Sex, Life and Vagina Problems: An Interview with Lara Parker

Lara Parker is a writer, editor, and author living in Los Angeles, whose frank accounts of life with endometriosis, pelvic pain and painful sex shine a light on topics that aren’t discussed often enough – which is just one reason why we were delighted to interview her for our Women’s History Month feature.

Tell us a bit about your work and what inspired your passion for this field?

I am currently a deputy director for Buzzfeed.com, but my first book came out in 2020. It's called Vagina Problems, and it's about living with endometriosis and related pelvic floor conditions that have greatly impacted my life – but not just my life, the lives of so many.

I never intended to begin discussing these things publicly a decade ago, when I originally began my career, but life has a way of catching up to you. I was dealing with so much physical and emotional pain because of these conditions that it was nearly impossible to not discuss what was happening. 

And, in the vein of Spider-Man, with a great platform comes a great responsibility — I had the platform, so I wanted to use it to do what I could to shed light on these conditions and just how debilitating they can be from personal experience.

It's difficult to both live with this pain and witness so much of it from others, and NOT feel impacted to try and do something to change it. The passion comes from that, all the people who suffer, many in silence, because they can't speak up, don't want to, or don't know how. I want to make content that represents us all in one way or another. 

Where does your work feel most impactful in people's lives? 

It's important for people to feel represented in life. Chronic pain, especially when it impacts predominantly women and relates to women's pleasure or pain with sex, is not historically depicted for the masses to see. 

Someone could go their entire adulthood thinking that excruciating pain with orgasm was normal, or that missing days of work because of abdominal pain was something to be brushed aside. So even just being able to make a video, or writing a piece about this type of pain and someone being able to see themselves represented is important. 

What's the most important thing you'd like to share about your experience with endometriosis?

I want people to understand that this isn't just my experience — 1 in 10 people born with a uterus live with endometriosis. 1 in 10 people may experience painful sex. That is quite literally MILLIONS of people.

And yet society as a whole mostly ignores these issues, especially within the medical community. And it still takes nearly a decade for someone to receive a proper diagnosis. And a diagnosis is just a first step. 

We need accessible treatment options, we need your average OBGYN to be able to recognize the signs AND offer real, useful medical advice. These conditions are not rare, and they should not be ignored or brushed aside.

They are debilitating, they are life-changing, and they are very real. I find it hard to express just how much of an impact this has had on my life. I truly think I would be a different person without this pain. 

You're very vocal about your experience with endometriosis - what is the most common misconception about endometriosis you encounter when you're sharing your story?

One of the most common misconceptions is that this pain comes and goes — maybe it's just a bad period, or painful sex once or twice. In my experience, that could not be further from the truth.

I deal with issues related to living with this disease every single day. It is a whole-body disease, and I look forward to the day when it is treated as such. I also think people assume it's rare, or that this kind of pain "would never happen to them." 

What habits or commitments to your wellbeing have changed your life the most?

My use of cannabis has been life-changing for me, personally. I started using cannabis medicinally when I moved to California from Indiana in 2014, and the relief I felt was immediate.

It's not a cure, but it helps me manage my pain better than anything else ever has. It has helped reduce pain associated with orgasms, it has helped give me an appetite when I couldn't eat for days due to nausea, and it just generally makes me feel more like myself. 

I also think that letting myself off the hook has been life-changing. For so long I bought into the idea that all of this pain and discomfort was completely in my control. I cut myself off from just about everything that could be seen as "contributing to my pain" whether it be ORGASMING, drinking a latte, or eating a donut when I felt like one. 

What I was left with, at the end of it all, was a life that was very much still filled with pain, but also with a lot of self-hatred and resentment. I didn't know how to live, and in many ways I almost felt like I wasn't allowed to.

I've worked very hard in therapy over the years to get back to a place where I felt like I could live; where I knew that some things may cause my pain to worsen, but that this was never my fault. That I could live a life that I wanted, and that felt worthwhile to me despite it all. 

Any projects or work you're focused on at the moment that you want to share with our audience?

I have slowly started working on a nugget of an idea for a second book, and I may or may not have plans to get representation for Vagina Problems on all of our TV screens in the near future. Stay tuned! 

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