Health

I Was My Own Cock Block

Despite being well up for it, Christine Robertson wasn’t able to have sex. It took a brave trip to the doctors to find out she had Vaginismus. Vagi-whatnow?

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I became my own cock block after the sweet and tender experience of losing my virginity. I was 16 and my boyfriend of two whole months came over one Saturday afternoon so that we could finally do the no-pants dance. A few minutes of foreplay passed and he was in (and it was as romantic as that sounds). It kinda hurt, so I said as much. “It’s supposed to hurt,” he replied like a gent. I asked him to stop and thankfully he did, albeit with a simmering resentment that soon led to our break up. It seems obvious now but, at the time, I was unaware that I would begin to subconsciously associate sex with pain and that this would go on to affect many attempted fumbles in the sack.

For the rest of my teens, I feared the same indignity and became an ‘expert’ in finding reasons not to have casual sex: “I’m having a mega-period” (I wasn’t); “I’m really loud during sex and don’t want to wake your family up…” (lies); “I’m actually better at blow jobs than sex” (technically true at that point). I didn’t enjoy avoiding casual sex at all; I was passionate and sexual. I definitely had the drive – I’d just lost my car keys. They were buried in the sand, along with my head. I hoped this problem would fix itself. It was a frustrating, confusing and humiliating time.

In my early 20s, I finally met a guy I didn’t want to make excuses with. We fell madly in love and over the course of four years… we never once spoke about the fact that we’d not had penetrative sex. We’d had a sexual relationship, just not the actual *makes O with thumb and forefinger, pokes opposite finger through O repeatedly*. We’d tried several times during the rampant early days, but I would always tense up, and it became too painful. Eventually we stopped trying to do that bit and just focused on the rest.

When that relationship reached its inevitable demise, I wondered if my fate might be to never experience ‘proper’ sex. I quietly accepted it. This felt easier than confronting it.

Before long, I started to get serious with a new guy. Someone I trusted to see me at my most vulnerable when Operation: Deep Pen would surely fail again. We fell madly in love and over the course of four weeks… he reassured me that everything would be fine, and encouraged me to make a doctor’s appointment.

I arrived at the GP’s to share my embarrassing secret. Help would either be available or not, and I was anxious about either eventuality. I had rehearsed a line: “I tense up during sex to the point where I can’t have it” – which I’d barely finished delivering before my GP had replied matter-of-factly: “You have Vaginismus. It’s a psychosexual condition. I’ll refer you to a sex therapist.”

Vagi-WHATNOW? Never heard of it. I still meet doctors today who’ve never heard of it. Even Microsoft Word thinks I mean Veganism’s. Thankfully I had a partner who didn’t balk and bail at the prospect of attending sex therapy with his new girlfriend (guys will do anything to get laid, amiright ladies *high five* groan etc).

We saw the therapist approximately one year BG (Before Google), so learned all about my diagnosis from an actual human person. We learned that Vaginismus is an involuntary spasm of the vaginal muscles that makes penetration painful/impossible. We learned that no one thing causes it – each woman will have her own ‘origins’ story. We learned that many women overcome it and there was no reason that couldn’t include me too.

After about six weeks of therapy and what we liked to call ‘sexy homework’ (which was actually, deliberately un-sexy and included a ton of relaxation + Kegel exercises) there was a breakthrough. We had sex. It didn’t hurt. In fact, it felt pretty great. The treatment was succSEXful! And remains the only scenario in which high-fiving after sex is permitted. I emerged from the bedroom triumphant, excited and empowered and went on to enjoy many years of D in the V.

However, a degree of anxiety has remained. I’ve still never used a tampon. I can’t have a smear test without a mild sedative, and even then I struggle. It made the invasive jiggery pokery of IVF even more stressful – but I coped. You might be confused by the logic of being able to have sex but struggling with these other things; I’m confused too. It’s the ‘psycho’ part of psychosexual and something I may never understand but have learned to live with.

I share this because women suffer silently with Vaginismus because they’re too embarrassed to say anything. When I said something, things got better. When Liz Lemon said something in S5E5 of 30 Rock, things got better. So if savvy SEO has brought you here after googling some variation of ‘painful sex’, please know that staying quiet will not make it go away. Staying quiet delays your recovery. So start talking and go get some.

@xtine_robbo

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Written by Christine Robertson

Christine is an award-winning comedy writer who thinks Winona Ryder picked the wrong guy in Reality Bites.