Ask Professor Foxy: Working it out in Florida

Welcome to the first edition of our new series, Ask Professor Foxy. If you have questions, send them to ProfessorFoxyATfeministingDOTcom.
Hi Professor Foxy,
I’ve been married for about eighteen months now, and my husband and I have yet to have intercourse (there may have been a few times when he got in a quarter of an inch or so, but it really hurt and I’m not even sure, which is telling). Admittedly, I’m very ignorant about sex. No matter how much I read about it or how many diagrams I view, I still feel clueless and incompetent.
I don’t have any sexual trauma in my background (except maybe my first gynecological exam; they haven’t stopped being painful). But I guess you could say I was a typical abstinence fan. I was raised with the expectation that I wouldn’t have sex till I was married, and it never really occurred to me to seriously question it. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned on Feministing yet is how the abstinence movement gives you the impression that sex will be perfect if you can just wait till you’re married. Now, of course, I feel like a gullible idiot. My husband (also a virgin at marriage) has been completely supportive and understanding (and thinks it’s somehow his fault), and our marriage is great aside from this, but it’s incredibly frustrating, and it makes us both reluctant to even try. I don’t know if it’s just that we’re both clueless or if there’s something worse going on.
As much as I don’t “get” books about sex, I’d also appreciate any reading recommendations you may have for people like me.
–Not Doing It in Florida

Hey Florida -
I want you to stop thinking about having sex. Just stay with me here…one of the things that the abstinence-only movement, and frankly most of our culture teaches us, is that sex is VERY, VERY, VERY SERIOUS. And I am going to tell you a little secret – sex, really, really good sex is fun and funny and involves intimacy and laughing and oops moments and funny noises.
So this is what I want you and your husband to do. I want you to take the pressure of penetration off the table. First, learn how to enjoy each others’ bodies. Practice sex not being serious.
I want you to spend one week, a minimum of an hour a day, kissing and cuddling. Nothing more. Week two – I want you to have a week of nipples. His or yours or both. Enjoy them, see what you like, are either of you ticklish? Week three – keep up the kissing and exploring, but go below the belt line. And by below the belt line, I mean you for you: masturbation. You may have never touched yourself, but it is hard to tell someone what you like if you don’t know yourself. No need to penetrate, find your clitoris, look at it with a mirror, move in circles or back and forth. Find what feels right.
Then, if you feel ready, week four, below the belt with him but no penetration. Half an hour you, half an hour him. Play around, see what works. Do you see where I am going here? Stop worrying about penetration. Practice sex not being boiled down to penetration.
Once you feel relaxed being naked and touching him and maybe even yourself, I want one of you (which ever of you has the courage) to go out and buy some water-based lubricant. They sell lube at drugstores now. I want your husband to insert one, heavily lubed finger into your vagina. I want you to breathe deep and I want you to relax with that finger in you. Throughout this entire process, I want one of you to be playing with your clit. When you feel like nothing is in, I want him to go to two. And repeat until you are up to about four fingers. This may feel uncomfortable, but keep adding more lube, relax and breathe. When you are relaxed and comfortable with this level of penetration, try with his penis.
And you know what? If it doesn’t work, stop punishing yourself for it (same for him). Start again. Tickle each other, have another hour of nipples. Stop taking it so seriously and eventually, with the love that you clearly have, it will work. You’ve made a commitment to him and he to you and you have time to make this work and you can discover great things along the way.

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57 Comments

  1. Kate
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi there
    While this is very sound advice, unfortunately, not everything can be solved with comfort, relaxation, and lube. Many gynos are even bad at diagnosing this condition. This sounds a lot like vaginismus. Trust me, I would know.
    Go to http://www.vaginismus.com for more info. Good luck, you’re not alone!

  2. feministabroad
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I think that this was a great post. I think ‘Not Doing It’ should try what Professor Foxy says and if it doesnt work then see a doctor. I do think psychological pressure cant affect things like this. When your more nervous your vagina tightens so I think Professor Foxy’s advice of taking the pressure off is good.
    I like this. Good job feministing! lol

  3. feministabroad
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean for this to be a response to you. And also, I meant can not cant.

