Sex Life: Living With A Vagina That Refuses To Be Penetrated

February 1, 2020

Sex Life is an anonymous Zikoko weekly series that explores the pleasures, frustrations and excitement of sex in the lives of Nigerians.


The subject of today’s Sex Life is a 27-year-old heterosexual woman living with vaginismus, a condition that makes it impossible for her to have penetrative sex, undergo a gynaecological exam or even insert a tampon.

What was your first sexual experience?

I remember being molested when I was 5 years old. My parents weren’t living together. I was staying with my mum, and she had a very good friend who often visited and dashed us money.

One evening, he stopped by and my mum went to cook him dinner. He sat me on his lap and began fingering me. It was unbelievably painful, but because he’d been like a second father to me, I just assumed he knew what he was doing. It wasn’t until much later that I realised what had happened.

I’m so sorry.

He wasn’t the only one. My grandmother’s houseboy used to touch me and my cousin until we moved to Lagos. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. In Lagos, there was a guy who was living with us; he molested me every single day for three years — it started when I was 7 and ended when I was 10.

I actually got addicted to it, and I hated myself so much because of that. It got so bad that I even started begging him to touch me. When he finally left, I went through serious withdrawal. Family friends would come over and I’d try to get them to touch me — some agreed and some ignored me. 

Damn. When did you end up having your first consensual experience?

I attempted sex with my first boyfriend when I was 16. I always thought I was just scared of having sex, like the normal fear that comes with being a virgin. Everything I’d read about sex made it clear that my first time was going to be painful.

But every time my boyfriend attempted to insert anything into my vagina — from his finger to his penis — it was a huge problem. After six months of failed attempts, we broke up because he said I was useless. He started dating my friend and I almost died.  

That’s awful. What exactly was the problem?

The thing is, I was so scared of penetration that I couldn’t even open my legs. Whenever I attempted to open up, it felt like someone was shooting me in my vagina — that’s the only way I can articulate the pain. I eventually tried to insert my own finger and I couldn’t get past the opening.

When did you realise what was wrong?

It was totally random. In 2017, I was scrolling through Twitter and I saw a retweet about vaginismus. I thought it sounded interesting, so I opened the thread and found so many African-American women talking about their symptoms, specifically the pain of penetration. 

I was shocked. It felt like they were describing my reality. I immediately went to google the term and that’s when I realised what had been wrong with me for so long. So, I started looking for treatments in Lagos, and I couldn’t find anything. There was just a lot of misinformation.

Did you eventually find someone that could help?

Yeah, I did, but it was such a hassle. I had a vaginal infection in 2017 and I told my mum. So, she took me to a hospital to get tested. When we got there, they tried to do an exam, which required me to have something inserted into my vagina. 

I tried to explain to the doctor that I had vaginismus and it wouldn’t be able to enter, but he didn’t know what I was talking about. He eventually agreed to bring something much smaller — about the size of a needle — but when they tried to insert it, I began screaming. It was agonising. 

When I turned in tears, I could see the shock on my mother’s face. The ride back home was completely silent. She later asked what the problem was, and I told her everything — from the times I was molested, to the condition I’d been struggling with.

How did she react?

She asked why I’d never told her, but in my head, I was like, ‘We’ve never had that kind of relationship’. My mother is super conservative, especially when it comes to sex, so I just didn’t feel comfortable sharing this issue with her. 

Anyway, she suggested that we reach out to my cousin, who is a doctor in Australia. When we got in touch with him, he said it wasn’t a problem, but that we shouldn’t bother treating it until I’m ready for marriage.

EXCUSE ME?

Yup. I was so upset. I decided to double down on finding solutions myself. I started looking for therapists and I eventually found one on Twitter. I reached out to her, and she referred me to a male doctor who apparently had more experience with my condition. 

I went to meet him, and it didn’t take long for me to realise that he just wanted to manipulate and dupe me. He would touch me inappropriately, claiming that my condition was because I was single, and he wanted to stand in as a boyfriend for me. 

I was really desperate at that point, so I decided that I would do whatever it took to get rid of the condition. Then he asked me to pay N100,000 all at once to, in his words, “build morale” — this didn’t include the N20,000 I had already paid for the consultation. 

Did you pay him?

Hell no. I couldn’t imagine paying someone that much to basically assault me. He was actually texting me as if we were dating, and the worst part was that he wasn’t even saying anything helpful about fixing my condition. So, I just blocked the creep.

