I have vaginismus – this is why you should know more about it

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I have vaginismus – this is why you should know more about it

Sex should never, ever hurt

I remember when I was in my first ever sex education class. We were 11 and so of course, sex seemed like the funniest thing in the world to us. I think we giggled every time the word sex was said, which made it a very long hour to say the least. However, one detail stuck out for me. The part where we were told ‘For girls, sometimes it will hurt on your first time, but this passes’. We accepted this as fact, and from then on the idea that sex will hurt on your first time was consistently reinforced as we all entered puberty and became grown ups.

I believed it was normal for sex to hurt on your first time, and so when I had sex for the first time and I was in agonising pain to the point we had to stop, I put it down to my being a virgin and my boyfriend being very well hung.  In fact, when another of my friends lost her virginity and she said it didn’t hurt at all, I remember privately thinking “he must have a tiny cock then”, because how else could sex not hurt on the first time?

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Here’s the thing that no-one ever says, which you need to hear when you’re growing up and about to become sexually active: Sex should never hurt, your hymen doesn’t break and if you find yourself in pain, you either aren’t turned on, or you might have vaginismus, which despite sounding like a fun vag-related holiday*, is in fact an involuntary tightening of the vagina muscles which makes sex painful.

I first heard the term “vaginismus” when I was in sex therapy for anorgasmia, which is ridiculous in itself- that I only heard the name of this very common vagina problem in a therapist’s office. She asked if I had ever had any problems putting tampons in, or if I found sex painful because if so I might have vaginismus. Not wanting to look like an idiot, I lied and said of course not, when in fact I didn’t use tampons until I was 17 because it hurt and I once had to run out of a classroom mid-lesson because a tampon was so dislodged and painful. That’s not the kind of info you want to tell anyone, least of all a sex therapist you’ve just met.

So I did research on vaginismus by myself and suddenly, I was fuming. I thought of all my female friends for whom sex had been painful for, and how we just accepted this as a fact of life. The truth is, if you’re turned on enough, (and believe me, I was, I’ve got a boyfriend who can eat my pussy like it’s his last meal on earth), and sex still hurts? Something isn’t right and there’s a good chance you have vaginismus. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time, or your 1000th time, sex shouldn’t hurt and we need to stop perpetuating this myth.

Firstly, if we tell boys and girls that sex is painful for the women, it allows men to be lazy in bed and not go downtown and get us in the mood first. I’ve heard so many stories from female friends who have had sex with boys who think they can just shove their dick in without any foreplay. I also know so many boys who have bragged about how tight their girlfriend is. Um, honey unless she’s got vaginismus that means she’s not aroused. Just bear in mind, vaginas are naturally three to four inches deep and expand far more than double that size when aroused, it shouldn’t be hurting you no matter what penis/dildo size you’re trying to get up there and it shouldn’t feel tight. If you hear a boy bragging about a “tight pussy” chances are he’s shit in bed.

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Secondly, it means women overlook genuine problems because they think it’s normal and carry on having a sex life which isn’t as good as it could be. Vaginismus can be caused by many things, both physical, such as infection and psychological, such as anxiety, just to give a couple of examples. It’s never a good idea to prolong health problems, as opposed to getting them checked out. Vaginas can be annoyingly sensitive, responding to anything, such as a new sexual partner, anxiety about sex from previous pain and even stress from things which really aren’t it’s business such as exams and moving out. It sucks, and seems like a major design flaw to me, but that’s just how vaginas are.

I just want women everywhere to know that pain during sex isn’t normal, it may be vaginismus and so women everywhere can have better sex lives. After finding out about vaginismus, I tried a variety of means of improving it. Lube is obviously a vaginismus girl’s best friend, but communication and building my sexual confidence also helped my vaginismus go away. For worse cases, there are also muscles relaxants, vaginal trainers and medication which can be prescribed to you. Once you know the cause, you can work out what is right for you.  Sex, when it doesn’t hurt, is great and we all deserve a pain free sex life.

*I’m totally for a vag-related holiday btw, we definitely should start celebrating vaginas more.

@meganwardy