It’s not something I talk about much, it’s not something anyone talks about much because there’s so much weight to it. I’ve spent the last 5, almost 6 years that I’ve been sexually active trying to deal with the shame and confusion that comes from having a condition that makes penis-in-vagina sex painful, if not impossible. That hasn’t really left a lot of room for talking about it because I’m still dealing with a lot of stigma.
There’s this thing that happens when you teach people that sex is only sex if it involves penis penetration, and when you can’t do that, for any number of reasons, when you’re in a relationship with someone who has a penis, it does kinda wear on you. And when you’re the first of your group to get married (or have sex) and everyone is asking you questions about this mythical magical sex that you can’t have….it’s hard. You get good at deflecting, sending links to resources, and never, under any circumstances, telling them about your actual (lack of) experience.
Add on to that, a lot of people just don’t comprehend how having intense pain equals stopping – we’re often told that pain is just a part of sex, not that pain means something is wrong. Most people are expected to just push through it, but that’s not fun and doesn’t really foster anything good – at least my case. A lot of “comfort” or solutions to me feel tone deaf: oh just keep sticking things in it until your body figures it out. I realize this is also the only advice that exists, but to me it’s like saying, no keep inflicting intense amounts of pain until I can take it, and sorry but that just doesn’t…make me less tense.
So when everything you know and have been told and promised about sex is something you can’t physically have – or don’t have the emotional stamina to physically force yourself to have because pain…..where does that leave you?
It didn’t take us long to figure out that trying to do The Sex wasn’t working and was more upsetting than anything else. Which made it not a thing we wanted to do much…until we realized that sex is supposed to be fun and enjoyable for everyone. That the focus on sex only being insert-dick-here was wrong and damaging and narrow. That there were so many other ways to have fun sexytimes that would actually work for us, be fun, and give us the warm fuzzies.
Buying a butterfly vibrator was the first baby step and introduced us to a world of possibilities in which the way to have sex doesn’t even have to be or involve penetration.
This has turned into something I emphasize to everyone now: sex is what you make of it, sex is exactly what you and your partner decide it is. If you’re both happy with it, it counts. It is not limited to inserting one kind of genitals into or around a different kind of genitals and when you finally realize that, the range of expression you have is so much greater.
And as hard as it is for me, and as much shame and confusion I still have sometimes – especially when I’m bleeding and remember, oh yeah, not only do I have a uterus, my vagina is a problem too – redefining sex to be “what makes us happy as a couple of consensual adults” instead of “put penis here” has made us so much happier.
To other people who have this problem, it’s okay, it’s not the end of the world, and most importantly, as much as you feel broken and wrong, you are not. Just do what makes you happy, and fuck everyone who scoffs and doesn’t understand. You are valid, and what you do for sex is valid too.
Also I want to be absolutely clear that the pain being bad thing I’m talking about specifically only relates to vaginismus, because it isn’t consensual, it’s a physical reflex of not awesome-sauce. Pain in other ways can be great for people who are into BDSM, and as long as it’s (obviously) consensual it is a beautiful and wonderful thing. There will be no BDSM shaming here. You do you.