Why I Didn't Have Sex Until I Was 27

It wasn't my choice — it was my vagina's.

by Elena R. Mendoza


R and I had sex for the first time three weeks after we broke up. I was twenty-seven, and had been living with vaginismus for all my life.

Clinically speaking, vaginismus is

...involuntary tightness of the vagina during attempted intercourse... In some cases vaginismus tightness may begin to cause burning, pain, or stinging during intercourse. In other cases, penetration may be difficult or completely impossible. Vaginismus is the main cause of unconsummated relationships.

From the moment I felt sexual, I wanted penetrative sex. I consumed classy erotica, airy-fairy romance novels, and dirty fan fiction in big gulps. The sweet, candle-lit first time never appealed to me. Hair-pulling, back-scratching sex — that's what I fantasized about. Two people, desire-addled, grasping at each other. The man hiking up my skirt, ripping my panties off, gripping my hips, and then...

Sex-positive folks will eagerly tell you that there's more than one way to have sex, and that penetration isn't necessary to get off. That's absolutely true (and thank God for that). But my vaginismus went beyond "no penetration." P-in-V sex was impossible for me. Fingering? No. Mouth? No. Tampon? Why don't you just shove a spike up between my legs? During gynecology checkups, two medical assistants would have to physically hold me down while I screamed. The medical staff dismissed me when I tried to get help. "Just use lube or something when you have sex," they said.

My frustration and depression really wasn't about craving a penis. Well, okay, a part of it was, but in a larger sense. I knew that I wanted penetrative sex with my partner, with R. But more than that, I wanted control. I wanted the choice to have penetrative sex, or finger sex, or oral sex.

Imagine feeling like you have no power over your own sexuality. Imagine being afraid of your partner, not because you don't trust him, but because you know that eventually he'll want to be intimate, and you are the obstacle to that intimacy. My vagina literally cock-blocked me. Imagine the pain being so bad that it overshadows every area of romantic connection. Imagine kissing someone you're really into, and instead of enjoying all the wonderful reactions happening in your body, thinking, fear-stricken, "Please, please don't let this go below my waist. Don't make me have to say stop." Imagine feeling trapped, constantly, looking at other people, teenagers, who manage to fuck for the first time with minimal discomfort. Imagine loving someone, deeply, and being unable to visualize a future with them.

The emotional and physical pain fed off each other, to the point where any touch around my vulva or even my inner thighs caused my muscles to spasm and lock painfully. I could tolerate soft, loose panties against my skin, and gentle soap in the shower. Nothing else. Not even my own fingers.

Imagine constant guilt. Imagine never feeling as though you're a true partner in your relationship.


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