Thursday, December 20, 2012

Anti-Abortion Group Finally Gets Called on Their Lies

What a great Christmas present! The Advertising Standards Council told the PEI Right to Life Association that their recent ad contained three specific false statements and therefore must be pulled. Woohoo! It's pretty common for 'pro-life' propaganda to be liberally peppered with stretched truths and outright lies and it seems no one ever does anything about it. It makes me so angry to see them making up stuff to try to guilt women out of having an abortion. If there were really strong arguments against abortion, they could allow them to speak for themselves instead of making up all this stuff. I'm so pleased that complaints were made and that the Advertising Standards Council sided with the truth.

The three things that they took issue with are the claim that abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman's life. We all know that is not true. I looked at the Right to Life Association's defense of this and, if you really want to contort the facts, they may be right. Yes, it is a rare case where we know for sure that a woman will die if she carries her baby to term. In cases where we know that the woman's health is at risk, and she wants to carry the baby, lots of options are open to do the utmost to save the baby's health and her health and often, though not always, these are successful. So, can we say that there are many cases where we know for sure that a woman would have died if she hadn't had an abortion? No, there are probably very few. But we do know that there are many cases where it is discovered that the woman's health will be at serious risk if she carries a baby to term. The anti-abortionists don't consider a choice for abortion in this case to be medically necessary because the woman's health is merely at risk, she is not certain to die. In other words, they believe that choosing not to carry a baby to term because there is a strong chance that you could get very sick and die, is tantamount to murder. I disagree.

As well, if they want to continue to make the claim that abortion is never medically necessary, I would direct their attention to this story from Ireland.

The second claim was that Canada's lack of a law amount to abortion on demand in Canada. I don't really get what they are on about here, but the Advertising Standards Council found that this was not true.

The third claim was that having an abortion increases a woman's risk of getting breast cancer. This is the one the really boils my potatoes. Firstly, it's simply not true, even though PEI Right to Life is sticking to its guns. The idea comes from the knowledge that when a woman becomes pregnant, her breast tissue begins to change in preparation for breast-feeding. If the pregnancy does not go to term, the natural hormone cycle is not complete and may leave open the possibility for abnormal cells to grow. But if that is true, then it's not just women who have had abortions who would experience this but women who have had miscarriages as well. You don't see Right to Life bringing that up, do you? And it is were true, what would the point be? You should have your baby because if you don't, you'll get breast cancer? How does that make any sense at all? They are two completely unrelated issues and I don't think the possibility of cancer would factor into a woman's choice to bear a child that she didn't want to bear or to raise a child she wasn't ready to raise.

And anyway, all of this doesn't matter because IT'S NOT TRUE! The Canadian Cancer Society has a great page that explains the quite thorough research on this issue which shows that now significant correlation has ever been found between abortion and breast cancer risk.

As much as I don't agree with their position, I do think that these groups should have the right to advertise and promote themselves. I think that any belief or opinion group should have the right to do that. Others who believe as they do should have an opportunity to find like-minded people.

If you think abortion is wrong and you want pregnant women who also believe abortion is wrong to have support, that's just peachy-keen with me. But don't put blatant scary lies into the public domain where vulnerable women who aren't sure what they want will be guilted or terrified into making the decision you want them to make. It's abusive and unfair. I'm thrilled that the complaints were made and that they were taken to task for it.

Although this is the first one I've heard of, apparently it's not the first time it has happened. The Advertising Standards Council has investigated complaints against anti-abortion advertising several times and has decided against them several times. Maybe they'll get the message soon.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sex Addiction Fails to Make it Into the DSM5

The American Psychological Association has announced the changes to the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual that will be coming out with its fifth edition, and the addition of sex addiction is not one of them.

I, for one, am relieved. If you've read my blog before, you'll know that I don't believe in the concept of sex addiction (Sex Addiction is a Myth). I believe that people can have all manner of anxiety issues and troubles coping in life and that although those may express themselves in a number of ways, included compulsive sexual behaviors, it's the underlying issues that are the real problem, not the behavior.

