I recently read the post I Don’t Think You Should over at the Blog Birthing Beautiful Ideas. I instantly wanted to share its message with the whole wide world, but I first stopped to reflect on the impact this list of I-don’t-think-you-shoulds had on me. Then, I wrote to the blogger in question, Kristen, for permission to share her thoughts and beautifully articulated words with my own world (thanks for granting me said permission, Kristen!).

First, I think you should (pun definitely intended) go over to read the original I Don’t Think You Should post. Second, I wanted to share this wonderful list with you on here because: a) it really spoke to my own evolution about birth advocacy and b) I don’t like to re-invent the wheel!

As most who know me will know, whether it has been for 20 some years or a few months, I tend to become passionate about issues very quickly. Discovering new things, especially when they are a bit – or a lot – on the fringe/alternative side, can really throw me into a spiral of more discoveries and even becoming preachy about my newfound knowledge. As I go through my own learning curve, I try to listen, better understand the other side, and attain a more balanced perspective.

When I trained as a doula in 2009-2010, I began to discover a whole hidden world of “injustices” faced by birthing women, their partners and babies. I was already going through a period of revolt from the medical model of health and embracing alternative health practices. I had tipped over the edge, quite literally, and it would take a while for me to recognize that medicalization also did have its place and important role to play in certain circumstances. Through it all, though, I tried to stay true to my own pro-choice philosophy (no, not a politically correct way to say pro-abortion). I believe in empowerment, in each person’s right and ability to make choices about his or her own life and health. To me, that supposes being informed. Sometimes it also includes consulting with other people, such as healthcare providers, family members, friends, support groups, and the list goes on. But most of all, I really don’t want to make you – the people I know, respect, love – to feel judgement from me if your decisions don’t coincide with my own positions.

Regarding childbirth, breastfeeding, and early parenting, I hope that you’ll make informed decisions that feel right for you. I hope you’ll recognize my passion for perinatal health, even if I am not a parent, haven’t breastfed, given birth or ever been pregnant, and perhaps want to talk with me about the choices you have, not which ones to make. Because truly, I don’t think I should have a say in your decisions.

In Kristen's words, shared at Birthing Beautiful Ideas

I don’t think you should have a home birth.
I think you should give birth in a setting where you feel respected by your care providers.

I don’t think you should have a hospital birth.
I think you should give birth where your birth site and your care providers make you feel safe.

I don’t think you should birth with an OB/GYN, a midwife, or unassisted.
I think you should birth with a care provider who is well-trained to serve your particular prenatal, birth, and postpartum needs and wishes.

I don’t think you should have a vaginal birth.
I think you should be given every chance to have the safest, healthiest mode of birth for you and your baby.

I don’t think you should have a cesarean section.
I think you should have access to discretionary and judicious use of medical technology if and when you and your baby need it.

I don’t think you should have an epidural.
I think you should be viewed as an autonomous woman who can make her own decisions regarding pain relief and comfort measures during labor.

I don’t think you should have an unmedicated birth.
I think everyone around you should reinforce just how powerful and amazing you are for bringing a baby into the world, no matter how you do it.

I don’t think you should have a VBAC.
I think you should have access to accurate and transparent information about your birth options, and that no one should use scare tactics to dissuade you from your choices.

I don’t think you should have a repeat cesarean.
I think you should make birth decisions that are right for you and your family–not anyone else.

Oganowski, K. (2012, August 8th). I Don’t Think You Should. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://birthingbeautifulideas.com/?p=4648
As a Fulbright grantee for my graduate studies in the US, I have access to an online community of Alumni students and scholars from U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs: State Alumni. Online events are organized on the website and I will be attending my first such event as a 'state alumnus' tomorrow: a live video webchat with Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Michael H. Posner. The topic of the live Q&A is human rights and, in particular, the US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices '11. The reports were released last May 24th; they cover human rights issues very broadly, summarizing each country's situation with some poignant examples when appropriate. Very cool features on the website for the reports allows the public to choose issues and countries to 'build a report'. Of course, I clicked on "Women" under Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons, as well as ALL-OF-THE-COUNTRIES. I was specifically looking for the reproductive rights heading and found it easily.

