah Laake’s controversial book, Secret Ceremonies, in which she describes her horribly awkward wedding night to her first husband, Monty, a man she didn’t love. She describes washing out the lambskin condoms her father-in-law gave her as a wedding present. Here’s a screenshot from a 1993 review of Laake’s book that appeared in The New York Times.

“Nutty ceremony” indeed.

Deborah Laake, sadly, died by her own hand in 2000. She had breast cancer, but she also had issues with mental illness. I read her book twice. The first time was when it first came out in the early 90s. Then, years later, I read it again with Bill. He confirmed it wasn’t full of lies, as a Mormon couple I had known in the 90s claimed it was (and they hadn’t even read the book themselves). However, I do remember the book was mostly about sex and how weird it was in Mormonism.

Sick and wrong…

On my old blog, I once wrote about a Mormon bishop who was defending his right to question an eight year old child about his “sexual habits”. When I was eight years old, I didn’t have a clue about sex beyond the most basic facts. And yet in this church, children are expected to divulge their “sins” regarding “self abuse”… also known as masturbation. Imagine you’ve spent your whole youth being taught that sexual stimulation is sick and wrong, and self pleasure is “dirty” and improper. And then you are expected to perform sexually on your wedding night. Sure, both parties are going to be nervous. And remember, there’s no liquor on hand to settle one’s nerves… Ugh. Sounds like a nightmare.

I have never made it a secret that I was myself a virgin on my wedding day. It had little to do with religion, though. I never dated much before I met Bill and never met anyone I wanted to have sex with who also wanted to have sex with me. I likely would have had no issues having sex if I’d had a boyfriend other than Bill, who was LDS when we were dating. He had only been with his ex wife and wanted to wait until after our wedding to have sex the first time. As it turned out, we waited until two weeks after the wedding, because just like Ginny in Sixteen Candles, I got my period on my wedding day. Fortunately Aunt Flow waited until after we said “I do” to make her appearance. It was just icing on the cake on a day that was fraught with mishaps. Consider that my husband’s dad, who was also his best man, locked his knees and almost fainted right before we said our vows. Yeah… it was best to just wait. Fortunately, our marriage has been much better than our wedding day was. That’s the way it ought to be.

Anyway, because I’ve been hanging around ex Mormons ever since Bill and I started dating, I’ve gotten to know a lot about the church, even though I have never been a member. I’ve made some exMo friends, read lots of books, and now that Bill’s younger daughter is speaking to him again, have had some direct knowledge in what the church’s teachings on sex can lead to. Actually, in younger daughter’s case, I’m grateful that she waited until she was in her 20s to get married and have babies. But she’s not finished with college, despite being very bright and capable. Her husband recently found a job, but they’ve just spent several very stressful weeks after the birth of their baby girl in July, trying to nail down housing and employment and health insurance… I’m glad she’s at least mature and mostly sensible, but her children are both under two years old. I really hope she gets some contraception and waits a bit before having the next one… or just stops with the two she has.

I sense Dr. Gunter is a curious type. I hope she’ll do more exploration of how religion can really fuck up a person’ sex life and mental health. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that the people responding to Dr. Gunter also mentioned that this whole “premarital exam” shit is all about the LDS religion and its demands that women be wives and mothers. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea that young women find a gyno that they like and with whom they feel comfortable. I wish I had done that myself. But my first gyno exam horror story, which I’ve already written before, is another rant for another day.

I just think that young women should be empowered to make their own choices about sex, having babies, getting married, and all of that other stuff. And really, the virginal LDS men probably would benefit from counseling about sex before they get married too, if they are going to encourage women to do it. And yeah… the LDS church needs to catch up with us in the 21st century. The premarital exam should not be called a premarital exam, and it should not be done simply because someone is getting married to a man and about to have sex for the first time. The exam should be about health, promoting well-being, and responsible caregiving. You know, like any other physician’s visit should be, for men AND women.

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healthcare, politicians

“Whatever you think is best, doctor.”

I was kind of hoping this morning I’d find something amusing to write about. My last few posts have been downers. Maybe later, once I’ve had a little more time to wake up and cheer up, I’ll find something funny about the world today. Right now, I’m compelled to write about an opinion piece I read in The New York Times.

Dr. Jen Gunter is an OB-GYN who has recently written a number of pieces about her experiences as a doctor who provides abortions. I usually like what she writes about this subject, since she is very knowledgable and reasonable. This morning, I read her piece entitled “Medical School Doesn’t Teach the ‘Woman’s Life Is In Danger’ Curriculum“. As usual, Gunter made a lot of sense. She also brought up some issues with these new abortion bills that I don’t think a lot of people have considered.

In her op-ed, Dr. Gunter wrote about a case she had in 1998. She was called in to perform an abortion on a woman who was very sick and in her first trimester of pregnancy. The woman’s condition was rapidly deteriorating and the pregnancy was making her situation worse. Although her life was not in immediate danger, her caregivers feared that if she continued her pregnancy, her condition would quickly decompensate and she would need dialysis due to kidney failure.

The problem was, this was happening in Kansas, where a new restrictive abortion law was enacted that forbade abortions from being done on state government property, unless the mother’s life was in danger. The medical center where Dr. Gunter worked was on state property. While it’s very possible to manage kidney failure on dialysis, it’s not the ideal course of action. It’s better to prevent kidney damage, which would then prevent a host of other serious medical problems that would put the patient’s life in danger. The patient was not about to die, but her condition might eventually cause death if the doctor didn’t act. On the other hand, thanks to the law, if Dr. Gunter made the “wrong” decision, she could be fired or wind up in legal trouble. She could even be arrested, which would be a real problem, since malpractice insurance does not cover criminal prosecution.