Many others vehemently disagree with me. A number of psychologists, psychiatrists and, lets be honest about this, conservative religious groups, have been lobbying hard for the acceptance of the idea that sex addiction is a real thing. In fact, what was presented to the APA for consideration was not sex addiction, but rather 'hypersexual disorder'. Rory Reid, a research psychologist who studies this 'condition' described it this way for My Health News "recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior," that lasted at least six months." That seems just a little vague, doesn't it? Doesn't that describe about 85% of the human population? We are sexual beings and intense sexual urges and fantasies are a normal part of us. If we use this definition, I have this disorder.

However Reid also says that, "Diagnosis requires that these urges cause the patient distress, and aren't brought on by drugs or another mental disorder. The behavior must also interfere with their life, for instance, some patients in (Reid's) study lost jobs because they could not refrain from watching pornography and masturbating at work." This is what the proponents of sex addiction as a mental illness always throw in there. It's not just that someone likes sex or masturbates a lot, it's that they have no control over it and it's having a negative impact on their life. When you add that to it, it sounds completely reasonable. Of course if you masturbate at work all the time, you have a serious problem.

My question is though, is the problem hypersexual disorder or is it obsessive compulsive disorder and/or difficulty dealing with stress and anxiety? Are we diagnosing the illness or just the symptom? My personal belief is that considering anything that is actually a biological need like food, sleep, or sex to be addictive is dangerous. How do you determine what's a normal amount of eating or moderate over-eating and what is addictive behavior? How do you determine what is a normal amount of masturbating and what is addictive behavior? When we look at addictions to substances or things that we do not need to survive like alchohol or cocaine, the prescribed solution is almost always complete abstinence. That's how we know how to deal with addictions. Where does this leave someone who is diagnosed as having a sex addiction? They can never have sex again? Is that healthy? If that's not the case, then how do you determine what's healthy sex and what's not?

I have no doubt that many of the professionals who do believe this is a real disorder are honestly trying to help their patients. They see what is happening for them and they are looking for information, recognition, and resources that will help treat them.

However, I do believe that there are some professionals, and some people and groups that support this idea who are doing so because they have an agenda. When you hear people talk about cases of sex addiction, the person is almost always addicted to internet porn. The focus of this conversation is internet porn about 90% of the time. I believe that many of the people who support this being added to the DSM5 are sex-negative conservatives who want to use this as leverage to push the enforcement of obscenity laws or the creation of new censorship around pornography. If they can show that it is actually addictive, and there are some people already who are trying to say they have scientific evidence that watching internet porn creates neural pathways in the brain that foster addiction, they will have a lot of ammunition in that endeavor.

Sex addiction has also been used by a lot of people as an excuse for infidelity and other inappropriate behavior. Celebrities love to do this. They get caught doing something they absolutely should not have been doing and they claim they are sex addicts and could not help themselves. They are not sex addicts. They did something really stupid, inconsiderate and reckless and they got caught. And even if they actually were sex addicts (if that was a real thing) it still doesn't excuse the behavior.

I think it is very useful to understand how substance addictions work on the brain so that we can provide the best possible help to people who are dealing with them. But underlying even a substance addiction is life problems that must be dealt with so that the person has less of a need to turn to the substance to cope. So, I think, it is with these supposedly out of control sexual behaviors. The questions is not so much 'how can we stop you from masturbating at work' as it is, 'how can we help you to determine the triggers that make you want to engage in compulsive behaviors and make changes to those conditions in your life'.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Way to 'Rejuvenate' Your Vagina is the Scariest Yet

In my rounds around the internet, I came upon this site for a Toronto cosmetic surgery clinic that focuses on female genital cosmetic surgeries. I got there because I read about yet another procedure that some doctors are flogging, trying to tell women it will improve their sex lives. I've read a lot about this types of surgeries but this one was so scary and so ridiculous, I could not believe it could be true. But google led me to this site, and alas, it's true.

