When I started having sex in college, I never thought for a second that my inability to be penetrated would be an issue.
Sure, I was a little frustrated and perplexed about my vaginismus. But as someone who enjoyed having casual sex, and with the knowledge that working up to penetration would take time for me, I never considered testing out this incredibly challenging and painful feat for me on my fly-by-night lovers. After all, sex was supposed to be fun!
And so it was. I quickly proved to myself that an exciting sex life was possible without penetration (despite what I had been told), as I had multiple orgasms with multiple partners without a single mention of PIV action. I never felt the need to have to explain myself beyond a simple “no” when partners would try to penetrate me with their fingers. And that’s where it ended for most.
Fast forward to the night I met Nick, a charming journalism major visiting from another college. I quickly realized that this sense of security and sexual confidence was false. Dangerous, even.
After making out with him at a party where he fed me a steady flow of alcohol (an act I saw as gracious rather than creepy, at the time), I took him home with me. Despite my discomfort with finger penetration, he was the first person I had slept with who jumped to lofty conclusions as he ran to grab a condom from his bag mid-sex. I laughed upon noticing this, shaking my head and saying “Nope. We don’t need that.” He looked confused at first, so I elaborated: “We’re not having penetrative sex.” Looking hurt and frustrated, he paused before dropping his condom and rejoining me in bed.
After that night, Nick visited my campus again, this time to see only me despite my vocalized discomfort with that fact. Ignoring my instincts, I met up with him at my friend’s apartment where he repeatedly tried to make out with me every time my friend left the room. I didn’t want to kiss him let alone sleep with him that night, and I told him this explicitly via text before he had arrived. Insistent on sleeping at my place rather than at his friends’ (who were apparently “busy” that night), I let him sleep over after I smoked weed for the first time with him. I was a little high, but still sober enough to reject his sexual advances as he felt me up when I tried to sleep. He accepted this rejection…for now.
The next morning, I woke up feeling a bit euphoric, likely due to the weed’s lovely effects on my unmedicated mood disorder. I turned over and started kissing him after explaining to him that I only wanted to make out. Thrilled, he agreed, and so we continued lying on our sides and kissing each other in the lazy morning haze. It was blissful–until suddenly he started deepening the kiss and got on top of me. I froze, telling him “no” as he took off his pants and held my wrists above my head. His motions clearly implied that he was going to attempt penetrating me.
“I don’t want to, I can’t,” I told him, panicking now. “C’mon,” he replied, “Just relax. You know you want to.” We struggled for a bit longer, my hands banging on his chest as he tried to pull down my underwear, until I finally punched him in the face. He pulled away looking shocked, putting his hands up as if to say “What’s your problem? I’m innocent.” I ran out of the room and cried in the hall bathroom alone before returning and asking Nick to leave. He kissed me on the way out, seemingly unaware of what just took place.
Since that morning, I learned that having vaginismus has the potential to make me deeply afraid and an easier target than others. I learned to fear for my life when engaging in intimacy with another person, scared they would try to pry me open and make me hurt just because I didn’t give them a “proper” explanation. Just because I didn’t want to have penetrative sex.
Formerly, I didn’t feel the need to explain myself to lovers. After all, my vaginismus was my business. But after being made to feel like I didn’t know what I wanted, that my inexperience with penetration required someone to “teach me” or to make my body “work” the way it’s supposed to, I was too afraid to even try having sex with others before I addressed and overcame my condition.
I’ve since met a kind and loving partner that I feel safe having sex with. We have the type of sex that feels good to me–but the effects of that day still stays with me. My partner and I are poly, and so we encourage each other to hook up with others outside of our relationship. Regarding girls, this is no problem for me. But whenever I’m met with a cute boy I’d love nothing more than to kiss, I remember Nick. I remember how frustrated he was with my sexual autonomy and insistence on not giving penetration a try. The way I see it, this confidence put me in danger. I’m afraid if I kiss that cute boy at the bar, he will interrogate me and become demanding once I reject advances regarding penetration.
Before Nick, there were a number of people I slept with that were understanding without question and I know that not everyone is an abuser. But I do know that most people expect penetrative sex. So I hope sometime in the near future, with the help of further therapy, I can confidently name my condition to other lovers and maintain sexual confidence without fear. Sex is supposed to be fun, after all.