Vaginismus. The word itself feels as if the letters have been ‘mushed’ together almost. It sounds tight and uncomfortable, which are two of the words I now associate with penetration, along with painful, emotional and frustrating. From discovering I can’t use tampons as a teenager, to crying after another attempt to have penetrative sex with someone I care about and want to be intimate with, vaginismus has impacted multiple aspects of my life.
So, what is vaginismus?
Vaginismus is a condition that means vaginal penetration is not possible or very, very painful and is different for every vagina owner who lives with it. Some people with vaginismus may be able to have penis in vagina (PIV) sex without any problems, but might not be able to insert tampons or menstrual cups. For others, PIV sex might not be possible, because their pelvic floor muscles tense up too much, not allowing anything to ‘get on up there’. For me, tampons and menstrual cups are a solid no and at times PIV isn’t possible for me to have, and if it is, the pain is usually way too intense to deal with.
It is important to remember that vaginismus doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your vagina.Vaginismus is caused by your pelvic floor muscles going into spasms when penetration happens. I wish I had known this sooner. I spent far too many years thinking my vagina was broken. Though vaginismus still impacts me to this day, it was this mind set and the lack of awareness around vaginismus and pleasure that had the most negative affect on my life. Especially my dating life.
I love dating and going on dates. Meeting new people, getting to know someone on a more personal level and being intimate with others, whether that be holding hands to kissing, fills me with excitement and adrenaline. I always have my safety precautions in place, friends I can call and my go to public meeting spots. However, my vaginismus used to always fill me with anxiety no matter how excited I was for a date.
If we go back to before 2019, when I discovered what vaginismus was and that it is something I have, dates became an excuse for me to get slightly drunk, and see if penetrative sex would be possible and pain free this time. It never was and each date left me feeling more broken and mad at myself. My lower abdomen was constantly sore from each attempt and I felt too ashamed to ever let the other person know that the sex we were having was hurting me. I had also convinced myself that if I told my date sex caused me pain, I was letting them down and somehow our entire evening would be ruined.
I hated dating during this time because it always led to disappointment. I would be having a good time, I’d enjoy the intimacy and then the sex that I told myself I needed to keep having to try and make the pain go away would ruin it all. Eventually I had enough and finally googled pain during sex and discovered vaginismus.
Finding out about vaginismus changed my life. Everything made sense and I finally grew a connection with my vagina that wasn’t loaded with hate and despair. I understood my body and what I needed to do to help limit painful intercourse. This newfound understanding didn’t only help me with loving my vagina, it improved my communication, which improved my dating life. Even my clitoral orgasms are better now, as I came to terms with the fact that penetrative sex is never going to be a major source of pleasure for me. I mainly desire penetrative sex to add intensity to intimacy.
Now if I’m using dating apps I make sure to include that I have vaginismus in my bio. Everyone who has asked about vaginismus and wanted to learn about what it is has been respectful and understanding. I am very firm on dates that penetrative sex isn’t going to be a likely option. If someone disrespects that or says they can change that or that I should relax, it’s a red flag and the date is going to come to an end very quickly.
About the Author:
I’m Em (They/Them), I’m 22 years old and have been living with vaginismus for most of my life. After feeling alone with my pain and experiences, I created an Instagram to spread awareness of vaginismus. I fell in love with creating content around sex and dating and continuously strive towards ending stigmas, educating people and raising awareness around sex and dating.