Feb 05 2009

Thursday vagina blogging: open sesame


That’s right, I said “vaginismus.” It’s that thing where your vagina says “no way, Jose,” and clamps shut, deflecting all comers. According to one quaintly heteronormative phallocentric UK psych site, “vaginismus occurs when the vagina is unable to relax and permit the penetration of the penis during intercourse.”* Other, more progressive sources cite tampons, specula, and fingers as objects that are commonly crammed into “normal” women, but are dee-nied by the vaginas of wackjobs suffering this vaginismus dealio.

Wackjobs? You betcha: the involuntary clampola is thought to be the symptom of a psychiatric disorder resulting from “fear of pain,” “traumatic sexual assault,” “strict religious upbringing,” “traumatic pelvic exam,” or — my personal favorite — “disgust,” rather than from any known medical condition. It’s PTSD of the ladyparts. Penetration ranges from impossible to unbearable to super painful. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting at the mere thought of penetration.

And it must be treated, because what good is a vagina that can’t be penetrated? No good! In fact, there appears to be, in the vaginismus community, universal consensus that the condition’s interference with sexual intercourse, even when the sufferer can easily achieve orgasm via non-penetrative means, is a real homewrecker. While perusing these vaginismus websites, I observed some tampon and pelvic exam lip service, but it was clear what’s really at stake here: I repeatedly came across allusions to the dire importance of “consummating the marriage.” That’s right. It’s not even a real marriage until Mr takes possession of Mrs’s personal vagina with his engorged dominator.

So what’s the treatment?

Penetration. Duh.

With dilators. Yeek! Also: anti-depressants, PT, sex counselors, and booze.

Until now.

Enter Peter T. Pacik, MD, FACS. Literally.

Peter T. Pacik MD FACS cures vaginismus with Botox injected directly into the old vadge. The Botox prevents the pelvic muscles from contracting, and voilà! The natural order of the conjugal universe is restored! Best of all, the treatment is on sale! Through May 31, your Nigel can get back in the saddle without you puking for as little as $2400! That’s a $500 savings! No word on whether your pelvic muscles’ newfound inability to contract will have a negative impact on your gratification.

Wait a sec, you’re saying, here’s an idea: if sex hurts, don’t have sex.

Well sure, but unfortunately women in heterosexual relationships don’t have that option, not if they want to keep their love alive. Penetration is integral to male domination, and as such is not only the cornerstone of patriarchy but the foundation upon which any decent, normal hetero coupling is built. Hence the repellent “consummation” idea.

On Peter T. Pacik MD FACS’s plastic surgery website you can read a testimonial written by the grateful patient who was his first guinea pig. An excerpt:

[…] I had 6 injections (15 units of Botox) in Dec. 2005. I waited about 2 weeks before trying anything. The first time the pain was decreased by about 25 percent. The next time was about 50 percent. I now am at about 75 percent decreased pain, in April 2006. […] I am not completely pain free yet, but I did not have sex as often as I should have (we are averaging about once a week since the end of December) so I think that plays a big part in overcoming vaginismus.

Thank you so much Dr. Pacik and staff. This has made my relationship with my boyfriend so much better, and I am feeling so much better about myself.

Gut-wrenching stuff. The Botoxee’s self-esteem gets a big boost once she is able to function again, albeit at diminished capacity, as her boyfriend’s receptacle. She’s still experiencing pain, but of course it’s her own damn fault for not letting her dude prong her “as often as [she] should have.”

Jesus in a jetpack! What a bunch of sadistic knobs! The doctor and his experimental vaginal injections to pry her open, the boyfriend who fucks her even though she’s in pain. It blows my mind that men routinely hurt women in what is supposedly an act of love, and that women routinely endure pain and discomfort in order to fulfill their destiny as toilets, but fuckin A, you just can’t fight that cultural conditioning.

The mere thought of penetration with a penis nauseates me, too, but I think I’ll skip Peter T Pacik and a bunch of shots up my bidness.

* This psychnet-uk.com is a real peach. It appears to reject the notion that anything short of “actual intercourse” may be classified as sex. Orgasms achieved through clitoral stimulation are categorized as “foreplay.” Seriously! in 200-fucking-9!

[Thanks, Nauright]


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  1. nobodyinparticular

    Funny how I had vaginismus all the time I was married.

    Also: just wondering if any of these women will later be more susceptible to prolapsed uteri.

  2. nobodyinparticular

    I mean the botoxed women.

  3. NicoleGW

    Ah, a subject near and dear to my heart. Thank you for this post!

    I have vulvar vestibulitis, which is often considered alongside vaginismus. The difference being that VVS is about pain on contact, not muscle tension. VVS pain can be triggered by anything from tight jeans to horseback riding to tampons to (gasp!) penetrative sex. Some folks find their lifestyles incredibly limited, what with the difficulty even walking, but for others, like myself, the pain is really just limited to penetration.

    Again and again I find myself this same piece of advice: If putting a penis in your vagina hurts, then don’t do it! There are other, better options! And again and again, people tell me that this isn’t helpful advice. The general response seems to be a collective, Bwah? On the bright side, I’m seeing more and more women on the support comms who agree with me, but they are still few and far between.

    I understand that there is a deep sense of frustration and sadness that comes with feeling like one’s body is failing to do something that we are taught to expect it to do, but this insistence upon the necessity of penetrative sex drives me absolutely nutty, I tell you.

    But what really grosses me out? All the dudes to whom you alluded who can apparently get their rocks off just fine, despite the knowledge that their pleasure is directly reliant upon an action that is causing severe pain to their supposed loved ones. That right there is what makes me want to vomit.

    And if you want to see something else horrifying, check out the surgical treatment for VVS.

  4. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Yecchhh. Who in the name of Jeebus’s lacy nightgown wants to have penetrative sex with someone if you have to paralyze their parts to do so? Call me crazy, but I only want to dance the horizontal mambo with a willing, eager partner.

  5. Claire C. Cake

    As I long-time lurker, I HAVE TO comment on this, because I actually have the dreaded vaginismus! OH NO! Oh, yes, my friends, and it’s the uber-horrifying kind where I don’t want ANYTHING in me! But here’s the kicker: I have NO DESIRE to seek “treatment.”

    Now, I will not lie and say I don’t get bummed out that my partner and I cannot have intercourse. I admit I still am affected by society’s rule that I’m not a whole woman unless we do the deed (and that in and of itself upsets me, because I recognize the cultural conditioning yet still want to give in), but sex is just too awful, and I cannot even imagine trying to fix it by inserting anything – penises, non-penises, etc. No, thank you!

    What does my partner think about this? I think it gets to him, but he’s never pushed the issue. The two times we’ve had sex, it was my idea (Oh, I was such a naive girl), but luckily I think my reaction has (a) scared the crap out of him, and (b) sealed the deal that it’s just not worth it. Too bad our rocking “foreplay” doesn’t count for anything.

  6. Hollywood Marie

    Twisty, I didn’t know I could love you more than I already did, but alas, I do.

    I’ve had this “problem” my entire life. I’ve called Planned Parenthood, I’ve talked to my doctor. Everyone thinks I must have been raped or molested as a child and somehow repressed that memory, or that I should just “relax.” It DID ruin all my relationships with men (back when I did that sort of thing). No one EVER gave it a name and everyone acted like they had never heard of it. So basically, I was told to have more sex (with men).

    So I did. And it hurt. I cried EVERY SINGLE TIME I “had sex.” And then I got yelled at by the dudes I was “practicing” with that it wasn’t sexy to fuck a crying woman and how I made them go limp with my silent crying even though I was saying “keep going, it’s ok, just don’t look at me.” Some of them even knew that I was trying to deal with this “problem” and were willing participants (because they got to have sex with me and I didn’t want a relationship) until they realized they couldn’t actually have sex with me…which is what I explained in the first place!!! I just wanted to be able to have a relationship and I was afraid no one would want me if I couldn’t stick things in my vag. It was totally traumatic and agonizing both physically and mentally. I was in my 20’s for all of this (and I’m in my late 20’s now, so this wasn’t back in the day or anything), but I’m sure it’s even worse for teenage girls. Everyone referred me to therapy for my fear of the peen or whatever. Men thought I was absolutely fucking crazy.

    When I finally fell in love (for the first time ever) with a woman, and we eventually had sex, it didn’t matter what I could or couldn’t put in there and down the road, we did end up having the most awesome penetrative sex ever. Though, that’s still not something I’m really into and I’ve accepted that sticking things in my vag isn’t really sexy for me. And guess what: that’s not a problem!

