Vaginismus is the involuntary tensing of the muscles in and around the vagina when attempting to insert anything like a penis, finger or tampon. It can make penetrative sex painful and even impossible for some.
I met with Kat Wilson from the Vaginismus Network recently to discuss the condition and why we really do need to talk about our vaginas!
Kat had vaginismus for as long as she can remember. Sex was too painful to try and tampons were a no-no. She kept it secret, almost ashamed for many years but through her blog, Hey Vaginismus, (it's very moving, do give it a visit) she found a whole swathe of women who felt the same. It was when she finally met up with Lisa Mackenzie, the other founding member of the Vaginismus Network, together they realised how important and empowering it is to reach out to others and share experiences.
By talking and raising awareness of the condition they felt like they weren't alone. And so, in 2017, they launched the Vaginismus Network to help others going through the same thing. Therapist Sarah Berry was a speaker at their inaugural event in April 2018 and the duo asked her to join the team shortly after.
Joyfully, as documented in her blog, Kat has now found freedom from vaginismus but is still passionate about helping other women who might be suffering in silence.
She explained more:
'The Vaginismus Network was set up in response to the absolute lack of awareness of the condition, and the lack of support for people who have it. After years of living with it in shame and secrecy, Lisa and I met and realised that having someone to talk to made the whole situation much easier to deal with. We became passionate about helping others make the kind of connection that we had, and decided to form the Network. Since then, we have both completely shifted our attitudes to vaginismus, and sex in general. In vaginismus treatment, there is so much emphasis on getting a penis into a vagina. However, this isn't relevant to every vaginismus sufferer, and, even when it is, it can become the sole focus of sex, leading to stress and pain. Before the Network, I didn't feel like a particularly sexual person. How could I be when I couldn't get a penis in my vagina? However, the incredible people that I have met and connected with through running the Network have given me a whole new sex education, and it's now so important to us that we help other vaginismus sufferers to realise that they can still have incredible, fulfilling sex lives, without penetration.'
One of the things that I found really shocking during my conversation with Kat was the lack of understanding from healthcare professionals. There seemed to be quite a lot of insensitivity and ignorance of the condition even when going to health centre. A doctor might repeatedly ask Kat if she could be pregnant or if she was up to date with her smear test. She'd have to explain every time why those things were impossible for her. At that time, it caused awkwardness and embarrassment.
Through slowly gaining confidence and starting to be vocal, she's found it gets easier to talk about the condition and she's been amazed at how many other women open up when she mentions her vaginismus or being part of the Vaginismus Network.
The team set up regular events to support and encourage those going through their vaginismus journey and break down shame and taboos surrounding it.
The Network recently collaborated on an artwork by illustrator Hazel Mead, who also has vaginismus, to highlight that sex is not just PIV (penis in vagina) there's many way to enjoy sex, intimacy and sensuality and the fantastic piece illustrates non-penetrative fun. You can imagine our absolute joy to see a Ruby Glow on there!
If you have been affected or think you would like to connect with the Vaginismus Network, you can visit their site or find them all over social media - take it from me, they are a a wonderful trio of women who really do care.
I can report that talking indeed raises awareness and I'm delighted to be able to share their work (and their chat!).
Don't suffer in silence! You deserve to enjoy your sensual side too x x x