Sex Should Not Be Painful: The Stigma of Vaginismus

Cisgender girls are taught that vaginal sex is supposed to hurt the first time (or first few times) you have penetrative sex. This message proliferates within families and across the media we consume. While we know this is not true—intercourse should absolutely not hurt—talking about unwanted pain during intercourse is still taboo. Dominant culture defines sex between cisgender men and women as an inequitable transaction—women endure discomfort and pain in service of men’s pleasure; pain is viewed as a twisted right of passage that women should expect and bear. However, the pain is supposed to go away after you’re no longer a “novice,” right? But what if it doesn’t go away? 

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Sex becomes uncomfortable or painful, and entry may be more difficult or impossible depending upon the severity of this tightened state. With attempts at sex, any resulting discomfort further reinforces the reflex response so that it intensifies more. The body experiences increased pain and reacts by bracing more on an ongoing basis, further entrenching this response and creating a vaginismus cycle of pain.
The Cycle of Pain

Vaginismus is a *miserable* experience.

I developed secondary vaginismus as a side effect of PTSD, caused by a sexually abusive relationship.

I’m lucky that it was secondary vaginismus -it was psychosomatic, and therefore easier to treat that primary vaginismus. I was treated mostly via psycho-sexual therapy, which involved more talk than pelvic physical therapy.

My therapist was brilliant, and my treatment was fast and effective.

I’d never heard of vaginismus previously, and I dealt with it for two years before I went to a GP. The reason I finally went? Because I actually passed out during sex.

It was the first time I’d had sex in two years (self imposed celibacy) and I decided that I was ready for sex again. Oh boy, was I ready for some sex. But no – my vagina completely shut down, I passed out, and my sexcapade was an epic failure.

In the same way that we think incredibly painful periods are normal, we think that painful sex is normal.

It really isn’t, and if you’re constantly experiencing pain during sex, get yourself to a doctor. And if the first doctor you see isn’t interested, find another one. Keep going until someone listens.

It’s your body, and you DESERVE to experience joy through it. You are not supposed to just suffer through sex. Don’t lie there and think of God and England – those days are DONE.

If you want to find out more about vaginismus, you can do some reading here.