In addition to usual interests of my fellow public health feminists in sexual education and family planning (contraception and abortion), I'm also really into perinatal health (pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, breastfeeding). Some might say I'm one of those 'birth junkies'. I take no issue with such labels but might prefer 'birth choice advocate'. To me, choices don't end after a woman chooses to keep her pregnancy and parent - or not - her child. There are choices in birth. There are rights in birth. I was looking for these rights in the country reports. Although I knew what I would probably find, I decided to look a bit closer at the section on reproductive rights. I wanted to report back to my internship supervisors with the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization, overseer of the Initiative that shares the same name and provides 10 Steps to Optimal Maternity Services and formulate a comment/question for Mr. Assistant Secretary Posner. I had to make my submission much shorter than initially drafted, but hopefully I will obtain some response tomorrow during the live chat. In the meantime, here is the more lengthy, original version: 

As a student of public health with a focus on women’s reproductive and perinatal health, as a woman, as a future mother, I am concerned. I am concerned upon reading the US’ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 on Women’s Reproductive Rights because birthing rights are either absent or treated only in the physical sense of safety. Generally, this right is measured by percentages of women who give birth with a skilled attendant and the presentation of maternal mortality ratios. I applaud the inclusion of women’s reproductive rights in the reports (note that I did not include in my question: abortion access and care were very evidently ABSENT in the reports) and recognition of the long way to go in ensuring safe childbirth for all women. Yet, I ask: will the future reports acknowledge the many violations of women's rights in childbirth? (additionally, why are they absent in the most recent reports?)

A 2010 USAID report, Exploring Evidence for Disrespect and Abuse in Facility-Based Childbirth, defined seven categories that go beyond the usual measure of lack of access to care and skilled attendance at birth:
  1. Physical abuse (e.g., hitting, pinching, holding down)
  2. Non-dignified care (e.g., providers insulting the woman during labor and birth)
  3. Non-consented care (e.g., episiotomy against the woman's consent/will)
  4. Non-confidential care
  5. Discrimination
  6. Abandonment of care
  7. Detention in facilities (usually because the woman cannot pay for her health services)
However, an important limitation is the lack of formal research on the extent of these violations and USAID’s TRAction Project has reacted to support evaluation and reduction efforts. It seems that it would be so helpful if the US Country Reports on Human Right Practices also attempted to evaluate the state of violations of women's rights during and around childbirth. To help in this task, I reference the incredible work of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (a partner of USAID) on establishing a charter on Respectful Maternity Care: The Universal Rights of Childbearing Women and regarding improvements, the International MotherBaby Childbirth Initiative: 10 Steps to Optimal Maternity Services.

The UN Human Rights Council acknowledges maternal mortality and morbidity as a human rights issue. The US' Country Reports on Human Rights acknowledge "freedom of discrimination, coercion, and violence on number, spacing, and timing of their children", but what of birthing their children? What of episiotomies performed without consent or anesthetic? What of lack of access to vaginal birth after cesarean and c-section rates greater than 50% in some countries (like parts of the US) while others lack access to cesareans in emergency situations? I - and many perinatal health providers, including midwives and physicians - believe that Birth is a Human Rights Issue. As such, I invite the future Human Rights Reports to contribute to evaluating the extent of human rights violations on women and their newborn(s) during and around childbirth.

Thanks to State Alumni for the opportunity to take part in this event with Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner! The overarching topic of human rights – and their violations – is so vast, yet at the same time we would wish it to be so simple: that human dignity be upheld by states and governments all over the world, in all aspects of human life. Again, I really do applaud the US State Department’s efforts in reviewing the global state of human rights and making findings publicly available through the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Important edit: I forgot to mention in the initial post that a conference was recently held in The Hague, Netherlands dealing with this very issue. More information on Human Rights in Childbirth can be found on the conference website http://www.humanrightsinchildbirth.com and a fantastic summary of the sessions can be read on Rixa Freeze's blog Stand and Deliver

