Women4Real launches issues-raiser video, “Painful Sex vs. ‘Normal’ Sex: The Differences Explained With Food”
Alongside Eves Volcano, I am a co-director of innovative health and communications consultancy, Women4Real. Check out our new issues-raiser video on You Tube, “Painful Sex vs. ‘Normal’ Sex: The Differences Explained With Food”!
Our new short film highlights a ‘burning issue’ and offers a red-hot response to a viral video phenomenon that’s had 9 million views…
Research indicates that 16% of women will develop vulvodynia at some stage in their lives and this under-diagnosed health condition can be a cause of painful sex. That equates to a staggering 3.2 million women in the UK who are denied what most of us take for granted as a basic human right, let alone be able to aspire to the mind-blowing sex lives we’re led to believe are the ‘norm’. Symptoms include vulval burning and soreness, usually caused by proliferation of nerve fibres in the vulval skin.
In recent weeks, Kornhaber Brown’s superb short film, “Porn Sex vs. Real Sex: The Differences Explained With Food”, has gone viral across social media with more than nine million views on YouTube. We loved the film’s humour and creativity as an issues-raiser and were inspired to bring some hot sauce to the table (along with a frankfurter, a finger roll and a creatively spliced chilli) to highlight another burning issue: painful sex and vulvodynia. The result is our short film, “Painful Sex vs. ‘Normal’ Sex: The Differences Explained With Food”.
For an FAQ about this project please visit www.women4real.com, where you can also view the film. Women4Real is improving patient care for women with vulvodynia by developing an expert network, a CPD programme for GPs and health professionals, a mindfulness-based self-care course for women, new research and treatment options and further arts and media projects.
I’m supporting ‘NCW Giving Women and Young Girls a Voice’, a competition run by The National Council of Women, Great Britain:
“What are the major concerns of the younger generation? What is holding women back and preventing them fulfilling their potential?
The influential National Council of Women is holding a prestigious national competition – asking girls and young women under 30 to write about their concerns. The overall winner will be invited to New York in March 2014 to attend the United Nations’ annual Commission on the Status of Women Conference.
We want to know: If you could influence Government to take action on one issue to improve the lives of women and girls, what would it be?
Entrants must write a proposal and argument, in 300-500 words for entrants aged 13-18 and a maximum of 750 words for those aged 19-30. The closing date is 31st July 2013.”
This is a great opportunity to #speakout on all sorts of issues facing women today and I hope there will be some entries from young women keen to raise awareness and improve government policy on sexual health. A recent UK Sex Census revealed that 12% of women regularly find sex painful and unfulfilling – that equates to more than 2.5 million women in the UK who are denied what most of us take for granted as a basic human right, let alone be able to aspire to the mind-blowing sex lives we’re led to believe are the ‘norm’.
The government has just pledged £35 million to help eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) worldwide within a generation which is fantastic news and will help put an end to this barbaric practice, but will they also be willing to inject this level of funding into the other causes of vulval pain which affect millions of women worldwide? Research indicates that up to 16% of women suffer from vulval pain and would benefit from greater NHS funding for research, diagnosis, treatment and care.
For more info:
Join me at Minge Fringe where I’ll be reading extracts from my forthcoming book, Eve’s Volcano – Saturday 18th May
Join me on Saturday 18th May, when I’ll be speaking at Minge Fringe at Brighton Arts Club, as part of The Brighton Festival and Fringe. The event will comprise “an amazing array of Vagina art and performances celebrating the female form.”
It all kicks off at 3pm with live street art from Emma Buggy, then I’m on at 4pm, reading extracts from my forthcoming book, Eve’s Volcano. I’ll also be talking briefly about an innovative research programme I’m undertaking with my Women4Real colleague, Sabine Tyrvainen – we’re looking for women to volunteer an hour of their time to have their brainwaves scanned using neurofeedback, to help us develop a cognitive management programme for chronic sexual pain.
Women4Real – offering new insights and options for the 2.5 million women in the UK who find sex painful and unfulfilling
Exciting news! Women4Real is now up and running. My business partner Sabine Tyrvainen and I have just launched our innovative new health & communications consultancy. Our business focuses on what’s REAL in terms of women’s sexual experience, offering newinsights and options for women and working with a diverse range of organisations and businesses to bring about a large-scale shift in both the perception and treatment of chronic sexual pain.
A recent UK Sex Census reveals that 12% of women regularly find sex painful and unfulfilling – that equates to more than 2.5 million women in the UK who are denied what most of us take for granted as a basic human right, let alone be able to aspire to the mind-blowing sex lives we’re led to believe are the ‘norm’.
At Women4Real we are determined to make a positive difference to the 2.5 million women in the UK who are currently unable to experience fulfilling sex lives and relationships due to chronic sexual pain (as a result of conditions such as Vulvodynia, Vulval Pain, Chronic Thrush, Vaginismus and other health issues).
