Saturday, June 27, 2009


Hi friends, thanks for stopping by my blog and thanks too for considering it worthwhile enough to add to your favourites lists! You’ve probably noticed some interesting titles scrolling by on the news widget but I’d like to share Pamela Madsen’s piece (Our Vaginas, Ourselves) if you haven't read it already. It’s quite interesting and I’m ‘capturing’ it for you before it disappears into archives. -Omo Franca.


So...sometimes I feel like I am a little late to enter "The Conversation". But that has never stopped me before! After all, I really just discovered Daphne Merkin after reading her cover story on depression in The New York Times, "A Journey Through Darkness" a few weeks ago, Daphne is a fearless writer who has written on many controversial topics in her own voice and through her own eyes. Daphne puts it out there and invites controversy. Bravo. I love fearless.

After I read the piece in The Times online - my eyes stumbled on to several related links - other writings by Merkin. And these writings have been talked about for several years in the online commentary that I recently found. But I just have to weigh in...of course I do!First there was the piece that ran in The New Yorker on sensual spanking ("Unlikely Obsession"),
which apparently raised a few eyebrows and no doubt a few skirts - and then there was another controversial piece that ran in The New York Times, called "Our Vaginas, Ourselves,"- where Merkin talks about the new world of, shall we call it, "The Cosmetic Vagina" and female self-loathing.

Merkin talks about the world of Brazilian waxes, hymen reattachment, labia reshaping and shortening and what it says about how we view our female genitals. I celebrate the fact that she writes it all - through her eyes - and that the NY Times publishes it. But Merkin misses the mark when she says,
"Truth be told, I always considered myself lucky to have escaped coming-of-age at the height of the consciousness-raising era, when anatomical self-examination took on the aspect of a collective ritual. Those were the days when women felt obliged to convene in sisterly circles with mirrors and flashlights the better to study their bodies, themselves. Never having been one to enjoy group activities of any sort, the thought of becoming more closely acquainted with my private parts in a public setting seems potentially traumatizing rather than liberating or, God knows, celebratory".

Actually, that is the problem. The problem is that most women do not know what female genitalia past the pubic mound looks like. And if we as women don't know our bodies and have a healthy self-image, how are we supposed to have sexual pleasure and a healthy relationship with our own bodies? It is through the not seeing and the not knowing where women often self-destruct as sexual beings.

Women don't grow up like young boys, stealing glances in the locker room to see what is going on with other same-sex bodies. We have no idea of the diversity of the vagina and we can't even agree on what to call female genitalia,
a subject that gets most sexologists screaming that "the vagina is the birth canal" and not a good descriptor of a woman's sex organs.
Perhaps if women could see more of other women's inner sexual landscapes - if it was alright for women to look - we women would get it that each vulva is a unique work of art. Instead, the only pictures of female genitals that most women see are the air brushed and clipped versions in the journals of Playboy.
Women don't get to see images of real women.

For Merkin to celebrate the fact that she missed the age of the brave pioneering women who came together to explore the great unknown - mirror and flashlight in hand - is truly a disservice to those that came before her. The fact is that there are still rare opportunities, and few books outside of medical manuals that give women the opportunity to see the diversity of vulvas celebrated. If they did, Dr. David Matlock's
practice of "Vaginal Rejuvenation" wouldn't be so popular.

There is a part of me that hates myself for criticizing Merkin at all. Look, she is out there and she is at least sparking the conversation in very reputable publications about female sexuality in a way that is real and in the first person. That takes courage. And for her reward, she gets to not only take it on the chin for her bravery by "sexual conservatives," but also by well-known outspoken sex activists like
Susie Bright and Dr. Betty Dobson, for example, in this excellent and scathing commentary, "Daphne Merkin Needs to get Spanked Again."
But it is the fact that I can take her on that is so wonderful! Daphne is a big girl, and she is putting it out there. I suspect she can take care of herself. And she is doing a service to all of us by taking this conversation, whether you agree with her or not, into publications like The New Yorker and The New York Times so that there is a public discourse on issues that are never talked about.

This morning, as I was researching this blog, I came upon
"How to Have Baby Making Sex" on one of my favorite fertility blogs, "How to Make a Family" . At first I was all excited! A fertility blog other than mine was talking about sex! But in a nano second, I became incensed by the introductory language of the piece, and I quote:
"If getting pregnant hasn't been so easy for you, maybe you're not doing "it" right." Doing it right? It almost didn't matter what came next in the blog - the shadow of a past insult and shame came flooding back in an instant. It didn't matter if the off-hand remark which was made with too many beers in hand happened over 23 years ago.

It was the only time my husband ever became inflamed over our infertility experience with a family member. It was when his brother asked him if "we were doing it right." My mild- mannered husband stood up and punched his brother in the jaw. To this day, I have never seen my husband raise a hand to anyone before or since!

Why begin a conception sex tip piece with a knock to our sexual self esteem? It is insulting. And it's why many men don't want to see a reproductive specialist - because they are worried that they will be told that they are not doing it right.
Look, it's hard enough already for couples who are living through "conception sex." Do they need to have that particular myth reinforced that perhaps they are not doing it right?
And what does any of this have to do with Daphne Merkin and "My Vaginas, Ourselves"?