*Disclosure: The words and thoughts on this blog are my own and do not reflect any positions held by State Alumni, the Fulbright Program, Fulbright Canada, the Institute of International Education, US government-sponsored exchange programs, the US Department of State or its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  
Je suis tombée sur ce texte en lisant quelques blogues et je devais le faire connaître davantage. Écrit en anglais par Janis Honea et publié dans le magazine Compleat Mother en octobre 1997, le texte a été traduit par Françoise Railhet, responsable du Programme des Associés Médicaux de la LLL en France. Ce texte nous amène à faire des parallèles entre choses toutes connectées, mais que nous voyons comme si éloignées : faire l'amour et faire naître ou nourrir un enfant. Certes, ils sont différents, mais tellement pareils au niveau de notre vécu physiologique; tous rendus possibles grâce à un cocktail d'hormones incroyable qui circule dans notre corps, sans qu'on ait à y faire attention et, surtout, quand on est pas observé, ni stressé. Ce texte nous raconte l'histoire d'un jeune homme qui veut "faire l'amour au naturel", avec son pénis sans l'aide d'un vibromasseur et ceux qui le trouvent "radical" de penser en être capable! Vous pouvez aussi lire la version originale en anglais ici

Il était une fois sur une autre planète, un jeune homme qui se préparait à avoir un rapport sexuel pour la première fois. Cela l'angoissait, car il n'avait jamais rencontré aucun homme qui ait réussi à faire l'amour. Il décida donc d'en parler avec ses copains pour bénéficier de leur expérience.

- J'avais vraiment envie de le faire, dit l'un d'entre eux, mais le docteur m'a dit que mon pénis était trop petit.
- Vraiment, s'exclama un autre, moi, on m'a dit que le mien était trop gros.
- Je voulais essayer, mais ça n'a pas marché, je n'arrivais pas à satisfaire ma femme, dit un troisième.
- Moi, je n'ai jamais voulu le faire. C'est tellement bestial ! Nous ne sommes quand même pas des animaux. Je sais qu'on dit que le pénis est ce qu'il y a de mieux, mais j'ai fait l'amour artificiellement à toutes mes femmes, et elles en ont toujours toutes été très satisfaites.
- Mais est-ce que tu n'as pas divorcé sept fois ? demanda le jeune homme. 
- Oui, mais ça n'a vraiment aucun rapport.
- Moi, j'ai entendu dire qu'il fallait se préparer avant pendant plusieurs mois, endurcir son pénis, le frotter régulièrement avec un tissu rugueux, ce genre de choses...
- Et puis, il ne faut pas rester plus longtemps que quelques minutes les premières fois, sinon ça fait mal.
- Mon cousin m'a raconté que ça lui avait fait abominablement mal. Il a eu des crevasses et ça saignait. Il a abandonné au bout de deux fois.
- Moi, j'ai un ami qui faisait l'amour naturellement, ça semblait vraiment être toute une affaire. Chaque fois que je le voyais, soit il avait fait récemment l'amour à sa femme, soit il allait le faire bientôt. Je lui ai dit qu'elle ne devait pas être satisfaite, sinon elle ne voudrait pas le faire aussi souvent, et qu'il devrait compléter avec un vibromasseur, mais il m'a dit qu'il ne voulait pas.
- Et bien, j'ai quand même vraiment envie d'essayer, conclut le jeune homme.
- Comme tu veux, dit l'ami qui avait un trop gros pénis. Quand même, impose dès le départ à ta femme un planning précis pour vos relations sexuelles, sinon elle va te manipuler. 

Le jeune homme se posait toujours beaucoup de questions et il décida d'en parler à son médecin.

- Oui, bien sûr, je vous comprends, lui répondit-il paternellement. Mais que voulez-vous, beaucoup d'hommes n'arrivent pas à satisfaire leurs femmes uniquement avec leur pénis. Même avec des séances d'information ou des livres et malgré tous leurs efforts, des tas d'hommes n'y arrivent tout simplement pas. On appelle ça le syndrome d'insuffisance pénienne. Je sais que vous avez envie d'essayer, et je pense que c'est très méritoire de votre part. Mais je vous conseille quand même de prendre ce vibromasseur, juste au cas où. Regardez, il faut l'insérer comme ceci, vous voyez, pour qu'il pénètre selon le bon angle, et ensuite...

Lorsque fut venu le grand moment, le jeune homme était nerveux et angoissé, mais bien déterminé à faire les choses au mieux. Il fit très attention de bien respecter toutes les consignes. Il regarda bien l'horloge et arrêta exactement au bout du temps prescrit. Le résultat fut un lamentable échec. Sa femme était très frustrée. Lui aussi. Il ne comprenait pas pourquoi ça s'était aussi mal passé. Il avait fait scrupuleusement tout ce qu'on lui avait dit de faire. Sa femme essaya de le consoler, lui dit qu'elle l'aimait, qu'ils apprendraient ensemble, que les choses s'arrangeraient avec le temps. 

