Hitting a wall

Sex on Tuesday

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When I knew it was true, I cried.

We hadn’t known each other for very long, so I felt pretty ridiculous crying in front of him. But I couldn’t help it — the emotions were too overwhelming to stave off.

I’d tried to be cavalier and funny about it at first. When I thought we might hook up, I mentioned casually that I was a virgin.

In my bedroom later, he asked if he could finger me, and I told him he could try. But when I winced as soon as he attempted two fingers, he stopped.

“You are not the first to be defeated by my vagina,” I told him. No, the first to be defeated by my vagina was undoubtedly me.

I explained that I wasn’t really a virgin by choice anymore. I had my suspicions that something might be wrong with my body — I’d researched dyspareunia (painful sex) and vaginismus before — but I didn’t have any concrete evidence yet.

So I wanted to “get some.” I fantasized about it before we met up, imagining what it might be like to finally shed the virgin label.

Later that night, I lay on my back, aroused as hell, and he asked me if I wanted to have sex. I moaned “yesssss” and “I want to” at him, but they weren’t for him — they were for me. I was frantically trying to get my vagina to cooperate, to tell every part of my conscious and subconscious mind that I was ready for this and wanted to do it.

He positioned himself and attempted to guide his penis in. All I remember from there is the pain that bloomed below my abdomen. I gritted my teeth and told myself to deal with it — I knew that my first time having sex wouldn’t be amazing for me. So I forced down my cries, because I just wanted so badly for something to actually be happening.

I don’t know how long I lay there with him fumbling before I eventually decided to ask, “Did you get any of it in at all?”

When he answered no, I felt myself break down. He described what happened as hitting a wall. In that moment, I knew what this was.

Vaginismus is not a very sexy word. I suppose that’s fitting, because it’s not a very sexy condition to have either.

Vaginismus causes the pubococcygeus muscle to involuntarily contract, causing the introitus, or opening, of the vagina to be completely impenetrable. I have local vaginismus, which means that I can get some but not all things inside me, and sex toys and penises haven’t worked.

Although my condition manifests itself physically, my problem is also psychological. The symptom is a physical closing off of my vagina, but my Catholic upbringing and resulting shame around sex likely had a subconscious impact on me that contributes to my condition despite my conscious shift to sex positivity. I’ve always been anxious about the pain I have during sex and whether I’d be able to do it, and that also contributes to the psychological block.

Vaginismus is largely considered to be completely treatable, and I wanted to get started on my path to becoming a normally functioning sexual being.

But when I spoke to my doctor, she didn’t have much advice to give. She initially assumed the old “lube and foreplay” talk would do the trick. She determined that anatomically, everything was fine, and she wrote it off for now to “first time jitters,” telling me to come back when I have sex again.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t have concerns about what I would consider the success of my treatment. For me, addressing the physical problem alone most likely won’t be enough. To get to the root of the issue, I probably need to speak with a therapist and determine exactly what’s happening in my subconscious to cause the muscle spasms. The length of time required for treatment like that is difficult to predict, and without a partner to engage with, it’s hard to determine the efficacy of it.

I can’t help but feel like I’ve been cheated — I waited for so long, waited until I felt like I was ready, properly educated and mature enough to make this decision. And I can’t do it.

I hope that I can experience sex. I want to. But I’m also trying to be kind to myself and my body and to accept it as it is.

Neither I nor my sex life is just my condition. There is so much more to me than that.

Rebecca Martin writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @beccasexontues.