My friend Ginger* in DC hosts a book club, and this month they read my book Birds, Bees, and Church Trailer Thieves. So Monday night I used Skype to join their club and answer questions about the book. It was a lot of fun!
In the course of the conversation, I mentioned the memoir I'm working on. They asked me the topic and, after a moment's consideration, I told them it dealt with my journey through dyspareunia (painful sex). This elicited the astute follow up question about my husband: how does he feel about me writing this memoir? While writing a memoir always involves consideration of those mentioned in it, my topic is definitely a sensitive one. My husband is very gracious, and likes to joke about the memoir, but that's pretty easy to do, given that we have a (excuse the pun) happy ending. And although he doesn't know it yet, as I write this I'm discovering that it deals far more extensively with my own spiritual struggles than my relationship with him.
My memoir aside, I believe that the question of our husbands and partners is one most women with dyspareunia struggle with. There's always the issue of confidentiality: is it really fair to our men to share our problems with others? Will it cause them to be viewed as weak or inferior? It shouldn't. I certainly don't look down on a woman if her partner deals with impotence. Yet, I suspect that partners of impotent men keep that secret just as assiduously as women with dyspareunia guard their secret. Is it just that our society is deeply uncomfortable with sexual problems? Or is this more rooted in gender conceptions and sexism? IE, is a woman with a sexual problem considered more "broken" than a man with a sexual problem? Certainly Botox (a common treatment for vaginismus) isn't running ads with couples in bathtubs smiling, but Cialis and Viagra ads are ubiquitous. Another point: men who are impotent are rarely (if ever) told that they just need to "relax" because the problem is psychological. Is this simply because there is a drug for this issue? Or is this because our society expects men to perform with enjoyment and women to receive without complaint?
* If you're ever in the DC area, book a massage with Ginger at Body, Mind and Sole. You'll thank me for it!