Have you ever felt like this? What are menstrual cramps exactly? Today’s Fact Friday has the scoop.
Every month blood and nutrients are produced in the uterus. If there is no pregnancy, the blood and lining will leave the uterus. To help it along its way, the body produces more of a hormone called prostaglandins. This causes the muscles in the uterus to contract and help release the blood.
50% of teens suffer from menstrual cramps and 15% of teens say the pain can interfere with everyday activities. Some teens also experience monthly diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
What can you do if you have painful menstrual cramps?
- Use low level heat, like a heating pad, on the lower abdomen.
- Over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or anaprox dramatically reduce the amount of prostaglandins and decrease cramping and bleeding. The key is to take them the day before menstruation starts and before the cramp causing hormones kick in.
- Birth control pills can decrease the contraction causing hormone produced. With fewer contractions, there is less pain. Birth control pills can also decrease the amount of blood flow with a period. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in birth control pills, if you have severe cramps that keep you home from school or from doing stuff with your friends or that seem to be worsening over time, visit your doctor or health center for advice. That way you can find out what’s going on and the best way to handle it.
People want to believe gender is something that’s essential, and people repeat these essentialist ideas all the time. ‘Oh, women do that’ and ‘Oh, men do that’ and the reality is that all women don’t anything. We as individuals do what we do, you know, and sometimes that’s informed by gender and sometimes it’s just who we are. And I think all that just makes people really, really uncomfortable because they don’t want to think about who they are.
This is a segment of my most recent research paper, “Discursive Limits: How Medical Discourse Produces Genital Herpes Stigma” at UC Berkeley.
In Archaeology of Knowledge, theorist Michel Foucault argues that, “in every society the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organized and redistributed” (216). Discourse, or authoritative knowledge that is produced through speech acts and writing, is never neutral. For Foucault, discourse is quite the opposite; knowledge production is inherently intertwined with power and desire, having profound affect on subjectivity, perceptions of behavior, and the construction of institutions (216). So what then are the implications of authoritative writing about and around disease? Science, and medicine in particular, speaks with finality; medicinal knowledge is perceived as unquestioned truth and concrete knowledge. However, as Foucault explains, the discipline of “medicine does not consist of all that may be truly said about disease” (223). For all that is written about disease, there is equally that which is not uttered. These omissions, or ‘prohibitions’ as Foucault calls them, illuminate the fundamental fact that, “we are not free to say just anything, that we cannot simply speak of anything when we like or where we like, not just anyone, finally, may speak of just anything” (216). Thus the experience of genital herpes is only ever authoritatively materialized through the discursive processes of science and medicine, producing a particularly stringent and clinical image of who and how the virus infects, while largely ignoring other obverse complexities of equal validity.
We can see this most clearly when we examine the CDC’s recommendations for avoiding contraction/transmission of genital herpes. They offer only this: “The surest way to avoid transmission of …genital herpes is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected” (CDC). As an authoritative epistemological site, literally shaping the ‘reality’ of what it means to live with this condition, in a single sentence the CDC reduces a life with herpes to a sexless journey or one confined to a single body willing to ‘take the risk’. Although their recommendations are certainly viable and can work for a variety of individuals, just like suggesting one could not walk in order to avoid scraping their knee, their suggestions are difficult to live up to for the sexually active who will typically have multiple sexual partners prior to entering into a long-term relationship. By framing the ‘best’ way to avoid contraction/transmission as abstinence, rather than providing a multitude of options that acknowledge variations of sexuality, kinship formations, and sexual orientations, the CDC exemplifies Foucault’s notion of ‘prohibitions’. As he argues, “in appearance, speech may be of little account, but the prohibitions surrounding it soon reveal its links with desire and power” (216). Potential alternative lifestyle options that the CDC chooses to discursively withhold from the readership of their genital herpes webpage lead the analytical eye to observe two things: 1) according to the CDC, the herpes population should not be sexually active, or only in restrictive ways and 2) that transmission should be avoided at all costs. In gesturing towards these two finalities, the CDC condones people with genital herpes who are having sex with multiple partners, who aren’t practicing monogamy, and, with an emphasis on preventing transmission, villainize the oftentimes-unavoidable act of transmitting.