  4. dakini
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Yes. I also have vaginismus and this post rang alarm bells for me. Give Foxy’s advice a shot, but don’t be discouraged if you are still unsuccessful- there is help and community out there for you and your husband, and Kate’s link is a great place to start.

  5. feministinmississippi
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    it may be that “not doing it in Florida” will not enjoy intercourse for a long time. but i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. sex shouldn’t be defined by penis-in-vagina. having fun with a partner, seeing what feels good besides intercourse counts just as much. i think professor foxy’s advice was along the same lines, but she didn’t take the focus off of intercourse. i understand that most people want to try and enjoy intercourse, but i don’t like to set is up as a “goal.” then everything else you’re doing has the purpose of getting to “ready” for intercourse instead of being sexual acts themselves.
    on top of that vaginismus or a high-hymen could be problems that the OP is facing. some women might not have a high hymen, but still have a tough hymen which might hurt the first times of penetration. i think it’s important to think about whether the issues are with the vaginal muscles (vaginismus) or hymen.

  6. birch
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    This was a fabulous response. I had a similar story to Not Doing It In Florida, and Professor Foxy’s advice is right on. For someone who has never thought about sex their WHOLE life, suddenly finding yourself happily married and “able” to have sex can be kind of traumatic and very disheartening.
    I realize that vaginismus is a real concern, but for me, a medical condition wasn’t the issue. It was simply getting to know my body and enjoying it in small, flirtatious ways with my husband. Then everything else followed. It took time, and I still feel like I’m catching up with the years and years of getting acquainted with my body that I missed out on.
    For those of us with families and friends in the abstinence-only culture, it can be hard to find someone who you can talk to with questions, especially the seemingly silly ones like “is something wrong with me if I can’t have intercourse?” I’m trying to be more open about my experience with people I know so that others are less likely to go through what I did.
    Great first post, Professor Foxy!

  7. palisades
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, that advice bordered on irreponsible. If someone is in that much pain from not only very minimal attempts at penetration, but also from every vaginal exam they’ve ever had, then you are absolutely remiss in not advising them to see a doctor before trying nipple play to fix the issue.

  8. EndersGames
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    This is a wonderful post if the issue is due to stress or anxiety over sex. No matter who you are, paragraphs 1-4 are great.
    It’s a horrible post (particularly paragraph 5) if the issue is a result of either a medical condition or simply natural variation that can sometimes lead to any “penetration” being painful, even if it is just one finger, requiring surgical intervention if the patient desires.
    By locating the issue solely in the person’s head in this case, it risks causing even more distress if that is not the actual cause.

  9. birch
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think she was “absolutely remiss” in advising playful flirtation time. Not Doing It In Florida mentioned her discomfort in the context of never having thought about sex or (it sounds like) even talking about it with other people. It makes sense in that context that something so entirely new and unfamiliar would initially make her body uncomfortable. I think in this situation it’s perfectly sound advice to try the basics before going to a doctor.

  10. K.Rae
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    …especially since she equates her first gyn exam with sexual trauma.

  11. SwimmingHorses
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I also think this is vaginismus. She need to go to a doctor get treatment, maybe by seeing a physical therapist and/or using dilators. If she has it, just relaxing isn’t going to make it go away. I agree with palisades that she should see a doctor first before trying Professor Foxy’s advise.

  12. xenu01
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about anything else, but I don’t think gynecological exams are fun! There is a cold speculum, I’m always faintly embarrassed, and the gynocologist keeps telling me to relax, which doesn’t relax me.
    If they’re inexperienced and aren’t doing any foreplay, YES penetration will hurt. Even if you are a sexually experienced woman and your male partner sees foreplay as a mystery and a chore and keeps trying to rush right to the penetration thing, it will hurt because you are not ready to have sex yet. Doing some sexy heavy petting and mutual masturbation and not worrying so much about boning quite yet may do wonders.

