We Need To Talk About Vaginismus
Say it with me, vag-in-is-mus. Done it? Good, we’ve gotten over the hard bit. The media seemingly likes to avoid talking about this hush-hush disorder, so much so, that I bet you’d never heard of it until now. It’s okay, neither did I — until I experienced it for myself.
See, whilst feminism has focused itself on liberating women with active sex lives and teaching us that slut-shaming is not cool (and a very prominent issue of our patriarchal society), women who can’t have sex, have been put on the back burner. Yes, you read that right, women who can’t have sex — aka women with vaginismus, aka, me. As one of seemingly 2 people in the world with this condition (statistics are lacking, to say the least), I feel a responsibility to educate you on this scary, questionably titled, ‘Venus flytrap’ contraption I carry around with me.
Vaginismus is a condition that causes involuntary, vaginal muscle contractions when penetration is attempted. This means that inserting a tampon, or a penis is really, really, f**king hard (pun intended) and excruciatingly painful. The causes for vaginismus vary from woman to woman, but for a lot of women, myself included, it stems from having an anxiety disorder and negative experiences with trying tampons and attempting sex. Some women develop it after childbirth (an example of type 2 vaginismus), or a traumatic vaginal exam, and some, as you might expect, develop it following a traumatic sexual encounter, i.e. an assault.
For those of us with type 1 vaginismus (women who’ve never been able to have sex before), the cause is more than likely to be anxiety, though it’s a classic ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario. Do women develop vaginismus first, and anxiety second, or vice versa? I for one don’t know, and it seems that doctors don’t have a clear-cut answer either. For this reason, you’ll often find that many women with vaginismus blame themselves, for something that’s relatively out of their control. As I mentioned before, vaginismus is defined by ‘involuntary’ muscle contractions, emphasis on the involuntary.
Whilst women with vaginismus may be able to rationalize that having sex is pleasurable and good, the brain overrules the body and says, “Nope, no thank you” by tensing *down there* so that putting anything in *there* is like hitting a brick wall. From a biological point of view, It’s a pretty cool defense mechanism. From the perspective of a female 20-something, it’s the most annoying s**t in the world.
As somebody who’s repeatedly tried to defeat these bodily reactions with mind control alone, I can tell you first-hand how draining it is to argue, brain vs. body. Though, thankfully, that’s why psychosexual therapists exist. And thank the God of sex they do. At their core, psychosexual therapy appointments generally involve a lot of talking about feelings (often involving the partner), medical jargon, and homework. By that I mean, implementing dilators into your daily routine, and if you’re like me, scouring the internet for ‘aesthetic’ ones so you’re more inclined to use them. I’ve also heard Kegel exercises are a thing in the vaginismus-community. The end goal of therapy, is, of course, to have painless sex, at last!
Therapy is very effective for women with vaginismus, and there’s no need to suffer in silence if you have the condition. If you think you might be struggling with vaginismus, head on over to The Vaginismus Network, you’ll be pleased to know you’re not alone. Or if you’re curious for more info, visit Healthline or this vaginismus-dedicated website. Alternatively, you could give Sex Education (series 2, episode 8) a watch, or Unorthodox, (episode 3), both offer realistic, albeit limited representations of vaginismus. Media, we’ve got our eye on you — sincerely, every woman unaccounted for.
Images: Dainis Graveris via Pexels.com
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