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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976
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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976 - Page 5. November 1976. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 13, 2021. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/199/show/183.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(November 1976). Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976 - Page 5. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/199/show/183

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976 - Page 5, November 1976, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 13, 2021, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/199/show/183.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date November 1976
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
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Title Page 5
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File Name femin_201109_522e.jpg
Transcript may be dangerous to your health This prescription for sadism on the gynecologist's part follows nicely the prescriptions for masochism on the patient's part. If cutting the hymen doesn't relieve painful intercourse, the problem could be caused by prolapsed ovaries, endometriosis or retroverted uterus, the text admits, but it is more probable that "intensive psychotherapy is definitely indicated. This therapy is directed toward helping the patient uncover unconscious fears and/or hostility relating to men." SHE NEEDS A PSYCHIATRIST The medical student is persuaded by the authors that women with dysmenorrhea (menstrual dysfunctions including painful uterine contractions) have no organic disease they need test for; these women simply have "personality disorders," "emotional difficulty in the home," or "neurotic predispositions." They need "sex education" and "mental hygiene" (does this mean their minds need cleaning?) if not "intensive psychotherapy." When treating such women "the husband can be helpful by not being too sympathetic and increasing the woman's guilt." A brief concession is made to the possible physical causes for menstrual pain, but the authors then quickly return to the problem of diagnosis: "It is important to ascertain how crippling the symptom and how much emotional gain the patient is deriving from it. For example, does the whole household revolve around whether or not the mother is having menstrual cramps? Is the dysmenorrhea the locus for the expression of depression, anger or a need to be dependent?" "The adult woman who presents this symptom very often is resentful of the feminine role. Each succeeding period reminds her of the unpleasant fact that she is a woman ..." Medical diagnosis is being made on the basis of myths about women rather than on any scientific understanding of painful menstruation. Rather than examining the physical causes of the problem, the text prefers to psychoanalyze in a cheap, unscientific way. Only after convincing the medical student that a woman's uterine cramps are really in her head do the authors sheepishly admit that hormone therapy will usually result in a painless menstrual period. Another menstrual dysfunction, amenorrhea or complete cessation of menstrual periods, is often caused by endometriosis or pituitary failure. Yet the authors declare that it is more likely the result of an unconscious conflict between the woman's desire to become pregnant, and her desire not to become pregnant. That she might know her own mind on this subject is not even considered. The authors make no effort to document these "facts," give no references which scientifically support them, and cite no case histories. Without even mentioning the grave danger of mistaking organic disease for psychosomatic illness, they brush over the serious physical causes for disease and quickly return to its more probable location — the woman's head. The mythology goes in gear when the woman first enters the doctor's office: "The very act of coming to the physician puts the patient in a parent-child relationship . . . "The physician can help the woman discover how she wishes to relate to men in a more meaningful manner;" an incredibly pompous statement in juxtaposition with fifty-five pages of medical ignorance about female sexuality. Frigidity is defined as "occasional failure to obtain orgasm," placing 99% of women in the category of abnormal. If pleasure is felt only from clitoral stimulation, she may be referred to a psychiatrist. The doctor may have trouble curing frigidity because of "too deep a degree of pathology in the woman," never because of her tion of the clitoris it may be reluctant to abandon control, or the vagina may be unwilling to accept the combined role of arbiter of sensation and vehicle for reproduction."12 Several texts said that most women were "frigid" and two instructed gynecologists to teach their patients to fake orgasm. Scully and Bart concluded that "these texts used Kinsey's report selectively; findings which reinforced old stereotypes were repeated, but the revolutionary findings significant for women were ig- "Any operation can have symbolic meaning to the (woman) patient. This is especially true of surgery performed in the pelviC region/' -Obstetrics and Gynecology by the patient's dress, walk, makeup and attitude in answering questions, a judgment of her personality begins . . . The physician notices whether the patient is reacting to the interview in a feminine way or whether she is domineering, demanding, masculine, aggressive." The clear implication is that if the patient asks too many questions, she is abnormally demanding! "The patient should be questioned about the sexual aspects of her life ... when the patient fails to respond and seems to be unduly emotional about the discussion her transfer to a psychiatrist is indicated." If she is not "relaxed" during a pelvic examination with an "unlubricated speculum," she might also be referred to a psychiatrist. One wonders how she can relax when she is on trial for her makeup, walk, dress and attitude, and has been offended with questions. The student is told that women may feel sexual about pelvic examination, but not that doctors have been