  13. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    “By locating the issue solely in the person’s head in this case, it risks causing even more distress if that is not the actual cause.”
    Yeah, I think this is an important point.
    I have had some issues similar to this, although not as bad. I read about vaginismus on the internet and rejected it because most of the websites say its caused by psychological issues, and I’m quite sure I don’t have any psychological issues with sex. My doctor recently told me she thinks I have mild vaginismus but she doesn’t think its psychological at all; it just means my muscles respond badly to stretching (this fits with me in general being unflexible and stretching always hurts a lot). I’m still working on fixing it but I think of it as stretching and yoga for my vagina, not psychological therapy.
    I can see how some women would have issues with sex that do come from psychological fears, but I think its very annoying when people tell you that MUST be it. Before I got a diagnosis from a doctor, I posted on a lot of message boards and people would respond saying things like “you actually hate your boyfriend, you just don’t know it.” That was pretty infuriating.
    Now, in THIS case she does seem to indicate that some of the problem is her unfamiliarity with sex, so its certainly worth trying to just relax and play around. But if that doesn’t work don’t get too discouraged, it could easily be a medical issue that isn’t your fault and is fixable. Try relaxing with a vibrator a bit but if that doesn’t work, see a doctor. And you might need to see more than one doctor; they’re not always the best at diagnosing this kind of thing.

  14. lady a
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    This past summer I was diagnosed with vulvar vestibulitis (a type of vulvodynia) which is intense pain experienced at the opening of the vagina and on the muscle groups inside of the vagina. Vaginisumus is a little different in that the muscles contract at the opening, preventing penetration.
    While I feel it’s possible that Not Doing It could be experiencing one of those, I do feel that it is very important as Professor Foxy notes for her to explore herself and her sexual relationship with her husband to understand what her sexual needs are.
    I know I experienced a lot of doubt and even going to the doctor has been a sad reminder of the challenge I’m going through. But having the support of my boyfriend and exploring our options has allowed me to enjoy our sexual relationship while not feeling the pressure to penetrate. I feel we’re working towards penetration at our own pace and although it comes with its frustrations, it has been a very rewarding experience.
    I think it’s up to Not Doing It to decide what her best course of action is – if she’s comfortable with trying things out before seeing a doctor that’s wonderful and if she’d rather see a doctor first that’s wonderful, too. Making your own decisions regarding your sexual health is an empowering experience and I wish for her and anyone else who is having similar pains to have just that.

  15. Discontented_Clownfish
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Professor Foxy’s post is necessarily bad advice. I do think it is irresponsible for Foxy not to have even just a sentence about the possibility of a medical condition and seeing a doctor. I agree with lady a that Not Doing It can make her own decision about seeing a doc – but to have the person she asks for advice neglect to even mention that option? Not cool.

  16. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Gynocological exams usually aren’t fun, but if it hurts so much or the muscles literally close up so that you can’t get the speculum in, that usually means a medical problem. If its just awkward and a little painful that’s probably normal.

  17. 1:32:45
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Comment on the paragraph about finger penetration– this might take multiple tries over days or weeks. I think Prof Foxy probably meant to say this but I just wanted to emphasize it. Don’t necessarily expect all four fingers to be possible the first time. In fact, depending on the size of his fingers, maybe never four fingers. I guess different guys will have different proportions of finger thickness to penis thickness, but three will probably be enough.

  18. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I’d also like to add that even if it IS vaginismus, its still a good idea to try masturbating, learn what you like, etc. That’s good advice for anyone. I also think that if you’ve never had sex you shouldn’t jump into it right away– pretend you and your husband are still dating, and slowly work your way from first date making out up to more sexual activity. That’s what us non-abstinence kids do, and it works better in most cases than trying to do nothing and then suddenly have sex on your wedding night.
    The standard treatment for vaginismus is a set of vaginal dilators, that means sticking things in your vagina that start small and progressively get larger. You can try this more informally with a finger or a tampon or something and then try building up to something a little larger.
    Still, I think its a good idea for you to know if you’re dealing with a physical problem like vaginismus, or if it really is just a matter of relaxing. And another reason to see a doctor is that it could be something else, and its worth finding out. (This doesn’t fit your symptoms, but I had a friend who had very painful sex and it turned out she had cysts near her cervix that had to be removed. So its worth going to a doctor with the problem just to rule out things like that).

