My vagina hates me: adventures at the sex clinic part 2
AKA the Chronicles of Poonarnia: part 2
And so continues the section of my increasingly large body of writing on vulval pain etc. in which i discuss my treatment. Elsewhere, if you’re interested, you can find discussions of how this condition (provoked localised vulvodynia, AKA vestibulodynia, previously known as vulvar vestibulitis) has impacted my personal and sexual life and how i still have great sex.
You can also read Adventures at the sex clinic: part 1 here.
So, on with the show!
P.S. In spite of my “autovaginadentata”, i still have really great sex.
That’s two fingers up (pun definitely intended) to anyone who says heterosex has to involve vaginal penetration to be good.
ok i’m going to ask some detailed, very personal questions, which you don’t have to answer if you choose not to. i am afraid i’m dealing with the same condition and i’m not sexually active, and i feel very daunted that i can’t be in the future because of this. how do your sex partners or potential sex partners react to you not being able to be have penetrative sex? have you had any long term relationships, and did not being able to have penetrative sex affect that relationship in any way? how do you usually tell people, that is if you do? thank you in advance
Firstly, i want to say that i absolutely encourage you to seek treatment if it’s causing you a lot of worry. Not only from a sexual perspective but from a freedom perspective—for example, whilst i don’t really think i’m missing much in the sex arena, i’d really like to be able to have the option of using tampons because sometimes using pads can be really gross. Riding a bike can also be painful for me.
There are lots of treatments available—psychosexual counselling, pelvic floor exercises, steroid treatment, drug treatment to address the chronic pain aspect, anaesthetic treatment, graduated dildo treatment… i could go on. If it’s troubling you, please go to the doctor.
I’ll try to answer. A lot of the answers cover multiple questions—i’ll try to keep it as logically-structured as i can.
“How do your sex partners or potential partners react to you not being able to have penetrative sex?”
It varies. There are three people with whom the topic has come up.
Person A, who i was involved with around the age of 16/17 (and on and off into my twenties, but that’s… the folly of youth), was quite understanding at the beginning, because he put it down to my being a virgin and being nervous rather than an actual medical problem. I thought that’s what it was, too, and i thought it was “normal” that virgins feel pain when they have sex, so eventually i ended up gritting my teeth and letting him do it, thinking that’s what all virgins have to go through. I saw him again at the age of 19 and he was less patient… and i was drunk… so again i let him. On both occasions my vagina tore. Let that be a cautionary tale. I got officially diagnosed at the age of twenty and from then on was quite adamant with him and anyone else that there’s no way i’m putting myself through that sort of torture just so he could blow his load. He was a bit of a tool about it.
Another guy, Person B, was pretty whiny about it. But on the other hand (as i will cover in the answer to the next question), it also allowed him to blame me for his sexual shortcomings…
“Have you had any long-term relationships, and did not being able to have penetrative sex affect that relationship in any way?”
As covered in the previous answer, i guess there are three pertinent “relationships”. With Person A it was less a long-term relationship as a serially short-term relationship sustained over a period of four or five years (a sort of friends with benefits thing)—and i’ve detailed how sex with him worked above.
With Person B it started off as a casual thing but degenerated (and that truly is un mot juste) into a long-term relationship characterised by my: feeling like shit nearly all the time, getting drunk if i knew i was seeing him and trying to break up with him for a year before successfully accomplishing it. It took up two years of my life.
I can’t/won’t share many details, but one pertinent point i should stress is that he was (still is, i’ve heard—but if i never see him again in my life it will be too soon) extremely overweight. He ate like crap and was extremely unhealthy, which meant that he had trouble getting/keeping it up, for starters. He also has an unusually small penis. This was exacerbated by what i think is known as “buried penis syndrome”—he was so fat that the fat on his groin sort of engulfed his penis and made it appear even smaller. These factors combined meant that there was little to no chance he could get it up/in anyone—but my problem meant that he could pretend his problems didn’t exist. Anyway, i hate him.
At this moment i want to pause to say that i know that person B is anomalous and that most men are not actually phenomenal dickheads who i wish would rot in hell.
For example!! I am currently dating a guy—this doesn’t really count as a long-term relationships but i want to end on a high note so please forgive—and the sex is great. Best sex i’ve ever had. My self-hating pussy isn’t even an issue. I cannot stress that enough. It is not an issue. Sex is so, so, SO much more than lying back and thinking of England whilst a dude rams his piece up your vag. There are so much alternatives to PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex.
The 69, whilst it can be distracting (“how can i focus on sucking this cock when what’s going on with my cunt feels so good?!”), is often an underused weapon in one’s sexual arsenal. Speaking of arse… I know plenty of women who very much enjoy anal penetration.
And, of course, your sexual activities and pleasures don’t have to be simultaneous. I really like giving blowjobs, and it means that i can focus on making my partner feel really good without worrying about my own orgasm. Likewise, he really likes going down on me. We can take our time—neither one of us has to worry about whether we’re going to come “too soon” or “too slow”. It’s great. And a boon is that i don’t have to really worry about getting pregnant, either (although i’m really a belt-and-braces girl on that front so i’m on The Pill, too).
Sex isn’t about following a script or a rulebook or something. If it feels good and you both want it, do whatever you like.
“How do you usually tell people, that is if you do?”
With the person i’m currently seeing, it didn’t coming up until he asked about it—asked if i was nervous about penetration. And told him honestly what the deal was. I’m quite open about it with my friends when we talk about sex.
I hope these answers have helped. I really would encourage you to seek treatment if this is distressing you—but i will also emphatically state that it doesn’t have to be a “sexual” problem if you don’t let it—you can have a fabulous sex life without vaginal penetration.
Vagina monologues part 2b: my vagina hates me
I have a sexual disorder. My vagina hates me.
