Almost 50% of British Women Can’t Identify the Vagina

Female reproductive diagram (Pinterest)

Female reproductive diagram (Pinterest)

Well, this is alarming. A new study that surveyed 1K British women found that only 56% of women could identify the vagina from a medical diagram. For those of you who can’t do math, that’s 44% of women who can’t identify the vagina. And that’s way too high.

By contrast, nearly 70% of women could identify the male reproductive organs from a diagram. (Full disclosure: this was me in fifth grade health class. But then I got some knowledge.)

The study turned up some other things to note: Less than 30% of women could correctly identify all six parts of the women’s reproductive system from the same diagram. Also, only one in seven women were able to name a cancer that affects the reproductive organs. (The study was done by The Eve Appeal, a UK-based gynecological charity in awareness of September being Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month.)

The study also turned up the interesting note that women ages 65 and older were most likely to have scant knowledge of their reproductive organs, with less than one of four women able to name even one part. This might speak to a divide in sexual and health education between generations.

Not to be dramatic, but knowing this information could save your life, or the life of another woman you know.

 

 

Five Women File Class Action Suit to Lift New York’s Tampon Tax

Tampon (Salon)

Tampon (Salon)

Did you know that a tampon tax exists? No? A lot of people don’t. Thankfully, that’s about to change.

The “tampon tax” is a sales tax applied to feminine hygiene needs (tampons and pads). Many states have one in place, and it’s been proven to really add up over time (especially since the average women menstruates for around 37 years).

Right now, women aren’t going to take it any more. Five women in New York have filed a class-action lawsuit against commissioner Jerry Boone and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Their stance is that feminine hygiene products aren’t classified as medical use, and so are relegated to the 4% sales tax.

The lawsuit also models the amount of money women are spending through this tax:

According to the lawsuit, women spend on average more than $70 a year on tampons and pads, and women who menstruate constitute more than one-quarter of New York state’s 20 million population. The plaintiffs estimate that the state collects around $14 million in taxes by imposing a four percent sales tax on tampons and pads, less than one-hundredth of one percent of the state’s annual budget of $142 billion.

And the five women bringing the lawsuit aren’t the only ones who think the tax should be outlawed:

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that the tax should be repealed. Earlier this year, Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill seeking to end the state’s taxation on tampons and pads.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to affect change in this area.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Banned in Nigeria

Nigerian girl (Higher Perspectives)

Nigerian girl (Higher Perspectives)

Last fall, Nigeria became the first country to officially ban female genital mutilation (FGM). Previously, certain states had outlawed the practice. Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed the bill into a law before he left office.

The United Nations banned FGM in 2012.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 125M+ women have been victims of the practice across the world. Nigeria has traditionally had one of the highest rates of FGM, accounting for 25% of cases worldwide.

FGM is used as a way to control a woman’s sexuality. The practice can result in any medical complications, including affecting fertility.

 

 

 

How Common Is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the U.S.?

Girls (The Borgen Project)

Girls (The Borgen Project)

Generally, when people the phrase “female gentile mutilation,” they think of countries where that’s a common practice. Well, actually, many people tend to think of just one continent: Africa. It’s implied that since Africa is less developed and empowered, people don’t think it can happen in the U.S.

Well, it does. And significantly. FGM has been coming to light recently here in the U.S. For a quick primer: Forms of FGM include removing the clitoris to completely sewing the vagina lips shut, done for non-medical purposes. The procedure is usually done without anesthesia, and leaves victims with severe repercussions, especially with the reproductive system. The main goal is to ensure the victim’s virginity and sexual loyalty to her partner.

The Population Reference Bureau studied the rate of FGM in the U.S., and published results earlier this year. It’s estimated that 507K+ women have either had the procedure done, or are at-risk of having it. (The results gave no way to break down the number further into those who definitively have had it done.) Some commonalities have been found about those at risk:

The estimated number of girls at risk is based on the number of daughters of immigrants from countries, mostly in Africa and from some communities in Asia, living in the U.S.

Over 166K women at risk are under the age of 18.

Prior to these results, a study was performed in 2000. Fifteen years ago, it was estimated 227K+ women were at risk for FGM. (It’s unclear as to whether the number included women who’d had the procedure done.)

Performing FGM in the U.S. was made illegal in 1996, and the practice of sending a girl to another country for the procedure (termed “vacation cutting”) was made illegal in 2013. It’s clear there are not enough protections in place to stop this barbaric practice, so I hope strides will be made in the right direction.

Google Trends: How Many People Are Searching for a Female Viagra?

Little pink pill (Stuff NZ)

Little pink pill (Stuff NZ)

Hot on the heels of the news that a female Viagra is edging closer to public consumption, I wanted to see how often U.S. Internet users (which would be basically everyone) were searching for information related to female Viagra. I used “2004-present” as my timeframe.

First, here’s how often “female viagra” (red line) against “viagra” (blue line):

Google Trends: 'Female Viagra' vs. 'Viagra,' U.S. 2004-Present

Google Trends: ‘Female Viagra’ vs. ‘Viagra,’ U.S. 2004-Present

As you can see, there’s a lot less searching for the former term versus the latter.