These two observations are haunted by the 19th century shift in discursive focus on sex and sexuality. In The History of Sexuality: Volume I, Foucault explains that:
Claiming to speak the truth, [science] stirred up people’s fears: to the least oscillations of sexuality, it ascribed an imaginary dynasty of evils destined to be passed on for generations; it declared the furtive customs of the timid, and the most solitary of petty manias, dangerous for the whole society; strange pleasures, it warned, would eventually result in nothing short of death (54).
In ending their information page with the foreclosure of ones ability to be sexually spontaneous, while the preceding sections simultaneously focus on “complications,” “the link between genital herpes and HIV,” and how herpes can “affect a pregnant woman and her baby,” the CDC produces an image of the condition as something certainly to be afraid of and one that will cause a kind of ‘social’ death (Gruter & Masters 150).
Like a rhetorical map, the CDC’s genital herpes webpage linguistically connotes to readers precisely why and how they can socially ostracize those living with the condition, which becomes the same source for the HSV positive community to ostracize themselves. Literary theorist, Roland Barthes, argues that connotations are “naturalized as hegemonic, that is, accepted as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’” and thus produce what he considers myths (Barker & Galasinski 5). Through this theoretical lens, we can critique, not necessarily the epidemiological information the CDC provides about genital herpes, but the way in which they utilize language to frame and produce an ostracizing myth, naturalizing herpes as a condition that is always contagious, always linked to HIV, and always complicates pregnancies, which predominantly functions in proliferating stigma.
In thinking of stigma and the notion of social death, we can call upon sociological theorist Irving Goffman when he says, “by definition of course, we believe the person with a stigma is not quite human” (Stigma 5). Within the first paragraph of the CDC’s genital herpes information page, in a short section titled, “How Common is Genital Herpes,” the CDC uses the term ‘infected’ synonymously with ‘person/persons’. In a section only consisting of 117 words, they use ‘infection/infected’ 7 times, all as the subject of the sentence or as adjectives to describe the subject, which has the linguistic affect of shifting people with genital herpes from what could be considered a ‘healthy’ person to certainly someone who isn’t ‘quite human,’ but is most decidedly and perhaps most importantly ‘infected’ (CDC). Goffman posits in his seminal book, Stigma: Notes on the Management of the Spoiled Identity that:
[Society] constructs a stigma-theory, an ideology to explain [another’s] inferiority and account for the danger he represents, sometimes rationalizing an animosity based on other differences, such as those of social class. We use specific terms such as cripple, bastard, moron in our daily discourse as a source of metaphor and imagery, typically without giving thought to the original meaning (5).
In focusing on ‘infection’ and referring to the bodies that carry the virus as ‘infected’, the CDC establishes a discourse that connotes people with genital herpes as inferior, dangerous through ‘contagiousness’, and provides a multitude of terms for society to use in their efforts to stigmatize genital herpes while naturalizing the conditions perils through their authoritative lens.
FREE CeCe trailer
I lost my shit, I think maybe someone is chopping onions near me
Cant wait to see this
So I did that whole disclosing to my class thing on Monday afternoon. My professor knew it was coming and kept sending me significant glances every time he asked for volunteers, so finally I just decided fuck it, it’s now or never. I have a lot of friends in the class, have taken courses with this particular professor for four years now, but there were a lot of strangers there too. It was a weird feeling. I’ve disclosed to strangers before but never that many at once, and never in a presentation that I lead. Dropping it into conversation in my thesis seminar is one thing, but a random class? But I went for it.
You sit on the table at the front of the classroom and you curl your fingers around the spine of your Moleskine notebook to keep them from visibly shaking. You have practiced this speech, written it down, rehearsed it in the shower, repeated it to Rich and Fred with a sarcastic this is no big deal drawl and wink. Twenty-five faces peer up at you and it is a big deal. Raise your hand if you have or have ever had an STI? No hands go up. Not that you were expecting any, if you are being honest with yourself. Blink blink, they all look at you uncomfortable and curious. You don’t let yourself see them because if you read individual expressions you might not be able to continue, but you know you are capable of this and so you do it. One in two people. Stigma. Even in a class about oppression it has never come up. Willing to bet, actually I know for sure you all know someone with an STI. So hi. I have genital herpes. You banter a bit, your voice not as smooth as you wish it were but they can’t tell. There is a big, hard round of applause when you are finished, and no one says anything to you but later in his office your professor says that was the bravest thing I have ever seen.
