Guest Post – 10+ years with vaginismus

03/23/2010 at 8:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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[Dear internet, we have a guest post today! The following was written by someone who prefers to remain anonymous actually, with her permission, make that an adventurous virgin.]

Picture the scene….I’m 18 and in my 1st year at university. It’s a Thursday night and I’m getting ready to go out dancing with my friends and boyfriend at that time. We start off in the usual bar and finish up in the usual place. We’ve all had a good night and it comes to going home. My boyfriend suggests we go back to his place. I nod and we start walking up the road. As the alcohol wears off I remember that I don’t want to do that at all and start thinking of reasons why I can’t sleep with him tonight. A taxi comes along and I run to get it and go home. That’s a typical Thursday night out for me.

Fast forward to the next morning and a typical conversation with friends before class goes something along the lines of: “Why didn’t you stay at his place last night? Haven’t you done it yet? He won’t wait forever. Just get it over with.” I knew that being an 18 year old virgin at university was a little freakish, so I was left with no other choice-I had to end the relationship.

Now, here I am 11 years later, still obsessing about the same thing. Except now I know that there’s a name for what I experience and I’m working on it. I remember the day very clearly when I discovered the term vaginismus. I had been going out with my current boyfriend for about 3 years. We had tried to sleep together many times and failed miserably each time. I was totally freaked out by this. I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I was far too embarrassed to go to my doctor. Everyone else around me was able to have sex no problem and I really didn’t want to say to anyone that I’d been going out with someone for 3 years and we hadn’t slept together yet. It was just presumed that we had.

Anyway, one Sunday night my brother, who was working in a shop, brought me back a magazine that was out of date. The first article was entitled “I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend.” I was extremely interested and read it over and over again. It was like reading about myself! In the article the girl had had a couple of boyfriends and each time she couldn’t have sex with them, they had broken up with her. Now she had a new boyfriend and was using dilators with him. After a few months of using them, they were able to have sex. In 2 minutes my world changed. I discovered a name for my problem, I wasn’t the only one in the world who had this problem and there was a cure!

It took me about a week to tell my boyfriend about the article. I didn’t know how he would take this information. I needn’t have worried-he seemed happy too to know this. And so the research process began. Every few months I would spend hours online reading stories from other women and their partners. I read about treatments, doctors, causes, things I should and shouldn’t do. I had so much information I didn’t know what to do with it. Some articles said it was a psychological problem and that I should see a therapist. Some said it was a muscle that needed to be stretched. Some said it needed surgery. I didn’t know what to believe.

I started thinking about why I might have it. If it’s psychological, then it’s easy to think of a reason why. Growing up in a Catholic society, I went to an all-girls primary school where the teachers pointed out that anyone who got pregnant outside marriage or had an abortion would go straight to Hell. This was followed by a Catholic all-girls secondary school, where I was taught by some nuns, who obviously shared that opinion! I was so terrified of getting pregnant before finishing university, that I refused to let anyone near me. By the time I was in a long term relationship, the fear of getting pregnant was so huge, that I would be physically sick at the thought of sex. I can’t remember the amount of times that I ran out of places to get sick because I thought that I might have to have sex.

So now I’m 29, going out with the same guy for 9 years and everyone is asking me when I’m going to have a baby. Society is so confusing: you spend your early teens being told that sex is wrong and not to let a boy near you, then in your early 20s you’re supposed to be having loads of it with as many people as possible in as many different styles as possible, (but keeping all this hidden from the older generation) before you meet “the one” and then you settle down and you’re supposed get married. Then, all the people who told you in your early teens that sex was wrong are asking you when you’re going to have a baby. How are you supposed to go from staying away from boys to having babies?!?!?!?! It’s just not logical!

Living in a society where now everything is connected to sex and not being able to have it is really hard. Practically every product is advertised using sex. Members of the opposite sex will find you sexy if you use a certain shampoo, wear certain make-up, drive a certain car, drink a certain drink etc…. Little girls aren’t happy with dressing up in their mother’s clothes anymore. They have to have mini versions of what their mother’s wear, but they’re still being told to stay away from boys! So where does that leave me??? I finally got around to seeing a doctor and getting a set of dilators. I’m finally making some progress and I can see some light at the end of the tunnel, physically anyway. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get my head around the mixed messages sent to girls in society though!


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  1. When I asked, my mother told me that babies were the result of prayer. So no conflict there. She had thought babies were the result of playing softball with boys when she was that age.
    But I read my Bible and knew that wasn’t quite the whole story–Mary didn’t pray to get pregnant! So I worried about getting pregnant too.
    And then my mother just assumed that I was having sex at an early age.

    Maybe things will get better now that information is more available.

  2. […] reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. Did you all get a chance to see this week’s guest post? I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual […]

  3. Hi everyone,

    First of all I’d like to apologize if my english is bad – I’m Danish.

    I just wrote a comment, but somehow deleted it, so this one will be shorter… I find it hard to write about my vaginismus problem. I actually start having pain when I talk or think too much about it. It’s also quite embarrassing to talk about, but now I’ll try. It helps sitting behind a computer screen.

