Vaginism: when pleasure becomes pain
Losing your virginity can be painful. But what happens if all the following sexual encounters are even more painful?
Movies lie about first time sex. Every woman or girl realizes this soon when looking around the room: no rose petals on the bed, no candles, and R&B music isn’t floating through the air.
The set up on my first time was pretty dingy. A dark university dorm room; disheveled sheets and the smell of alcohol, since my then-boyfriend and I had just come from a raging college party where everyone was trying to end up in an alcohol-induced coma. Oh sweet youth, how do we make it out alive?
I was scared because I knew that it could be uncomfortable or even painful. I’d heard enough stories from my friends since I was a little late to the game.
There was awkward fumbling as was expected. He tried to keep me calm, unsuccessfully; but the effort was appreciated. What followed is what I can only describe as white pain.
Have you ever felt a pain so strong you can’t see, feel, hear, or breathe? It felt like a knife directly splitting my flesh into two.
Needless to say, it was many months before I attempted to have sex again. This was after extensive counselling from a close friend who convinced me the terrible pain was only experienced because I had lost my virginity.
They were wrong.
Things got only worse
The second time was infinitely worse. Forget the pain; it felt like my vagina was an actual wall. Access closed. Try as he might, my partner could not get it in. This scenario was repeated a few more times for a couple of months before I gave up on sex completely.
Traumatized, embarrassed, and once again celibate, I took to the internet to research on what was troubling my vagina and making it either impossible or too painful to have sex. This was when I found out that I had identical symptoms to a condition known as vaginismus.
Vaginismus is the term used to describe recurrent or persistent involuntary tightening of muscles around the vagina whenever penetration is attempted. It can disrupt or completely stop your sex life, and can lead to distress, a loss of confidence, and relationship problems (source).
Vaginismus is caused by a multitude of reasons, many of which are psychological. Mine was caused by general anxiety around sex that ranged from a fear of pregnancy, sexual performance anxiety, and trauma from my first painful experience.
Putting a name to my problem made me feel a lot better. It also took away the shame that I had formed and I stopped blaming myself for seeming inadequate to performing the most natural human act.
I also spoke about this with my next sexual partners. Making them aware made them more conscious and gentle in ensuring I wasn’t feeling pressured. In return, I was more relaxed and eventually had no trouble having sex.
If you suspect that you’re suffering from vaginismus, I would recommend speaking to a sex therapist. There are vaginal exercises that help in relaxing your muscles. The main thing, however, is communicating about your condition with your sexual partners.
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