    I want to send this to all the girls/women who get told (like I was) that it always hurts at first and the solution is to keep hurting yourself. Why should anyone have to do anything that hurts? I thank the universe every day that I’m a lesbian (for a multitude of reasons, this being just one). And I thank the universe for you, Twisty. If I was at home and not work right now, I’d probably cry with the relief that at least one person gets it. Thank you.

  7. Claire C. Cake

    Hollywood Marie: I want to send this to all the girls/women who get told (like I was) that it always hurts at first and the solution is to keep hurting yourself.

    I, too, was told to just keep hurting myself (even by my mother, who recently told me “sometimes you just have to do it anyway”), but luckily I’ve only had one partner (who I’m still with), and he seems to still want to be with me after nearly five years of no sex. I did do what you did, though, I used to ask him to use his fingers or to have sex with me, and I did the whole “No, no, I’m OK” thing for the two minutes of agony each time. Then it was just too much. I still get very upset sometimes, but at least I’ve reached the point where I refuse to hurt myself.

  8. terristrange

    I had a friend go through this a few years ago so we all started researching what it could be and came to the conclusion that it might have been her whacko christian parents that practiced a lot of shaming in her house in regards to sex. She sought a little bit of counseling and talked to the dude about it and they had a few weeks of hot oral sex before she was able to be penetrated without the pain and even achieved some of the pleasure.
    Of course if we had known that injecting toxins into her vaginal muscles would have done the trick, i’m sure we would have told her that there was nothing wrong with her and that everything was going to be okay.
    Oh god i can’t stop thinking about how sick and depraved a doctor would have to be to even think of doing something like that. One of the perks of penetration is those sweet sweet contractions and of course, sensations.
    But of course, that kind of pleasure, while a perk, doesn’t matter.

  9. sonia

    the worst part is that although it’s often induced by sexual trauma, instead of treating the ptsd and personal/psychic pain, and addressing the real issue (i.e. why men are empowered to assault women at all) the treatment’s just about, like you said Twisty, getting Nigel back in the saddle.

    wtf. it makes me sad to think of all the women who don’t even know they deserve to heal and be understood for what they’ve been through.

    I’ve never been forcibly raped and I still don’t want to do with dick. I can’t imagine being interested in guys at all after “serious sexual trauma.”


  10. Claire C. Cake

    terristrange: “… they had a few weeks of hot oral sex before she was able to be penetrated without the pain and even achieved some of the pleasure.”

    Oh, man. If that was the case for everyone, my vag would be as wide open as the Grand Fucking Canyon!

  11. mj

    im perfectly happy with my vaginismus, thank you very much…although i think its spreading (not my vagina–the condition)… my husband has differing thoughts on the issue. oh well….

  12. goblinbee

    Eww. These comments are TMI for me, but, then, I’m asexual.

  13. Lauren O

    Oh dang. I am thinking back to my first boyfriend. We were together for two and a half years without having penetrative sex, because it hurt me, and he could never have kept going seeing me in pain. Of course, after about a year and a half he started wanting to stick it in my ass. …I’ve learned my lesson, I swear.

  14. selulu

    Lurker just chiming in here as another person who suffers from vulvar vestibulitis/vulvodynia. Right now it is being “managed” with elavil, meaning my symptoms haven’t gotten much better but they don’t know what else to do with me. But I’ve gradually become less concerned about it because why the hell should I spend my time despairing over vaginal pain upon penetration when I’m not even having (penetrative, or any kind of) sex?

    My physiatrist (doctor of physical therapy) did suggest the botox as an option. I didn’t even consider the implications of it — that it would basically be me deadining my nerves so some guy could put his penis in me. But regardless, I didn’t do it, because I was warned there was a chance I could lose a little pelvic muscle control for a while, meaning I could leak urine. No thanks. But I want to add that I don’t consider that physiatrist evil; she was actually that best doctor among many that I’ve seen. She was so kind, and really all she wanted was to alleviate my pain, and as a lesbian I’m sure she understood that there were other ways I could enjoy sex besides penetration. She basically followed my lead on what treatments I was willing to try.

  15. Veganrampage

    It is at times like these that I wish the patriarchy were one fat fuck of a man person and I could tie him up and smash him in the face over and over again. I would transfer all the hurt and pain that these women have felt and make him feel at all at once. The pain would be unbearable, and would kill most, but the patriarchy would not be allowed the gift of death. He would writhe in eternal agony. I would delight in his eternal damnation to flaming Catholic Nazi -Pope -Holocaust-Denying-Hell.
    O were it so. These are my daydreams, my idylls, as I contemplate the Big P, and how it schemes to murder us in every way possible.
    Only do exactly what you want to do. Trust me, everyone else does. Do you think the patriarchy would let you fuck it where it didn’t want you to? Really. Learn that young. Learn it now. Learn it every fucking day if you have to.(I’m reminding myself here, too.)

  16. Hedgepig

    You know how “vagina” is supposed to be the non-offensive word for, well, vagina? It’s actually Latin for “scabbard.” In other words, that sheath a fellow sticks his sword in when he’s not waving it around at other fellows. How fucking offensive is that?? Of all the things a vagina does, that one function is the one it’s named for.
    It’s no surprise really, and merely illustrates how patriarchy defines women’s bits by what use they are to men. But it means we have no name for what my mother first referred to as “the baby-hole” (yeah, I know) that isn’t offensive.

  17. Amanda

    There are two ways I can see in which to frame this issue.

    A. Women exist for the pleasure of men, and therefore any barrier to penetration must be eliminated.

    B. The woman in question is straight and genuinely desires penetration by her boyfriend, but for some reason her vagina won’t cooperate. She views this as a problem and seeks treatment.

    A is clearly a horribly patriarchal framing of vaginismus, but B is not. You seem to completely pass over the possibility that vaginismus could be a real problem for straight women. Not for the men in their lives, but for them personally. It really is possible, as a woman, to crave penis-in-vagina sex. Really.

    Granted, it may be that vaginismus is in all cases caused by a deep-seated desire not to have sex with men, in which case it isn’t a problem and doesn’t need treatment – rather, patriarchy is the problem and should be overthrown. But it’s sort of hard to say, without researching the question.

  18. yttik


    It would make more sense to just inject male parts with botox, render them “relaxed,” and fix the whole problem.

  19. goblinbee

    yttik, hilarious!!

  20. virago

    “Funny how I had vaginismus all the time I was married”

    I can definitely relate to that. I hated sex with my ex-husband, and I got to the point where I would cry all the time. Sometimes it was just plain uncomfortable, but most of the time, it hurt like hell. Anyway, he was lucky if we had sex once every three months after a while. He wasn’t happy, but oh,well. OTOH, I managed to learn to like sex a lot better after my divorce, and I learned to like penetration. I just think it was the fact that my ex-husband thought he could use his penis like a wrecking ball that was the problem. However, penetration doesn’t hurt me anymore, but if it still did, I would gladly just not have sex anymore.

  21. Schnanneken

    Long time lurker, first time commenter.

    I, too, suffered from VVS and its delightful cousin, vulvodynia (literally, “pain of the vulva” versus pain at the vaginal opening, or vestibule). Not only could I not be penetrated, clitoral stimulation was too painful to consider. I couldn’t wear jeans, sit down for long periods of time, wear colored panties, eat certain foods or exercise. All of this caused me to sink into a deep, impenetrable funk.

    The kicker, the most laughably absurd part of this experience, is the fact that I spent SIX MONTHS seeking treatment for yeast, bacterial and urinary tract infections, having dozens of specula jammed into my already sore nether regions, before even ONE of my health care “professionals” suggested VVS/vulvodynia as a diagnosis. Even after the diagnosis, most doctors I informed about my condition would respond with a blank look and an “I’m not familiar with that condition,” which in turn led to treatment of the condition with “medicines” that may or may not have caused the condition in the first place.

    I’m fortunate that I seem to have gone into VVS/vulvodynia remission–there’s no agreed-upon cause, you see, so there’s no agreed upon cure–but it still chaps my vulva that there are numerous cures for erectile dysfuntion (which doesn’t negatively affect the sufferer’s lifestyle except w/r/t penetration), few health care researchers have even bothered to make themselves aware of VVS/vulvodynia, much less produce conclusive results on its cause and treatment.

    But then again, why should they? As long as teh men can bang vagina with impunity well into their twilight years, I guess they’re “doing no harm.”