I have vestibulodynia. It’s a form of vulvodynia (vulval pain) localised to the entrance (vestibule, funnily enough) of the vagina. I have the provoked kind, meaning it only hurts when it’s touched. This makes penetration (with anything; penis, vibrator, speculum, finger, cotton bud) excruciatingly painful. As a consequence of pain associated with penetration, I also have secondary vaginismus—which is when the pubococcygeus muscle goes into spasm, effectively clamping the entrance to the vagina shut and making penetration difficult or impossible.
The cause of the vestibulodynia is unknown. Some women notice it occurring after times of great stress; others after a thrush (yeast) infection; others after childbirth or menopause; others for no reason at all. It is a type of chronic pain with no known cure—but many “try this; it might help” remedies are bandied about.
Vaginismus is often psychological—occurring particularly in virgins who anticipate painful intercourse/penetration and involuntarily tense up. This is primary vaginismus. Secondary vaginismus occurs in women who have previously been able to have pain-free penetration.
I’m not 100% on the cause of my ills. A conflation of really annoying shit, i think.
Here’s what happened:
I hope i remember these events in the right order.
I was 17 and had not had penetrative sex but was sexually active. It was summer. I got my period and decided to try tampons for the first time. It was slightly uncomfortable to insert but not painful. I was really paranoid about getting Toxic Shock Syndrome so i was changing it up every hour or two, and of course i used a pad overnight. The next day, i had developed what my doctor diagnosed as thrush—but it wasn’t itchy, just very painful—a sore, stinging pain rather than an achey, stabbing pain. I got some canesten, no biggie.
The next day I got really ill. I had bronchitis that made me so feverish that i fainted twice (and i’m not the fainting kind). I went to the doctor again and she put me on antibiotics. Then i had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics, which was ghastly, and then my doctor switched me to a different kind and also gave me some more fluconzaole for the thrush (which was being exacerbated by my infection and antibiotic treatment). I was ill for another week or so and then i recovered.
A few weeks later i was about to have penetrative sex for the first time—and found it was impossible and extremely painful. And has been ever since.
In the five years since then, i have had both relationships and less-structured sexual encounters/arrangements. And in that time, i have had penetrative sex twice, both whilst drunk (to numb the pain) and under some duress coming from the man involved—something i really don’t wish to repeat.
I have had to undergo a number (larger than i care to remember) of painful pelvic exams, ranging from being probed with a cotton bud or a gloved finger (fucking ouch doesn’t cover it) to being penetrated with a cold metal speculum and cranked open, or having an internal ultrasound exam with a cylindrical probe about as wide as two fingers that went all up inside my vagina, past my cervix and into my uterus. I’ve been crying my eyes out (and i’m not typically one to cry, really) on examination tables (whilst also desperately needing to pee, in the case of the internal ultrasound). I’ve experienced so much vaginal tearing—because of the “force” involved in penetrating a ‘vaginismussed’ vagina.
Many of you will have heard of a folkloric phenomenon called Vagina Dentata—toothed vagina. The myth (made more popular in recent years thanks to the Hollywood film Teeth) features a woman whose vagina bites off the penis of whosoever should attempt to enter her. This is what penetration is like for me—only i feel like i’m biting myself.
And all i read about in mainstream women’s (and men’s) magazines about “great sex!” is focussed on one after another of penis-in-vagina sex positions and techniques. The message this gives me is that “if you’re not having sex with a penis all up inside you, you’re not having good sex”. That’s fucked up!
Honestly? Getting a dick up there is the least of my worries.
Stay tuned for part three…
The Scarlet Woman’s Sexposé # 1: Painful Sex
Hi guys! I decided a little while ago that this was something I really wanted to talk about, and I’ve been doing a lot of research on the subject. What really spurred me on in the first place was all of the research about female pelvic/vaginal disorders that I did when researching my ovarian cyst. And the second thing that that kicked me into high gear was the sex scenes in all of Christine Feehan’s novels, which I have lovingly been criticising for the past couple days.
People, I find, generally don’t really talk about painful sex, at least apart from first time sex. The idea is that if you like the guy you’re having sex with and you want to have sex, eveything should just magically work out. Now, it’s important to understand that I’m not talking about bad sex - by painful, I mean painful. As in, ‘you need to stop, you’re hurting me’ sex.
A lot of girls (at least in the research online that i’ve been doing) seem to accept painful sex as a ‘fact of life’, and allow it to continue. Many women don’t understand that what is making sex painful for them is actually a medical disorder, or too little lubrication, or the wrong position. A lot of girls simply accept it, and many grown women grow to feel as though they are being ‘punished’ for things like premarital sex, etc.
What I’d like to stress in the following article is that painful sex (which is called dispareunia) is a real thing - so many women are told that it’s ‘all in their head’, which can lead to a woman never having a healthy sex life. We’re going to explore different conditions that affect hundreds of thousands of women in North America, like Vulvodynia, Vaginismus, Vuvlar Vestibulitis, and Endometriosis. But I’m also going to talk about how and why sex can be painful for women NOT suffering from any of these disorders. Sex is meant to be enjoyable, and if it’s painful, there is NO reason why you should feel the need to go on with it. Dealing with painful sex is something that needs to happen with both partners taking an active role. Some women have disorders that unfortunately mean they will never be able to have full, penetrative sex - because of this, we’re also going to stress the fact that sex is more than just penetration, and creativity and patience go a long way towards rectifying the situation.
I’m adding a link to this on my Vagina Monologues page. I wish i’d written this!
All this is obvious if you have one. But half of us don’t.
I have one. And something went wrong with it. — Kaysen, Susanna. The Camera My Mother Gave Me. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
Perfect prologue for a series I will be writing very soon.