Mais la fois suivante, le jeune homme se dit qu'il ne supporterait pas de la voir à nouveau aussi déçue, et il décida d'essayer le vibromasseur, juste pour cette fois. Hélas! Personne ne lui avait jamais parlé du risque de confusion pénis-vibromasseur. Très rapidement, sa femme développa une nette préférence pour le vibromasseur, et se mit à refuser le pénis. Dans un sens, il préférait le vibromasseur, lui aussi. Il savait toujours quelle stimulation sa femme avait reçue exactement, et s'il avait besoin de s'absenter pendant plusieurs jours, quelqu'un d'autre pouvait satisfaire sa femme à sa place. C'était beaucoup plus facile de la laisser avec le vibromasseur et de vaquer à ses petites affaires. 

Quand il était avec sa femme, il se sentait triste, déçu et incompétent; alors, il travaillait de plus en plus, et il passait de moins en moins de temps à la maison. Ce n'était pas du tout comme ça qu'il avait imaginé que se passeraient les choses, mais il ne voyait vraiment pas quoi faire pour que ce soit différent. Un jour, il prit son courage à deux mains, et demanda au copain qui connaissait un homme qui faisait l'amour naturellement, de lui en donner les coordonnées.

- Bonjour, lui dit-il au téléphone, j'aimerais bien avoir des informations sur les relations sexuelles naturelles. Je n'ai pas réussi avec ma femme actuelle, et j'aimerai bien savoir comment faire, pour quand je serai avec ma prochaine femme. Je voudrais vraiment y arriver. 
- Vous êtes mariés depuis combien de temps ?
- Quelques mois.
- Oh ! Mais si vous voulez faire l'amour avec votre femme, il n'est pas trop tard, vous savez. 

Il l'invita à venir à une réunion de la Cosa League (cosa : terme d'argot espagnol pour le pénis), une association qui informait et soutenait les hommes qui souhaitaient faire l'amour naturellement. À sa première réunion, le jeune homme fut tout d'abord stupéfait, il n'aurait jamais cru qu'il y avait autant d'hommes qui faisaient l'amour naturellement. C'était vraiment merveilleux de les entendre parler de leurs difficultés et expliquer comment ils avaient réussi à les surmonter. Pour la première fois, il se sentit plein d'espoir.

- À votre avis, qu'est ce que je devrais faire ? demanda-t-il à l'animateur à la fin de la réunion.
- La première chose, c'est de vous débarrasser du vibromasseur.
- Oh ! Eh bien, je... je... je ne sais pas si ... comment ma femme va-t-elle le prendre ?
- Ça, c'est sûr, ça ne va pas être facile au départ. Elle ne va pas être contente. Mais si vous êtes patient et persévérant, elle finira pas accepter de reprendre votre pénis et elle s'habituera à la sensation particulière qu'il prodigue.
- Mais ... si ne j'arrive pas à la satisfaire ?
- Il ne faut pas vous décourager si ça ne marche pas du premier coup. Il vous faudra un peu de temps pour arriver à comprendre les besoins de votre femme, mais ça viendra avec la pratique.
- Ah ! ... Et... il faut le faire à quelle fréquence, et ça doit durer combien de temps ?
- Il n'y a pas de règles. Voyez comment cela se passe, faites à la demande, regardez votre femme, pas l'horloge ni le calendrier, elle saura vous montrer ce qui lui convient le mieux.

La première fois, sa femme n'avait visiblement aucune envie d'abandonner le vibromasseur. Elle protesta énergiquement lorsqu'il lui offrit son pénis et lui tourna froidement le dos. La fois suivante, elle finit par l'accepter avec beaucoup de réticence, mais, à la grande joie du jeune homme, une fois qu'elle l'eut accepté, elle le garda longtemps et sembla satisfaite. Il était ravi ! Ca marchait ! Il avait réussi à faire l'amour naturellement ! Avec son pénis ! La fois suivante, lorsqu'elle demanda le vibromasseur, il lui offrit à nouveau son pénis avec tendresse. Elle refusa quelques minutes, puis l'accepta. Plus jamais par la suite elle ne redemanda le vibromasseur. La vie du jeune homme fut totalement transformée. Faire l'amour n'était plus du tout une corvée. Il n'avait plus du tout envie d'être loin de sa femme, ni que quelqu'un d'autre s'occupe d'elle à sa place avec un vibromasseur. C'était à chaque fois aussi merveilleux de voir sa femme heureuse et satisfaite grâce à ce qu'il lui donnait avec son propre corps. Il se sentait viril, bien dans sa peau, et avait maintenant autant envie que sa femme de faire souvent l'amour. Quand il pensait à tous ces hommes et à toutes leurs femmes qui n'avaient pas la chance de connaître une expérience aussi gratifiante, il se sentait très triste pour eux. 