The law was vague regarding what Dr. Gunter should do. She spoke to the hospital’s attorneys, who advised her to call the legislator who had written the law. So, instead of prepping her patient for surgery and taking care of her patient’s private medical issues, Dr. Gunter was forced to call up a legislator who had absolutely no clue about this wrinkle in the law because he wasn’t a medical professional. Moreover, Dr. Gunter was about to talk about this lady’s private medical situation with a man who was completely uninvolved, except for the fact that he’d written the law that was holding up Gunter’s ability to take action. To add insult to injury, he didn’t even seem to care! As Gunter launched into a description of the woman’s medical issues necessitating an abortion, the legislator interrupted her and said, “Whatever you think is best, doctor.”

The woman got her abortion and her medical condition improved. But Dr. Gunter was left fuming, since she’d had to waste precious time calling up a legislator who obviously didn’t actually care that much about this law. He hadn’t even listened to her speak for more than a minute before he basically said “whatever”. Meanwhile, this lady’s health– her very life– was in danger. What would have happened if Dr. Gunter had not taken the time to cover her ass by calling the lawmaker? What if she’d simply done the abortion and gotten arrested for breaking the law, even though she’d made the correct medical decision? What if she’d not done the abortion and her patient died? Then she might be on the hook for medical malpractice. She’d also have to deal with the guilt of knowing that she has the training to help women in these dire medical situations, but can’t act due to restrictive, misguided legislation like the “heartbeat” bills being considered and passed in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Alabama.

I wonder if the untrained politicians who are making these laws have considered the second and third order effects of forcing women to birth. One thing I think will happen, right off the bat, is that malpractice coverage will have to be expanded. Perhaps another type of insurance will be created to help physicians who are criminally charged in situations like the one Dr. Gunter describes. That will mean higher healthcare costs for everyone, since everyone practicing in a healthcare setting will need coverage.

Next, legislators will start getting phone calls at all hours from medical professionals who need clarification of the laws. Senator So and So might be enjoying a night out with his wife and have to answer a frantic phone call from a doctor who is trying to treat a pregnant woman whose pregnancy is making her health worse. And the doctor will have to listen to an untrained legislator offering his opinion.

Patient privacy will go out the window. It will have to, since physicians will have to seek advice from legal people on what they should or shouldn’t do for a patient like the one Dr. Gunter describes. Moreover, doctors, who already have a lot to do and huge loans to repay, will have to waste time with legal red tape and possibly money trying to defend themselves from legal action. A lot of them will have to go to court and may even risk being arrested simply for trying to do their jobs.

I haven’t even touched upon what will happen when sick women with health problems are forced to give birth. They will probably need more healthcare, since the pregnancy has made their condition worse. And their babies will probably need more healthcare, too– if they survive. That will mean more work for healthcare providers and higher costs for both insurance companies and uninsured people. Uninsured people will likely have more bad debt, which could ruin their ability to make major purchases like cars, education, or homes. That will affect business… well, maybe not for undertakers, who will probably get more business as more people die.

The legal system will get more business as more cases regarding abortion wind up in court. More people will go to prison, which is already a shameful big business in the United States, where in 2016, 2.2 million people were already behind bars. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing for the people who profit off of incarcerating others– privately run prisons are a thing in the United States. However, it will not be a good thing for families and individuals directly affected by having a loved one in prison. A lot of the “babies” legislators were so keen to see born could wind up with parents in prison, if they’re lucky– the cemetery if they’re not.

I can see why people are “pro-life”. A lot of folks believe it’s a matter of personal responsibility to prevent pregnancy. I happen to agree that, at least for me, it wasn’t hard to avoid getting pregnant. But I don’t represent everyone. Sometimes even when a person uses birth control– or even after they get a procedure like a vasectomy or a tubal ligation– pregnancy can still happen at the worst possible time. Sometimes birth control methods fail. Sometimes even vasectomies and tubal ligations can fail, though that is admittedly a rare situation.

And so many of them think that because they more often pay child support, they should have the right to enslave a woman by forcing her to give birth.

I’ve been paying attention to a lot of rhetoric spouted by “pro-lifers”, many of whom are men. I’ve seen a lot of men equating their duty to pay child support to a woman’s duty to give birth. First off, men aren’t the only ones who pay child support. Sometimes women pay child support. Secondly, having to pay child support is really no comparison to having your health on the line while gestating a baby. And before the baby is born, the name on the hospital’s and doctor’s bills is not that of the father’s.

I’ve seen other people, again mostly men, tossing out the statistics of when an abortion is “medically necessary”. One guy claimed it was about 4%. He did not provide the source of his statistic, but even if he had, I would be skeptical about its veracity. I don’t see how it’s possible to really know how many abortions are simply done for convenience. Everyone who seeks one has a story. Besides that, I can’t imagine any woman having an abortion for “fun” or even convenience.

I’m as big on personal responsibility as anyone is. I just think that abortion, just like any other medical procedure, should be entirely private. We don’t force people to donate organs to others, even when doing so would save another person’s life. We don’t begrudge people who defend themselves against intruders by using deadly force– one could argue that when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, that person has the right to use deadly force for her own self-protection. We have a big, complicated law called HIPAA that is supposed to protect our right to privacy in a medical setting. There is no reason why Dr. Gunter, an eminently qualified physician with excellent medical judgment, should have to call some legislator for permission to take care of her patients, particularly when the legislator isn’t even trained in medicine.

I’ll close with a direct quote from Dr. Gunter’s opinion piece. “Abortion is sometimes medically necessary, and women will have abortions whether they are safe and legal or not. Creating legislation that suggests otherwise does not change that truth.” Not allowing physicians to make medical decisions for their patients is a terrible idea.

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