Vaginismus and the Struggle to Have Sex
This post is a part of our Vaginismus Series written by Jenny Wallace. Jenny hails from Scotland and is passionate about increasing awareness around pelvic floor disorders and empowering women to find and receive the care and community they need.
My name is Jenny, and I’m writing this post all the way from my home in Armadale, Scotland where I work as an admin assistant for my local council. I’m 28 years-old. I’m a huge movie geek. I love long walks with my dog, swimming in the sea, and a night out in a bar with my friends - pretty average twenty-something activities. Oh, and also - I’m also a virgin.
I have primary vaginismus, a condition that means the muscles around my vagina contract involuntarily whenever penetration is attempted. My whole life I’ve never been able to put so much as a tampon in, let alone have sex.
Up until two years ago, I didn’t know that the pain I felt whenever I attempted any kind of penetration was an actual medical condition. I just thought that I was some sort of freak who was too tight or too scared of pain to allow penetration to happen. It affected everything about me. I was scared to commit to relationships because I didn’t think I was loveable the way I was. I’ve been called frigid, a prude, a cock-tease by people I thought cared for me. I ended relationships in the early stages because I was too scared to admit to what I couldn’t do. And when I finally found someone I thought would stay with me despite it all, he cheated on me with another woman because “he needed sex.”
I was diagnosed officially a year before he and I broke up. Although I was relieved to know I wasn’t alone, I was horrified that it took so many years of unsuccessful doctor’s appointments to finally get an answer - after years of going to health professionals to be given advice like “ just relax,” and “have a couple of glasses of wine.”
This is what I’m here to change.
According to Vaginismus.com, the most accepted ratio for vaginismus in women is “two in every thousand,” but the problem is due to the taboo behind this condition there’s no way to be sure. Women being too scared to come forward and talk about symptoms and incorrect diagnosis by doctors means that the figures regarding this condition are very limited. It’s little wonder that it takes so long for women to get an accurate diagnosis!
Primary (what I have) is when you’ve always had the condition and secondary is when you develop the condition at another point in your life. There is very little information available about this condition and so little support available for those that have it, that this very treatable condition ends up seriously impacting the way you see yourself. You don’t believe you are worthy of love, you hate your body because you can’t control it the way you want to and you feel isolated because you fear humiliation and prejudice when someone finds out about your condition.
I believe the main problem with vaginismus, is this massive knowledge gap - for patients and medical practitioners. If medical professionals been more informed about this condition, I wouldn’t have suffered with this as long as I have. But I am where I am, and I would like to support the Gather community and spread more awareness so that young girls can spot the symptoms. I want us to dig to deeper levels of body shaming - the kind of shaming we have with ourselves, the kind we seem to get from our doctors, the kind that keeps us from getting answers and the care we need.
Having vaginismus does not mean we are not sexual people nor does it mean that we are incapable of having a sex life. With all the progress we are making around body positivity in the world, I believe that those of us suffering with sexual dysfunction should be part of that conversation.
As a writer covering vaginismus for Gather I want to share with you my recovery story, share my insights into dating with this condition, and how I work on loving myself and my body throughout.
I want to tell you something different. I want to tell you that you are worthy of love. I want to tell you that your body is beautiful, no matter what shape, size or point in your recovery you are in. I want to tell you that there is a network out there of women who are fighting for the safe space you need to be able to speak about how this condition can make you feel.
Feel free to find me on Instagram @not_my_vaginismus and lets start a conversation. Together we can work towards a world where we don’t have to feel ashamed of our bodies and their differences.