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Vaginismus has made me involuntarily celibate, here’s what it’s like

IMAGE VIA SUKU HOME

WORDS BY TAYLOR RICHARDSON

The unsexy side of sex as told by an involuntarily celibate millennial.

“You just need to relax.” This is what I’m prescribed by my GP to aid in my increasingly painful, and at times impossible, attempts to get down and dirty. After spending the better part of a year seeking help to no avail, I was teetering on the verge of a breakdown.

Cue those five words, paired with one non-sympathetic shrug and you have yourself a colossal, award-winning meltdown on my behalf (the award was a referral to a gynaecologist, thank you very much). It was there I learnt that my lady flower isn’t just an uptight medical enigma in need of a yoga retreat and that my GP’s prognosis was dismissive and clumsy (shock horror).


Read more personal stories from our FJ writers in our Life column.


By means of a pelvic exam, featuring a child-sized speculum and double the recommended amount of lube, it is confirmed that I have vaginismus, an adorable name for a sexual disorder that’s anything but. The discomfort of the gynaecological exam (a pain akin to a razor scooter to the ankle) is symptomatic of vaginismus – a disorder in which the pelvic floor muscles involuntarily spasm in response to vaginal penetration.

There are both psychological and physical factors that work concurrently to make sex a mammoth pain, be it both figuratively and literally. Simply put, my honeypot is an anti-social bitch with a ’tude and I can warm her up, lube her up, hype her up all I want, but when it comes time to do the deed, she shuts up shop faster than I can say “Ouch!”

The symptoms of vaginismus vary, but I believe the correct medical terminology to be: burns like Simon for Daphne (we love a Bridgerton reference) and aches like Billy Ray Cyrus’ heart. And that burning, aching and stinging is a joy reserved for those who can achieve penetration at all.

The disorder is comprised of two variations. I would come to learn that as I had experienced pain-free sex prior to my diagnosis, I have what is known as secondary vaginismus, and in turn, am devastatingly familiar with the aforementioned symptoms. While its right-hand man, primary vaginismus, denotes a woman has never been able to achieve vaginal penetration.

Following my diagnosis, I turned to Google to study up on my condition (and also because I’m a masochist hell-bent on bumming myself out.) Googling vaginismus truly is like buying a one-way ticket to doomsville, population: you. I read article after article detailing how the sexual condition singlehandedly destroyed women’s relationships, marriages and self-esteem. It is an emotionally taxing disorder, that often leaves women feeling alienated from their friendships, betrayed by their bodies and doomed in their love lives.

From this point on, it felt like my own romantic ventures were destined to fail before they’d begun. At what point does one bring up their sexual disorder to a potential suitor? On a first, second or third date? Before or after the breadbasket? Do I just pop it in my Tinder bio and avoid the date’s (literal) anti-climactic end altogether?

How does one explain the inner workings of their pelvic floor muscles to a guy they’re crushing on and his respective boner? (If you have answers to any of the above, please DM me.) Dating is tough enough as it is, but add an invisible chastity belt and it can be easy to throw in the towel altogether and start digging your spinster grave.

The isolation can extend beyond the dating realm, too. If I’m sure of anything in this world, it’s that two wines deep, woman are biologically programmed to start divulging their sex lives. I avoid these conversations like the plague, smoke-bombing the moment I feel the conversation take a sharp south turn.

Don’t even get me started on hen’s parties – there is a special place in hell for ‘never have I ever’. It’s not that I don’t love listening to other women’s saucy sex tales, because as a certified nosy bitch, I absolutely do. But considering the fact that vaginismus is so rarely discussed that my own GP was none the wiser, how can I expect a group of rampantly horny women to comprehend that my vagina is inherently out-of-order?

Preceding my own experience, not only had I never heard of vaginismus, I hadn’t even known that the body was capable of rejecting penetration. Sure, I’d learnt about the basics of the P in the V in sex-ed, I knew everything there was to know about anal pubic hair, and I’d witnessed a full-frontal, up-close water birth on a classroom TV cart.

But it seemed I’d missed the slide show on sexual disorders and the very real, very unsexy side of sex. No one ever thought to mention, “Hey, do you know sometimes your vaginas and penises don’t fucking work?” And lube – my god why did no one ever mention lube? Vaginismus. Erectile dysfunction. Premature ejaculation. Arousal disorder. Medication-induced sexual disorders. Nada. Zilch. Zero. But hey, I can put a condom on a banana.

There is a shame and stigma attached to sexual disorders like vaginismus that we foster when we choose to suffer in silence. We need to start the conversation, and in turn, normalise the fact that sex isn’t always sexy. It can be messy and painful, and that pain is valid and more common than you realise.

While there is no one definitive cure for vaginismus, there are a plethora of resources right at your fingertips (in some cases, literally). In addition to both physical and psychological therapy, top contenders to treat Vaginismus include Kegel and pelvic floor exercises, dilator kits and even hypnotherapy.

You’re going to need a little patience and a lot of lube, but you absolutely can overcome vaginismus with a little persistence. Keep your Kegel exercises tight and your pelvic floor muscles in check and good (pain-free) sex could only be a hop, skip and a six-pack dilator kit away.

For another account of what it’s like to have vaginismus, head here.

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