While most of cinema and pop culture glorify how amazing sex is, they rarely talk about its reality, as a result of which, we expect sex to be a glamorous ritual of pleasure. No one talks about problems and adversities that come with sex, one of which is vaginismus, a condition experienced by some women, who report an involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscle, during sexual intercourse or during other types of vaginal penetration, like inserting a tampon or menstrual cup.
Causes of Vaginismus
Till now, medical science has not discovered the probable list of reasons for the occurrence of vaginismus, and it is believed to be a kind of female sexual dysfunction. While there are no clear-cut reasons on what causes this dysfunction, it is believed that there are three basic causes for muscle spasms to occur, leading to this disorder.
- Past sexual abuse or trauma
- Painful sexual intercourse in the past
- Certain emotional factors like childbirth
It is believed that this dysfunction may be caused due to troubled ideas of sex, like fear of vaginal penetration, anticipation or even stress. Other medical causes prompting vaginismus may include pregnancy or childbirth, menopause, pelvic surgery, infections of the urinary tract, yeast infection, insufficient foreplay and lubrication or may even be the side effects or certain medications.
Vaginismus Vs Dyspareunia
While vaginismus does not interfere with sexual arousal or foreplay and is different from dyspareunia, a medical condition during which a woman experiences painful sexual intercourse, both these disorders have vaginal muscle spasm as a common symptom.
However, dyspareunia is a medical term that links pain during sex as a result of cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease or vaginal atrophy, while vaginismus occurs without an organic cause.
Common problems with Vaginismus
- Apart from the inability to perform penetrative sex, women experiencing vaginismus also complain of lack of interest in sex when their partner wants it, and complain of their inability to become aroused, owing to fear of the impending pain after sexual penetration, which may also cause dryness or lack of lubrication in the vagina.
- In the dearth of medical certainty, it is hard to take vaginismus as a serious illness, but it is true that it does affect one’s sexual relationship, which is something that brings a couple closer. Not being able to perform the act can have worrisome effects on a couple’s equation and can also cause additional trauma like the fear of not being able to experience pleasurable sex, anxiety and also cause low self-esteem in some individuals.
- It's also true that this disability can shave off years of sexual youth, especially when it goes undiagnosed and one is bound to make one feel isolated and alienated. It’s also complicated and hard when one has severe trauma attached to it.
Living with vaginismus
Many women, on their journey to deal with vaginismus, have realized that sex has nothing to do with sexuality. Therefore, when unable to enjoy penetrative sex, one can find other ways to engage in meaningful sexual relationship with their partners, only by getting a little creative. However, one thing to remember always is that consent remains the most important factor in any sexual relationship, especially more so, when the sex is painful for one partner. At this point, communicating to make sure your partner is comfortable and equally encouraged is one way to approach this manner in the right way.
Always remember that if your partner is not okay with penetrative sex, don’t consider it. Understand that if it’s hard on you, it’s definitely harder for your partner. Instead, you can work around this problem by exploring new sexual aspects, like oral or anal sex. It would also make sense, that instead of trying to work your way around the disorder, you can opt for treatment by visiting a sex therapist or a counsellor, who can help with information about this problem and also apprise about relaxation techniques or vaginal dilators.
Vaginismus is completely curable and nothing to be ashamed about. Remember, your body is yours alone and you have the right to experiment with its rhythm, pace and energy, all by yourself. Don’t let anyone make you think that sex defines a relationship. Don’t submit to this pressure, especially when your body isn't ready. That's why we require sex education to learn, explore and say 'NO' when we have to. Sex is a personal experience and no one has the right to take that away from you.