Dealing with sex-related health issues

How do we deal with sex-related health issues?

Not too long ago, I had one of those ideal customers – open about what she was looking for, unashamed to be in a sex shop, friendly and funny and genuinely interested in my suggestions of good toys for her to try. After a quick tour of the store and demos of my favourite products, she got down to business to tell me exactly why she was here: she’d been sent by a physiotherapist, she said, to look for a vibrator or dilator to help with her vaginismus. She explained that vaginismus is a condition whose most commonly-known symptom is intense vaginal pain during penetration by ANYTHING – tampons, speculums, and yes, even vibrators and penises.


Having never even heard the word “vaginismus” before, my interest was piqued. A quick google search turned up a slew of sites on the subjects, from a Wikipedia page to sites run by pharmaceutical companies pedalling their latest wonder drug or product.

It is unsurprising that most medical sites focus on vaginismus as a sex issue and not as an overall quality of life issue – just as endometriosis, a health problem that runs in my family, is often treated as a fertility issue when the problems caused by it are much, much farther-reaching than just affecting our abilities to bear children. Treatment of vaginismus – as suggested by male doctors, hmm – sometimes involves BOTOX INJECTIONS IN THE VAGINA, to paralyze the muscles so women can have penetrative sex. Needless to say, while this may enable women to have penetrative sex, it does nothing to treat the problem on a fundamental level – nor is there any info on the sites touting this method about the ability of women to achieve orgasm post-botox-in-the-vagina (to say nothing of the panic that the mere idea of needles anywhere NEAR my lady-parts induces for me – yikes!). Treatment seems to be largely male-centric, geared towards getting women able to have penetrative sex with men ASAP regardless of the long-term effects of the condition. Nowhere are there testimonials from lesbians or single ladies who underwent treatment because they wanted to be able to have sex on their own terms.

Searching for a more feminist response to the issue of vaginismus brought results that were also somewhat disconcerting, if more varied: one prominent feminist blogger went so far as to write penetrative sex off entirely for women with vaginismus, saying that if it hurts, you shouldn’t try to have it at all, which is rather dismissive of womens’ sexual desires (particularly bi and straight ladies). Not that people can’t have fulfilling and intimate sex lives that involve everything BUT penetration, as some choose to do – but for those who DO want penetrative sex, there has to be a more empowering answer to this dilemma than “botox in your private parts so you can suffer for your partner’s gratification” or “give up entirely on the idea of penetrative sex”. Needless to say, neither approach seems to treat womens' sexual appetites, power and agency with the respect they so deserve.

Back to my lovely customer – after a lengthly discussion, she ended up deciding on a Slender G-Spot Vibrator, a toy narrow enough to reach her g-spot with it’s gentle curve without putting enough stress on the muscles in her vagina to cause her pain. And lube. Lots of lube. And me, well… I sat down and wrote a blog post.