Gynecologists: Bless them and their ignorance
The first time I had the courage to speak to my gynecologist about my pain and shame, the woman replied very flippantly that “if [I am] not aroused now then [I] never will be”. On the bus ride home I sank so far down into myself that I swear I fell out the bottom of the bus. The problem lies with me and the way I assess the world.
The second time I told my gynecologist (a new one) about the pain she instructed me to scoot my butt to the end of the examining table and prop my feet up in those embarrassing metal stirrups. After some poking around with her fingers she very decidedly proclaimed, “Well, nothing looks wrong with you inside. Maybe you should try to relax”. Apparently my ability to relax during an impersonal medical examination (and thus allow objects inside me) should be congruous with my ability to relax around my boyfriend (and thus allow his penis inside me for an extended period of time). Since there wasn’t a problem with the former, the latter should also be conflict-free. Walking home from the evaluation I remember looking at other women, wondering if their parts worked and why mine had to be so different. The problem lies with me and the way I control my muscles.
The third time I went to my gynecologist I didn’t even bother talking to her again. What was the point? Two different women had already told me my head was to blame and my irritations fictional.
The fourth time I visited the gynecologist, now in a different city, she told me that she couldn’t see anything physically wrong with me, but that she would write a prescription for therapy anyway. The physical therapist examined me and told me there was indeed something wrong with my musculature that was compounding my problem. Unfortunately, therapy was brief and ineffective due to the immediate need to move locations for a job.
Last week I booked an appointment with a gynecologist here in the city who acted completely differently from all of the others. Not only did she acknowledge the fact that she may not be trained as well as others in this field (it is her problem she doesn’t see anything physically wrong, not that the problem doesn’t actually exist), but listened to me and gave me several names of both physical therapy clinics and behavioral therapists to contact. Finally I have met someone who recognizes that the path to recovering from sexual dysfunction requires therapy at both the physical and mental/emotional levels. For so many years I just allowed ignorant professionals to defeat me, leading me to believe that because they didn’t think it was a legitimate problem that it really wasn’t. I have since learned that just because someone in a position of authority tells me one thing, doesn’t necessarily make it true. This is all so terribly confusing, especially with someone who is afflicted with a disorder that isn’t very well researched/socially unacceptable to talk about, but I hope that I may remember what I have learned from all this in the event a similar situation presents itself in the future.
Sadly, this general ignorance seems to be widespread, as I have since read many sites and message boards concerning vaginismus in which women describe their frustrations with gynecologists dismissing their problems or simply not knowing what to do with them.
Pain, Purpleness, and Why Strippers are Tough Bitches
I’ve noticed that a lot of the girls around my club seem to have many of the same injuries, physical problems, and illnesses. Note: I’m not a doctor, nor do I have formal training in medicine, and these are only my observations.
Bruised knees: Impact from hitting them on the stage repeatedly throughout the night. Very commonplace among all of the girls.
Shortened calf muscles: Standing in 7” heels for many hours a week, the calf muscles are intentionally contracted (making the legs look more toned).
Poor posture: The misconception is that strippers have great posture. It appears so, when in heels, but the abdominal muscles are overstretched and the back muscles contracted (think chest out, butt out). It leads to an exaggerated curve of the spine and, often, chiropractic issues. Think of this as the opposite of a slouching problem.
Foot swelling: This one’s obvious. 7” stilletos direct the pounds-per-square-inch to be approximately that of an elephant (so I’ve been told, or read, somewhere—I’d have to look that up later).
Bone movement/restructuring in the feet: This is why new dancers’ fourth and fifth toes on each foot, and some tendons, hurt pretty badly at first. The shoes force the fourth and fifth toes inward and body weight puts pressure on them to stay there. The tendons and ligaments connect to the bones in the feet, and have to adjust to the new position of the foot and toes. According to x-rays of dancers’ feet, the stilletos cause microfracturing
Brittle fingernails: Many of the girls wear fake nails, or have acrylic nails done. For whatever reason, this causes their nails to become brittle when the fake nails are removed or the acrylics allowed to grow out/fall off.
Brittle hair: Straighteners, curling irons, three-barrel rollers, hair dye, bleach, hair spray, hair gel, smoothing drops, extensions, …and on and on. These things aren’t so bad for hair, until they’re done so often that some girls never seem to get their hair to grow at all. Hence why so many girls have extensions (“tracks”).
Frequent viral and bacterial sicknesses: The girls get so close to customers’ faces and hands, that it’s almost inevitable that we get sick so often. So far in the past year? I’ve had the H1N1 flu, strep three times, an ear infection, and a handful of sniffly-nosed colds that took me out for a day. Add to this a lack of health, dental, or vision insurance by most dancers, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Seasonal cough: “Smokers’ Cough” affects many smokers…and since most dancers are smokers in my club, most have the seasonal, hacking cough.
Alcoholism: It’s absolutely rampant. We’re allowed and encouraged to drink at work with the customers, and so many of the girls rely on it to do their job at first that they don’t stop drinking. Another co-worker today announced her ascent into rehab in the near future.
Substance abuse and dependence: Not as common, but still more frequent than the general population. Drugs generally don’t faze the girls whatsoever. It’s very discouraged by the club (termination if any illegal substances are found—and everything, everyone, and everyplace is recorded on camera). Substance use, abuse, or dependence doesn’t necessarily render a girl a social outcast and isn’t really a main factor in social heirarchy.
Eating disorders/Body dysmorphic disorder: Much more frequent than in the general population.
Sexual abuse or assault history: Pretty much the norm. It isn’t discussed, but simply understood, that we’re all pretty fucked up about sex for some reason.
Defiance disorders; inappropriate behavior in regards to authority figures, mores, and rules: Much, much, much, much higher than in the general population. You might call these girls “sassy” or “bitchy” or “tough”—but some, honestly, will probably never be able to “play by the rules”. In a dancer’s world, rules and social standards are created and enforced carefully by the top dancers—usually the one’s that display a lot of hostility towards traditional social constructs! The more defiant and aggressive a girl appears to be, the higher on the social ladder she climbs. Odd, hm? I have yet to figure out why the other, less defiant, girls seem to follow them.
Unhealthy sex lives, attitudes, or practices: This could be related to the job, to a prior history of sexual abuse or assault, attitude towards her body, or any number of things. I’m not saying “why”; I’m saying, it exists. Dancers seem to float one of two ways: either into a realm of not wanting to be sexual on a personal level often (sometimes floating into complete sexual aversion), or being hypersexual in her personal life (sometimes including risky sex partners and practices).
Concussions, broken bones, sprained/twisted ankles, pulled shoulders, pulled hamstrings, etc.: Not as commonplace as you’d expect! Surprisingly, bad falls aren’t common, but they do happen occasionally.
…more as I think of them, I’m sure…