  19. Sabriel
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Hmm. It sounded like vaginismus to me as well, but I have to say that Professor Foxy’s response sure sounded like that standard prescription that you give somebody who has vaginismus. Both the taking it slow and the progressive stretching of the vagina using fingers. She’s addressing vaginismus from both a physical and psychological standpoint.
    It also seemed to me like the person asking the question has personally heard of and considered vaginismus. She reads about it, does research, and is internet savvy. I think she mentioned not having had a trauma for a reason, and I think that reason is that she’s learned about vaginismus already. I could be assuming too much.
    Anyways, I would agree that you should talk to a gyno about it. It could be a tough hymen or it could be vulvar vestibulitis. If so, you’ll probably be given a prescription for a numbing cream and told to do exactly what professor Foxy said, and come back in a few months if you’re still having problems.

  20. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I keep thinking of more advice! If you’re too shy to buy lube at a drug store, you can easily order it online. (Personally, I prefer silicone based to water based). There are lots of online sex shops that provide discreet shipping. I like tootimid.com — as the name says, its for those girls who are too timid to walk into a sex shop on their own. Might want to order a vibrator, too, or even a couple in different sizes.

  21. Kate
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I considered that, but it was odd to me that if either the posters of either the Q or A wouldn’t mention vaginismus if either of them had considered it as a possibility. This would be especially odd given the knowledge that many people would be reading this advice and it wasn’t expressly intended for just the OP, but to anyone with a similar problem, as all online or print advice columns tend to go. Also, if it IS vaginismus having a diagnosis and knowing its not “all in your head” can help tremendously. And though many women can treat this problem at home, (which seems to be what Prof Foxy suggests) some seek professional help (pelvic floor specialist) for guidance or reassurance.
    Also, vaginismus isn’t expressly caused by some sort of sexual trauma, though that is one of many causes. Others include: Fear of sex, general anxiety, UTI or yeast infections, medications, pelvic trauma (which include difficult pelvic examinations!), etc.
    In short, listing all the possibilities is probably the most responsible way to go when writing an advice column.

  22. Christina V
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    @misskittyfantstico,
    thanks for advice! I’ve always wanted to buy “intimate” things but have been to shy to go to places and all my girlfriends are too prude-ish to come with me. These comments have definitely educated me, more then any lame “sex ed” class I was forced to take in junior high.

  23. jennifer93
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Who doesn’t?

  24. gemma
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I had vaginismus and a stressful, disappointing sex life. Unlike Florida I had not been raised in any kind of abstinence environment and had been busily masturbating (using fingers, without any penetration) since before I even got my first period.
    My boyfriend and I went for years without ever having sex, and never even really trying to after the first phase of the relationship. It might feel like every other couple out there has a great sex life except you, but it isn’t true! I totally empathise with your frustration.
    In my case, I did ask my doctor about it. I had begun to wonder if my hymen was particularly thick or something. She referred me to the gynaecologist who managed to get the small “virginal” speculum in me without much bother and backed off as soon as I complained it hurt. She said I probably had mild vaginismus and set me up with a set of dilators (basically a 4 set of dildos–tiny to largish) and a 5 minute instructional dvd with no production values!
    Over time I used the dilators and graduated from the smallest to the largest. This involved lots of relaxation and lube! My hymen turned out to stretch further than I imagined, but did tear on the largest one, which was sore…. but I’d finally done it! (For what it’s worth, I did a ton of reading around about hymens in medical textbooks. About 50% are sufficiently stretchy that they won’t tear at all, barring childbirth.)
    I am now the proud (or in real life, secretive) owner of various vibrators and can enjoy both penetrative and non-penetrative masturbation. Unfortunately my relationship didn’t last, so my boyfriend and I never actually managed to enjoy sex…. but resolving the issue purely for myself (and said vibrators) has lifted a weight off my mind.
    Best of luck to you Florida. :)

  25. MimiX
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    *I* don’t. Mine was fine. They don’t have to be awful, though it sounds like this woman’s was, so let’s not minimize that.

  26. lyndorr
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    I had this problem and waiting a few more months, some fingering, a lot of lube, and then some very slow entering did the trick.