  22. BrevisMus

    Well, until the revolution happens, there are still going to be women who judge their ‘womanly competence’ on being able to be fucked. And despite the fact that a lot of us do work with vaginismic women who feel like that and do explain that actually: a) that’s bullshit; b) all those people you think are having penetrative sex, who make you feel bad because you’re not, probably aren’t; c) you should be doing what you want to do because you want to do it; d) a ‘miracle cure’ to force your body to do something it doesn’t want to do is not going to make you a happy person; e) you can totally fuck your partner without using your vagina and you will BOTH like it, our voices are mere whispers against the megaphones of what society is cramming down our throats.

    I have vaginismus. For me, it’s entirely physical – most of the muscles in my body are over-tight – and not psychological. When I finally decided to treat my vaginismus it was so that my vagina could accommodate a menstrual cup to deal with my increasingly heavy periods. That was my goal, since my [male] partner & I had been & still have been making mutually merry without the utilisation of my vagina for many years, and the fact that I can now envelop his penis should I wish to (still can be somewhat uncomfortable and a lot less pleasurable so we tend not to bother) is an interesting extra.

  23. Natalia

    For as long as we’re taught that are bodies are icky, or that we’re “abnormal” for x, y, and z reason, for as long as doctors still interrupt their female patients and not actually *hear* them, for as long as healthcare is still a mess and women’s bodies are still viewed as “mysterious” and “strange,” women will suffer.

    Especially those women who don’t want to have penetrative sex, especially penetrative sex with men, but are told they MUST want it or else they are freaks.

    Having said that, as a heterosexual woman, I was also surprised that there is no mention of those of us who desire penetrative sex with their partners. If I was suddenly in horrible pain from PIV intercourse, I’d be pretty devastated. I’d certainly seek treatment. This post seems to assume that none of these women genuinely desire PIV sex – and I doubt that’s the case across the board. Especially as someone who has gone through PTSD and knows how certain triggers can wreak havoc on the body.

    Have you heard of Susanna Kaysen’s “The Camera My Mother Gave Me”? It’s a pretty good memoir of how she had to cope with searing pain in her vagina – and how doctors treated her like crap, and how her then-boyfriend didn’t care that she was in pain. The first Amazon review of it that I pulled up is heartbreaking – another woman with a condition like Kaysen’s, wishing women like her did not feel so isolated.

  24. Twisty

    Welcome to the comments section, lurking sufferers of these assorted lady-conditions! You are a self-selected sample, of course, but your responses have caused me to consider a blurb I read on one of the psych websites — which essentially declared that these disorders (if in fact they are disorders, and not merely some variant of normal*) are “extremely rare” — to be apocryphal. As a matter of fact, I would be very surprised if there exists a woman who, at some point in her heterosexual career, didn’t experience some measure of discomfort during the nasty.

    By the way, excellent blaming, Schnanneken, concerning the double-standard re: erectile dysfunction and VVS/vulvodynia.

    * I in no way mean to diminish the real suffering many of you have experienced; I merely wonder out loud whether the causes of these conditions may have more to do with dudelio-centric standards and practices than the medical establishment either knows or cares to admit. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time.

  25. slythwolf

    I used to have a friend, until she moved, to whom, in retrospect, I think this is possibly what was happening. Stop me if I’ve told this story before.

    She got married at 19, and came to me six months later asking if she could talk to me about something.

    It shortly emerged that every time her husband fucks her, she’s in so much pain that she cries. She’d been to doctors and they had said there was no medical reason this should be happening; she didn’t have, like, an unusually thick hymen or something, and she didn’t have a problem with the pelvic exam. I think deep down she didn’t want to be having sex with her husband at all, even though she professed to want to fulfill her “wifely duty”–as if there was any other option available to her as a Christian fundamentalist. I base this thought partially on the fact that she actually used the phrase “wifely duty” and partially on the fact that she had also told me she thought her husband looked “weird” and “creepy” naked. “I just prefer him with his clothes on, you know?”

    And then came the part where she said she had talked to her husband about some things she thought might be fun to do together during sex, that might make it more fun for her, and he had refused because the things she wanted to try didn’t seem like they would specifically turn him on.

    Shortly after that, he forbade her to talk to me about their sex life.

    I was amazed when some of my friends patiently explained to me that what he was doing to her was not rape, because even though she was weeping in pain, she had consented. I contend that a man who can fuck a woman while she weeps in pain is a fucking rapist.

  26. Twisty

    “This post seems to assume that none of these women genuinely desire PIV sex – and I doubt that’s the case across the board.”

    You are right, Natalia, in pointing out this omission. As a non-heterosexual, these kinds of things sometimes elude me. Even so, as I suggest above, I would be extremely suspicious of any “treatment” invented by so misogynist an orthodoxy as the medical establishment purporting to “cure” women’s sex issues, particularly those treatments that medicalize symptoms of trauma and slap bandaids on them. Such as the Botox deal I mentioned in the post. When it comes to sex in a patriarchy, the most likely beneficiary of any authoritative intervention is always going to be men.

  27. Twisty

    “Eww. These comments are TMI for me, but, then, I’m asexual”

    Buck up, goblinbee, old girl. I sympathize, but such discussions will out!

  28. Claire C. Cake

    You’re right, Twisty. I once heard of a so-called “treatment” that was merely applying topical lidocaine to the vag before penetration. That’s scary as hell to me. Sure, let’s numb you so that your body can’t give the obvious warning signs you need to stop.

  29. Natalia

    I merely wonder out loud whether the causes of these conditions may have more to do with dudelio-centric standards and practices than the medical establishment either knows or cares to admit.

    There is the fact that across the board, many men still think that the woman’s comfort and pleasure is secondary, or else totally unimportant. They think that the mere act of whipping out their willies and inserting makes them Almighty Gods of Sex – and if the woman is in pain or discomfort, she’s a “frigid bitch” or else.

    And I agree with you in regards to the way that medicine is presently practiced. Any problem with the “mysterious lady-parts” is often conveniently written off or else “treated” in terrible (and, usually, terribly expensive) ways.

    I’ll never forget the day I decided to go off Depo – because it was FUCKING MY SHIT UP – and my (female!) doctor gave me a lecture on how my problems were just “in my head.” Oddly enough – I go off the Depo, problems go away. But I’m just a hysterical woman, what do I know, right?

  30. Astrophilia

    This post makes me cry. I can’t believe how many women go through this, and more so how many get told they need to loosen up for some dicks.

    Penetrative sex can be a pretty painful affair for me, and I don’t have vaginismus (it’s not even coming up as a word on my computer!) or any of its relatives. My Nigel will immediately stop if I express any discomfort, but I can’t count the times I’ve bit my lip and bore the brunt for his pleasure. It pains me to think that I could be that yielding to patriarchal standards… But I can’t imagine the emotional pain that comes along with having sex with a guy who will fuck you even if you’re crying from the pain.

  31. Annique

    I don’t have vaginismus but I do have vulvodynia. My vulva hurts when I’m stressed or even randomly.

    I’d like to point out that vaginismus isn’t necessary caused by trauma. It can happen for no apparent reason, no one’s really sure of the causes. But it is a medical condition and I have heard vaginismus sufferers be told by their doctor to go to a sex therapist and not a physical therapist because “it’s all in their heads”. Vaginismus can’t be treated without dealing the muscles since it is a muscle dysfunction. I think it can be caused by trauma but that isn’t always the case.

  32. Lindsay

    I had no idea vaginismus was considered a psych disorder. That makes me angry. Is it really such an earth-shaking idea that people’s bodies are different from each other, and that two people might have radically differing experiences of the same damn thing? And that neither of them is wrong, crazy or lying?


  33. Chai Latte

    I also suffer from VVS. I didn’t know why I was in so much pain for the longest time–the times around my period and in hot weather were the absolute worst! Tampons? FORGET IT, said my vagina. She was not having any of it.

    I have never had PIV sex (well, if TAMPONS hurt like hell), and a promising relationship recently ended because of this issue. His idea, not mine. I’m still grieving over this–I thought this Nigel was different, I really did. But no. He was tired of waiting for me, so off he went. This isn’t the first time this has happened.

    See, I like reassurance. I have to know that, though my partner desires me, he recognizes that I am a whole person. I need that. And I have yet to find a partner who will do that for me.

    ARGH. I’m so depressed. I don’t want to agree to sex I’m not comfortable with, but nor do I want to spend my life alone.