Well, Daphne has taken it on the chin for what may be seen as taking hidden issues to the main stream, and here is How to Make a Famiy taking a stab at sexuality and conception. And instead of giving them snaps for being a fertility blog uttering the word "sex," I am stomping around my apartment.

So, we don't all agree, but at least we are starting to talk about sex in a new and open way. Right? Even the fertility blogs.
I wonder who I am provoking this morning?

Pamela Madsen is one of the nation's most outspoken and recognized fertility and sex educators.
The Fertility Advocate, Ms. Madsen's Blog has become the must-read for all members of the fertility and sexuality community, with hundreds jacking into Ms. Madsen's funny, insightful and provocative posts every day. Ms. Madsen is The founder of The America Fertility Association and works with East Coast Fertility as the Director of Public Education. Ms. Madsen is reaching out to women - and men — to integrate all aspects of the reproductive continuum from sexuality, infertility prevention, protection and treatment into the general health care of all women.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Having trouble getting pregnant? Experts now believe that following the right diet could be the single most important factor for successful conception.

A Spanish study recently found that men could boost their sperm counts by eating less red meat and fatty food, and more fruit and veg.

Meanwhile, research at Harvard University also found that women who made dietary changes reduced their risk of infertility by as much as 80%.
“The food choices you and your partner make can have a major effect on improving fertility,” agrees fertility expert Dr Zita West, whose client list includes actresses Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Davina McCall.

Here are the foods you – and your partner – need to eat...
How to do it:
The first step to better fertility is to ensure you have a balanced diet and don’t cut out any major food groups. “Make sure you both get adequate protein from lean meat and fish, essential fats from fish, nuts and seeds, wholemeal carbohydrates and lots fruit and veg,” says Zita.
Once you have the basics right you can then add the specific superfoods that researchers have found can boost egg and sperm production. But be patient: you will both need to stick to a diet plan for at least three months before you will know if it has had any effect.

Here’s what you should be eating...

For him
Oily fish.
This is the best source of essential fatty acids (EFAs), omega-3 and omega-6 oils – all of which are vital for sperm development. They also enhance sperm quality and mobility.* Eat: Salmon, mackerel and sardines are all types of oily fish. Men should eat between one and four portions a week.
Oysters.A great source of zinc, which is needed to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm. Nutritionists believe just 15mg a day can help repair sperm that have been damaged by chemicals absorbed from the environment.

* Eat: If you can’t stomach or afford oysters, you’ll find plenty of zinc in beans, nuts, seeds and eggs.

Garlic.This is a great source of selenium, an antioxidant, which helps maintain strong healthy sperm.* Eat: Add chopped garlic to stir-fries, pasta sauces and curries. Garlic breath may not be very romantic but it can be easily neutralised by chewing a little parsley afterwards.

Spinach.This and other leafy greens are rich in folate, which improves sperm production. A study by the University of California found men with high intakes of this nutrient had up to 30% healthier sperm.

* Eat: Steam spinach lightly with garlic and chilli or eat it raw in a healthy salad.

Avocados.A rich source of vitamin E, which improves the quality of sperm. Avocados are also an excellent way to absorb unsaturated fats, which are crucial for healthy hormone function.

* Eat: Make your own guacamole as a dip for carrot sticks. Scoop flesh out of a couple of avocados and mash it up, adding a little garlic and lemon juice.

For her
Full-fat dairy. A fertility study by Harvard University found women who eat at least one serving of full-fat dairy a day reduce their risk of infertility by more than a quarter. It’s thought that the fat in dairy helps improve ovarian function.

* Eat: Consider changing low-fat dairy foods for full-fat while you are in the process of trying for a baby. A glass of milk a day is plenty.

Water. If you don’t drink enough water the reproductive system will lose out as the body ensures that the most vital organs receive the water that they need first.Water is needed for plump egg follicles and a strong blood supply to the womb lining. If you’re dehydrated, your cervical fluid (the stuff that helps the sperm find the egg) also becomes sluggish.

* Drink: Aim to have about eight glasses per day. Try mixing water with fruit juice or a squirt of lemon to liven it up.

Orange fruit and vegetables. Peaches, apricots, carrots and mangoes all contain beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A and which helps to produce the female sex hormones important for ovulation.

* Eat: Start the day with a mango and peach smoothie, and have a bag of chopped carrots to snack on at work.

Chicken.Getting enough protein is vital for egg production. Meat is the best source of protein but go for chicken rather than red meat – as it is much lower in fat.

* Eat: Women need about 45g of protein a day but don’t have more than this. As Zita West warns: “High-protein diets aren’t good in the lead-up to pregnancy, as there’s evidence that ammonia, a by-product of excessive protein, may interfere with embryo implantation.”

Oily fish, nuts and seeds.These are all extremely rich in essential fatty acids, which are crucial for healthy ovulation. According to Zita, eight out of 10 women are currently deficient in EFAs.

* Eat: You need to eat about 30g of nuts and seeds a day – enjoy them as a snack, sprinkle them on your cereal or mix into a healthy salad. Also try to eat about 300g – or roughly two portions – of oily fish a week.