Christine Labuski: Vulvar Pain – Mentioning the Unmentionable

05.15.16 Christine Labuski Meme

Christine Labuski on The Liberty Beacon Media Network
Sunday May 15 @ 7pm ET

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Join Christine and I for a lively discussion on the shaming of women’s bodies which prevents us from speaking about or seeking treatment (not a diagnosis of “It’s all in your head…”) for sexual pain and discomfort.

Christine and I are both members of a feminist group, The New View Campaign a dedicated group of advocates, researchers and educators who are challenging the medicalization of sex. When Christine sent out an email to the list serve with this article from the Broadly with an image of the woman below – I knew it was time to mention the unmentionable so women can understand the cultural context of the shaming of our bodies and seek the support they need.


One Third of Women Are Living with Sexual Pain That’s Ruining Their Lives – Vulvodynia and associated disorders make sex excruciatingly painful, but doctors are still stumped on how to treat these conditions—if they even believe in them at all.


Issues faced by women as a result of the ways that their anatomy is often perceived are among the research interests of Virginia Tech’s Christine Labuski, an anthropologist and an 05.15.16 Christine Labuski article-image.img.490.high cropexpert on gender, sexuality, and the body.

Labuski finds that women with chronic genital pain struggle with embarrassment and a lack of adequate information in their efforts to seek health care, which often leads to delays in their diagnosis and a worsening of their condition.

Labuski is an assistant professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies program, and a faculty affiliate in the Department of Science and Technology in Society and in the interdisciplinary doctoral program, Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical,and Cultural Thought.

She has written several articles and book chapters regarding genital pain, as well as on the issues faced by members of the transgender population in their search for adequate health care. She has published in The Archives of Sexual Medicine, Feminist Studies, and Transgender Studies Quarterly.

Her book, “‘It Hurts Down There’: The Bodily Imaginaries of Female Genital Pain” is forthcoming from SUNY Press. With Virginia Tech colleague Nicolas Copeland, an assistant professor of sociology, she also co-authored “The World of Wal-Mart: Discounting the American Dream” in 2010.


It Hurts Down There
The Bodily Imaginaries of Female Genital Pain

Tracks the medical emergence and treatment of vulvar pain conditions in order to understand why so many US women are misinformed about their sexual bodies.05.151.16 It Hurts Down There The Bodily Imaginaries of Female Genital Pain

How does a woman describe a part of her body that much of society teaches her to never discuss? It Hurts Down There analyzes the largest known set of qualitative research data about vulvar pain conditions. It tells the story of one hundred women who struggled with this dilemma as they sought treatment for chronic and unexplained vulvar pain. Christine Labuski argues that the medical condition of vulvar pain cannot be adequately understood without exposing and interrogating cultural attitudes about female genitalia. The author’s dual positioning as cultural anthropologist and former nurse practitioner strengthens her argument that discourses about “healthy” vulvas naturalize and reproduce heteronormative associations between genitalia, sex, and gender.

“…a particularly fateful intervention into the slowly growing discussion about female genital pain … well-informed and insightful.” — Nursing Clio

“This is an empirically engaged, ethnographically rich interpretation of genital pain in a cross section of women—but it is also so much more. Christine Labuski has a deep understanding of both the anatomical biomedical construction of female genitalia and manifestations of physical pain and suffering, which she combines with a marvelous cultural analysis of how entangled these biological ‘facts’ are with the contemporary culture of female loathing and self-loathing.” — Lisa Jean Moore, coauthor of The Body: Social and Cultural Dissections


Vulnerable Vulvas

M_vulnerable-vulvasChristine Labuski received the Claire Goldberg Moses Award for her 2013 article “Vulnerable vulvas: Female genital integrity in health and disease,” published in issue 39.1 of Feminist Studies. The award recognizes the most theoretically innovative article published in Feminist Studies each year, and was created in 2011 to honor Claire G. Moses on her retirement as editorial director of the journal.

“Vulnerable Vulvas” is based on ethnographic fieldwork that Labuski conducted in a vulvar specialty clinic, and is part of a larger book manuscript entitled “It Hurts Down There: The Bodily Imaginaries of Female Genital Pain” (forthcoming from SUNY Press). Both the essay and the book focus on the experiences of women with chronic and unexplained genital pain, who must learn to frankly discuss a part of their body about which they are normally encouraged to remain silent.



Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.

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