  34. Lindsay

    I was told I probably had vaginismus a couple years ago, when I went in for a pelvic exam to get on the birth control pill. (I was about a year into my first-ever — and current — het relationship, and I thought penetrative sex might be imminent). The nurse used the smallest speculum she had, a teeny-tiny one they use on inexperienced, tight-vaginaed women. It still hurt unbelievably. I cried the whole way through the procedure, which seemed to take forever. It was like Twisty says: my vagina just said “No way, Jose” and tried to squeeze itself shut. I was not controlling it. I certainly couldn’t have stopped it from spasming, which the nurse seemed to think she could induce me to do by telling me to relax.

    I still have not had penetrative sex yet, although I am not ruling it out. Nigel is able to get two fingers in there now, without any pain, and it even feels good sometimes.

    Until now, though, it hadn’t occurred to me that the vaginismus might be a separate phenomenon from my overall hypersensitivity to touch. I’m autistic, and thus my senses don’t quite work like other people’s. Hearing and touch are the most troublesome ones: on a bad day, the slightest sound will cause me actual physical pain. Similarly, any touch will feel like an acid burn, and even having another person stand too close can bring on nausea, panic attacks and lightheadedness. I react immediately and viscerally to these things — usually by fleeing the scene. So I had thought (and still think, mostly) that my vaginismus is just one manifestation of the extreme tactile defensiveness that’s so ingrained in me.

    It is interesting to see other women who are not autistic describe the same thing, though.

  35. Itxaro

    What the shit?
    Okay, so I had problems when I first wanted PIV sex with my lover. Vaginal stimulation is kind of icing on the cake for me, but I had vaginismus or something like it- the muscle right at the back of the very opening of my vagina was extremely tense and tender.

    You know what? When my lover started trying to push it in and I was like “OW!”? He backed the fuck off, and nearly broke down crying while he held me because he didn’t like hurting me. What the shit is up with all these misogynist douchebags who can honestly have sex with a partner when it hurts them? I mean, the women might wind up drinking the “this is for the best!” koolaid, but I can’t help but feel like those dickrags are all too eager to accept the terms of torture-by-penis. So long as they’re doing the torturing, that is.

    Also? I got a goddamn amazing midwife who told me that if I really wanted PIV sex, I could gently massage the area in the shower for a few weeks to loosen it up.

  36. nauright

    Thank YOU, Twisty. And blamers. I couldn’t keep the horror of the sad testimonials to myself.

    I am a wackjob lurker heterosexual woman myself; we are legion! (Hey, maybe we could ‘reclaim’ the term ‘hysteric’?) And I might be tempted to share my own TMI-type story, if I weren’t somewhat dumbly using my real name here. You know, I don’t want to gross out anybody who might be googlestalking me. But I will share the story’s happy ending: I got older and calmer and read Andrea Dworkin and came to realize that indeed, I was just ‘some variant of normal’!

  37. Hollywood Marie

    Amanda, I understand that some women are into that whole hetero deal, and I’m not saying they should all go sleep with ladies (although… Just kidding), but I think it’s important to remember that it’s the P who decided that PIV sex is the pinnacle of sex for everyone. It’s not the absolute best, because there is no absolute best. There’s only the best for you and your partner, male or female.

    Many blamers said they enjoy other kinds of sex just as much if not more than PIV. The interesting (and by interesting, I mean sad) part about “standard” missionary position PIV sex is that most women can’t even orgasm that way, so it’s totally all about the dudes.

    Maybe, if we stopped thinking of people as “virgins” until they do that, or placing so much emphasis on PIV being the only “real sex,” people who aren’t comfortable with it wouldn’t care so much.

  38. katrinaholloway

    Another delurker here, with vestibulitis. I’m always so happy when I read blogs or articles about VVS or vaginismus, because it’s so rarely publicised, and so few women who have it actually know about it. My doc (a specialist on the subject) told me that women who have vulvar pain usually see 6-7 doctors before finding one who can find out what’s up with them & send them his way (or to another specialist). As for stats, I read that 10-25% of women have or will have VVS/vaginismus/vagina-related pain problems in their lifetime.

    As for me, I had surgery to remove the übersensitive problem area, and though physically I’m fine now, the 5 years of dealing with it have left me libidoless and disgusted by the whole thing. Way too many tears & accumulated frustration after trying many times and not succeeding PIV sex. I’d much rather cuddle than have sex. (See my website for a much detailed version of my story.)

    See also http://www.vulvodynia.com for more infos on the subject too; I think they’re the most comprehensive website on the subject.

  39. TwissB

    “to relax and permit the penetration of the penis”
    Now, there’s an interesting possibility. Just tell him to relax snd permit the penetration of the penis. With what? Why anything that gives you pleasure, of course. Yttik’s reverse Botox remedy might do for starters.

  40. Cocodamolly

    The idea that a dude would break down crying if he hurt me… you made me cry there, Itxaro. They don’t, and in twenty or so different partners over hundreds of different dances of the mambo, I’ve never had a dude stop if it hurt me. I’ve only had a few take notice.

    It’s not to do with vaginismus, thank fuck, just assorted body problems, meaning I periodically either get vicious digestive tract spasms or I pass out – but as far as I can tell, statistically normative dudes don’t care if it hurts you (“Sorry, Mol, but I can’t stop once I get going”), and they sure as hell don’t stop if you pass out. The one man I met who did hold me did it because he ‘liked the way I warmed him up’.

    I don’t know whether to be jealous of women with holding-cuddling dudes, or furious that they aren’t the fucking majority and the others are in electroconvulsive therapy somewhere.

    Damn, I blame the patriarchy.

  41. Lara

    We do really claim PIV sex as the only “real sex”, don’t we? I mean, consider the fact that gay men are thought to have actual sex, but lesbians do not technically have sex. So society says.
    ::warning, what’s below is gonna get graphic, possible triggering effect::
    This whole thing with claiming that the “problem” (unable to penetrate) lies with women, and that women’s bodies/vaginae need to be controlled, cut, manipulated, drugged, etc. to fit a function for men’s bodies and sexual pleasure reminds me so much of female genital mutilation and cutting that’s performed or forced on women and girls in West Africa. In some cases there, the woman’s labia majora (the larger, exterior lips of the vagina) are literally sewn together to shut the vagina so that the woman cannot have penetrative sex with any men except for the one she is married to, on her wedding night. The new husband then just jams his dick into the woman’s labia until it tears a hole big enough to fit him.
    So this concept that women’s bodies and genitals need to be reformed, no matter what the pain, discomfort, or physical problems it may cause women, to suit men’s wants and penises exists all over the planet. It makes me sick, to say the least.

    On a personal note, just from reading other women’s comments here, I might have a bit of vulvar vestibulitis/vulvodynia because I do experience a bit of pain with penetrative sex, and I get dry quickly, which sucks. It sucks not just because I’ve been raised in a phallocentric society that teaches me that PIV sex is the most important sex, but also that I genuinely like and want PIV sex. It is more frustrating I think for me than it is for most of my male partners (I didn’t have ’em all at once, of course, teehee ;) ). The weird part is that there has been a time when I would just be really turned on by hanging out with a guy, and I get wet AND experience a bit of pain in my vag. Crazy stuff. I think it’s cool that I feel safe and comfortable enough to discuss this with all of you. :) It makes me feel a bit better.

  42. Spiders

    Hmm this new “treatment” for unfuckable vaginas seems to be coinciding with the fast-growing idea that erectile dysfunction is a serious health issue.

  43. Spiders

    Ok I just had a second look at Dr Pacik’s page and what the hell is going on in that photo? Is that just an accident that the dude’s thumb is pointing at the “patient’s” crotch?

  44. Natalia

    but I think it’s important to remember that it’s the P who decided that PIV sex is the pinnacle of sex for everyone.

    Agreed 100%. I don’t understand how, in 2009, women who just don’t want PIV are painted as somehow less than. Well, I do understand – but find it completely unacceptable.

  45. Caro

    “You know how “vagina” is supposed to be the non-offensive word for, well, vagina? It’s actually Latin for “scabbard.” In other words, that sheath a fellow sticks his sword in when he’s not waving it around at other fellows. How fucking offensive is that?? Of all the things a vagina does, that one function is the one it’s named for.”

    Thanks for that Hedgepig – you are spot on! I hate the word vagina and only use it when the word I prefer may cause offence.

    And the word I prefer is “cunt”. Let me explain why. The original meaning of “cunt” is ‘goddess’ or ‘high priestess’ – and was used back before the Roman invasions when pagan/wiccan beliefs were the norm in Britain. It was used as one of the highest compliments to women. It was also used to describe a woman high up in the pagan/wiccan religions.

    The Roman’s were patriarchial. They believed women were less than men. They were also Chrisitain. So after they installed (by terrible acts of force) Christianity/patriarchy on an unsuspecting Briatin the word ‘cunt’ became a way to describe “wayward” (ie: strong) women. And obviously – this has carried on throughout the centuries to the sitaution we have today.

