When You Can’t Have Sex
Being a 30-year-old virgin because your body just... can’t
Let’s talk about sex, baby.
Like a lot of young people who grew up in a Christian home, I was taught to “wait” for marriage. That’s right, no hanky panky before the wedding ring was on the finger. The fact that I didn’t even have my first real kiss until the summer after high school graduation saved me from the pressures and future humiliation I one day would face.
College... was a different story. I transferred to my out-of-state dream Music school after getting my AA degree and commuting from home. My romantic relationships I had when I was still living with my parents were at that time very innocent. That all changed when I fell head over heels for my Italian boyfriend I met at my new school. Our story of how we got together was like one out of the movies—dramatic, romantic, and very intense. I was 22-years-old at the time, but our love was deep. I guess that was the appeal of dating a European man: They are so passionate. Which makes the heartbreak even worse when they leave you.
To protect those involved, let’s call my Italian lover “Lorenzo.” I told Lorenzo that I was a virgin when we first started talking. He kind of laughed it off and told me that his relationships needed to have intimacy. I couldn’t blame him for his honesty, and after all, intimacy is more than just sex.
After a few months, we were Facebook “official.” Lorenzo, being a very romantic and sexual man, wanted us to be intimate any way we could. Still being a virgin, I told him we would have to take it slow. With Lorenzo, I experienced a lot of “firsts” in my sexual endeavors. He was wonderful and patient with me. He was always sweet and gentle to help me be open to sexual intimacy. But one day that patience would break...
Fast forwarding time to six months into our relationship, we decided to move in together after returning to school in the fall that next year. It was like marital bliss. Buying furniture together from IKEA, having our own bed, and cooking dinner felt amazing. At this point in time, we still hadn’t gone “all the way,” but have been sexually intimate in other ways, and on a daily basis mind you. I always made sure he had “his” in fear that he would leave one day for not being fully gratified.
Growing up I was taught that sex was a gift from God to married people. And in my heart I believed that. Sex was this huge thing that I had put on this giant pedestal. I did not take it lightly, and it was still a very sacred thing to share with a special someone. I did honestly think we were going to get married. We talked about it. We wanted marriage. But then all of a sudden, something snapped in Lorenzo.
We got serious so quickly, I think Lorenzo felt he was missing out on a normal college experience. We started fighting a lot more, and he expressed the need to be fully intimate. So we tried penetration... with just his finger. It was horrible, painful, and I didn’t know why. I felt like an alien was trying to examine me by force after being abducted. I told my self to relax, and that I was safe, but my body said “No.” I shut down. My vagina was so tense, as if it was trying to protect itself from being raped. I didn’t understand it and my boyfriend couldn’t wrap his head around it.
I was mortified. I was so confused. My heart loved this man while my body decided it was in survival mode, trying to ward him off. Our relationship was in jeopardy. I no longer could look forward to being intimate due to complete and utter fear, so I decided to speak with a school counselor.
Before meeting with my counselor I did some research to find out what was happening to me and if anyone else out there had similar experiences. It turns out this was an actual medical condition called vaginismus. It’s a physical manifestation of trauma. This could mean sexual trauma, psychological trauma or fear. Women with vaginismus have little or no control of their pelvic floor, and any type of penetration can be extremely painful or impossible.
It felt good to just know that I wasn’t the only one out there with this issue, and just talking about it made me feel a little less alienated. After discussing it with the counselor, they told me to get a dildo to practice with so I feel like I’m in control. Feeling like I was finally taking back my power over my own life again felt amazing, so I rushed home to tell my boyfriend that I was working on myself and making a plan.
Literally the next day when returning home from class my boyfriend was waiting for me with a smile on his face and a present in his hand. I was eager to see what he bought me. To my surprise, inside was a small purple plastic dildo/vibrator...
It was very sweet that he was trying to “help” and be a loving, supportive boyfriend who wanted to be part of all this. But... I needed to do this on MY terms. It was plastic? And purple? Which was his favorite color. Again, my control was taken away.
Of course I tried to do what the counselor said and let this ridiculous purple plastic thing even near my vagina. I couldn’t do it. I hated that thing. It was the enemy, impersonal, and I felt ridiculous trying to even attempt penetration. Lorenzo would give me some alone time to “practice,” but it was just impossible for me. After much frustration, my counselor suggested I see a sex therapist who specialized in vaginismus.
I was working under the clock. I could hear the ticking in my mind like a time bomb was about to go off. My relationship was falling apart, and I was fighting to just hold on.
My next move was to see a sex therapist who said I’d also need physical therapy to retrain my pelvic floor muscles. My therapist was very kind and performed EMDR therapy. This is used for people who have experienced trauma and it helps find the source or root of the problem. Therapy was helping me a bit psychologically, but I was not cured by any means. It simply opened my eyes to some causes and let me vent through cognitive therapy.
The biggest hurdle was the physical therapy. I didn’t get too far because my college insurance only covered about 20% of the treatment. My PT was a lovely woman who would hook me up to this little machine where she connected wires on sticky pads to areas around my crotch to measure the muscle spasms. She simply put her hand on my thigh and the meter went crazy. I realized then I had a serious problem, and this wasn’t just going to go away quickly.
Was I ever going to have sex? Was my boyfriend going to lose patience and leave me? Was I ever going to have children? Would anyone in the world want to marry a woman who couldn’t have sex!?
My mind was racing and I fell into deep depression. Lorenzo suggested that we don’t live together anymore to save the relationship. So I moved out, with only a few things. This spiced things up a little bit because it brought mystery back into the relationship. But after trying to show Lorenzo I was getting “better” one night, things quickly turned into the pinnacle moment of my vulnerability and shame.
Getting freshly Brazilian waxed, lighting candles and drinking pink champagne sounds like potential for an intimate night, right? Well, I thought it was until Lorenzo wanted to use the dreaded purple plastic toy. I laid on the bed, closed my eyes and clenched my teeth as he tried to put it inside me. I tried to act like I was enjoying it for his sake, but he saw right through it. He stopped, stood up with his hands in the air and said, “I can’t do this... I just can’t do this anymore,” as he began to walk towards the door. I told him he couldn't just leave like that, but he did. He left me alone and naked in my dark candlelit room. I never felt so naked in my life, so vulnerable, so exposed.
Needless to say, Lorenzo left me. Not only literally, but he left the relationship. I was broken. I had no power. I just lost the man I loved who had now seen me at my lowest point and left me alone in it. I fell into a deep depression. I was taking meds for anxiety and stopped eating. When I went home to visit family at Christmas, I was 95 pounds. I lost my self and all of my self worth.
It took many years for me to really move on from all trauma I experienced in college. In my opinion, this condition is the equivalent to a man unable to “get it up” while in the bedroom. It’s humiliating and can make you feel as if you are not grown adult. I didn’t feel like a real woman. I felt powerless and alone.
Vaginismus is a real thing, and it affects two women out of 1000. The numbers may not even be accurate due to the shame of addressing it and/or getting treatment.
I didn’t get back into a serious relationship with someone again until I was 30 years old, which was the beginning of my healing and recovery.
If you or someone you know has a similar situation and have not yet been diagnosed, I hope that this piece of my story will encourage you to seek help in getting treatment and your power back. You are NOT alone, and there is a cure to this intimate condition.