  27. tealrose39
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
  28. PatriarchySlayer
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    I would just like to respond to the comment about growing up in a abstinence environment, especially a religious one where women leave the entirety of their sexuality up to God. I find this somewhat disturbing. I believe in God, and God can do miracles but God also helps those who helps themselves. Some research suggests that the more you stimulate, say your G-Spot or the inside of your vagina, etc, the greater the sensation will be. I believe this. Before I started using a vibrator, I had no idea why women might enjoy penetration because I had not been stimulating anything down there. And slowly I began to feel more and more. People can’t expect that when you’re married your body is going to jump for joy and say, okay, let’s getter done.
    Marriage is not the be all end all. It is not the cure to everything, the answer to every problem. If anything it creates more questions, sometimes without any answers. But it helps when you have a firm grasp on your own body/sexuality, what feels good, and the notion that sex is not naughty. Maybe God can fix everything, but why not give Him a hand once in a while, so he doesn’t have to do quite so much work. That is my big pet peeve with abstinence environments. But that’s just me.

  29. Ms. Junior
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi Flordia,
    You might want to check out this site: http://www.scarleteen.com
    It’s a very comprehensive sex-ed website from a feminist perspective. There are many great articles about exploring your own body and your partner’s body and communication.

  30. Cory
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    I think my response reaches out to what other people have already said, but I’ll put down my thoughts anyway:
    Does she get aroused at all? Specifically, to the point of whispering, “F*** ME NOW!”
    Have they gotten orgasms through other means?
    Has she ever fingered herself? Tried progressively increasing the amount while pleasing herself?
    Does she have a vibrator? Does she get off by herself?
    What do her and her husband do in bed? What is her perception of his techniques?
    Do they watch porn? Know what turns them on inside their heads?
    My first time was a sort of ‘jumping into it’ sort of deal. What’s odd is that it didn’t hurt – and I think the reason was because I was very attracted to my partner, was extremely aroused, and I knew exactly what I wanted and when I wanted it. She might have some medical problem, I don’t know, but maybe she also isn’t a very sexual person in general, and this is part of the reason she isn’t satisfied? This is my hunch…

  31. mobius
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    Vaginismus is technically a psychological disorder (see DSM-IV). It is not necessarily related to previous traumas, and it is basically not much more than involuntary muscle spasms in the outer third of the vaginal wall. I’m not sure that I see the difference between using dilation devices and fingers. The later are probably more fun :)
    Foxy’s response was lovely, and playful and appears to be designed to take the pressure off of both partners. As most of us already know, sex isn’t just about penetration. Whether our virginal Floridian eventually has vaginismus or not, Foxy’s advice isn’t going to hurt her and most likely will increase sexual enjoyment regardless. Explore, stretch, relax, and enjoy. Perfect!
    That said, I do think that a current gyno exam wouldn’t be a bad thing, in order to rule out the possibility of an underlying medical condition.
    Four fingers seems like a LOT. I think three is plenty. That’s not a medical opinion, just a preference. If Florida feels the same way, no worries chica ~ I’ve had plenty of penises up there, given birth and still never take more than two fingers at a time. Breath deep, and HAVE FUN!

  32. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    I got the impression she meant sexual trauma in the sense of “anything painful that happened to my vagina” — because that can contribute to vaginismus. I didn’t think she was saying “my first gyno exam taumatized me so much it was like rape.”
    My first exam was a little awkward and uncomfortable but really not as bad as I’d been expecting. The NP was a nice older woman who was very careful and explained everything she was doing.

  33. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    Vaginismus can come from psychological causes but it is not always considered a psychological disorder. Its in the DSM4 because some people do have vaginismus do to psychological issues, but that doesn’t mean everyone who has it has the same causes.

  34. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    If you don’t have a female-friendly sex shop nearby, the web is the best place to do it. Tootimid.com, like most online sex shops I think, will ship your stuff in a discreet brown box and show up on your credit card as something innocuous. They also often have a free gift of the week, so check that out when you’re shopping.
    General advice on buying sex toys online: Pay attention to the listed sizes, because sometimes the scale of the photo can be unclear. Also pay attention to what types of batteries they take– its a pain to replace watch batteries, much better to find one that takes AAA. Always get a vibrator that has several speeds or better yet a twist knob for control, because then as the batteries run low you move the knob up. Most sites have small sample packs of lube so if you don’t know what kind you like you can get samples of several and try them.

