Note: Originally published in The Syndrome Magazine, November 2019
I was ready. Well, I was certainly ready to try, anyway.
It had been 22 months of celibacy, 5 months of therapy, and 11 months of taking antidepressants. I was ready to get back on the proverbial horse, and ride off into the sexually satisfied sunset.
I had the opportunity, and it was with someone that I trusted – someone I’d slept with between the ending of my terrible relationship and the resulting PTSD that came with it. So I wasn’t worried about freaking out, or having any panic attacks or flashbacks midway through; I was *so* ready to reclaim my sexual agency. I am woman, hear me roar!
Except I didn’t so much roar, as squeak. And then hyperventilate. And then unceremoniously slide down my bathroom door in a faint, not unlike those cartoon pigeons that fly face first into a door and then slide down the glass in a painfully slow manner.
This wasn’t a ladylike swoon, as in “Oh, Mr. Darcy, I am quite overcome…” Just “Maybe I’ve had a bit too much to drink?”(entirely possible, FYI – Dutch courage was necessary in order to climb this Dutch mountain of a man.) “I think I’ll just sit down.” And… thud.
I’m assured that I’ve never been sexier.
While this is now one of my favorite stories to whip out at parties, at the time it wasn’t quite so funny.
Looking back, I can fully appreciate the hilarity of being gently patted back into consciousness by the world’s tallest Oompa Loompa (6’9″, complete with orange face paint and green wig). Did I mention this was at a Halloween party?
Said Oompa Loompa was desperately trying to see if I was indeed still alive, whilst trying not to look too horrified at the blood pouring down my legs. Never will I be able to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in the same way again.
But, I was not to be defeated. A hotel room was waiting, I was in my sexiest black dress (now slightly smeared with orange body paint) and I’d shaved my legs. I was going to have sex, dammit.
“Shall we go to the hotel?” I squeaked brightly (and possibly slightly hysterically).
Off we went, and I proceeded with what can best be described as grim determination.
I WAS GOING TO HAVE SEX, DAMMIT.
Could I relax? Fuck no! Where the hell had this feeling of being whacked in the clunge with a sledge hammer (my affectionate nickname for this particular gentleman) come from? It had been a while, but I certainly remembered having very much enjoyed myself on previous occasions with said sledge hammer.
Did I enjoy myself? No, not really, though it wasn’t for lack of trying on his part.
Maybe I approached the evening with the wrong attitude, or the wrong frame of mind. Mentally, I was ready. Physically, even though I really, really wanted to have sex, I clearly wasn’t ready, because it hurt so damn much.
I was desperate to enjoy myself, to give way to a night of no strings hedonistic pleasure, but I didn’t get to have it. I was too tense to enjoy it, even though I was desperate to. You know when you’re struggling to fall asleep, and you get more and more worried that you haven’t fallen asleep yet? It was like that.
I could have stopped it at any point (in fact, my GP was gobsmacked that I’d kept going), but I didn’t want to admit defeat. I used to be so good at this. Pleasure was kind of my bag, baby. So, what the hell was going on?
My doctor diagnosed me with secondary vaginismus, aka, vaginal muscle spasms (which, btw, I will name my band, if I ever have one). I was delighted, I can tell you. Not only had my ex-boyfriend broken my brain, but he’d broken my vag too. It seemed overly vindictive, if you ask me. Bastard.
I know you’re all dying to ask – how’s penetration going for me these days? Happily, I am now able to boff away to my heart’s content, thank you for asking! But it took another year of celibacy, some pelvic physical therapy combined with talk therapy, practicing with dilators, and a new partner who really, really wanted me to be comfortable.
I’ve learned that sex does NOT have to involve penetration. I’ve also learned that we don’t talk about this anywhere near enough. It makes me sad that as women, we’re pretty much just conditioned to accept that sex might be painful for us. But it really, really shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t just grin and bear it – our bodies are our homes, and we should get to take as much pleasure out of them as we possibly can, whatever that pleasure looks like, whether it involves penetration, or any of the almost countless other ways we can have sex.
Choosing not to have sex is also a perfectly valid path to take.
However you get your rocks off, I hope you are all having just the best time, experiencing whatever super-hot sexy fun times look like for YOU.
And yes, I have made up for time lost over three years of celibacy. And then some 😉