Updated: Jul 14
From a young age, women are taught to accept physical pain, emotional anguish, and inequality just due to their gender. If a man or boy experience physical pain, there is statistical evidence that shows medical professionals will treat him faster than their female counterpart. (1) (2) (3)
So, where does this all start? I can only go on my opinion, but a lot of what women go through physically during puberty, childbirth, menopause, and even sex all have pain associated with it. From being told about the pain felt during science and health classes at school to even watching Hollywood films depicting the loss of virginity, childbirth and periods. All of which, unless every woman on the planet is suffering from underlying medical conditions (such as endometriosis, vaginismus etc), is over exaggerated. This over exaggeration then lead to young girls and women start fear their own natural bodily functions, perpetuating the myth of women just using pain as an excuse.
I spent two years suffering from an undiagnosed rare migraine condition and was continually told by General Practitioners that my migraines were just hormonal and taking the contraceptive pill would fix it. That all-cure magic pill. The go to for most female conditions. However, my rare condition once finally fully diagnosed by a Neurologist was a condition called Hemiplegic Migraines which covered every symptom, I had been suffering from for almost every week for two years. I suffered with temporary paralysis, losing my voice, feeling locked in my body, and suffering from extreme vertigo, and for two years I blamed myself for being born female. Once diagnosed I found out that with my rare condition the contraceptive pill, that I had been told to go on to stop my migraines, had put me at a higher risk of stroke and threatened my overall health, as does most hormonal contraceptive methods.
So why did my doctors all go towards hormonal reasons for my health?
The only reason I can come to is that female hormones fluctuate through the month and it is the easiest conclusion to come to when a woman is saying she is in pain. Meaning the easiest solution is to put her on the contraceptive pill to control her hormones instead of investigating further.
I want to look at why we are taught to expect pain, particularly during periods, sex, and childbirth.
Very often we learn how to cope with our period from our female relatives. When it comes to pain, we are taught to grin and bear it. We hide our periods and with more and more discreet items coming out we avoid the conversations about our periods and about our pain. But it’s a natural process all women go through? So why are we left to think it is wrong to talk about it, talk about our pain? And where is the education about when the pain is too much to be period pain? Many women go through their lives in so much pain monthly, constantly needing heat pack on their abdomen, loads of pain relief, and still think they shouldn’t go to the doctor about this pain. We are not taught that if we cannot handle pain and pain relief isn’t helping that there might be a medical reason for the huge amount of pain we are suffering instead of it just being menstrual cramps. Even then when women have got to the doctor to talk about pain on their periods, depending on the doctor you see, we’re often told it is normal and it can take years to get down to the real reason why. Just proving that everyone expects women to just deal with monthly pain no matter how agonising it can be, especially if a woman is suffering from undiagnosed endometriosis.
Now this is something every girl worries about. It’s going to hurt the first time. You’re going the bleed the first time you have sex. It a given…. No. It’s not a given. In order for girls and women not to bleed when losing their virginity, it is completely emotions and mind over matter. Even if in our minds we tell ourselves sex isn’t a big deal, everyone does it, so I might as well bite the bullet and get rid of the shadow of virginity. This attitude just guarantees that its going to hurt and you will bleed. For it not to, girls and women need to feel safe with the person they are losing their virgin to, they need to have an emotional and mental bond with that person. If there is any sense of fear then the vagina won’t relax, because she isn’t relaxed. On top this emotional need, I cannot stress enough that the physical need for foreplay, foreplay and… you guessed it…MORE FOREPLAY. As virgin you need to be aroused for sex. Do not accept pain during sex. Pain during sex, even if you are not a virgin, isn’t right. Pain can mean so many things and you need to see a doctor or nurse to discuss it.
We are shown movies, shows, books, educational videos and textbooks all bout how much childbirth hurts and that it so much worse than breaking every bone in your body. Yet, no one tells you that once your body is going through it, you are not focused on the pain. Everything inside is screaming to get this baby out. The pain, or how my midwife described it pressure, grows slowly over hours. This process means your body can help you with natural pain relief. Very often if we think we are going to be in pain we will be. This is where the idea of hypnotherapy birthing plans come into play. Now I have never been one to think hypnobirthing would ever work. But when I was in the process of giving birth it was the feeling of calmness and a little help of gas and air that helped me through the 24 hour labour, even when I ended up in the operating with complication, by that point I was so calm and accept what had to happen. I didn’t panic, I didn’t fear the pain. I just accepted this was the process.
I highly recommend finding a midwife that will go through the whole journey with you and teaches you hypnobirthing, once again you need the trust. Giving birth is a very intimate and extreme process any woman goes through.
What is different with men?
Well, men physically are not very different as men do have fluctuating hormones and they do experience pain. Their hormones fluctuate on a less extreme level and their pain can be too much for them to handle, but the difference is...they don’t hide it and accept it.
Ever seen a man with a cold?
Well, you get my point. Because they talk openly about their pain they get treated, they get cared for, and they get some level of empathy.
(But they also deal with their own hidden pain, emotional and mental pain, which is a contrast to women. Women are taught to be open about their emotions but men are taught to “Be a Man” and thus they hide this away, which is turn has caused a high suicide rate in men compared to women.)
This lack of openness about acceptance that pain in women isn't hormonal is what makes it detrimental to women as it stops them from believing it is anything more than hormones, pushes this idea that its their body working against, and thus they end up dealing with their pain on their own.
It’s time that we start talking about pain without using hormones as an excuse
If you had a good easy childbirth, talk about it and don’t be ashamed. If you had the opposite and it was extremely painful TALK ABOUT IT.
Share your pain when you have your period, let men feel embarrassed about you talking it. It is a natural process that every woman goes through, we should not be ashamed, and we don’t need to hide it.
Do not accept pain during sex whether you are experienced, or it was your first time. Talk to your partner and your doctor. Communication is key.
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