The Opposite of Sex?

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Sex 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 2004 

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