    The situation being that most women (and men) are offended by the word. And yet ….I absolutely love to describe my genitals in such a comlimentary way!!!

    Even after I explain the word’s true meaning to women – well it’s like they are still afraind to use it. Everyone is AMAZED that it is actually (and should be) a complimentary word for women. Just shows how clever patriarchy has been in demonizing such a lovely word.

    Oh….if only more women learned about their TRUE (amazing) heritage!! By the way – isn’t ‘heritage’ the perfect word?! It starts with ‘her’ and negates any need at all for using or changing that horrible word ‘his-story’!!!!

  46. Spiders

    “Oh….if only more women learned about their TRUE (amazing) heritage!!”
    Thankyou for this, Caro. I hope to one day influence social policy enough to get women’s history onto the state education curriculum.
    For years I’ve carefully avoided the word “cunt” thinking that it was sexist, even though it’s so good for shock value.
    Guess I’m all good to go with the C word again!

  47. SoJo

    Sort of off topic but in hysterectomy’s they don’t use nerve sparing techniques because hardly any doctors know WHERE the nerves are in a woman’s pelvis. I don’t know how the hell this works since the clitoris is like 7 inches long and should have obvious nerve networks.
    Of course, nerve sparing is THE most important part of a mans vasectomy – more important than getting all the cancer or cyst most of the time.

  48. Alderson Warm-Fork

    “The original meaning of “cunt” is ‘goddess’ or ‘high priestess’”

    Do you have any references for this – I’m intrigued, but everything I google says the original meaning of ‘cunt’ is, well, ‘cunt’. Also, what evidence is there that the Celtic Britons weren’t patriarchal? I think there was a gap of a few centuries between the Romans invading Britain and the Roman emperor converting to Christianity, too.

  49. lawbitch

    There is yet another condition that causes pelvic pain, esp. with PIV sex–endometriosis. No known cause and no cure because it’s a ladies’ parts disease.

  50. Caro

    “Do you have any references for this – I’m intrigued, but everything I google says the original meaning of ‘cunt’ is, well, ‘cunt’. Also, what evidence is there that the Celtic Britons weren’t patriarchal? I think there was a gap of a few centuries between the Romans invading Britain and the Roman emperor converting to Christianity, too.”

    Hi Alderson Warm-Fork. Am afraid I do not have references. And not surprised all you get on google is the word – patriarchy I think has scewed the real meaning for so many centuries that it is all but lost. I heard about it’s meaning some time in my teens (long time ago now!) when I was learning about British culture before the Romans and about early paganism. It just stuck in my mind because I thought it was a wonderful way to empower myself. And to be honest…so what if I can find refs. or not? Isn’t it just an excellent way to empower women about their genitals anyway?

    I am sure that Celtic Britons were not all goddess-worshiping and peaceful before the Romans…that’s human nature. I am sure there must have been some gender-divide and some discord. However – pagan/wiccan worship was in place long before the Romans brought christianity so we can at least say that there would have been much less patriarchy.

    Yes – you are correct in that there was a gap between the Roman invasion and the Roman emperor converting to christianity. Well..not so much a gap. Conversions began straight away, I think. It just took a couple of centuries to spread and take hold of the masses (as I guess any religion does). But the Roman’s certainly saw men as more important than women with or without Christianity.

    None of the theories about early Celtic Briton have been proved definitively (and of course – many of them rely heavily on patriarchial viewpoints of history). However – that Britons were pagan is most likely. And I am really sorry that I do not have specific sources for you (but will look around). Most of this I have either read about when I was younger, picked up from literature/programmes over the years, or chattiing to a friend of mine about the Romans (he’s a bt of a Roman geek!)

    “For years I’ve carefully avoided the word “cunt” thinking that it was sexist, even though it’s so good for shock value.
    Guess I’m all good to go with the C word again!”

    Thanks spiders! Am really, really glad to have influenced you this way! I want to reclaim the word as OURS!! And you know the most shocking way you can use it? Take it as a compliment!! Last time a guy called me a “cunt”, I said “Oh god – thank you so much!!!” and smiled broadly. You could almost hear the crack of his jaw on the floor!! I then explained what it meant…and I have never seen a man blush that deeply before!!

    If we take it back – and take the “bad” power from it – and restore it to it’s true meaning..then they cannot use it to insult us!

  51. Interrobang

    I cured myself of cerebral palsy spasticity-induced vaginismus by stretching my vagina. I mostly did it because I wanted pap smears to stop feeling like I’d been raped by an elephant with a nastily patriarchal mindset.

    I’ve never had a problem with a Nigel demanding that he keep going when I’m in pain during sex, which, having CP, happens more frequently than is usual for temporarily able-bodied people.

    On the other hand, I’m usually roughly the same size as the people I’m having sex with, and often stronger, and can and have delivered appropriately-timed percussive reinforcement (shall we say) to a particularly persistent Nigel who wanted to have sex while I wanted to sleep (and with whom I promptly ended the relationship). I’ve incidentally never had this problem with a woman. Consult the Material Safety Data Sheet for proper handling procedures and toxicology information on stray Nigels…

    Ladies, weightlifting is your friend. Not only does it stave off (and even reverse) osteopenia and osteoporosis, but it also means that a haymaker to the jaw of an asshole rattles a few teeth.

    lawbitch — There is a treatment for endometriosis, called uterine ablation. I’m given to understand it works really well, and has the pleasant side effect of reducing one’s periods to practically nothing. (Do your own research; I am fervently one of these “better living through chemistry and/or surgical intervention” types more often than not; you will pry it from my cold dead hands. On the other hand, the signifying factor there is that the intervention has to benefit me, and I don’t see how turning my nether parts into a flaccid numb meat tunnel does anything to that end…)

  52. selulu

    To further elaborate on my vulvodynia experience: even now, when at last I have found a nice gynecologist who is supposedly a “specialist” in this condition, I find I am not always believed when I report my experience. Like, she decided that my only problem was the itching and rawness, and that the bad vestibular pain was just because my hymen hadn’t been stretched enough by a penis. I told her that although I have had intercourse with a guy only once, I have inserted a dilator for 10 minutes every night for a few months (per physical therapist’s instructions), and I have suffered through multiple physical therapist sessions in which they basically try to stretch me out. Her reply was, “well, it’s different with a penis.” So a dilator will hurt, but a penis won’t? And hey doc, can you explain why I’m in pain right now sitting at my desk (because I stupidly wore jeans that are too tight)?

    Sorry to go on about this.. this thread just got me all worked up and I needed to vent.

  53. Claire C. Cake

    Selulu, my mother actually used the “well, it’s different with a penis” line on me not more than two weeks ago. I had gone in for my yearly (I use the term “yearly” loosely, as I’ve only been to the gyny twice, with three years between the visits) and had had to make the woman stop half-way through my exam due to the sensation that I was going to rip apart. (Later, after two days of spotting, it was painfully obvious she had torn me with her evil speculum, but I digress.) Anyway, I called my mother because I was feeling pretty devastated with my body, and when I started sobbing about how “I just want to be able to have sex with my boyfriend,” her reply was simply “well, a speculum isn’t a penis.” Thanks for the advice, Mom.

  54. fleetfootedfox

    Amanda’s comment needs to be more prominent. This post makes me shakingly angry, as a (former) husband to a sufferer of vaginismus. Yes, numbing the area is absolutely horrifying, and on par with vaginal mutilation and is the sort of blaming and shaming that the patriarchy deserves to be hung high for.

    Suggesting, however, that straight or bi women just stop having penetrative sex is absolutely wrong on nearly as high a level. So is saying that as the possessor of the wanted penetrative organ, I was oppressing by acquiescing to those wishes is again, throwing blame, where understanding is needed.

    Consider the pain of a marriage wrecked by unrealistic, porn-ified sexual ideals. Now consider the pain of a marriage wrecked by actual psychophysiologic conditions prohibiting a desire, any desire of the party possessing the condition (or both parties), and know that your post is horrible and insensitive on the order of those you seek to blame.

  55. Annique

    I hate the word vagina but I think it would be better if people replaced it with vulva instead of cunt. Cunt doesn’t really seem to be referring to the vulva.I’m guessing men started calling the vulva vagina because that is where they fuck women, so in their minds is the only part worth talking about. But now everyone thinks all women have is a vagina.