A few of my friends from class complimented me afterward on being articulate and confident, and some other students I don’t know as well have approached mutual friends to talk about how “brave” and “well spoken” I am. It’s a crazy bold thing I did, and the importance of it didn’t really hit me until I was up there doing it. I am the first person at my school to make their STI public information, at least that I know of. News is going to get around.
Even more ridiculous, I ran into Chris on my walk home, immediately following my presentation. Our past few run-ins have been traumatic for me, lots of hyperventilating and nightmares, but after the presentation I was running on adrenaline and felt like a badass.
The magnitude of it hit you over and over again, perched on the desk with all those eyes, and then after class stepping around Chris in the school grocery on your way to the cashier and he looks down at the floor and you chirp excuse me sorry! as you walk around him and it doesn’t bother you. It bothers you but not as much as usual. It’s wonderfully apropos.
I woke up this morning to find someone had submitted a post about me to my college’s compliments page on facebook. “Rory Cole is the bravest, most badass person i have ever been lucky enough to meet.” I have no idea who submitted it, it could be anyone. Over twenty people have liked it, most of whom are my friends or friends of Fred, but a few are total strangers. I’m really tempted to comment “thanks guys, I guess I should talk to a room full of random strangers about STIs more often!” But I’m not there yet. Talking is one thing, writing is another. Which is ironic, considering that’s exactly what I’m doing on this blog.
So proud of you!
Life Expectancy for Young People With HIV Is Nearly Normal
From 2000 to 2002, the life expectancy for an HIV-positive 20-year-old in the United States was about 56 years. But over less than a decade, the figure jumped nearly 15 years, meaning that many HIV positive youths, if treated and connected to care can live well into their 70s.
Just think about what we could accomplish if we worked more on promoting sex education, safer sex methods, and more STI testing!
So there is this fellowship that UC Berkeley offers and I’m going to apply for it for the purposes of starting an alternative high-school sex education class. I want to rally up a diverse group of young, STD+ folks who are comfortable talking about their respective condition to a group of high school seniors. One of the biggest barriers to effective sex education, in addition to the emphasis on abstinence, is that students typically do not relate to the teacher providing the information. This happens for a variety of reasons - social differences, like race, age, etc. and a displacement of authority. I think if a group of young, diverse, STD+ folks came and operated an STD workshop, some AMAZING teaching/learning could take place for ALL parties involved. Stigma could be addressed, queerness could be talked about, the REALITIES of STD’s (how they’re contracted, how they are managed, how they are lived with, ways of avoiding transmission, treatment resources for a variety of socio-economic needs etc.)
Y”ALL I HOPE I GET THIS FELLOWSHIP and DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?
I JUST SUBMITTED MY APPLICATION I JUST SUBMITTED MY APPLICATION!!!!
Y’ALL! IF I GET THIS IT WILL BE SO AMAZING!!!! I WILL NEED YOUR HELD! I WILL NEED TWO-THREE AMAZING BAY AREA STD+ SOULS TO HELP FLIP THE SCRIPT ON SEX ED!!! AND I WILL BE ABLE TO REIMBURSE YOU! MONEY Y’ALL!!! WHAT?
Don’t find out until April …. I WILL KEEP YOU POSTED!!!!
We are constantly bombarded by the media, and it’s not until you begin to be critical of it that you can fully appreciate how much it can mess with people’s minds. People are mostly passive when consuming media, and when you don’t think properly about it, it’s much more likely to affect you.
Pick up a marker pen, and critique your magazine. Think about things like the choice of models, what they have to say about beauty, what techniques do the adverts use, etc. Consider how parts of the magazine make you feel, why that is the case, and what their motives are for doing it.
Be thoughtful, be eloquent, be angry, be whatever you want. Writing all over the magazine can be extremely useful in organizing your thoughts, and can also be very therapeutic When doing this, you will begin to realize why you have some of the attitudes towards beauty (and other issues) that you do - because the media pushes those ideas onto us.
If you want to, you can take pictures of your defaced magazines and upload them to tumblr. Tag them ‘defaceyourmagazines’ if you want to share them, and take a look at the tag if you want to see other people’s.