The procedure is called Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation. The clinic describes it thusly "Sexual gratification has been scientifically proven to be intimately linked to the level of friction created. But with vaginal relaxation (caused by pregnancy, age or other factors), the ability to create friction is dramatically reduced, thereby adversely affecting sexual gratification. ... LVR® is a proprietary surgical procedure that corrects "looseness" to enhance sexual performance. It is a modification of an existing surgical procedure that treats vaginal relaxation and its primary symptom, stress urinary incontinence. Only select physicians can perform LVR®." In case the pseudo-medical explanation is throwing you off, as it's clearly intended to do, let me put it into plain language. Your vagina is loose and doesn't feel good to your partner so we're going to stick a laser in there and scar it all up to create some texture and make it feel like it's tighter.

Yes, this is really what this is. They scar the vagina with a laser to make it feel bumpier and tighter. How in the world could this ever be medically necessary? When I hear this, the term female genital mutilation comes to mind.

They claim that, in addition to improving your 'sexual performance' it helps control stress incontinence but I cannot imagine how this would work. This laser procedure is not targeting the muscles involved in bladder control - it is just modifying the inside of the vagina.

I love this part of the site "Full recovery from Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation® surgery is generally within 6 weeks, depending on the individual. Common side effects, such as pain, discomfort, bleeding and swelling, may be less pronounced compared to the traditional method of vaginal tightening." First of all, I'd like to know what traditional methods they are referring to. If they are referring to surgeries for prolapse and/or incontinence - yes there are side-effects and recovery time because those are real surgeries to address real, not perceived, issues involving the pelvic floor muscle. This is just a laser treatment. And for it, it sounds like you will go at least 6 weeks without being able to put anything in your vagina comfortably. For something that's supposed to improve my sex life, it sure sounds like it will ruin it, at least in the short term. But it makes perfect sense, if you stick something in your vagina and scar it up, it's bound to be painful, uncomfortable, and to swell and bleed for some time.

Why, why, why would these doctors do this?

Admittedly, I haven't delved very deeply into this particular surgery. I don't know much about whether this one is actually approved by any regulatory board or if there are any long-term studies on the effects of it. However I have looked into some of the other ones like labiaplasty and the G-shot (in which either collagen, botox, or your own blood are injected into the area where the g-spot is supposed to be). None of those procedures has ever been studied for efficacy and safety. None of them have been formally approved by any medical regulatory body. And the doctor who spearheaded the g-shot procedure, patented it, and taught a lot of other doctors how to do it has been in extremely hot water with the medical revue board and may have had his license revoked. So forgive me if I'm skeptical about this one.

I do believe that women have the right to choose to do whatever they want to their bodies. But I think that they also have the right to complete and full information about the options they are contemplating. This is why I think these procedures are just plain wrong.

First, they are not medically necessary. Now it's fine to have a medical procedure for cosmetic reasons if you choose but the rhetoric around this stuff really verges on telling women that these things are medically necessary - or at least necessary if you ever hope to have a satisfying sex life.

Second, there is no reliable information as to whether they are effective or not. There are no studies showing that they actually work.

Third, there is the risk of very serious complication and no information on exactly what those risks are and how often complications may occur. When these procedures are described, they sound like simple, painless little day procedures. But this one involves cutting inside the vagina. There has to be a risk of cutting in the wrong place or too deep, of tissue or nerve damage, or of creating scar tissue that does become problematic. In fact many women suffer from scar tissue inside the vagina as a result of surgeries or medical treatments - should we really be engaging in a procedure that seems to do exactly that - cause scars in the vagina?

The fact is that vaginas do get a little looser as we age and they certainly do tend to get a little looser with every child we deliver. This is natural. For most, it is not a medical problem. It can be easily addressed by doing your kegel exercises, and being creative about how you have sex. It really is not something that needs to be medically fixed. These 'doctors' who specialize in this stuff are really just out to make us feel as if there is something seriously wrong with us in order to make some money. To me, the risks far outweigh the benefits.