known to feel sexual about it as well. husband's poor technique. Her frigidity may develop because she "resents her husband's preoccupation with his work or his recreational activities." The physician, a "parental figure," should "discover the problems in the patient's personality" and "encourage her to mature sexually." Twenty-seven gynecology texts written over the past three decades were reviewed by Diana Scully and Pauline Bart in the American Journal of Sociology in January 1973. They confirm the idea that medical science has made little advancement for women. No text Scully and Bart examined incorporated Kinsey's 1953 findings that orgasm without stimulation "is a physical and physiologic impossibility for nearly all females" or Masters and Johnson's 1966 findings that portions of the vagina have no nerve endings and lack sensation and that although orgasm is felt in the vagina, the feeling derives from stimulation of clitoral nerves. A 1956 gynecology text even states that when sensation is limited nored. For example, one often finds in the textbooks that the male sets the sexual pace in marital coitus, but nowhere is it mentioned that women are multiorgasmic." Nine of twelve texts published in the last decade preferred the traditional female sex role: in 1967 we read "an important feature of sex desire in the man is the urge to dominate the woman and subjugate her to his will; in the woman acquiescence to the masterful takes a high place''13 And a 1970 text states, "The frequency of intercourse depends entirely upon the male sex drive . . .the bride should be advised to allow her husband's sex drive to set their pace and she should attempt to gear hers satisfactorily to his. If she finds after several months or years that this is not possible, she is advised to consult her physician as soon as she realizes there is a real problem." Again, no call for the man to act on the problem.14 One can easily see the influence of patriarchy on medical knowledge. It took medical The text says, "postmenopausal women who have been separated from the significant men in their lives . . .may have vaginal bleeding." Vaginal bleeding can be a sign of uterine cancer. Only two paragraphs in the text are devoted to the hormonal role of female sexual response: one of these enlightens us about female dogs in heat and the other informs us that the sex drive of females can be increased by giving them testosterone (male sex hormone). According to the authors, trichomonas (vaginal parasitic infection) is probably a result of sexual tension. This is no more than a sophisticated version of the medieval belief that women with the unbearable itch really just need a good screw! to the clitoris this "is apparently due to habit (masturbation) and aversion to normal cohabitation."11 SHE DOESN'T NEED A CLITORIS In the nineteenth century under the influence of Freud, doctors instructed husbands to avoid the clitoris during love- making; Freud thought that clitoral pleasure retarded the woman's ability to experience a "mature" orgasm, that is, one deriving solely from the penis. In 1962 we still read "if there has been much manual stimula- science several centuries to discover that the clitoris is the female organ of sensation although people in pre- patriarchal societies knew it. Even when the supremacy of the penis and the myth of the vaginal orgasm did not reign over anatomic knowledge, the recognition of clitoral control was simply used to manipulate women: in an 1899 gynecology text we read "it is advisable to use electricity or an exhaust pump to enlarge the size of the clitoris in cases where it is deficient in excitability. This procedure has been successful in making satisfactory wives ." l5 November 1976 In a 1926 text doctors were instructed to expose the clitoris to x-radiation to "diminish the hypersensitivity of women suspected of excessive sexual activity."16Around the turn of the century, hundreds of American women were treated for "self-abuse" in the most barbarous fashion - clitorectomy.17 This was justified on the basis of medical opinions about the proper appearance of female genitals - those of a virtuous woman were thought to be pink and soft with a clitoris that was hardly protuberant. If the attitudes of gynecologists make women paranoid, rushing to a psychiatrist may be of little comfort. Freud reigns there as well. In a recent article "Femininity and Paranoidism" in the Journal of Nervous and Mental D/sease,18required reading in some medical school courses, Dr. Leonard Sillman explains to medical students that their role as future psychiatrists is to help women accept "reality," that is, sexual oppression, which exists because of women's biological inferiority. Women who have careers usually feel guilty, says the doctor, but "where the sense of guilt is weak, the woman vents her hatred of men by emasculating and rendering ineffective or impotent the individuals involved." The menopausal woman is a "shriveled shell of a woman, used up, sucked dry, de-sexed and, by comparison with her treasured remembrances of bygone days of glory and romance, fit only for the bone heap." Female anatomy is "designed to be a receptacle subordinate to the male's and from his and her exaltation of aggression and its symbol the phallus, she becomes turned by the unconscious into a thing to be 'used,' 'enslaved,' and subjected to the unjust social circumstances they must live with so that their bitterness does not rob their husbands of their right to love. A part of the woman is profoundly envious of the superior physical power and strength of the male." Analysis must focus on "her sadism, which longs for masculinity . . .and, with its urge to degrade and debase . . seeks to macerate and consume the ego of her husband with incessant derogation, criticism, nagging." The good doctor concludes that a psychiatrist must "persuade a female patient to abandon her wish for a penis on the ground of its being unrealistic." Admittedly, the psychiatric profession is undergoing changes in treatment of women. But reform in psychiatry will not help women who receive psychiatric referrals from their gynecologists for symptoms of uterine cancer. With doctors like these for friends, who needs enemies? Footnotes, page 12 Houston Breakthrough Page 5