Living in a world where the laws of the land coexist with the laws of nature, we seek justice when we feel such laws have been violated, wanting to inflict punishment to fit the crime to rectify the wrongdoing. But, we frequently misinterpret Newton’s Third Law of Motion (“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”) and are often our own harshest judges.
Last summer, Viktor and I spent a near perfect day at the beach. The weather was glorious, the water was divine, and we had a delicious dinner on our way back to the city. The next day found us back at work, intermittently slathering on aloe on our sunburnt skin. In addition to memories of our lovely day trip, we had the red, raw splotches marking our various body parts to show for it. Alas, a minor negative consequence of a happy occasion and we looked forward to our next beach excursion.
Meanwhile, a few months back, I had a date with Pierre that went really well but had some weird consequences that struck me more intensely. We had very pleasurable sex a few times during his visit, but on one of the occasions, he advised me that the condom had slipped off (he wasn’t as erect as he needed to be) and gotten stuck inside me. I excused myself, went to the bathroom and felt around my vaginal canal, but didn’t find or feel anything. Afterwards, I cleaned up and tossed out the used condoms and wrappers and forgot all about it…
Until two weeks later when I felt something slip out and into the toilet – it was the lost condom! OK, I was admittedly a bit freaked out, but apparently this is a thing that happens (at least according to the Internet). I checked in with Pierre and we agreed that there was no cause for concern regarding pregnancy or STIs, so I planned to forget all about it…
Until Dash (who happens to be a medical doctor) suggested, on the morning after our sex date, that I might have BV*. Not romantic, but I suppose I shouldn’t complain about free medical advice and a doctor that makes house calls 😉
Although BV isn’t a serious condition and can occur as a consequence of things unrelated to sexual intercourse, mine was likely caused as a result of the condom being stuck in my vaginal canal for such a lengthy period of time. Still, I felt gross and, much like Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter A, I felt branded with the initials BV. I berated myself for having let this happen – as if it were entirely my fault. Moreover, I felt like I had committed a “crime” and was being punished for for my “sins.” The “sin” of being a sexual being!
The next day, I went to my primary care provider to confirm the diagnosis, researched my treatment options, talked about it with a few girlfriends and then, thankfully, moved on.
But, it is telling that I was so swift to blame myself and feel universally judged (or more correctly, judged by the universe) for my sexual actions while I felt no remorse at not having applied sunscreen as sufficiently as I should have at the beach. Life is all about action and reaction – our actions have consequences. But, in reality, such consequences are not judgements; they are simply consequences.
As women, we are so quick to find fault and judge ourselves when it comes to our sexual activities even if we were enjoying ourselves at the time and felt comfortable in the moment. We paint ourselves with the broad brushes of shame, disgust, regret, doubt and, dare I say it…slut.
Yet, there was no crime committed. The condom incident and resulting BV were unfortunate, short-lived consequences of a sexual encounter between two consenting adults. Neither the universe nor any other force was punishing me. I just have to learn to stop punishing myself.
*BV or Bacterial vaginosis is defined by The Mayo Clinic as: “…a type of vaginal inflammation caused by the overgrowth of bacteria naturally found in the vagina, which upsets the natural balance.” For more information, see their website.