Hello and, while I might be late to the punch, happy new year!
January is arguably the worst month of the year (sorry Capricorns), so I’m relieved to have finally entered February.
Not just because of the Blue Monday month, but also because I’m ready to share my experience with vaginismus.
“What's that?” I hear you ask. All in good time, dear reader, all in good time.
This issue spiked my interest in sexual health and talking about sex with other people, hence why Sexplorations exists. So, with that being said, let's go back to the beginning of my vaginismus journey.
Picture this: It's 2019, Teresa May has just resigned, Musical.ly is now TikTok, and the first season of comedy drama series Sex Education has just dropped on Netflix.
I was starting my last year of my A-levels in 2019 and vividly remember watching downloaded episodes of Sex Ed during study sessions - don't do that in your study sessions, please.
During my drama class, my classmates and I would talk about who we loved and hated in the series. We talked about how iconic Eric was, played by the new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa and how much we fancied Gillian Anderson's Jean Milburn. Still crushing on you, Gillian.
Everyone was talking about it. Everyone loved it. And everyone related to it, whether we discussed the intricacies of it or not.
We were all 17/18 and getting ready for university and what comes after school and the series was a breath of fresh air to see ourselves and our sexual experiences on screen, in a nostalgic sense for some people and in an anticipatory sense for others.
For me, it was still definitely anticipatory. I felt represented seeing the anxieties of sex presented on screen and also having the main character of a sex orientated show being a very blatant virgin, Otis - the one providing the ‘sex education’. I felt seen.
One character I loved and always looked forward to seeing on screen was Lily, played by Tanya Reynolds. A sex and sci-fi obsessed virgin who is desperate to lose her virginity for fear of being left behind socially.
Over the season, Lily finds someone willing to have sex with her and indulge in her self written sci-fi sex fantasies.
During this sexual encounter though, Lily is forced to stop due to pain during penetration. Frustrated and confused, she seeks out Otis who concludes that she could be suffering from vaginismus, a condition where the vaginal muscles tighten suddenly when insertion is attempted.
This was the first time I had ever heard about vaginismus.
I didn't think that whatever that tightness was even had a term or name for it, I thought it was just ‘stress’ or me being ‘high strung’.
I recognised symptoms that I had in Lily such as trouble with using common items like tampons. But at that age, I wasn't sexually active so I filed Lily and anything to do with vaginismus away in my brain somewhere. Until, 2 years later.
I had just gotten into my first situationship, an exciting yet ultimately damaging milestone that every person must experience.
I had noticed how difficult, and sometimes impossible, it was to have penetrative sex with my partner. It wasn't just painful, it just. Would. Not. Happen.
I truly felt like there was something seriously wrong with me. How could I have been so ready for something but my body was standing in my way?
I booked an appointment with my GP who then refered me to a gynecology specialist and I was then diagnosed with vaginismus. A light bulb went off in my head when I heard the doctor say the word.
“Oh I've heard of that before! Like the girl from that show on Netflix.”
My gynecologist told me about a treatment plan which involved using dialator tools, regular massages, and attempting intercourse and intimacy exercises with my partner ... not ideal when you're in a situationship.
Despite that, I pushed through with physical therapy appointments and still continued to attempt penetration at the same time.
Partners came and went, wink wink, and I eventually met my current boyfriend about 2 years into my treatment.
I always prefaced any relationship with my issues with vaginismus and explained the effect that this could have on intimacy. I started doing this after an arse who I was with previously responded to me not being able to have sex said, “Ah it's okay, you still have a mouth and hands.”
Big fat no.
But my boyfriend responded in the best way possible, making sure I was comfortable and not in any pain. Checking in regularly and prioritising me during intimacy.
It was honestly a shock to be with someone so attentive and kind. As our relationship progressed and I implemented at home treatments and therapies, sex became so much more comfortable. So much so that I'm now begining to be discharged from physiotherapy sessions.
I do still have symptoms but thanks to my wonderful partner and all of the treatment and physiotherapy I’ve had over the last few years, I'm finally able to enjoy sex and live my life with much less pain.
It's amazing what a caring partner, some dialators and a teen comedy drama can do.
Thank you for reading this month’s Sexplorations. Have a fantastic February and I'll be back in March.