For many cisgender women, sex is a rite of passage. It brings excitement, pleasure, and possibility. But for some, it is ridden with pain, fear and discomfort.
This isn’t something commonly known or discussed, but some women are not able to engage in penetrative sex (or even insert a tampon) without tribulation. The condition is called vaginismus, indicated by an involuntary spasming of the pelvic muscles, and it is all too common among women, young and old.
Imagine trying to penetrate yourself and feeling that you are “hitting a wall” with nowhere to go. Imagine engaging in foreplay only to experience extreme pain once your partner attempts insertion. Imagine trying to manage your menstrual flow with no options but pads because everything else is too difficult or uncomfortable to use.
These are regular occurrences in the life of someone with vaginismus. Sometimes symptoms only appear in certain scenarios, other times they are ever-present.
They can make every day feel like a struggle. Forming intimate relationships can be hard. Engaging in conversation with other women, those with “normal” sex lives, can be even harder. A person with vaginismus may always feel like the odd one out.
But luckily, people are slowly becoming more aware of the condition, and support is increasingly available. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, know that you are not alone and that nothing is wrong with you.
That’s not to say that the pain caused by vaginismus is invalid, nor that any easy solution exists, but with the patience and motivation to get past it, more answers will come down the track.
So why do people experience vaginismus?
No one really knows. It was once thought to affect only postmenopausal women, which we have since discovered is very wrong. Some people develop it late in life (secondary vaginismus), some endure it from childhood (primary vaginismus).
It can be brought on by menopause or other hormonal shifts, sure. But it can also result from sexual harm. It can be a result of sexual frigidity, a fear of painful sex, a religious hindrance against sexuality, or some other sort of trauma.
Yet even those with no known history of trauma experience vaginismus. The “why” is not as important as the “how” (do I deal with it) and the discussion of the matter in the first place.
There’s very little information out there about vaginismus, but the more prevalent the topic becomes, the more research will be demanded and progress will be made for sufferers and those treating them.
What can you do about painful intercourse?
First of all, relax. Stop blaming yourself, stop living in a cycle of recurring fear. Let the shame and embarrassment go. This is easier said than done, but it’s so important in your journey towards pain-free sex.
Secondly, you can practice some exercises to facilitate your progress.
One half of this involves physical exercises like kegels. (Yet, unlike traditional kegels prioritizing focus on contraction, you want to focus on the feeling of pelvic release.) Try touching yourself before letting others touch you. Get used to the physical sensation of contact.
That being said, contact alone will not solve the problem, which is where the second half of the equation comes in. When touching yourself or even thinking about penetration, breathe deeply and remind yourself you are safe. Aim to reduce and work towards eliminating the anxieties surrounding vaginal contact.
The positive here is that many sufferers of vaginismus have overcome it. Change is possible, even for the most severe of situations. If you have experienced this, don’t suffer alone. Take solace in the fact that the cycle of pain can be stopped.
Have you experienced vaginismus or any other pelvic condition?
Also see: How Polyamory Liberated My Love Life
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!