Whilst some superb organisations and charities exist to support women with these conditions (we are working closely with several of them) we are focusing our energy and expertise on bringing about a wider shift not only in awareness, support and treatment options but in cultural attitudes and expectations around sexuality.
The Centrefold Project, an innovative animated film about labiaplasty, is now available to the public. You can view it, download it and use it as a resource for FREE at www.thecentrefoldproject.org . An accompanying documentary, featuring interviews with leading clinicians Sarah Creighton and Lih-Mei Liao, from University College Hospitals London, further explores the issues surrounding so-called “designer vagina” surgery.
Over the past decade, female genital cosmetic surgery has increased by a staggering 500%, with girls as young as 11 approaching doctors to request surgery, concerned about the appearance of their genitals. Centrefold takes an innovative and balanced approach to this controversial topic, following three women, aged 24 -41 through their different experiences of labiaplasty (surgery to trim or remove the labia). By documenting what is involved in the procedure and its varying outcomes, the film seeks to offer a non-judgemental view of labia surgery and to encourage informed discussion.
I joined the project last year as a PR consultant and we launched the film in London last week with a special screening and panel discussion to an invited audience of media, cosmetic surgeons, health workers and leaders of women’s organisations. Dr Phil Hammond chaired a heated discussion between audience members and our panel which included the film’s director Ellie Land, feminist author Susie Orbach, body sculptor Jamie McCartney (who created The Great Wall of Vagina) and clinicians Sarah Creighton and Lih-Mei Liao.
Join the debate and have your say at www.thecentrefoldproject.org… Is labiaplasty anti-female ‘pornification’, or an empowering personal choice?
Last week I spoke at the SHE SAYS Brighton event, “Get Over It! Overcoming Obstacles”, along with the fabulous Cara Courage. SHE SAYS is a global organisation that does fantastic work around the world empowering women in the media and creative industries, by running free mentorship and networking events. Our venue at Lighthouse Arts was full to capacity with a lively, inspiring and supportive crowd including digital creatives, writers, film-makers, illustrators, students and freelancers, as well as journalists and PR people from the Brighton Dome, the Argus and Southern FM. Met some wonderful women and can’t wait for the next session!
I approached the subject from a personal perspective, speaking about some of the big challenges I’ve moved through, including vulvodynia, chronic fatigue syndrome, periods of unemployment and my dealing with my inner critic. It was interesting to look at some varying definitions of what an ‘obtacle’ is what we mean by ‘progress’ , ‘happiness’ and ‘success’. For me, ‘success’ is now as much about how I feel, as what I achieve in a material sense. How do I want to feel in five years time? What do I want to learn and share? This opens up a greater flexibility and creativity, because if a particular path, or specific goal, proves difficult, there is always another route to feeling fulfilled. I finished with a quote I love from Napolean Hill, 1930s pioneer of personal development: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
Join me in Brighton on Thursday 12th January when I’ll be speaking at “Get Over It! …overcoming obstacles”, a SHE SAYS BRIGHTON event
Following last month’s brilliant launch event for SHE SAYS BRIGHTON, I’m thrilled to be speaking at the next session, about overcoming obstacles. I’ve faced some big ones over the years with regard to life, health and career, but it was the painful journey through these challenges that connected me with a deeper wisdom and creativity, and inspired a positive change in direction. Out of adversity came Eve’s Volcano.
Also joining me to speak on the subject is Brighton arts consultant Cara Courage – check out Cara’s super impressive website, www.caracourage.net, so looking forward to hearing her take on the topic. We already have 70 women registered to come along, so do join us – tickets are free – it’s going to be a great night!
Visit SHE SAYS BRIGHTON for more info. SHE SAYS is a global organisation that do fantastic work around the world empowering women in the media and creative industries, by running free mentorship and networking events.
A superb documentary by Shelagh Fogarty, on BBC Radio 2 this week, asked ‘What has religion done for women?’ The programme sought to understand why some women feel valued and empowered by their religion, whilst others find religious dogma oppressive and misogynistic. Cleverly melding pop culture and kick-ass music clips with incisive journalism, it’s well worth a listen on BBC iplayer . There’s also a great article on a similar theme in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, by Rabbi Adam Chalom, ‘Religion’s treatment of women key to understanding progess’.
Listening to Fogarty’s documentary has inspired me to dip into some Hildegard Von Bingen, a heroine of mine both for her ideas (that were centuries ahead of her time) and for her startlingly beautiful choral music. Hildegard was a 12th century nun unlike any other, an extraordinarily talented woman who was inspired by her Christian faith, but also by science, cosmology, art, music and medicine. She believed that both men and women were made in God’s image, a progressive view for her time and she extolled sexuality as natural and a symbol of the union of God and humanity. In a diversion from 12th century medical opinion, she claimed that female orgasm was an important part of conception (not entirely medically correct, but a great push for early feminism!) She writes:
“When a woman is making love with a man, a sense of heat in her brain, which brings with it sensual delight, communicates the taste of that delight during the act and summons forth the emission of the man’s seed. And when the seed has fallen into its place, that vehement heat
descending from her brain draws the seed to itself and holds it, and soon the woman’s sexual organs contract, and all the parts that are ready to open up during the time of menstruation now close, in the same way as a strong man can hold something enclosed in his fist.”