    It might take pressure off women to have PIV sex if everyone stopped used vagina-centric language to describe our genitals. Especially women with vulvodynia/VVS/vaginismus. If women keep thinking all they have is a vagina, or cunt, then they feel like a failure if they don’t want to or can’t have PIV sex. If their vagina doesn’t work, they think they have no sexuality. There’s lots of other neat stuff down there besides a vagina (which I personally don’t think is that neat).

  56. vitaminC

    “You’re right, Twisty. I once heard of a so-called “treatment” that was merely applying topical lidocaine to the vag before penetration. That’s scary as hell to me. Sure, let’s numb you so that your body can’t give the obvious warning signs you need to stop.”

    The funny thing is that this is pretty standard practice for anal sex. As a much younger gay man (and a top), it sounded good to me, until my boyfriend schooled me as to *why* those pain receptors exist–to keep you from doing yourself serious damage (and maybe even bleeding to death).

    Having said that, Christ on a bicycle–what the HELL kind of man can keep going when his partner is in screaming pain?! Whether or not it’s legally rape, it would sure feel, look, and sound like it–that alone should be enough to get the guy to stop.

  57. Hedgepig

    Caro – I was going to suggest cunt as an alternative in my comment, but then I thought, nah, I’m sure it’s got Anglo-Saxon misogynistic origins as well. What a delightful idea that it means goddess! I actually don’t really care if it’s true or not, historically speaking; it’s a great myth and worth propagating. A couple of friends and I tried to reclaim the word cunt a few years ago. We strongly objected to the way it’s used as the worst possible, most offensive word in the English language, as if what it describes is also the most disgusting, offensive thing in existence. Once we got a barista to write it on the foam of a capuccino. It looked amazing. I wish we’d got a photo.
    I also like the word heritage. Women need to realise we have one, as a group.

    Annique, I get what you’re saying about people acting as if all women have is a passage, ignoring all the busy stuff on the surface. So many children growing up get told that boys have penises and girls..don’t. As if the absence of a dick means there couldn’t be anything there at all. Just a hole. But I think vulva should be used to describe the surface organs, and then something else for the internal passageway. Actually, doesn’t cunt refer to both?

    I just want to say I think it’s great that everyone feels “safe and comfortable” (as Lara said) enough to share these experiences and describe them in detail. The more we openly talk about how the cunt is not a simple hole that naturally and easily invites insertion the better.

  58. Betsy

    Wait, I am confused. I thought Sartre said “The vulgarity of the female sex is the vulgarity of everything that gapes open.”

    But now according to docs & shrinks, it seems that not-gaping is more abhorred.

    Oh, I get it — either or both ways, my body must be doing something wrong!

  59. TwissB

    The fact or possibility that people somewhere in the dim past referred to their imaginary friend in the sky as the C word scarcely distracts me from the present fact of its nigh universal use as a term of sexualized contempt for women. The last thing I want is to use it to demean myself and other women as a class. Since the N-word refers to men as well as women, those of the white persuasion have finally conceded that it is the insult that those who use it know it to be. Why is it so hard to accept that words men use to hurt women also cannot be transformed into silk purses? (If this be “shit”, Twisty, make the most of it! Though I’d prefer ringing affirmation.)

    Under circumstances not worth detailing, I once saw a video presented as a demonstration on how to have anal intercourse. After the obligatory advice about lubricants, the young victim, looking back over her shoulder as she lies spreadeagled on her stomach on the floor, earnestly imparts this key bit of advice: “You have to learn to just go with the pain.”

  60. Hedgepig

    TwissB, I totally understand your viewpoint. At various points in my life I’ve thought “I won’t use the c-word because it is a degrading term for the vagina.” And it is. But it is also a way of saying to a woman “You are disgusting because you have a vagina.” How can we deny that it is disgusting to have a vagina, except by refusing to accept that a word that describes it must be a disgusting, bad word?
    I see that because the vast majority considers the c-word to be vile and disgusting we risk propagating that view further by using the word. But does it advance our purposes at all to express disapproval when people use the word? Maybe by first neutralising the word (using it as a slang word for not very bad things, such as “the traffic was a bit cunty this afternoon, wasn’t it?”) and then progressing to re-claiming it (“wow, you fabulous cunt, you just won grandma of the year award, go you!”) we can leave those who wish to use the word to abuse women without the necessary verbal ammunition.
    I could be entirely wrong. It’s not something I’m certain of, I’m just bouncing ideas.

  61. Denise

    I would be skeptical of any story you hear about some lovely pagan matriarchal goddess worshiping culture in the past that was taken over by the nasty Christians and all their woman loving was turned to hating. These stories are almost universally made up or based on very thin evidence such as the existence of fertility statues or whatever.

    To be even more pedantic, referring to pre-Christian Europeans as “Wiccan” is a misnomer. Wicca was “created” in the 20th century. Yeah, its founder claimed to be the heir to an unbroken tradition of witches going back and back and back but there’s no evidence because it’s a mystery religion. But I’m skeptical of that, too.

  62. lauredhel

    Argh, the apricot and mauve colour scheme on that “doctor”‘s site is eye-bleedingly ghastly.

    And then there’s this.

    “At the present time, we use larger amounts of Botox for the treatment of vaginismus. 100 units of Botox (approximately 40 injections) speeds up the process of vaginal relaxation making it easier and faster to experience pain free intercourse.”

    I think forty needles in my cunt would probably cause it to clamp shut forevermore.

    Allergan have an imperial buttload to answer for when it comes to bludgeoning women with their own unacceptability, from lap-bands to Latisse. May it all come back to bite them in their perfect, perky arses one day.

  63. denelian

    i am hesitant to post, because it is a post about how not all men are rapists. but i think its kinda important, even if it IS TMI, because of my guy.

    see, i have fibromalgia and a few other things, and have had 4 surgeries on my hip this last summer. and my guy and i didn’t have sex for nearly a year. and literally anytime he thinks he’s hurting me, he becomes physically incapable of having sex. i don’t mean just that he STOPS having sex; i mean that if he thinks that something is hurting me he loses his erection.

    but it’s not just that my guy (apparently anyway) can’t rape me. it’s that he is really loudly opposed to anything that even might seem similiar to rape. friends have teased him about us not being able to have sex, and he has told them to “shut the fuck up, she is more important than a fleeting orgasm. she’s a PERSON, you insensitive self-centered ass”. he has stopped guys who were trying to hit on women who were drunk (and that is also literal – those guys who go to bars to pick up drunk women for a spot of drunken rape, he STOPS them.). he’s helped me get a friend away from an abusive wife-raper, and when the asshole threatened my friend and me, my guy threatened him right back – but not with violence. he had flipped his phone on to record and threatened to take it to the police if ANYTHING happened to my friend. he CRUSADES against date rape, walks around campus and lectures young men against it, tells all his friends all the time that the best sex, the only sex worth having is the sex that comes from enthusiastic consent. he dropped a friend, whom he had been friends with since grade school, because this friend’s girlfriend told me that she felt pressured to have sex with him.

    and i think that this is how rape culture will be changed. by men standing up to men, by men stating that rape is WRONG. because we lived in a fucked up victim blaming (victim CREATING) patrarichal society, my guy’s word is accounted as more important than my own. but we use that – my guy SHOUTS that we live in a rape culture and that this culture is BEYOND fucked up. he helps, he fights, he talks. it’s why i love him and am still with him – he doesn’t just SAY these things, he doesn’t treat just me with respect because he loves me – the respect came first, we were friends first, he has ALWAYS respected me and valued me.

    if i had this condition, i know that he would never ever ask for PIV sex again.

    that’s the problem, isn’t it? women aren’t respected by me. individual women may be respected by individual men, but as a whole, our only goddamned WORTH is our fucking fuckability. we need more me, ALL men, to be like my guy.

    but i’m not sharing him :p

    Twisty; you really are my heroine. and i think that what you say (and how you let women be ok with themselves, how you constantly tell women that they live in a patriarchy and its NOT THEIR FAULT, which is one of the most important things EVER) is vitally needed, crucial even. i think you and my guy would be best friends, if you could meet – you certainly sound enough alike! i am pretty sure he doesn’t read this blog (because we live together and i know pretty much everywhere he does go), but i swear that you two have some sort of deep telepathic connection – invariably something hell tells me about ends up here, or something i see here he ends up talking to me about. and JUST YESTERDAY he told me about a guy he met a work, whose girlfriend has vaginismus who came to my guy for advice, and how he told this man to STOP having PIV sex, there were lots of other types of sex, and this man said “of course, why didn’t i think of that”.

    sorry. it’s just uncanny to me how you two echo each other…

  64. Daisy P

    Stepford Faces, Stepford boobs, oh hell, no part of a woman’s body can escape the Stepford treatment. Of one part is forced into Stepfordization, another part will not look right in comparison, so this starts the chain reaction.