Un jour, alors qu'il était avec ses copains, l'un d'eux se mit à parler des avantages du tout nouveau modèle de vibromasseur qu'il venait d'acheter; ils commencèrent à comparer les avantages et inconvénients des divers vibromasseurs existant sur le marché. Le jeune homme déclara soudain:

- Nous, nous avons jeté le nôtre !
- Vous avez quoi ?
- On l'a flanqué à la poubelle. De toutes façon, ça faisait un moment qu'on ne s'en servait plus jamais. Silence stupéfait
- Mais alors, comment vous faites ? demanda le copain " trop gros ".
- Eh bien, je fais l'amour moi-même.
- Mais pourquoi ? C'est aussi bien avec un vibromasseur!
- Ca ne te fait pas mal ?
- Tu n'en as pas marre ?
- C'est pas vrai ! Tu n'as quand même pas été voir ces fanatiques de la Cosa League ! dit le copain qui trouvait ça bestial.
- Ce ne sont pas des fanatiques, répondit calmement le jeune homme. Ils m'ont donné toutes les informations dont j'avais besoin pour réussir, et je suis très heureux de les avoir écoutés.
- Mince alors ! Vous allez voir les mecs, la prochaine chose qu'il va faire, c'est arrêter de se raser ! Tout le monde éclata de rire 
- Oh! Ou bien laisser sa femme dormir dans son lit avec lui !
- Mais comment est-ce que tu feras si tu dois partir pendant plusieurs jours ? demanda le copain qui était " trop petit " lorsque l'hilarité fut un peu calmée. Et puis, ça va finir par t'abîmer le pénis !
- Attends-toi à sacrifier à ta femme tous les plaisirs de l'existence ! clama le copain sept fois divorcé.
- Mon pauvre vieux, tu vas devenir complètement ramolli du bulbe !
- Tu ne comptes quand même pas faire ça toute ta vie ! C'est de la folie douce !

Le jeune homme écoutait sans mot dire toutes ces réflexions et moqueries.

Cela ne l'atteignait pas. Il se sentait tellement heureux, tellement sûr d'avoir fait le bon choix. Qu'importait les petits problèmes que ce choix impliquait parfois, en regard de tout ce qu'il lui apportait de bonheur et d'amour!
I found this text on a few blogs in French and was finally able to get my hands on it in English. It was written by Janis Honea and published in the Compleat Mother magazine's October 1997 edition. It is a parody on breastfeeding that uses the example of men wanting to "have sex the natural way", aka with their penis instead of a vibrator. It's a wonderful little piece, as we do tend to forget that it is all connected: arousal, sex, orgasm, passion, love, commitment, conception, pregnancy, labour, birth, breastfeeding, love... All thanks to a wonderful cocktail of hormones that flow seemlessly, without any need for attention, and even less observation. You can also read it in French here. 

On another planet, a young man was preparing for his first sexual encounter. He was nervous, since he had never spoken to anyone who had ever done it successfully. He decided to ask some of his friends about their experiences. The Compleat Mother

"I really wanted to!" exclaimed one, but my doctor said my penis was too small." 

"Really!" interrupted another. "My doctor said mine was too large!" 

"I wanted to too, but it turns out I didn't have enough to satisfy her." said another. 

"I never wanted to! Its so gross! I'd feel like an animal or something. I know they say that penis is best, but all mine were artificially aroused and they were happy and satisfied," said the oldest in the group. 

"Haven't you been divorced seven times?" asked the young man. 

"Yes, but that had nothing to do with it." he said. 

"I hear you need to toughen it up before you do it. You know, scrub it with a loofah or something." said one friend. 