What happened after that?

The whole situation really got to me. I became suicidal because I felt very unwanted and unloved. Luckily, I stumbled upon The Vaginismus Network, a community of women with the same condition, and I reached out to them. Even though they weren’t in Africa, they were very supportive and they inspired me to keep fighting. 

So, I decided to reach out to my cousin again and told him that if he didn’t help me this time, my blood would be on his hands. He quickly found a female therapist for me. I booked a session with her, and we immediately connected. She had dealt with something similar, so she was very understanding.

So you’re currently getting treatment?

Yeah. There’s been really great progress. I was able to put a finger in recently, with the help of A LOT of lubrication. My therapist explained that my vagina most likely collapsed because of the trauma of my assault. 

Apparently, there’s isn’t a direct cause. It happens to a lot of women for a variety of reasons. My therapist went through something similar, but hers was secondary vaginismus — she had it after giving birth to her second child. 

That really helped me bond with her. That she was able to overcome it gave me some hope. That’s what pushed me to try putting a finger, and I was so excited that it went in, even though it was still extremely painful. 

Has there been any more progress?

Yeah. After my vagina got comfortable with my index finger, I moved to my middle finger. I also got dilators — a tube-shaped device that’s used to stretch the vagina.

They come in different sets, increasing in size and length based on the phase, and I’m already up to the fourth phase. I was even able to insert tampons for the first time this year. 

What dilators look like.

That’s incredible. Have you been involved with anyone through all this?

Before I started seeing my therapist, I’d sworn off men. My breaking point was when I told a guy that sex wasn’t on the table and he blocked me. I told another one and he just ghosted me. Thankfully, I’ve finally found a guy that totally understands and is comfortable with taking things at my own pace. 

So, what’s your sex life like at the moment?

Given the circumstances, it’s pretty great. I’m much more comfortable with my condition, and I’ve learnt that penetrative sex isn’t the only form of sex. Foreplay is sex. Oral sex is sex. As long as I orgasm, I’m good. Plus, there’s no guarantee that once I’m able to have penetrative sex it will make me orgasm.

So, yeah, I’m very comfortable with my sex life and the guy I’m with. We are constantly trying different things. I recently started allowing him to finger me, but we still haven’t gone all the way. I’m sure if I continue with therapy, that will happen soon enough. I just hope that after all this, it’s as great as people paint it to be. 

What about self-pleasure? Did your condition affect that?

I’ve actually been masturbating since I was 10. After the guy that molested me left and I was dealing with withdrawal symptoms, I discovered that touching myself was also an option. I didn’t even know it was masturbation at that point, I just knew I enjoyed it.

So, it wasn’t because of my condition that I was masturbating, but it definitely helped me deal with what I was going through. I think it might have even ruined me because it’s now harder for men to make me orgasm through clitoral stimulation. 

I know my body really well, and I’ve found that a lot of men are not patient. They just go off what they see on porn, without bothering to communicate with their partner. So, I have no choice but to continue to help myself.

Did you ever consider trying anal sex in lieu of vaginal sex?

Oh nah. Many people have told me that anal sex is very painful, and pain is part of the problem. I think I will eventually try it, once I’m able to cross this vaginismus bridge. But I’m definitely more open to the possibility of trying it than I’ve ever been.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to trying once your condition has been treated?

Ever since I watched 50 Shades of Grey, I’ve been looking to getting spanked, choked and having those vaginal balls inserted into me. I also want to peg my partner. I don’t know why Nigerian men aren’t open to pegging.

Honestly, I don’t think my destiny is tied to Nigerian men. They can be so close-minded. Hopefully, my partner will be open to it. I actually like a bit of sexual violence — being slapped and spat on. Basically, I want to be dominated. 

I’d also like to sleep with a woman. I remember watching lesbian porn and seeing them scissor each other. I think I’d love that clit-to-clit action. I’m not even bisexual, I just know I want to try it at least once. At this point, I want to try it all.

How would you rate your sex life on a scale of 1 to 10?

I’d give it a 5 because it’s not as adventurous as I’d like it to be. Hopefully, when penetrative sex is on the table it’ll become a lot more interesting. My partner and I are trying, but I know it could be much better. 

Check back every Saturday by 12pm for new stories in the Sex Life series. If you would like to get this story in your mail before everyone else — complete with inside gist that doesn’t make the final cut, sign up here. Catch up on older stories here.

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