  35. Amie
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I had this same problem. Of course I started sex a lot earlier, and finding a doc that would take me seriously was way harder when 1. you’re a minor and 2. you’re not married. Anyway.
    Took me a long time to finally figure out what was up. I’ve been diagnosed with vaginal vestibulitis as well, and essentially my muscles react to any pain sensations by clamping shut.
    That said, I have had very satisfying sex, but I think what really made the difference for me was learning about the many levels of being ‘turned on’. I can be getting turned on and then immediately be turned off. I can think I’m getting turned on, but my body won’t respond. You have to learn the signs of your body being truly aroused. Personally, I can feel when the erectile tissues (yes, ladies have this too, it helps lengthen and widen your vagina in preparation) become engorged, and that’s usually a good sign that I can have penetrative sex. It’s not always enough to feel ‘wet’ or ‘tingly’ or ‘warm’.
    Like Cory said “Does she get aroused at all? Specifically, to the point of whispering, “F*** ME NOW!”". For me I really have to be in that state to know for sure that I’m aroused enough.
    Now, here comes the somewhat ‘scandalous’ part of my post. One thing that I found which helps me is Viagra. Not because it automatically turns me on, but it does help my tissues engorge, which helps me with a positive feedback loop, i.e. my brain says ‘hell yes’ and then my body says ‘hell yes’ too! To be totally honest, I bought mine from an online pharmacy based in India. You may be able to find an incredibly open minded doctor to prescribe it to you though. The physiological mechanism of action makes sense, and some doctors might ‘get it’.
    The next ‘scandalous’ thing I’m going to put out there is, anal sex. Just sayin. Hasn’t been mentioned, and it may end up feeling better overall than vaginal sex. All part of the exploratory thang. And BTW, I really don’t know about 4 fingers. I think 3 should suffice.
    Lastly, don’t be discouraged by crap doctors. There are a lot of them out there, particularly when they try to deal with chronic or psychosomatic pain. I’ve been through many many doctors in my time. Find someone open to alternative treatments. The regimen suggested by most medical books to treat vulval vestibulitis is a series of treatments which generally are prescribed and fail in this sequence: lube, estrogen cream, benzodiazepenes, gaba blockers. For the record, what’s worked for me is: lidocaine patches, boric acid suppositories, physical therapy, massage therapy, relaxation techniques, communication, viagra.
    Hope this helps not only the OP but the other ladies out there with various pelvic pain…
    And another resource: http://www.pelvicpain.org/

  36. Amie
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Agreed, vaginismus can be caused by a response to pain, not simply emotion.

  37. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Its not that unusual for women to use Viagra. I know at least one woman who was prescribed Viagra by her doctor (in California) for a similar problem. Depending on exactly what the issue is, it can help, it just doesn’t work nearly as consistently as it does in men.
    I’ve never tried it, but I’ve been wondering about trying something like Viagra, or those testosterone creams, tingling creams, etc. However, I’m a little paranoid about putting stuff like that in my body so I haven’t tried them yet.

  38. Professor Foxy
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Hey all -
    Thanks for all of the great feedback. Just to clarify, I in no way meant to imply to jump to our even use all four fingers. Four fingers is A LOT. If it ends at 2 or 3 that is fine.
    I didn’t tell Florida to go to a doctor because she already had. It may be vaginismus, but I worry about our culture’s focus on medicalizing women’s bodies and sexualities. Our largest sex organ is our brain and we too often neglect that in search of a “cure.” Vaginismus is real and painful for the many women that have it, but many women with vaginismus or a diagnosable medical condition suffer from fear, shame, and inability to be comfortable with their body.
    And yup I said sex is not all about penetration, but for Florida that is what she wants. Giving sex advice is in an odd way a step back from my personal beliefs and meeting folks where they are.
    Last, yay for a great community of people pitching in to talk about sex and share their sexual lives. Please send more questions in to professorfoxy@feministing.com.
    More next Saturday,
    Professor Foxy

  39. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Yes, that’s what I seem to have. Granted mine is “mild” because it doesn’t actually prevent penetration, but it hurts enough to be a problem. The thing is, I don’t believe for a second that its caused by me being scared of sex or something. I like sex, and I like the other sexual activities we do, and I’ve never had any sexual trauama. However, when I first tried to use tampons at age 16, I had a lot of trouble getting them in and it definitely hurt. Over time I got better at it (I suppose that works just like vagina dilators) but it was definitely a physical reaction, not a mental one. At the time I just thought it was normal for tampons to hurt at first, but now in retrospect I think it was an issue with my muscles. (One thing my doctor recommended was using progressively larger tampons– since you keep them in for hours it works like dilators, although not exactly the same since they hard once you take the applicator out). I used to use the extra-slim kind but now I’m trying normal ones.

