Web Access Things!

Web Access Things!

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Monday, 25 November 2013

Vulva Is Ugly

I was talking with some new friends of mine about our genitalia and one of them said 
'ugghh mine is ugly, it's all stretched out because I had a baby...' I hesitated with my response, feeling uncomfortable and unsure of what to say. Then I finally responded 'oh please! no way! All genitalia is beautiful...!' but I wasn't sure I even believed what I had said. I was not sure why I felt so uneasy about the answer I had given her. 

A number of months ago a friend sent me a text saying: 
U kno wat? I've got a really pretty vulva. Ppl I've fucked told me, so I looked myself and I think so too!
I responded:
LOL!That's amazing! I love when ppl love their vulvas!

I felt a strange sense of ease in agreeing with her about beauty, because we are supposed to love our bodies, it's normal. Right? These two separate conversations got me thinking about my own genitalia, and you know what? It is ugly and I don't always feel comfortable engaging with it. I was fooling myself writing all these wonderful words to describe some imagined flawlessness about my body, that I really didn't believe. It is discolored, my labia minora are two different sizes, and even worse sometimes its aroma catches me off guard like '...shit is that me?', sometime its itchy, has sores and bumps. Not cute. And you know what? I am learning (reaaalll slowly) to be cool with it being ugly. Mainstream narratives of self-love make me feel like I have to love myself in a very specific, kind of glazed over way. I have to learn to ignore my uglies and convince myself that they are in fact beautiful. Or else something is wrong with me. When I do not love myself at all times I am somehow deluded by false media representations, misguided and have a distorted view of reality. I need help. But nah, a more robust narrative of self love needs to be present and locating it in the many many ways that we are taught to feel undesirable/unworthy.

Coming into self love happens in so many different ways, whether in the reality of ascribing gender to genitalia, coming from body and gender dysphoria that can make our relationship to our genitals really fucking hard, for aesthetic reasons that suggest genitals should be and look a certain way, the locating of honor and worth to sex and genitals, navigating the realities of HIV/STI stigma or whatever else, thinking that beautiful=good and ugly=bad is a super narrow framing of self love that totally ignores the contexts that influence the complexities how we live in our bodies. However we work towards finding a sense of solidarity, peace and love with our bodies is always real and always valid. We should all be allowed to experience our bodies as we naturally do and have supportive spaces to talk about those realities - the hard, the wondrous, the pleasure and so on. To my friend who thinks their vulva is ugly, I am sorry for trying to convince you otherwise. Don't worry I am right there with you. Your vulva is ugly, my genitalia is ugly and it is what it is. Why not hold space to honour all the ways we feel about our bodies instead?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Vulva Has Discharge

I am a total self diagnoser. I am hypersensitive about changes in my body and as soon as I notice anything new or different I hop on the Internet and try to figure out what is going on. Especially with vaginal discharge. Discharge is the fluids produced by the cervical glands (cervix is at the top of the vaginal canal, like cap!) that keep the vagina clean and moist. So there is no need to use any kinds of soaps, perfumes or douching mechanisms. Those things are not always the vaginas friend and can easily set it off balance and irritate it. When I notice changes in the consistency (how it feels or its texture), smell, colour or quantity of my discharge that are uncommon to me I get into a bit of a panic. In a feverish search for some relevant information I typed in 'Vaginal Discharge' on goolge search and this is what came up. A lot of the information available doesn't ease my fears because there is a lot of talk of what is and isn't 'normal'. What I find to be normal for my discharge is often labelled as 'abnormal' and this is messy, scary and often confusing language. Regularly my discharge is far from odourless and white/clear. Sometimes it is stringy, thick, it can be thin, it always has an aroma, when it dries on clothes it can look yellow, it can darken in colour or it is straight up cloudy...so does this mean that I have reason to worry???

If we assume that there is a standard 'normal' or 'abnormal' discharge we should also ask how realistic this standard is, and what is it really being judged upon? While I can not for sure answer that question, I do know that vaginal discharge is different at different times of the month depending on how our body works. For example, if someone has a menstrual cycle, are pregnant, ovulating or breastfeeding their discharge will vary in quantity, amount, colour and texture as a result. And if someone is pre or post menopausal changes in the amount discharge is largely attributed to hormonal fluctuations. Or if someone does not have a cervix, for reasons not limited to a hysterectomy [his-tur-EK-tuh-mee] (removing of the uterus, but can also include the fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix) this may also affect a persons discharge. If we are on antibiotics, taking medication, birth control, or are turned on sexually these can all contribute to changes in discharge. The list really does go on! So you see, these generalized assumptions on what is and isn't 'normal' discharge doesn't account for the particular circumstances of our bodies.
But! There is always a but! There can be changes in discharge accompanied with specific symptoms such as;
- Fishy smell
- Pain in abdomen
- Itching, burning, redness, or inflammation of vagina/vulva
- Vaginal pain after or during penetrative (something entering the vagina) sex

- Increased need to pee
- Rash or soreness

In such circumstances it is suggested that you check in with your doctor (if you have one) cause they could be signs of an existing Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), vaginal infection or other complications. Remember that some people can be asymptomatic (show no signs or symptoms) of having an STI, so trying to get tested regularly is one of the ways in making sure one is not present in the body.

Yellow Frothy Discharge
ex. Trichomoniasis

Bloody Discharge
ex. Non-menstrual Bleeding
Green Discharge
ex. Gonorrhea
White Clumpy Cottage
Cheese Like Discharge
ex. Yeast Infection
Dark Brown Spotting
ex. Shedding of Endomitiral
Grey Watery Discharge
W/ Fishy Smell
ex. Bacterial Vaginosis

A lot of the information online does not make the distinction between changes of worry which are accompanied by distinct symptoms, and the natural state of our individual discharge. So I think that getting to know vaginal secretions is totally a way of understanding, knowing and personalizing what 'normal' is. Go Ask Alice offers some really body friendly advice on the topic as well. Personally, I have started to practice a self-check every now and then, where I stick my fingers into my vagina and seriously just smell, feel and taste my discharge. And if anyone has ever gone down on you, well, now you know exactly what you've been missing! By doing this I can know whether or not there have been any changes and I can easily become very familiar with my discharge. For example, I know when I don't drink enough water my aroma changes, when I eat to many sweet things it thickens and closer to my period it darkens! So instead of frantically searching the Internet for answers that often scare me beyond belief or tell me I am not normal, I can now work on developing my own sense of normalcy to ease my sense of panic. I would also like to acknowledge that not everyone has or can access a doctor and this can cause issues in establishing a continuum of care, and tracking medical history. So if you find yourself without a doctor, this can also be a really affordable and easy way to take your health into your own hands...or fingers!