Vaginismus & Sexual Trauma
Was I sexually assaulted?
Short answer is no.
Rationally speaking, no.
Factually speaking, no.
In my mind? It's harder to explain than a simple no.
I want to preface this post by saying outright that I am sharing this for the first time - even with the short conversations I had with my mum and sister about this, I have never gone this deep. So this is a first. I will probably not be 100% coherent or make the most sense. My thoughts might be more sketches and drafts of what I actually feel and if you feel the need to correct me or educate me at any point, please feel free to do so.
I also want to highlight the fact that, by calling my experience a "sort of", "kind of" assault, I do not mean to offend or diminish the pain of survivors of "actual assault" that involves a real offender. At all. That is not in any way, shape or form my intention - so if you do feel hurt or offended by my story, please feel free to comment below as I would love to hear your perspective on this.
And we'll head off to a confusing start I guess...
I was born with a bladder condition called vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), where some of the urine basically flows backwards from the bladder, up the ureter and back to the kidney (instead of 100% of the urine flowing forward where you actually pee it all). That does not mean I didn't pee, I did. Just a bit of my urine travelled back into my kidneys (from both ureters, so both sides) and that is not only unhealthy on its own, it leads to tons of urinary tract infections and, if not properly handled, could also lead to becoming infertile.
I had laser surgery twice to fix this problem (at 11 and then again at 13) but, between them and before them, ever since I was born, I would go for a check-up exam (usually yearly). They hoped the situation would be resolved on its own, but it did not. Hence, the surgeries.
These exams were excruciating. Every since I can remember, I hated these exams.
I don't exactly remember my first one, of course. I was an infant.
But I do remember one where I already had my period, I had pubic hair, I had breasts and was "a woman". It was awkward.
They consisted of me going in to see a urologist (always a male), they would have me lay down on this ice-as-cold metal exam table totally naked and spread my legs and arms. Then the doctor would insert a not-so-tiny transparent tube up my urethra, they would fill the bladder up with water so that they could have me pee for them to see on the CAT scan how my bladder would behave doing so.
I would have to pee lying flat and horizontally on the table with about five people staring at me - which I could almost NEVER do so then, much to their protest, they would eventually tilt the table as if I was standing up (mind you my hands were tied to it, Jesus in the cross style) and pee the rest of it.
Every since I can remember, I hated these exams.
Of course, this was a medical exam. They had my mother's consent. She wanted to get me better. They were doing their jobs - harshly and coldly but in a professional manner. They did not assault me or act inappropriately. But I felt assaulted.
I don't know if this will ring true to anyone or make any sense but I hope so...
Every single time I went in, I asked for a female doctor. The male doctor laughed it off and said "don't be so whiny". Every single time I watched the doctor invade my personal space and self and I felt disgusted, uncomfortable, ashamed, humiliated and small. So small. I did not consent.
I can remember so even from a young age.
Then having to pee as they insisted and almost yelled for me to do so in front of so many people was mentally painful. Almost like emotional torture.
I did not want it.
I realise both then and now that I was being treated medically.
But it scarred me as a human being.
I did not consent.
I remember begging my mum not to go in again and not to have to do it.
The older I became the weirder it got for me.
Nowadays, I'm shameless when it comes to nudity.
I have a male gynocologist and have no problems with that. I have no problems getting naked in front of doctors and nurses but... I consent to all of that! So it feels very different.
Now you might think: how did this affect your life? Seriously? From a young age - maybe an age of perception and reflexion - I developed a condition called vaginismus.
I didn't realise I had it until much, much later in life and I don't yet feel confident going into details about this. But vaginismus is basically when, subconsciously, any time anyone or anything comes near your vagina, you contract your inner muscles making it painful (in some cases even impossible) for whatever it is to penetrate.
I first realised this with tampons.
I found them much harder to take out than most of my friends and family members described. I didn't know why it hurt so much. But I just kept on going.
From a young age - maybe an age of perception and reflexion - I developed a condition called vaginismus.
When I lost my virginity, it hurt like hell.
But I figured it was my first time, then it'd be ok.
Except it wasn't...
It kept hurting. Every single time. Not throughout the whole act of intercourse, just the beginning. But the first penetration just stung so much.
And I could never fully relax while someone performed oral sex on me (not even my long time boyfriend, who I feel and felt ultra comfortable with). It was too much. Too close. Too personal.
When I realised what this condition was, I was asked to think of any past trauma or events that might have contributed to this unconscious fear of penetration - and the usuals are pregnancy and assault. I had none. Not really. Yet after much soul searching I realised only this could be it. The answer. The reason. The why.
I began "physical therapy" for this and, again, this is still not something I'm completely comfortable talking about, because honestly I'm not completely over it, not fully healed - maybe one day. Because, honestly, no matter how comfortable I was in any given sexual situation, no matter how much I wanted it to happen... No matter how relaxed I felt... When anything or anyone even went near my vagina (even my own self), I just felt it close up. Literally. Shut down! None shall pass!
But basically it just involves doing flexing exercises, sort of like kegels. So you have more control of your muscles down there and you can learn to let them loose when you want to.
And this condition can also influence your orgasms as well (self-provided or otherwise) because it does not ever allow you to fully relax those inner muscles.
Because, honestly, no matter how comfortable I was in any given sexual situation, no matter how much I wanted it to happen... No matter how relaxed I felt... When anything or anyone even went near my vagina (even my own self), I just felt it close up. Literally. Shut down! None shall pass!
Vaginismus can be a periodic condition that affects you when you're a bit more stressed or going through something mentally that manifests physically. But it can also be, like it was/is for me, something more continuous that has been with me ever since I can remember because the "trauma" is so far back.
So... Was I sexually assaulted?
But, practically speaking, for me... My mind? Yes.
It's probably better defined as "sexual trauma" rather than "assault". Yet I feel like trauma is so vague that you eventually have to define it further...
It's frustrating to think so because there's no one to blame and nothing that could have been done differently really. It's just there. A mountain I have to climb every once in a while.
I have wondered wether to do specific mental therapy focused on this several times but I'm still not sure because, rationally, I am over it. My body just isn't. And it gets me thinking... Is it muscle memory?
You know when you do something so routinely and automatically you don't even remember doing it?
My dance teachers would often say "let the choreography learn you and muscle memory will never fail you" like this movement would just automatically come after the other because we internalised it that way.
I think that's what happened with me. Anytime someone came near my vagina I tensed up for a long period of time because it meant pain and uncomfortableness - from ages 0 to 13. So I believe it might be just my go-to response. Something I unconsciously picked up and have a hard time going against. It IS possible to overcome it. But it does come with a lot of therapy and hard work.
But what are your thoughts on this?
Have you ever heard of vaginismus? Have you had a similar experience?
I believe this condition is so much more widespread that we believe it to be because there's so much stigma around female sexuality, still to this day.
Let me know all your thoughts. Even if you disagree, comment below, please. I really want to have this conversation with you.