We are so proud to have the amazing Emmeline Peaches writing for us this month. A respected sex toy reviewer and personal sufferer of Vaginismus, we asked her to share her story so that it may reach out and help others.
At just sixteen years old I felt like a sexual failure. Why, you might ask? Well, despite multiple attempts, different approaches, and a strong bond between myself and my partner I was unable to experience penetration without feeling excruciating pain.
Back then neither of us had been with another partner and lack of experience did not help. We were both scared, confused, and left with nothing but this inexplicable agony that acted as a barrier between our bodies. It was more than just a physical pain, it was an emotional one too coupled with a sense of inadequacy that grew with every failed attempt.
This is the true grip of Vaginismus; it doesn’t just shut down your physical muscles, it clenches at your insecurities and preys on your fears. At times this feeling can seem unbearable for sufferers (it certainly was for me) but, remember, hope is never out of grasp.
What Is Vaginismus?
Vaginismus is described as the involuntary tightening of the muscles around the vagina which can make penetration either extremely painful or near-impossible. The severity of this pain varies from person to person but many describe it as a burning or stinging sensation. For me it personally felt like daggers—sharp and piercing.
There are many reasons as to why a person might suffer from Vaginismus. Lack of sexual education or being raised in a very strict setting where sex was seen as taboo or dangerous are common contributors, as is the anticipation of pain during one’s first time. Underlying sexual health issues such as vulvodynia, an untreated STI, or a painful pregnancy experience can also trigger Vaginismus depending on the individual. And, unfortunately, there are also cases where sexual assault or rape have led to people developing Vaginismus too as a result of the emotional trauma.
One of the most troubling aspects of Vaginismus is that it is a self-reinforcing condition. A person anticipates a painful experience and so their vaginal muscles clench down to defend the person. This then causes a painful sexual experience which reinforces the association between penetration and pain and the cycle continues.
This is the true grip of Vaginismus; it doesn’t just shut down your physical muscles, it clenches at your insecurities and preys on your fears.
This isn’t to say that the Vaginismus sufferer is to blame. Not at all! It’s just that the body is choosing to defend itself when there really isn’t any need. The result is the opposite effect to what both the person and body were hoping to avoid—pain—in what is essentially a cognitive mix-up.
What Can Be Done?
There is, however, a silver lining here. If we think of Vaginismus as our bodies trying to protect us then we know, deep down, that our vaginal muscles have our best interest in heart and they are willing to work with us. It’s just a case of retraining them to know when to avoid pain and when to open up. As such your vaginal muscles are actually your greatest ally on the road to recovery, though it may not seem like it at first.
When it comes to treatment the first port of call should always be to see your GP and to get an official diagnosis. This may take time and multiple visits but it’s always worth making sure there are no other underlying issues.
Vaginismus is scary, frustrating, draining, and painful but it is also completely treatable.
From there a mixture of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and supplemental practices should be available to you. Because Vaginismus is a learned behavioural response CBT tends to have the best success rates, although the process does take time. In addition to this vaginal dilators are often used alongside training the vaginal (or pelvic floor muscles) to help ease the sufferer in to inserting progressively larger objects and self-exploration is encouraged.
Embracing Adult Products
But what about moving beyond Vaginismus and looking at sexual pleasure?
It’s fair to say that the aim of Vaginismus isn’t just achieving penetration for most, but discovering how to embrace penetration as an enjoyable act of self-love. However, doing this while dilating can be a struggle for some, thanks to the clinical design of many traditional dilators. When faced with a straight, pure white, hard plastic rod the idea of sexual arousal can often seem like a far-off pipedream.
One of the most troubling aspects of Vaginismus is that it is a self-reinforcing condition.
Thankfully times are changing and the treatment of Vaginismus is rolling right along with it. An increasing number of adult companies are taking note of the needs of sufferer’s and are providing new, more approachable (and enjoyable) dilation designs. Take, for example, the which is a great starting point for those wanting smaller dilators.
The stigma around Vaginismus is also being busted, making the voices of sufferer’s heard loud and clear. Fantastic adult companies such as , for example, are hosting their own , promoting #PainFreeSex for everyone through a series of talks and discussion groups (an event happening on the 15 September 2016 which is definitely worth a visit).
Beyond vaginal dilators there are also a lot of other adult products that are fantastic for those overcoming Vaginismus and embracing them can be incredibly beneficial.
I remember one of the first things I effectively inserted into my vagina was a standard . Small in stature and with vibrations that aided in relaxing my body this felt like a momentous achievement at the time and helped make me the avid sex toy reviewer that I am today. I also still cherish my which helped teach me the true joys of clitoral orgasms and redefined my ideas of what constituted an enjoyable sexual experience. Penetration isn’t the only option, after all. During recovery you still deserve to experience sexual pleasure and finding what works for you may include more .
A good lubricant is also invaluable when trying to dilate. A lot of lubricants can contain questionable ingredients but there are also companies out there (such as Give Lube and Sliquid) which truly have their user’s wellbeing at heart. When dilating a water-based lubricant can feel gentler and more natural than silicone and, of the bunch, I’ve personally found Sliquid Satin Intimate Moisturiser to provide the most reassuring and effective experience.
Training your pelvic floor muscles is also a vital part of treating Vaginismus and, while it may not be an option until the later stages of recovery, are great for this. These exercisers help you target the kegel muscles with more precision (and sometimes give a little jiggle too, if that interests you). Just remember to check the measurements and see how they match up with your dilators before deciding to purchase.
Vaginismus is scary, frustrating, draining, and painful but it is also completely treatable. While some may take longer to find what works for them than others we’re fortunate enough to have multiple options for effective treatment available. Sufferers no longer have to rely on clinical looking plastic as the adult industry rally behind the call for improved sexual wellness.
So rest assured that with time, patience, and the right tools for the job everyone can begin the road to recovery.
Thanks again to Emmeline Peaches for sharing her story. You can check out more of Emmeline’s work on her website www.emmelinepeachesreviews.com