I remember the first time I tried to use a tampon at 14. I couldn’t get one into my vagina.
After many attempts and finally being able to get a tampon ‘up there’ it felt as if my insides were on fire. Tampons 1, my vagina 0.
I had friends who used tampons and none of them had said it was impossible or painful to insert one. The first few times were a bit uncomfortable but no one had described that discomfort as a burning sensation that even caused pain a few hours after the tampon was out.
This was my first experience with vaginismus
A term I had never heard of until earlier this year.
The definition of vaginismus is ‘painful spasmodic contraction of the vagina in response to physical contact or pressure, especially during sexual intercourse.’
In simpler terms – anything that penetrates my vagina (tampons, dildos, penises) cause me an immense amount of pain.
My pelvic floor muscles go into spasm. They tense up and can’t relax.
Being someone who loves to date and wants to be able to have sex with people, vaginismus has caused me a lot of psychological turmoil too.
At 14, not being able to use tampons became the last of my worries
I had lost 2 of my closest family members.
This loss and the grief that came with it triggered intense abandonment and attachment issues.
Being single terrified me.
When I was under 16 and in relationships if ‘penis in vagina’ sex was every mentioned I’d always say ‘I want to wait until I’m 16’. I never dated the nicest guys.
I also completely repressed my bisexuality and tried to convince myself I was straight.
Then I turned 16 and college started
College came with house parties, drunken make-outs, and people having sex.
I love making out with people. I love being affectionate.
However, thinking about the pain a tampon caused me made me feel nauseas at the idea of having anything in my vagina.
I managed to avoid having sex with guys for most of college. I felt ashamed though.
My body was letting me and my sexuality down. I hated my vulva and began to feel a strong disconnection to it.
Towards my second college year, I fell in love
This was the most intense relationship I had been in. The guy it was with also made it clear that in his eyes, sex was the most important aspect of a relationship.
I tried to explain to him that penetrative sex hurts. He never listened and would accuse me of not loving him or thinking I was too good for him.
When you have vaginismus you already can feel alone and broken. His attitudes towards sex and refusal to listen and even use lube made me feel even more broken.
Thankfully, that relationship ended, but the disconnection and hatred I felt towards my ‘broken vagina’ didn’t end with it.
It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now. After multiple breakdowns and constantly feeling at war with my body, at the start of this year, the year I finally felt interested in sex, I googled the symptoms I was experiencing.
Going to the general practitioners to try and get help or treatment for vaginismus can be exhausting too. A lot of general practitioners don’t take women’s health seriously.
The number of general practitioners or doctors who told me ‘it’s probably chlamydia’, despite me showing them my recent test results and them saying ‘just get tested again incase’, was infuriating.
It took me about several general practitioners appointments, the last one including a massive break down to get a referral to a gynecologist.
I also decided to try and sort out vaginismus using my own tips and tricks
There are many really great pelvic floor exercises you can do to help relax your muscles and decrease the chances of them going into spams.
I make sure to communicate with the person I’m having sex with, that I can find it painful or at times can’t have sex.
Being open and communicating about vaginismus with sexual partners makes me feel like I can breathe again.
So far, no one has judged me for it. They ask if I need to stop and don’t get angry if sex isn’t an option. Trying out different sexual positions can also limit how intense the pain is too. Being on top for me is far less painful than missionary is.
Having vaginismus can make you feel so alone and at constant war with your body.
You can have problems with sex but still be sex positive.
You shouldn’t feel broken or alone for having vaginismus and you can love yourself and have a good sex life even if you do have vaginismus.
It can take a long time to get to a point where you no longer feel at war with your body and start to love your vulva and vagina despite the pain they can cause.
There is now a National Vaginismus Awareness Day (on September 15th) and so many amazing people in the sex positive community who are speaking up about vaginismus.
I wish 14 year old me had known that she wasn’t alone, but at 21 I finally have reached a point where I no longer hate having vaginismus.
– Emmie (21 years old, London, UK)