This is not me jumping on a bandwagon, although I have been known to do exactly that in the past, this is me researching and conveying what I have found, and so I present A Gentleman’s Guide to Vaginismus.
Vaginismus. Yes, I know that the lady-area is an area of great mystique and is to be respected, but for some reason science decided to increase that air of mystery by using complex words. It’s pronounced vaj-in-isz-muss and it means an uncontrolled tightening, spasm or contraction of the vaginal muscles, in response to penetration.
What causes vaginismus?
Staying true to the mystique mentioned above, there’s no definitive explanation as to why some people with a vagina suffer from vaginismus. The internet is awash with possibilities, so I’ve tried to group them together.
· Psychological factors, such as negative sexual expectations – pain, size, comfort etc;
· Previous experience, including painful first time, abuse etc;
· Physiological reasons, like physical damage & other conditions of the vaginal area;
· Problems with a relationship, including fear of pregnancy.
This isn’t a complete list, and just cause it’s not on there doesn’t mean it’s not a factor. As with everything in life, we are all different, and one person’s experience is not the same as the next. It doesn’t make anyone’s worse or less bad than anyone else’s.
What does it mean?
As a chap, it’s impossible to know what vaginismus must feel like, and the frustration it may cause for the sexually active individual. As with the cause, the symptoms can be wide ranging and differ from person to person. It’s not uncommon for penetration to be a real issue – significant discomfort and pain from not just the tools of pleasure and procreation, but also from the monthly necessities.
There is absolutely no control over this – the brain has decided to forgo control of the response to penetration, and instead set the default to contract. There is no over-ride, it happens and there is no control over it. This can mean burning, stinging pain; a fear of sex and loss of desire. Now, I don’t know about you, but faced with that, I’m not entirely sure I’d even want to consider sexual intercourse.
How can I fix it?
It’s true, us chaps generally like to try and fix things. It’s also true that if you’re in a relationship with a vaginismus sufferer, you’re likely to want to support your partner. For your stereotypical bloke, I’m afraid that you may have to leave your comfort zone here, because the first few things that can be done are not Mr Stereotype’s strong suit. This doesn’t mean that you can’t wear your fixit hat, but that you might have to wear it laterally.
What I’m referring to is of course communication, oh and the GP. A decent chat isn’t going to make vaginismus go away, but it will help to alleviate any secondary concerns, it might also be useful as an informal counselling session. A trip to the GP is a good idea in case there are any physiological conditions that might be causing the vaginismus that can be treated. A yeast infection, UTI or STI for example. The GP, at least in the UK, is the gatekeeper to secondary services, like specialist counselling, or a referral to a gynaecological specialist or psychosexual therapist.
So, does that put the kybosh on, well, y’know?
Regardless of what formal treatment your partner might be receiving, there is plenty you can do to sate your fixit desires, and indeed to keep the intimacy of a relationship; these are things that can form a part of any healthy relationship, but are perhaps a little more pertinent where vaginismus is a factor.
One thing you can do is tantra and sensate meditation, bear with me… You’ll realise from above that many of the causes are psychological, so it should come as no surprise that some of the potential remedies are of the softer sciences. Tantra is focussing inwards to your own wellbeing and sensate is focussing outwards on your partner’s wellbeing. Done together, it can help break down the psychological barriers. Extending further to intimate but non-sexual touching, with mutual agreement and trust that no erogenous zone is to be touched. What we’re trying to do is break down the barriers that the brain has put up around its decision to forgo control, and find ourselves a way back to the control room.
If that is really alien to you, then just do couple type things – take a bath together, do some massage, go for a run! Just spend time together, it can only help; it’s about doing non sexual but intimate activity.
Is there anything we can do?
Dilation is an option for some, and there are tools available to offer a more tangible solution, but as with everything, discuss discuss discuss, and respect the decisions made. Also, have a look into pelvic floor exercises and other relaxation techniques.
Vaginismus can be treated successfully; there are very many positive stories, and it seems to me that the key is to be open minded and embrace all the possible solutions, since most success come from a coordinated mixture of these treatments overseen by a professional. Let us not be afraid to discuss vaginismus, spread the word and use the hashtag #PainFreeSex on Social Media.
One last word from sub
Don’t forget that sexual activity and intimacy doesn’t just mean penetrative sex. In fact, we very rarely have penetrative sex; maybe this is an opportunity whilst treatment is underway to explore some other kinks, and fetishes? I would, perhaps obviously, recommend some bondage play, and definitely some sensation play. Not only will this give you both some intimacy, it will also expand your mind. BDSM can offer a way into your untapped resources, to find out things about yourself you never knew. Yes, treating vaginismus may take time, but it’s by no means a pause on your relationship.