Here we are living in a society where sex, drugs and rock and roll are easily accessible. To indulge in pleasurable activities you can Spotify a bit of Rock ‘n roll, just have a stroll in Amsterdam to get stoned and I’ve lost count of the amount of services or apps that we can use when you have an itch (Swipe, swipe, swipe)
It’s almost normal to think that we can create our “best” lives and that as an eligible bachelor/rette having sex shouldn’t be a problem, with or without the connection.
But in a fast culture where some expect to sleep with someone after the third date, a culture where we fake an orgasm, take Viagra to last longer and so on, it feels as if the uncomfortable topics are swept under the rug...where are the voices of those who find sex more difficult than others?
So here I am…stepping out of my comfort zone and writing for the first time about a topic that lies very close to my heart.
Vaginism(us). A word that only a few of us know and a lot of us will say “vaginawhat?”.
“Vaginismus is the body's automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration.” Or “Vaginismus, sometimes called vaginism, is a condition that affects a woman's ability to engage in vaginal penetration, including sexual intercourse, manual penetration, insertion of tampons or menstrual cups, and the penetration involved in gynaecological examinations”
Vaginism has been part of my story that has shaped me in various ways but as it’s not always been a Salt-N- Pepa era it’s a story I have been very selective to share.
On a daily basis I speak to people about the social pressures in and outside the dating world. While staring at those picture-perfect online profiles I sometimes wonder what makes us forget that we can’t really see what’s playing beneath the surface.
I’m certain that there are tons of stories out there with different experiences and while I have been procrastinating on this blog the BBC covered the subject this week (see link below).
Personally I saw it as a sign for me to finish what I started and to reach out a hand to those who need it. As in this crazy world where we weirdly strive to create perfectionism within the imperfect, let me overshare and make people aware that things aren’t always as straight forward at it seems.
So for those who don’t know me let’s start with introducing you to my younger self:
Audrey; a geeky but beautiful, goody two shoes and a hopeless romantic.
The younger version of me started her love life full of hope and dreams. How I “kind of” remember the first time I met my first real boyfriend. I was extremely drunk and honestly I think anyone could have kissed me on the night that I met him (but let’s not tell him that). A drunken night kissing this stranger seems to have been the base ingredients for me to fall in love and to start a serious relationship.
This boy, or at the time I would have called him a “man”, loved me deeply. He was kind, loving and patient enough to wait until I was ready.
As I was a hopeless romantic I had made up some rules and I would only sleep with someone if I was in a serious relationship, so to put our seriousness to the test he likely waited for three months or so.
When the big night was there I remember lying there on a single mattress, next to an ashtray filled with cigarettes (ash everywhere…yes romantic) feeling nervous and excited as YESSS I was about to enter a new adult stage in life: having sex…yes the glorious sex like in the movies.
The moment was there… he was about to enter the building…“Is it in?” “No?… what about now?” “No…” “Now?” “No” Hmmm.
The doors were shut. Not just a little bit shut but on lock down. Even if I mentally thought that they were wide open, my vagina said something completely different. Luckily for me there was no pain but just some penis slapping against a closed door.
I was sixteen at the time and the relationship lasted 10 months. 10 months was a lifetime for me and our break up was a real high school drama with heartbreak, snot, tears and me temporarily going insane but the reason (as far as I know) wasn’t about the lack of penetration.
Without me knowing what was going on I continued my dating life and the next decade I met quite a few great guys who would wait and wait and wait and wait and wait until hell froze over. (Yes, really!)
I did however knock both the confidence of a lovely guy and more importantly my own as the big question remained unanswered. What is going in on? Questions were raised, and arguments started with “why don’t you feel safe with me?”, “what’s wrong with you?” and “how are you ever going to have a normal relationship?”
Words are powerful, and my inner critic didn’t let me forget. Over time it made me fearful and I almost cursed my younger self for being a prude at times, as what if I called this upon myself?
Luckily over the years I was always able to speak to my amazing mum and as you can’t miss what you don’t know I considered myself a “special case”.
Then I met a boy who I reallllly liked and I build up the courage to finally go and speak to my GP. This was likely one of the weirdest visits I had to the doctor. Thank god that in those days there were still family GPs who knew you for most of your life. That said, our relationship was doomed when he got the gloves out (but let me spare you those details.) Technically he didn’t know what was going on and I was referred to a sex therapist just in case it was psychological.
Not to be silly, but I remember almost skipping in, and out, of her office as I was so loved up at the time and I really wanted this to work.
The sex therapist would determine if there had been any trauma in my past or if there was an unconscious or conscious fear that would have caused a lock down - as vaginism can be a reflex of the muscle to prevent pain from happening, like closing your eyes if someone throws something in your face.
Luckily this wasn’t the case for me and I was instantly referred to a physiotherapist who was specialised in the downstairs area. Personally this was a revelation, as little did I know that I could control my vayjayjay’s muscles with my own mind. It was like being potty trained learning to have control of my muscles and the ability to either open or close the gate.
I now consider myself lucky to have been together with someone who was willing to face this challenge with me and make a game out of it.
In the heat of passion it did however stay challenging for me to control my mind & muscles and unfortunately our relationship didn’t last long enough to fully enjoy every little aspect of sex.
But this relationship did give me the confidence to continue to communicate. It has been a challenging roller coaster ride at times where I shied away from dating and even considered the thought that I should just stay single to make life a bit easier for myself.
But let’s “fast forward” to the adult 38.0 version of me: still beautiful, geeky and unfortunately just a little bit pessimistic about her own dating life.
It has taken some time and some weird moments in my life but “vaginawhat” is long gone (or that’s what I believe at least) but it has shaped me in the good and bad.
The bad is likely just my slightly pessimistic view about the new dating era, which I find hard to master as patience is not for all when you’re looking for the next shiny thing.
The good is that I’ve learned to create relationships which were built on emotional connection, chemistry, laughter, trust, fun and comfort (and yes I found alternative ways to have fun under the sheets).
From self-doubt and feeling like a weird girl in this strange world where sex is the most normal thing, I’ve learned to rebuild trust and confidence to openly talk to men about myself even when it made some run for the hills.
It has shaped me to learn more about my body and mind and taught me to feel proud about these strong muscles which can allow or deny access to this temple I call my body.
It has shaped me to view this world through a different lens, not to assume or to talk along with the mainstream, it taught me to treasure the few relationships I’ve had and to know that people can love or like me with my imperfections.
While coming to the end of my story I don’t really know what my message is. I don’t know where I wanted to take you…but what I do know is that I wanted to share my story with both men and women, the ones who are afraid to speak up about having painful sex, the ones who are rebuilding their confidence, those who have given up, the ones who are suffering in silence, the ones who are proud to have overcome trauma, the ones who are patient, willing to explore or those who still don’t have a clue what is going on.
Maybe I just want to say that you’re not alone in your imperfections and if we just keep talking and not silently assuming, or glorifying others, we might realise that we all have a story and that there is no such thing as being perfect.
“Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let's talk about sex”
Thank you for reading.
Side note: please note that my treatment was in the Netherlands quite a few years ago but if this affects you please find more info below or get in touch if you feel I can help.