It Hurts Down There

The Bodily Imaginaries of Female Genital Pain

By Christine Labuski

Subjects: Women's Studies, Health And Society, Gender Studies, Sociology Of Women, Body, The
Paperback : 9781438458861, 342 pages, July 2016
Hardcover : 9781438458854, 342 pages, September 2015

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Table of contents

List of Figures
Prologue: A Fourteen-Foot-Tall Vagina
1. Insinuation: A Biocultural Condition
2. Examination: Clinical Interpretations of Vulvar Pain
3. Accumulation: The Materiality of Absence
4. Manifestation: (Un)conscious Presencing
5. Integration: Coming Together or Falling Apart
6. Generation: Novel Morphologies
7. Evaluation: Concluding Thoughts
Epilogue: Collaboration

Tracks the medical emergence and treatment of vulvar pain conditions in order to understand why so many US women are misinformed about their sexual bodies.


How does a woman describe a part of her body that much of society teaches her to never discuss? It Hurts Down There analyzes the largest known set of qualitative research data about vulvar pain conditions. It tells the story of one hundred women who struggled with this dilemma as they sought treatment for chronic and unexplained vulvar pain. Christine Labuski argues that the medical condition of vulvar pain cannot be adequately understood without exposing and interrogating cultural attitudes about female genitalia. The author's dual positioning as cultural anthropologist and former nurse practitioner strengthens her argument that discourses about "healthy" vulvas naturalize and reproduce heteronormative associations between genitalia, sex, and gender.

Christine Labuski is Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the coauthor (with Nicholas Copeland) of The World of Wal-Mart: Discounting the American Dream.


"…a particularly fateful intervention into the slowly growing discussion about female genital pain … well-informed and insightful. " — Nursing Clio

"This is an empirically engaged, ethnographically rich interpretation of genital pain in a cross section of women—but it is also so much more. Christine Labuski has a deep understanding of both the anatomical biomedical construction of female genitalia and manifestations of physical pain and suffering, which she combines with a marvelous cultural analysis of how entangled these biological 'facts' are with the contemporary culture of female loathing and self-loathing. " — Lisa Jean Moore, coauthor of The Body: Social and Cultural Dissections