"And you can't let her go for any longer than a couple of minutes at first, or you'll get sore." 

"My cousin said it was incredibly painful. He penis cracked and bled. He only lasted a couple of days. Thank God we have alternatives today," said the friend who was "too small." 

"I have a friend who did it," said one, almost whispering. 

"It seemed like a lot of work to me. Every time I talked to him it seemed like he had just finished or was just about to make love to his wife. I told him surely she was not being satisfied or she wouldn't be wanting it again so soon. I told him he needed to supplement with a vibrator. He wouldn't go for it." 

"Well, I really think I want to try." said the young man. 

"Good for you!" said his "too big" friend. "But be sure you get her on a schedule or she will manipulate you." 

The young man was so confused as he left he decided to ask his physician about it. 

"I understand your concern." said his doctor, placing a hand on his shoulder. A lot of men, especially our first timers are unable to meet their women's needs with their penises. Taking classes, reading books, doesn't seem to help. Despite all their best efforts, many men just can't. Its called insufficient penis syndrome. I know you want to try, and I think that is great, but let me send you home with this vibrator just in case. Look, its bent, or angled to insure that you do her in a semi-upright position." 

The young man gratefully took the vibrator home and thought about all the things he had heard. When the time finally came he was determined to do it naturally. 

He was excited and nervous. He tried to do everything right. He watched the clock and stopped after exactly the prescribed period of time. The event was a humiliating failure. His woman was frustrated and upset. He couldn't understand it. He had done everything he was told to do. 

His honey told him she loved him and that his touch was sufficient, and together they would learn to get it right, but the next time she seemed interested he thought, "Just this once I'll use the vibrator. I can't stand the thought of her going unsatisfied. 

No one had warned him of the danger of penis confusion. Soon she developed a preference for the vibrator and rejected the penis altogether. In a way, he preferred it too. If he needed to get away sometimes, anyone could satisfy her. And though he heard he should hold her every time to promote bonding, it got easier and easier to prop her in the corner with the vibrator while he went about doing his chores. 

It was important for him to keep busy. If allowed time to feel, he always felt vaguely cheated and sad. Being a lover was not at all what he had hoped. He wanted to get away from his wife. He resented her demands and felt inadequate to meet her needs. The closeness that he longed for never developed. 

One day he got up the courage to ask his friend for the phone number of the man he knew who "did it." 

"Hi," said the young man. "I got your number from a friend. I would like some information on lovemaking. I wasn't able to with my first love and if I ever have another, I really want to make love to her myself." 

"How old is your relationship?" asked the man on the phone. 

"Just a few months," said the young man sadly. 

"Would you like to make love to your wife now? Its not too late!" said the man. 

"Do you really think I could?" asked the young man. He felt hopeful for the first time in ages. They talked for some time and the man invited him to a La Cosa League meeting. (La Cosa is Spanish for The Thing, and slang for penis.) La Cosa League was a group dedicated to providing support and information to men who wanted to make love to their women. He was amazed at how many men were doing it and was encouraged by men who had overcome many obstacles to successfully satisfy their wives. 

"What do I need to do?" the young man asked, wide-eyed and determined. 

"The first thing you need to do, is get rid of the vibrator. The young man did not know how to respond. A rock of nerves formed in the pit of his stomach. 

"I couldn't possibly..." 

"Now your woman may object a bit, but persevere. She will quickly become accustomed to the feel of your body." 

"What if I can't satisfy her?" the young man asked. 

The leader assured him that even if it took a while, with practice he should have no trouble. 

"Well, how often, and for how long?" 

"Take your cues from her," responded one of the men. "Watch your wife, not the clock." 

His mind reeled as he drove home. He thought over all the things he had heard. How come no one had ever told him this before? It seemed so radical, but somehow it felt right. 

At first his woman was not interested at all in switching. She protested when he offered her the penis. Refused it cold. But with patience and persistence she eventually accepted it. 

He was amazed that once she took it, she did not seem to want to let go. He had never been so elated in his whole life. He had done it! He had made love to his wife! With his own body! 

The next time his wife requested the vibrator he gently and lovingly offered the penis again. She fussed some but quickly accepted him. He was even more excited than the first time. He had worried then that it was a lucky fluke, but now he believed he really could do it. To his delight, his wife never asked for the vibrator again. 

