This year, Sh! marks Vaginismus Awareness Day with an online event providing support and advice to those living with painful sex and will give out dilator sets, donated to women on limited income, through our Pay it Forward scheme. To raise awareness about the impact of this condition, Sh! is gathering real-life stories to publish on the vaginismusawareness.com blog. The story below has been shared with us and the author has given us permission to share it with you.
Trigger Warning: SA
Please read the story with caution. You may find the content distressing or traumatic and if you do, please take a break and maybe call a friend, or engage in an activity that will help ground you. Love, Team Sh! xx
From a young age my parents were uptight about talking about sex and I was raised in a strict Catholic home. My ideas about men and sex were naive and I held very negative views of men because my father was often cold or very angry. When I was a young woman, a couple of negative experiences with men took place, one in which I froze when I thought a man was going to rape me.
I met my first boyfriend at 19 and I could not relax at the idea of penetration. In fact I was a mess and carried the shame and anger around with me for years about the condition even though I was a very passionate and sexual woman. Though I saw counsellors and doctors, I could not bring myself to try dilating. My mindset was so negative and I felt alone and a failure as a woman.
I am now 50 years of age. In my thirties I experienced penetration for the first time and it didn't hurt at all. But despite this I am still working on anxiety around penetration. My mindset has happily improved as I have aged and I have worked on my self esteem and am still doing with positive affirmations which do help my confidence.
Earlier this year I read a book which explained how I was responsible for my condition and far from feeling hopeless at this, I now understand how I am in charge of my mind and thus my body. Now I realise how I have been protecting myself all these years and this gives me back the power. I have still had to stand firm in my belief that I deserve a loving relationship and a happy sex life as much as any other woman. It is easy to be fooled into thinking other women's sex lives are amazing and to feel ashamed for having this condtion but I have come to realise many women have experienced this condition at one time or another. In fact, it must be natural for that to be the case but we just don't talk about it. Today you are no longer vilified as a woman for being sexual but for not being sexy enough. So there isn't a way for women to openly talk about this situation. Even if you share it with other women, they may not understand it.
Funnily enough, I have found there are a lot of men out there who are supportive and understanding and they dont judge. In a society where people are generally very upfront about sex, Vaginismus (which is a stupid name anyway) is a taboo subject. In fact it isn't a condition at all. It is a flight or fight response after years of conditioning, more like a reflex reaction. It took a lot of years from me and I spent way too long being a victim to it. I look forward to the day when I have totally put this behind me.
Thank you for reading my story.