One fabulous 12th century nun, who valued sensuality as well as celibacy.
A new study suggests that as many as one in 12 women suffer from a type of genital pain known as ‘vulvodynia’, yet few have a diagnosis or seek treatment
Having survived a long and arduous journey through the burning pain of vulvodynia (which inspired Eve’s Volcano, my upcoming memoir) I was interested to read about a new research study that indicates that the condition is far more common than was previously thought.
The following is an excerpt from a recent press release I have just sent out to media on behalf of the Vulval Pain Society…
Vulvodynia refers to pain, soreness or burning of the vulva (the external genital area) in the absence of skin disease or infection. The symptoms may be constant, or arise from contact during sex, tampon insertion, cycling or wearing tight clothing. Although the condition is farily common there is frequently a delay in diagnosis and patients are often wrongly told by doctors that ‘thrush’ is the cause. Anecdotal evidence suggests that over-use of topical antifungal medications such as Canestan may make the condition worse.
True estimates of the prevalence of the condition remain unknown in the UK, but a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has suggested that of 2,300 Michigan women surveyed, at the time of the study, 8.3 percent of women had been experiencing symptoms fitting the criteria for vulvodynia for at least three months [......] a similar study found 15 percent of women had experienced genital pain for more than three months. In the Michigan study, vulval pain was rarely diagnosed and properly treated. Of the 208 women with current symptoms, almost half had sought treatment for their pain, but only three had been diagnosed with vulvodynia.
Dr David Nunns, medical advisor to the VPS and Council member of the British Society for the Study of Vulval Disease, says: “Those women currently diagnosed with vulvodynia just represent the tip of the iceberg. Misdiagnosis is common and labelling all women with vulval symptoms as having ‘thrush’ is simply wrong and detrimental to their treatment and recovery. The pain of vulvodynia can have a devastating impact on a woman’s life, affecting everything from sexual functioning and relationships, to her ability to work, exercise and socialise.”
Dr Nunns points out that women with vulval symptoms have a variety of different problems and treatment will depend on the individual needs of the patient. This might include pain modifying drugs, sexual therapy, physiotherapy, creams and possibly surgery.
The Vulval Pain Society (VPS) will be hosting a ‘Super Workshop’ at London Southbank University on Saturday 10 December 2011, geared towards women with genital pain and their partners. It will be a full day of information given by leaders in
the field from all disciplines including dermatology, psychology, gynaecology and more.
For more details and to book a place at the VPS ‘Super Workshop’ visit the ‘Meetings & Workshops’ section of the VPS website at www.vulvalpainsociety.org
“We still have an attitude that sex is a function – the truth is it’s an emotional, physical, spritual expression.”
Just back from speaking at the brilliant “Does sex really matter?” conference in Nottingham, a one-day meeting for GPs, sex therapists and other health professionals who work in the sexual health sector. I was there to speak from a patient’s perspective about my journey through the pain of vulvodynia to treatment and recovery, and to offer my thoughts on the way the medical sector treats patients with sexual health issues. Not so long ago, patient input at a medical conference would have been unheard of, so I am thrilled that we are now entering a new era of co-operation and can begin to work together towards better standards of healthcare.
In my closing comments I included a recent tweet from the wonderful Sam Roddick, founder and creative director of Coco de Mer, “We still have an attitude that sex is a function – the truth is [it’s] an emotional, physical, spiritual expression.” A truth that has was lost for decades in the medicalization of sexuality and is only now being incorporated effectively into sexual healthcare. My own experience of sexuality echoes Sam Roddick’s viewpoint and it has been the joy and pain of my sexuality that has led me to confront some of life’s big questions; questions that, historically, have been asked and answered by spirituality. But my journey has not been about sanctifying sex with Christian morality, or even transforming it with the Tantric teachings of the East. What happened occurred in the humdrum wonder of the every day. Through living my sexuality – through both the pain and the pleasure – I began to open to joy and sorrow, light and darkness, as parts of a remarkable, unfathomable Whole and slowly that realisation connected me with a deeper, richer experience of life.
For centuries, Christianity (my uncomfortable heritage) pitched the sexual and the spiritual as opposing forces, condemning sex as a dark, dangerous obstacle to spiritual enlightenment, body versus soul. Yet in darkness there is often wisdom, knowledge that must be felt before it is seen or spoken. And in the words of Carl Jung, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Sex does this – it makes the darkness conscious, if we let it. Its pleasures, inhibitions and dynamics are all expressions of the ego’s deepest fears and desires. It is of course also a source of immense joy, where deep love, connection and transformation can flow. Sex is both light and shadow, a potent mixture of body, soul and ego, a place to become whole. In this sense it is sacred, the creator of life and a celebration of all that it means to be alive.