    We must be dutiful and obedient Stepadroids at all costs. We are here to serve, cannot let those pesky nerve-endings stop our committment.

    So, you can guess what’s coming next (scuse the expression).

    The Stepfordization of the anus.

    I hear tell that nostrils and ear canals might be the next big (small) thing. When that gets to be passe’ perhaps we wil have removable eyes, for the eye sockets??

    It’s so much fun to be a hetero girl!!!

  65. Caro

    “What a delightful idea that it means goddess! I actually don’t really care if it’s true or not, historically speaking; it’s a great myth and worth propagating. A couple of friends and I tried to reclaim the word cunt a few years ago. We strongly objected to the way it’s used as the worst possible, most offensive word in the English language, as if what it describes is also the most disgusting, offensive thing in existence. Once we got a barista to write it on the foam of a capuccino. It looked amazing. I wish we’d got a photo.”

    Thanks again Hedgepig! I feel very proud to know that what I said has made some women feel great! Exactly why I want to reclaim cunt. You are also spot-on with your comments to TwissB. I am sick to the back teeth of CONSTANT referrals to women’s cunts as either non-existent or weird and dirty….ie: not the penis.

    As for not being sure of the truth about cunt’s origins – yes agin…who cares if it is not spot-on accurate if it makes women feel better about themselves! Let’s be honest here – it’s about time we did!

    But the reason I said I wasn’t 100% totally sure of it’s origins is because MOST theories of our past are 50% truth, 50% conjecture. We just do not have the technology yet to be completely accurate. Most historian’s will concede this. So my theory may indeed be one of many…but it does have lots of evidence to support it.

    And isn’t that wonderful to think of? That it may be true there was a time when women liked themselves and they were honoured for their sexuality?

    I also loved your little story about writing it in your cappucino! really inspiring. I do things like that and the word actually does look amazing – you are right! Many women I know, use it during sex because it has such STRONG, sexy connotations (I do). It is certainly a great way to make oneself feel empowered. Much, MUCH more than ‘vagina’. Sorry to whitter on – I just love talking about this! Thanks again.

  66. Annique

    Hedgepig-I almost never have to refer to my vagina, so it wouldn’t be a problem for me to only use vulva, but I guess it would be for everyone else.

    Maybe cunt does refer to the vagina and the vulva, but since in real life everybody thinks the vulva is the vagina, and the vagina is a “hole”, using cunt wouldn’t be educating people about women’s genitals, unless everyone knew what the vulva was first. That’s what I worry about.

  67. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Ah, I used to do the “sit in the tub in an inch of water and cry” thing, too, and it had zero to do with the technique or intentions of the man I was with. It was just my body, a reflex I didn’t understand. I felt perverse for not being more accommodating.

    A male gyn suggested therapy because his touch made me wince. He said I must be blocking out a sexual abuse situation. The very suggestion that someone in my FAMILY must have caused my condition caused me more grief than anything else! What a NIGHTMARE.


    I don’t see a separation or conflict between “it’s in your mind” and “it’s a medical condition.” In my reality everything is mind before matter, for better or worse, it’s just some physical manifestations are more confusing/distressing/deadly than others, for reasons I don’t try to understand, because I’m too busy.

    The condition disappeared in my mid-twenties, and reappeared briefly during my separation/divorce. Deeply internalizing the concept of bodily sovereignty may have helped. I was a baby feminist/wiccan in college but, understanding a concept intellectually didn’t count for much. Knowing it deeply, and being able to tell the world to fuck off (and get away with it) magically cured many, many of my so-called “illnesses.” Go figure! I live alone today, un partnered, in relative safety (from rape) and thus enjoy (near?) complete control of the who/when/wheres of penetration, so perhaps I’m not “cured” so much as it’s become a non-issue?

  68. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    As for the word “cunt:” The word does not appear in the Anglocentric Etymological Dictionary or the equally Anglocentric Encyclopedia of the English Language. The Encyclopedia of Womens Myths and Secrets, however, ties the word cunt to the Old English cyn, Middle English cunte, Norse and Frisian kunta, Basque cuna, Gothic kuni, Latin cunnus, all of which supposedly harken to the Oriental great goddess Cunti or Kunti, the Universal Yoni.

    Words like cunning and ken (wisdom) are supposedly related to the same root words. Somebody, somewhere in Roman times used the word “cunctipotent” to describe pussy power. The prissy medieval clergymen called goddess shrines “cunnus diaboli,” or “devilish cunt.”

    I say, use the word and smile when you say it!

    As for Wicca, it was the invention of a pervy Brit who thought it would be totally kewl to ritualize and incorporate his obsessions with nudity, heterosexual group sex, scourging (BDSM) and Episcopalian pomp into Western mystery school traditions. If you’re just now grokking your Inner Goddess you just go on with your most badd and awesome self, but don’t get too excited about Wicca because it’s just more of the same BDSM shit.

  69. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    The online etymology dictionary is less kind:


  70. muchell (mesaventure)

    Hi–delurking to comment on the cunt issue. I’ve always heard it was from the Latin “cunis” meaning both “wedge” and “coin” (this association exists because coins were broken into triangle shapes–no idea if the association with women came before or after the money one). However, Inga Muscio proposes an older meaning for the word that does have goddess connotations–again, our methods for determining these linguistic associations and origins are less-than-perfect. Her book “Cunt” is wonderful. I read the chapter on menstruation when my cramps get bad. I’m not too comfortable using the word in public situations, but I love the idea of reclaiming it if some asshat calls you one.

    Note: a short glance at the OED tells me I’m wrong about the Latin, anyhow–they point to an Old Norse word, “kunta.” So perhaps we’ll never know.

    Twisty, you are awesome.

  71. BrevisMus

    With regard to the origins of the word ‘cunt’ – I really don’t want to side-track and go off-topic here, but I can’t stop myself – Caro is correct in saying that the ‘origins’ are not factual: “As for not being sure of the truth about cunt’s origins – yes agin…who cares if it is not spot-on accurate if it makes women feel better about themselves!”

    I think it’s great that some women want to reclaim the word cunt, but it is ‘dangerous’ to apply a history to it that has no factual basis. It perpetuates the fact that ‘history’ is seen as academically rigorous and masculine, whereas ‘her-story’ is a nice story but with no basis in fact, and it contributes to the idea that women are not able to be ‘proper’ historians because they prefer making up stories. I speak here both as a Pagan and as a Classicist (i.e. person who studies ancient Greece & Rome, including Roman Britain, and who recently had to sit through an ‘academic’ paper arguing that ‘male’ archaeology was using evidence to draw firm conclusions based in fact, and ‘female’ archaeology was about telling nice stories. Way to go to imply that female archaeologists make shit up and their work shouldn’t be trusted!).

    “The original meaning of “cunt” is ‘goddess’ or ‘high priestess’ – and was used back before the Roman invasions when pagan/wiccan beliefs were the norm in Britain. It was used as one of the highest compliments to women. It was also used to describe a woman high up in the pagan/wiccan religions.”

    My English dictionary (Concise OED) says that ‘cunt’ itself is Middle English, from Germanic (and wikipedia once told me that ‘cunt’ did not appear until 1290 AD – that article has been updated and it now says it was used from ‘at least the 13th century’). However, there is a Latin (i.e., original Roman) term for vulva, which is ‘cunnus’. This is from where we derive ‘cunnilingus’. ‘Cunnus’ was also used as slang to denote an unchaste woman, but there is no indication in the Complete Lewis & Short Latin dictionary that this word was derived from any of the British languages (it suggests comparison with Sanskrit and Greek words which sound similar & refer to female genitalia).

    I have vaguely heard of a goddess called ‘Kunti’ or ‘Kunda’, but this is an Indian goddess, not a British or Roman one. Perhaps this is the source of the mix-up?

    Paganism was practised in Britain in pre-Roman times. However, it was not any form of modern/ neo-Paganism, and was certainly not ‘Wicca’ in any sense of the word. Wicca was developed in the 1940s (see Ronald Hutton, ‘The Triumph of the Moon’). The paganism of the ancient Britons would have been broadly similar to the paganism practised by the Romans themselves – a polytheistic society. Both the actual practicalities of this polytheistic society, and attitudes towards religion, would have been very different to the modern Pagan ideals.

    “The Roman’s were patriarchial. They believed women were less than men. They were also Chrisitain.”

