Vaginismus Pain During Sex
I was diagnosed with vaginismus 8 years after I began having sex. I experienced 8 long years of thinking I was frigid, that there was something wrong with me and that I would never experience pleasure, only pain, during sex. Now, I’m sharing my story to raise awareness, so women who experience these symptoms realise that they aren’t the problem and that it can be cured.
The first time
Growing up in an extremely conservative family, sex was a taboo topic at home. I didn’t receive a sex education from my parents. The expectation was that I would remain a virgin until I married. The general feeling was that if you lost your virginity, it would be hard for you to get married in the future.
I left my family at 18 to study at a university overseas. Studying abroad opened up my eyes and mind to a different culture and way of thinking. Not better, just different. It allowed me to start questioning my life choices and the reasons I made them.
While I was there, I met a wonderful man. We fell in love and I made the decision to have sex with him. It was purely my own. I remember feeling scared and guilty but wanting to make the decision anyway. I had no one to talk to about it, not even my own sisters.
The first time I had sex, it was extremely painful. After it was over, I lay on the bed willing myself not to cry. ‘This is what all the hype is about? Sex is overrated,’ I thought. Looking back, my boyfriend should have made more of an effort to make me feel pleasure. Having said that, he was young and inexperienced, and was probably just as clueless as I was about how to help me feel pleasure during sex.
Even after we broke up and I dated new people, the physical pain during sex continued. Out of embarrassment, I would always tell my new partners that I had a problem, and that I preferred oral sex over penetrative sex. Sometimes, I would just persist through the pain to make the other person happy. The truth is, I hated sex. I didn’t see it as something positive. It was merely a way to physically pleasure my partner.
One day, I went to see a gynaecologist for a checkup. When she inserted a speculum inside me, I shouted out in pain. The look of impatience and annoyance the gynaecologist gave me confirmed that what I was feeling was a burden and that I was being dramatic. In hindsight, I think the gynaecologist was being irresponsible. She must have known about vaginismus. Why didn’t she tell me I had it? It would have spared me many years of self-doubt and pain.
Everything changed when I met X, a patient guy who was genuinely concerned about my pleasure during intercourse. He told me, “Sex isn’t only about my physical pleasure. It’s about you experiencing pleasure too and the unique personal connection between two human beings. It brings two people closer.” He was right.
I went to see a sex therapist and when she described the symptoms I had been experiencing, and explained that I had vaginismus, I felt a flood of relief. Now that I knew what the issue was, I could finally start fixing it.
What is vaginismus
Vaginismus is a painful condition involving a muscle spasm in the pelvic floor muscles. It can make it impossible or extremely difficult to have sexual intercourse. Pain can also occur when a tampon is inserted or when a gynaecological exam takes place. Vaginismus affects up to 1% of the female population but unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much information available or research done on it.
I realised the pain stemmed from two causes. First, my conservative upbringing meant I had a negative attitude toward sex. It was something I secretly felt ashamed of, which had a natural effect on my body. The mind has a huge impact on the body (think of how stress can make your neck and back muscles bunch up).
Being ashamed of sex meant that I didn’t make an effort to find out what I liked. Sex is an exploratory exercise—you don’t get it right the first time, you just need to keep trying until you find something that works for you.
The second cause was my bad experience of sex for the first time. It led to my body tightening up inside on future occasions, as it anticipated pain. It was a vicious cycle.
Finding a cure
The sex therapist gave me a series of different-sized vaginal dilators to practice with. The key is to insert the smallest one to help your vagina stretch and become more comfortable, and then to move progressively on to the larger ones.
The biggest help for me was having a partner who took all the pressure off sex. He didn’t mind exploring other ways to experience pleasure. We had a lot of fun trying new things together, which helped me relax. Knowing that it didn’t matter whether we had sex or not, and that he loved me regardless, had a huge impact on my mental aversion to sex. I realized sex was not shameful and that I was enjoying something intimate and special with someone I loved.
Eventually, sex stopped being painful. Now, I look forward to it! It allows me to feel connected with my partner, and I like finding new ways to pleasure both him and myself.
I Stopped Experiencing Pain During Sex After 8 Years
If you are reading this and any of the symptoms resonate with your experiences, I urge you to first realise that what you are experiencing is more common than you think. Secondly, it is treatable. Do some research online, and if you can, try and seek counselling. I wish you lots of luck and positivity on your journey and, remember, you are not alone.
Cover image: Yuris Alhumaydy/Unsplash