'I thought, this is it, I can't change anything': My experience with Vaginismus

A personal detailing of what it's like living with Vaginismus

Maud Webster
12th May 2022
image: @thevagnetwork on instagram
Vaginismus is when your body’s automatic reaction to vaginal penetration is for your muscles to spasm or tighten and basically say “no, that’s not happening”. It can effect people even when they’ve previously experienced painless penetrative sex, and has a long list of possible causes. 

When I realised around 16 I couldn’t use tampons and penetrative sex had stopped ‘working’, I spent a year shrugging and thinking “this is it, I can’t change anything”. Even when I read up about Vaginismus I kind of still thought that there’s nothing I could do about it. Or that maybe it would just get better over time. I found it tricky to bring it up with prospective sexual partners and it caused me to feel closed off and insecure about my body, especially after I started university. 

the doctor read from the same NHS webpage I’d already read countless times and I was advised to take an STI test because it was probably that

Trying to improve Vaginismus is often a long process which can take up a lot of energy. Realising that it wasn’t just going to magically get better led me to trying to seek help. After broaching the topic with my GP - after two years of ignoring and then trying to ‘fix’ it on my own - the doctor read from the same NHS webpage I’d already read countless times and I was advised to take an STI test because it was probably that. 

The irony of being told to take a physical test which involves putting something into your vaginia to diagnose why you can’t put something into your vagina is not lost on me. In hindsight, I think asking for a female doctor or going to a sexual health clinic would’ve made this experience a lot better.

But following this setback, having conversations with a couple of close friends and researching more about the condition made me feel determined and optimistic that things could get better. Identifying the cause of my penetrative problems and reading about and trying out different ways to improve Vaginismus eventually led to it now having minimal effect on my life. 

Dealing with Vaginismus is hard and it can be very stressful but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t still enjoy sex

Having Vaginismus also doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have sex. The view of ‘sex’ as being purely penetrative, vaginal sex is completely misleading. Healthy, enjoyable sex can be in the form of a huge range of sexual activities. Dealing with Vaginismus is hard and it can be very stressful but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t still enjoy sex. 

This said, it is also a very individual condition; different people with Vaginismus will experience it to different extents, and their causes can be for a myriad of different reasons. These can range from having had a bad sexual experience or medical examination, or medical conditions, or psychological fears or thoughts like thinking your vaginia is too small (or many, many other reasons). As the Vaginismus Network puts it, “We strongly believe that every person living with vaginismus has a unique experience and it's not a case of 'one size fits all'”. 

Previous Courier writers have touched on the importance of having visible characters experiencing Vaginismus, such as Lily in Sex Education, and I agree that this can help a huge deal. If you want more information on Vaginismus you could check out the NHS’ webpage on the condition, or get in touch with the super helpful Vaginismus Network.

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AUTHOR: Maud Webster
she/they | third year architecture & urban planning student @ newcastle | co-head of culture for the 21/22 academic year

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