The transformation in his attitude toward his wife was remarkable. He no longer resented midnight lovemaking sessions. He felt a bond with her like he had never known. He didn't want other people satisfying her, and he didn't want to get away. His attitude about himself also changed. He felt so confident and calm. He was not inadequate, and he was not replaceable. He hurt when he thought of all the men who didn't know what he knew. He felt even sorrier for their women. As he watched his wife thrive on his love alone his enthusiasm for lovemaking grew harder and harder to contain. One day while talking with his old friends someone brought up the latest advancement in vibrators. They blithely discussed the merits of the latest tool when he excitedly blurted, "We've thrown ours away."

The room fell silent. 

"What?" asked the friend with the "too small" penis. 

"We've thrown the vibrator away" he said again. 

"Well what do you use then?" asked the friend with the "too large" penis. 

"I make love to her myself," he said. 

"Why would you want to go and do something like that?" 

"Doesn't it hurt?" 

"You'll be sorry." 

"Oh No! You haven't been hanging around with those fanatics from La Cosa League, have you?" asked his friend who "could not." 

"They aren't fanatics," the young man said calmly. "They gave me a lot of good information and I'm very happy with my decision. 

The men burst out laughing. "Next thing you know, he is going to stop shaving," joked the divorced one. 

"Oh! Or letting her sleep in his bed." roared another. 

"You've really done it now," said the "too small" one, sobering up. "What are you going to do if you have to leave her for a while? And you'd better hope she doesn't start biting!" 

"Be prepared to give up your life. warned the divorced one. 

"Your brain is going to turn to oatmeal." 

The young man thought carefully about that and smiled to himself. He didn't feel like he was giving up anything, especially in the light of all he had gained. 

"You know," he said, "I think I like it as much as she does." 

"Boy, You really are a radical." 
TED describes itself as a small non profit; yet, this organization sets out to accomplish no small feat. Since its inception in 1984, TED has devoted its activities to "Ideas Worth Spreading". Starting out with a conference bringing together the worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design, it has grown both in scope of the topics covered and size. In addition to the annual TED Conference (US) and TEDGlobal (UK), TED encompasses special topic/place conferences, TEDPrize, TEDFellows, TEDtalks (videos of the "talks" from TED conferences on-line), as well as TEDx Events. TEDx are events organized independently but with the TED name, image, concept... it's also a way to make TED (more) accessible (and to more people)!

I had the priviledge of attending a TEDx event last week: TEDxConcordia in Montreal, Canada. From 9am to 6pm, I saw 15 live talks and 4 video TEDtalks, enjoyed the company of a former work colleague, and met two interesting people whom would never have crossed my path otherwise. Needless to say, I came out of Loyola College with my brain in mush from over-stimulation and idea sharing. It was truly a wonderful experience that I  hope to repeat at other TEDx Events and I can only dream to have the opportunity to attend a TED. Here are some of my highlights from TEDxConcordia.

FAVE TALK: Losing Serendipity? by Lenny Rachitsky
Looking back at my notes, I'm wondering why I didn't write any more down during this talk... then it hits me: I was way too into it to do much scribbling. After listening to Lenny Rachitsky speak for all of 18 minutes (oh yeah, forgot to mention all talks are 18-minutes or less... which means a lot more idea-sharing in a lot less time!), if someone now asks me about my "beliefs", I think I will answer "Serendipity". He put a word, a concept on the way I have been - and will continue to - live my life. Lenny also asked us to reflect on the fragile nature of serendipity... with Google brining us ads based on "what we already" like and news that we've identified we want to read, with our social networks on facebook and twitter getting bigger but more concentrated and focused on the same kind of people who enjoy the same kinds of things. Lenny's talk met up with Mitch Joel's presentation in my mind and I started imagining my world as smaller, less social, and lacking serendipity. Rather than scared, though, I couldn't help but be encouraged by our acknowledgement of these issues. So do go to the library and pick out a book from a random section you've never been to, read through the New York Times in skimmer customized to "serendipity", and retweet that post on that topic your friends have never heard anything about... cultivate serendipity in your life!