Now, let’s look at “female Viagra” on its own:

Google Trends: 'Female Viagra,' U.S. 2004-Present

Google Trends: ‘Female Viagra,’ U.S. 2004-Present

It’s hard to ignore that huge spike at the end of the timeframe. That occurred this month. It’s no coincidence: Sprout Pharmaceuticals announced that their female desire pill Flibanserin/ADDYI was recommended for Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval on Jun. 5th.

Flibanserin/ADDYI will treat women with low libidos, known medically as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). I wanted to see how common Google searches for low sex drives appeared.

First, I searched “low sex drive in women,” which was the first specific option Google autofilled for me:

Google Trends: 'Low Sex Drive in Women,' U.S. 2004-Present

Google Trends: ‘Low Sex Drive in Women,’ U.S. 2004-Present

Interesting. It appears that the term hit its peak (ha) around a spike in 2011, and then crested in 2013. It’s dipped since then, but is starting to come back up. (Also, I’d love to know what happened in 2007.)

But let’s put this in context. Here’s “low sex drive in women” (blue line) versus “low sex drive” (red line):

Google Trends: 'Low Sex Drive in Women' vs. 'Low Sex Drive,' U.S. 2004-Present

Google Trends: ‘Low Sex Drive in Women’ vs. ‘Low Sex Drive,’ U.S. 2004-Present

It’s interesting that the female-specific searches don’t make up that much of the overall searches.

Now let’s find out how many men are searching for information on low desire. Here’s “low sex drive in women” (blue line) versus “low sex drive in men” (red line):

Google Trends: 'Low Sex Drive in Women' vs. 'Low Sex Drive in Men,' U.S. 2004-Present

Google Trends: ‘Low Sex Drive in Women’ vs. ‘Low Sex Drive in Men,’ U.S. 2004-Present

OK, now we can see that low libidos in women are an issue, insofar as they’re being Googled.

So a lot of people (we could probably reasonably assume women) are searching for information on low sex drives in women. But how many are searching for a solution? Maybe a cure, call it “female viagra” (red line)?

Google Trends: 'Low Sex Drive in Women' vs. 'Female Viagra,' U.S. 2004-Present

Google Trends: ‘Low Sex Drive in Women’ vs. ‘Female Viagra,’ U.S. 2004-Present

Holy shit, this is amazing. Sure, users are searching for (presumably) information on women having low sex drives, but they’re searching a lot more for a solution. At no point in this graph are there more searches for “low sex drive in women” than there are for “female viagra.” Also, note how the “female viagra” searches spike at the end, halfway through 2015. As noted above, that’s when Sprout announced their “little pink pill.”

Conclusion:

The evidence here points to the fact that people are actively searching for solutions to cure women’s low sex drives. This certainly warrants a female Viagra pill to be brought to market, but why the hell wasn’t this developed sooner?!

Sweet Peach’s Vaginal Probiotics: Could They Work?

Sexy Peach

Sexy Peach

Last week, probiotic supplement Sweet Peach was introduced at the DEMO Conference in San Jose, California. Unveiled by Cambrian Genomics founders (and men) Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome, the supplement was initially pitched as an artificial fragrance (like, say, a peach) for the vagina, replacing the organ’s natural scent.

Understandably, people were outraged. But this turned out to be incorrect. Audrey Hutchinson, the actual founder of Sweet Peach Probiotics (and a woman), described how Sweet Peach would work thusly:

“A user will take a sample of her vaginal microbiome and send it in for analysis. After determining the makeup of her microbiome–in effect, taking a census of the microorganisms that reside in her vagina–the company will supply a personalized regimen of probiotic supplements designed to promote optimal health.”

The ultimate goal is that using Sweet Peach would help women avoid health issues caused by microorganisms, such as yeast infections.

Sweet Peach’s goals parallels recent news and studies done about replacing “bad” gut with “good” bacteria in the digestive tract to ease gastrointestinal issues.

But could it work for the vagina as well?

It’s too early to tell. Right now, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Oral Probiotics page says that probiotics have mainly been used for oral and the aforementioned gastrointestinal issues. These probiotics are mostly taken in the form of oral pills or live cultures (such as yogurt).

The NCCAM notes that some probiotics studied have the potential to aid in healing, as a 2013 UCLA study shows. The study found that women who ingested probiotics through yogurt had more beneficial brain function during rest states and emotion-recognition tests.

But this study worked off the previously established gut-mind connection, which can responsible for stress and fight-or-flight responses.

As of now, there’s no known gut-vagina connection.

A recent op-ed by microbe expert Ed Yong in “The New York Times” recently alluded to the difficulty using microbes to boost vaginal health:

“The results would be hard to interpret and might be outdated by the time they arrived.”

In short, the NCCAM reminds us that we’re still pretty far from answering certain existing questions:

“The rapid growth in marketing and consumer interest and use has outpaced scientific research on the safety and efficacy of probiotics for specific health applications.”