The term Vaginismus refers to a condition that some women may face involving the recurrent and involuntary contracting of the vaginal muscles – often when any possible penetration may be occurring, including during sexual intercourse, while inserting a tampon or a menstrual cup and even during health check ups.
There is often no underlying condition responsible for these muscle spasms. Often Vaginismus is linked to psychological factors including extreme stress, adverse sexual experiences, negative ideas and reactions towards sex, fear and anxiety, lack of trust in a partner, not wanting or being ready for the sexual experience and in some cases may be the result of sexual abuse or denied sexuality as well.
It can occur early on or even years after not facing any such issue. Vaginismus is not an isolated experience, yet one that is taboo and not openly discussed. Researchers are calling for a bio-psychosocial approach to understand the issue citing that factors contributing to this experience may exist on a spectrum from physical to psychological, relational and cultural. Moreover, certain researchers also note that sexuality cannot be understood solely in a medicalized context, and rather involves “sexual motives, scripts, pleasure, power, emotionality, sensuality, communication or connectedness”(Tiefer 2001). This means that each woman or couple that experiences this condition may have a network of separate individual factors that lie at the core.
It’s important to keep in mind that this may bring with it much self-blame and doubt, given the kind of society we live in that focuses on expectation placed on women even when in the context of sexual pleasure. This condition can be extremely painful and is not something that can be controlled. It’s important to be patient with one’s partner, and not force any sexual activity and refrain from blaming or shunning the woman for something that is currently outside of her control.
Vaginismus can be resolved through many multifaceted approaches including counselling and therapy.