  40. annajcook
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to second this. My impression from the original question was that the question-asker has taken a lot of initiative exploring her body from a medical perspective, and has thought about the way her pelvic exam might have contributed to her experience of vaginal penetration. It doesn’t sound like she’s labeling it as a huge trauma.
    Wanted also to second the folks who’ve had more neutral experiences with exams. I’ve had both male and female doctors, and while it’s sometimes cold and a little crampy, I’ve never had a lot of pain or felt violated. It *is* possible to have an okay — maybe even affirming! — experience.
    I’ve heard from others that often nurse-midwives, if available, do really good pelvic exams. I haven’t tried personally, but if you have that option it might be a way to circumvent past bad experiences with ob/gyns.

  41. Amie
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Personally, switching from tampons to a menstrual cup helped my pain. For me, the pain and inflammation can be triggered by yeast, and tampons increased the likelihood of me having a yeast imbalance due to dryness and pH imbalance. And if the tampon-dilation thing works, a cup is nice because it’s wider than a super tampon when it unfolds inside. Just a thought, I’m a total menstrual cup proselytizer, lol.

  42. Amie
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    You’re doing a great job! I’m really glad this feature was added to Feministing :)

  43. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been considering trying one of those, but I barely ever have my period any more because I’m taking one of the long term birth control pills, so it seems not really worth the hassle. Most of the time I just use pads anyway, since it isn’t very heavy anymore.
    I’m also afraid that because of the problems I’ve had, the cup might be a bad idea. If my muscles spasm unconciously when things are uncomfortable there, it seems like it might make it fall out or make it hurt more or something. It doesn’t seem like the right shape for dilating, but then, I haven’t tried one.

  44. wax_ghost
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I love the advice to take away the pressure to have penetrative sex. Even couples who have a really good sex life without pain can feel too much of that pressure (I would know…) and it can be good to just play with each other. There are so many ways to get intimate and get off that aren’t penis-in-vagina!

  45. hecate66
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Be careful with the testosterone creams/patches/pills/cocktails. While they can boost your desire for sex, they can also masculinize the female body (facial hair growth, deepening of the voice, enlarging of the genitals), which you may or may not want. I’d only use them under a doctor’s care.

  46. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, those types of side effects are exactly why I don’t really want to try them. I’ve heard that the point of the cream is that its a very low localized dose, so shouldn’t have side effects elsewhere in the body, but… ehhh… I dont’ think I’d trust that.
    Then there are creams which supposedly make you tingle, but I’m not sure how they work. I guess the ones that just have menthol like lip gloss are probably safe, but I never know how much they’ve tested products like that.
    Same problem with viagra– even if I could get a doctor to prescribe it to me, have they done any long term trials with women?

  47. allegra
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Hmm. So true. Awesome post. Awesome. And I think both of the points about abstinence-only culture – that it assumes sex comes automatically and easily once you’re married (because, according to them, everybody’s actually deep-down just TOTALLY HORNY!, right), and that sex is made into this VERY SERIOUS affair – are right on.

  48. dormouse
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    I really like most of the advice. Lubrication and lots of foreplay and other touching is a must. I think the advice that the couple should work all the way up to four fingers is a bit much—I am by no means a virgin, but my bf can’t fit any more than two in me comfortably.
    Also, to all the people insisting this is a medical issue. It may not be. Sex hurt me terribly the first few times I tried and my first pap smear was torture. Once I got out of college hook up culture and with a caring, patient boyfriend, I was able to get over it in no time.

  49. hecate66
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    No. They haven’t done any long term studies with women other than to say it doesn’t work like it does with (no shit!). The tingling creams (Orgasmix, etc.) are basically menthol (i.e. ICY-HOT and Vicks Vapo-Rub). The only one I’ve heard good things about is Zestra, it was recommended by a professor of mine (I have a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality). You may want to try that.

  50. hecate66
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    I meant to say “it doesn’t work like it does it with men.” Sorry, it’s late and I’m tired.

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