    When I read the blog I feel like reading about myself! I’ve had vaginismus – or at least that’s what I think it is. I’ve seen many specialists in Denmark, but none of them have been able to help me. Here, there’s not much research on the topic, which has sadly also been a taboo for many years among doctors. I’m currently waiting to see the one doctor in the country who deals with female pelvic pain and problems, but there’s a waiting list for – hold on – 2½ years! I’ve been on the list for 2 years now and looking forward to seeing him, all though he’s my final hope for a cure…

    I often have pain when I’m riding my bike and driving my car, but also sitting on a chair can trigger the pain in my pelvic muscles. I often feel very depressed and disheartened, but climb back on the horse until the next defeat appears. I’ve had the same boyfriend – a very patient one – for the last 5 years, but it all started 6 years ago when I was travelling. I met a guy and we started dating. Unfortunately his penis was huge and I felt my first pain during intercourse. Since this experience I’ve had pain during intercourse, but before I had no problems whatsoever. I don’t feel like a woman anymore, and I don’t think it’s fair to my boyfriend when I dress up, because I feel like I’m teasing him and can’t give him or us what we need so desparately – sex! I’ve been to all the specialists in Denmark, but none of them have been able to help me. I’m currently getting acupuncture and osteopathy. The acupuncture is very painful, but keep the pelvic pain/the muscle pain/the vaginismus on the same level. The osteopathy has been the only thing that seems to help a bit. My boyfriend and I have had sex since, but it doesn’t last long and I always start to feel a stinging pain afterwards or during intercourse. But I do feel the osteopathy has helped my muscles to relax when he penetrates my vagina. I’m still sceptic about it – cause as you probably can imagine – I can’t quite believe that something can cure this. But I wish I could eat a pill and everything would disappear… I know now after 6 years that that’s not gonna happen! And it’s sometimes very difficult to find the hope and belief that I can be a normal sexual woman again.

    I hope that some of you have some encouraging words or even treatments that the doctors in Denmark haven’t heard of. I’m just desparately looking for help and support.

    Sincerely, Charlotte

    • Hello Charlotte,

      I don’t know a lot about the resources available outside of the US since that’s where I live. But there’s some sites & resources & books available online that might be of interest.

      In the US a lot of scientific journal article abstracts get published on PubMed & I found one article abstract that deals with sexual dysfunctions in Denmark. This is it: Sexual Dysfunctions and Difficulties in Denmark: Prevalence and Associated Sociodemographic Factors. You might have access to the full text if you are a student at a school – sometimes schools subscribe to online databases & those are good places to look. From this article abstract, it looks like vaginismus & dyspareunia are not frequently mentioned as a problem in Denmark but it’s more than zero percent so you’re not alone.

      Otherwise some links are listed on the side bar here, under the “Resources” section.

      You may not have an equivalent for the National Vulvodynia Association like we have in the US, but there’s still the ISSVD & International Pelvic Pain Society. (You might still look into joining the NVA’s email list which doesn’t cost anything to receive e-mails. It costs money if you want to become a member though.) And you can think about joining some of the online support groups, like on Yahoo!, for support, if you’re not in those groups already.

      It’s pretty normal over here, I think, for specialists to have long waiting lists for sexual health problems, but, 2 & 1/2 years is longer than I’ve ever experienced. Although my primary care physician, she has a 6 month waiting list for general wellness exams. It depends on who you’re looking for I guess.

      I’m not a doctor of any sort so I can’t suggest any medical interventions for your pain. In the mean time, until you can see your specialist, there might be some books of interest that might give some ideas.

      It looks like Amazon doesn’t do business in Denmark – can you place orders from other countries within Europe? If so, I very much enjoyed Heal Pelvic Pain (There’s a Kindle version available if you have a Kindle device) which takes a physical therapy approach. May be of some use since it considers bones & muscles. I usually suggest the Vulvodynia Survival Guide too – I know you didn’t say you had vulvodynia but sometimes there’s overlap. I’m still looking for a good book dedicated to vaginismus.

      For coping in the mean time, I wrote a review of Spectacular Sex and thought it was pretty good.

      You don’t have to have penetrative intercourse to be having sex. I know that’s a hard paradigm to break but it’s a lot of pressure on everyone, especially people who for one reason or another can’t have or don’t enjoy that kind of sex. And you’re still a woman even if you fall into that group. I don’t think you should feel guilty about dressing up if that’s what you & your partner like – I dress up with my partner & he never complains if we don’t “go all the way.” He’s just happy to be with me.
      I found that tuning into more progressive resources (like the feminist blogosphere – with a few caveats) the pressure to have “Normal” hetero sex (defined as ‘intercourse’) is reduced, but it’s still a bumpy road.
      You don’t have to make yourself have sex for anybody else if you’re not getting what you want out of it. There’s a chance that if you have painful sex it might make the pain worse since you’ll be associating sex with unwanted pain, so you may want to think about holding off for a little while & exploring other kinds of sex until you get the pain under control. Some suggestions I’ve seen in other sexuality books include, agreeing to not even attempt penetrative activity for x amount of time; instead, look for other forms of sexual expression during that time and see how that works out.

      Good luck!

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