    The Romans were indeed patriarchal (as were the native Britons). However, they were not Christian when Britain was first invaded. Britain was first invaded in about 55 BC – before Christ was even born, never mind the development of Christianity. The major Roman invasion came after 43 AD, and those Romans were still pagan (worshipping Jupiter and Juno, etc, with animal sacrifice) and Christianity had barely started. They may have brought the roads, and sanitation (and all those other things listed in The Life of Brian), but they certainly didn’t bring Christianity at this point. It wasn’t for over another 300 years that the Roman Empire became Christian, and conversion then slowly trickled down. Christians were persecuted heavily in the Roman empire until at least 200-250 AD and were often executed for simply being Christian. There was no way that the Roman invaders would have been Christian at all.

  72. Valerie

    You know, vulvodynia went away for me almost entirely with the elavil. And it had been hurting me to the point where I had given up pants, masturbation, PIV or non-PIV sex, and bike-riding before that. Ladies who have the more severe types really ought to give that stuff a shot.

    Oh, and to the commentor who thinks that nobody can get off to standard missionary- some women have differently-positioned clitorises than others. It’s quite possible that some of the women who say they can only get off with penetration are telling the truth.

  73. Toonces

    Another “cunt” reclaimer here.

    However, I just broke off an engagement and cancelled a honeymoon because my now ex-fiance called me a cunt during our last argument. I don’t think he meant it as a compliment, though. True story.

  74. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    Daisy P., my dear, the anus has already been Stepfordized. As Boomer women dry up, Boomer men look elsewhere.

  75. thebewilderness

    Different languages often use the same series of sounds to mean different things.
    Take a peek.

  76. Frumious B.

    Toonces, you rock. That could not have been easy.

  77. fleetfootedfox

    also: do you think a person who has a psychosociologic disorder stemming from “strict religious upbringing,” is going to be satiated with any sort of sex that is not PIV (read also: procreative)?

  78. Twisty

    “also: do you think a person who has a psychosociologic disorder stemming from “strict religious upbringing,” is going to be satiated with any sort of sex that is not PIV (read also: procreative)?”

    Are you fucking kidding me?

  79. denelian

    just a side note really: while there are forms of Wicca that involve flaggelation (what you called BDSM), mostly Alexanrite/Alexandian types – there are even more forms of Wicca that do NOT. not to mention all the OTHER pagan religions that don’t include such things.

  80. Lindsay

    Something else is bothering me about the whole vaginismus-as-psychiatric-disorder setup.

    [T]he involuntary clampola is thought to be the symptom of a psychiatric disorder resulting from “fear of pain,” “traumatic sexual assault,” “strict religious upbringing,” “traumatic pelvic exam,” or — my personal favorite — “disgust,” rather than from any known medical condition.

    Maybe my definitions are off, but it seems to me that calling something a psychiatric disorder implies that the beliefs or behaviors it leads people to adopt are, well, crazy — or at least unreasonable. It seems perfectly rational to me for someone who’s either had painful experiences with penetration (or who has reason to suspect that penetration will be painful) not to want to be penetrated.

  81. Kuleana

    Well, I happen to like Dianic Wicca quite a bit, but I hear they’re not terribly well liked by other Wiccans, ha.

    As far as lady bits go, my old roommate and I went through different names for our vaginas due to dissatisfaction with existing terms. I liked calling mine an apricot. At first I just liked the sound of it, but telling men that it’s delicious and nutritious is a bonus! The fact that apricots don’t have holes doesn’t really bother me, partly because I have many of the same issues with penetration that those here have described, so the hole part of the equation really is not all that important for me. In fact, perhaps it will better apprise future suitors that they are to lick rather than stick!

  82. JenniferRuth

    On the word cunt:
    (from Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio

    “In fact, “cunt” wasn’t considered obscene until the 17th Century. The earliest known reference in English is to a street frequented by prostitutes called “Gropecuntlane.” Which sounds like a Monty Python joke, but it’s not. (Sound it out.) In fact, according to some etymologists, “cunt” was not used as a term of abuse for a woman until the 20th century. Before that it only referred to a part of the body.

    According to etymologists, the modern word “cunt” does not relate to the Latin word cunnus, meaning pudenda. We’re not sure how they’re so sure of it, but they swear “cunt” comes from the Germanic root, kunton meaning female genitalia. Which is interesting if you consider the fact that the Germanic root is ku- meaning “hollow place,” and the Latin root is keu- meaning “to cover, to conceal.” These days the cunt is definitely considered a hole and not something that goes over or covers something else. Then again, in the end, a cunnus is a kunton, is a cunt.”

  83. Compcat

    Botox was originally developed and tested to use on bladder cancer. They stopped using it as a treatment for bladder cancer, as 2 to 5 years later, the inside of patients’ bladders tended die and slough off. Not good. Life without a bladder is no fun, and generally shortened.

    I assume that the dose used for face muscle paralysis is much smaller, and that they haven’t seen the whole sloughing and dying thing there. I’d still look at any available papers on the whole using it in women’s vagina’s things for how many patients, side effects, and the time periods involved (if one was desperate enough to attempt this procedure). You don’t want to be the first person whose internal organ sloughs off.

  84. Jezebella

    Toonces: good move.

    Y’all can reclaim the word all you want, but if somebody calls me or anyone I know that word, he’s on the permanent shit list.

  85. fleetfootedfox

    No, I’m not fucking(your word) kidding.

    The solution is going to have to come through treating the underlying issue. Numbing the area, or just giving up on a specific part/type of sex are crap solutions that don’t even treat symptoms, they ignore the symptoms wholesale.

    For plenty of women, orgasms without penetration are difficult, painful, or just less desirable. I don’t see how someone can be considered sex-positive and tell people what kind of orgasms or sex they should have.

  86. Itxaro

    fleetfootedfox, the whole “ZOMG YOU’RE TELLING PEOPLE HOW TO HAVE SEX” gambit is the oldest goddamn trick in the book and nobody who reads IBTP is buying it. Lurk more– and realize that asking people to examine their assumptions (and letting them know that if they HURT SO BADLY THEY CRY every time they have PIV sex, it’s not the only option) is not telling people how to have sex, how to get orgasms, or what they SHOULD like.

    You said that someone who has grown up conditioned to enjoy procreative activities will not get off when not having PIV sex.
    Proof or GTFO. The mere fact that women in our society enjoy clitoral orgasms disproves your theory. Oh, and all those fundie christian kids engaging in oral/anal to save their poor virginities…

  87. InfamousQBert

    holy fucking shit. i can’t, i mean, my brain=dead after this. putting POISON? in my vagina?! just to make it open up?! who the hell thought this was a good idea and why did we give him a medical license!?

  88. Esther

    This is an awesome post, and I want to send good thoughts and love to all the beautiful women here who posted about dealing with vaginismus/vulvar vestibulitis/vulvodynia/anything else. Chronic pain sucks. Let’s get this shit solved.

  89. sue

    This is horrible. I too have been diagnosed with VV…
    It never even occurred to me that something was wrong with trying to fix the pain in order to PIV sex.

    It’s like a given- you must get cured (through surgery or mind numbing meds) or you must be alone forever if you’re a hetero female.

    Yes, you ppl are right- why should i have to have a mutilating surgery in order to have a fulfilling relationship?

    This type of thinking is just not out in the mainstream.

    Women are either nymphos or frigid.

    Actual medical reasons for pain – not talked about in the media!


    My therapist says 25 percent of her female patients suffer from painful sex.

    And the solution is to fix the woman not for the man to find alternatives to causing his partner severe pain.

    What kind of fucked up world is this?

    Shame on our stupid society!

    Women need to speak up!

    Pain is pain wherever it is on the body. And no one should feel less than human because they pain!


    what a fucked up world!

  90. Sonja

    well,one of the other issues that I have with this condition is, that its existence is also useful to paint women who have been penetrated against their will as ‘lacking in morality’. OTOH, I would ALWAYS like to be in charge of all parts of my body at all times, thus I can understand that women might seek treatment in any case. Ever since I have moved to teh United states I have been shocked by the warlike status between the genders. It seems like there is simply no way t be a decent guy without being assualted by any number of people as weak and a pussy, while there seems to be also no way to be a simple, fun and sex (as in consentual) loving woman, not always at risk of being raped. I’ll be fleeing back home as soon as work permits as I have two girls to raise. I’d rather not do it in this environment. SHouldn’t it be easiest to be a decent human being and keeping each otehr safe without attacking each other? I guess that is just another form of partriarchy *dividing* to make the conquering that much easier,Sigh. POwer to you

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