SCARED SHITLESS TALK: Digital Legacy by Adele MacAlear
Adele MacAlear told us at the beginning of her talk that she is referred as the "death chick" at times... great! Why? Because she questions what happens to our digital/web self after we die, but that's not what she was as TEDxConcordia to talk about. Instead, Adele tackled our digital legacy. Not what Google and other services archives here and there, but our own, personal digital legacies. How many of us have printed photos? Barely anyone, right? Why would we do such a non-environmentally friendly thing? Well... what if facebook shuts down tomorrow and jpegs are no longer supported by any program. Will we lose all our photos? What a scary thought, Adele... and now I've passed it on to you. Her suggestion: curating content and not only digital archiving, but paper archiving too. Add that to the TO-DO list! 

Tara Hunt also helped me confirm I'm not an entrepreneur and although je lève mon chapeau to all you entrepreneurs out there, I don't want to be part of your crazy club! Paul Gillett introduced me to Open Courseware and the fact that over 240 institutions world-wide offer their courses online, for free, to everyone! Check it out at: www.ocwconsortium.org. For MIT classes, which Paul specifically spoke about, check out: www.ocw.mit.edu. Although it doesn't come with a diploma, it brings a whole new meaning to online education.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, I leave you with two TEDtalks that were featured at TEDxConcordia: Steven Johnson presenting where ideas come from and Derek Sivers on starting a movement. Enjoy!

What better way to kickstart my blogging than with a topic I've been meaning to address for months: the big money race to cure women of their sexual dysfunctions. Orgasm Inc., a documentary by Liz Canner and her wonderful team, takes us on the pharmaceutical roller coaster of developing a way to "cure" Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). That's right: it's even got an illness-y name and acronym!

So what is FSD? It's not based on any new medical evidence, according to Dr. Susan Bennett, who teaches human sexuality at Harvard Medical School. And it doesn't seem to be associated to any general physiological issue. In fact, many commentators featured in Orgasm Inc. believe that FSD has been constructed mostly by pharmaceutical companies. After all, FDA approval necessitates that a drug specifically treat a disorder... and pharmaceutical companies just happened to be sitting at the discussion table when FSD was "found".

Currently, there are a minimum of 12 companies racing for FDA approval of their earth-shattering FSD treatments. A few ideas they are testing:
-The Orgasmatron: consisting of electrodes treaded up the spinal cord with a remote control to adjust the electrical parameters
-Viagra: using it "off-label", as it has been approved for erectile dysfunction only and even if it was shown to be ineffective in women during Pfizer's clinical trials
-Genealogical plastic surgery: giving women the "choice" to make changes to their vulva
-Intrinsa: testosterone patch (this one was refused FDA approval; however, it was approved in the European Union)
-Alista cream
-Testosterone spray

Would you be attracted to these options? From the number crunching shown in Orgasm Inc., many American women are waiting for such a miracle solution. A few interesting American "stats" from the film:
-40,000 women are affected by FSD
-43% of women suffer from female sexual dysfunction
-1/3 of women over the age of 25 have problems with orgasmic dysfunction
...could any of those be related to these:
-1 in 6 women will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime
-80% of women have body image issues 
-many women believe "something is wrong" if they experience any or all of the following: vaginal dryness and low libido (both potential symptoms of hormonal birth control methods, such as The Pill), difficulty reaching orgasm (especially if this difficulty is during vaginal penetration), inability to have multiple-mind-blowing orgasms on demand (ok... so maybe I exagerated that last one!!).

It makes me wonder, among other questions, about our perception of normalcy. Who gets to tell women they are abnormal or dysfunctional? Especially when it comes to our sexual intimacy and orgasm, should we base personal experiences on any norm? On the flip side, how can we ignore all the idealistic messages around us?

As you may have been able to tell, I didn't want to ruin any surprises from Orgasm Inc. I do encourage you to watch this great documentary. Find out about the latest screenings on TV or at a theater near you (being distributed in Canada and the US in 2011)! You can also stream it in Canada on CBC's The Passionate Eye

But before you go out and watch it, a word of caution as stated on the film's website: "ORGASM INC. will change the way you think about sex"... and from me: it will change - hopefully - the way you think about pharmaceuticals' influence on our perceptions of health, illness, and "needing to be cured"!

Seriously though, do we need a pill (spray, patch, cream) or a map of female genitalia (clitoris: you are here!)?
    Sarah Burke

    Sarah Burke

    Public health and communications professional into sexual, reproductive, and perinatal health.