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Why me?



Once a woman finally finds out that the feelings and symptoms she was experiencing have a clear name and shes not the only one with them, it is very common to try and understand what caused or triggered this problem in the first place.

Knowing what caused vaginismus will not make it go away, so some think its a useless waste of time and energy and that its better to just focus on fixing it. That is certainly more relevant for those women who may have secondary vaginismus with a very clear physical root and no psychological issues.

But for everyone else, it is quite important to try and understand what caused those muscle reactions, to understand whether it is more imporant to focus on treatment, or to focus on what vaginismus may be trying to tell us about changes we need in our lives, in our relationships or society.

Besides fixing vaginismus, there is a lot to be done on preventing it and the more we understand what causes vaginismus, the better positioned we will be to prevent it.
If your vaginismus stems from past events or feelings that you could take time to clearly recollect and pin down, this will put you in a better position to help prevent vaginismus for other women around you, by making sure that those events are prevented in society and by helping them avoid the traumas or bad experiences you went through or put up with thinking there was no better option and that was how life was for a girl..

The following is a list of some of the main events that women over the years quoted as being the trigger or cause of vaginismus for them. Others are events that some women see as linked to vaginismus, even if maybe indirectly. Use this list as a brain-storming tool, you may find your cause in here or it may help you think of your specific ones.

As we said, finding out the root of vaginismus wont make it go away magically, but it can validate your feelings, it can make you feel that youre not crazy for having it and it can help you prevent it for others and make it less emotionally painful for you. So take your time thinking about them...

Sometimes even just one of the following experiences can be enough for traumatizing a vagina (and the heart and mind behind her) and causing it to close down in self-defence.
But in many cases there will be a combination of issues. After all, we live in a violent society where women are not respected and people are still not handled humanely enough...
(And if you think we are exaggerating, have a look at this horrifying CNN article and related video . just as an example...)



Possible causes of vaginismus


According to some of the few qualitative studies on vaginismus listed below (BTW: QUALITATIVE STUDIES: briefly, where people are not just tested to quantify something, but ASKED about how they feel about something), most of the women who were interviewed about their beliefs on the causes of their vaginismus, revealed the following:

Their highest ranked causes for vaginismus were:

" 1. FEAR OF PAIN, FEAR OF PAINFUL SEX
Often caused by myths on sex such as painful first times, broken hymens, men being rough, etc.)

" 2. RELIGIOUS OR STRICT UPBRINGING THAT VIEWED SEX (OR MASTURBATION) AS WRONG
Negative or conflicting comments on sex in the family or circle of friends (pre-marital sex is bad, sex is bad, women who want sex are bad.. women who dont feel like sex are frigid, women who dont have sex are bitter, men leave women who cant have sex, women who like sex are sluts etc.. What is one to do??)

" 3. TRAUMA - EARLY CHILDHOOD TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES
Interestingly, this trauma was not necessarily sexual in nature, although it often has to do with the vagina (ex. cuts to the vagina, painful pelvic examinations, infections) but as a psychoanalyst made me notice, it can be related to organs or parts of the body that open and close: Ex. traumatic experiences regarding the mouth (i.e. dentist), the stomach (tubes or medicines forced down), chocking experiences (i.e. while swimming, playing etc.), the anus etc&

Anything that was seen as a PHYSICAL INVASION..
Other possible causes that we gathered from other studies, emails we received, our own experience and that of hundreds of women who shared their beliefs in support groups, can be:

" General or specific anxiety (But then again, this anxiety may stem from some of the things quoted above or below..)

" Rape, Sexual abuse or Attempted sexual abuse

" Experiences of painful penetration (with tampons, a speculum etc.)

" Previous experiences of painful sex, not enjoying sex with partner

" Domestic violence or much conflict among parents

" Witnessing or suffering physical abuse in the family of origin

" A threatening, domineering father, or moralistic but sexually icky

" An invasive, intrusive or abusive mother, or simply one who suffered from vaginismus herself without anybody helping her deal with the underlying causes

" A parent/relative/friend/partner who was too open (and graphic) about sex and sexuality and couldnt see you were not ready to handle all that information yet.

" Negative experiences associated with menstruation (negative comments; extreme pain; being sexualized before being ready; sense of dirt, shame)

" Knowledge of or witnessing sexual violations or rapes (even on TV, in a book, anywhere we identified or sympathized with the female victim)

" Fear of pregnancy caused by negative comments or false myths about giving birth, pressure to get pregnant, or not wanting to have a child when we are (still) not ready for one or don't want to have a biological one

" Being bullied at school, sexual harassment at school, witnessing sexual harassment at school

" Poor body-image

" Extreme tightness all over the body (ex. teeth grinding, headaches etc.)

" Tourette Syndrome

" Muscular problems such as Piroformis Syndrome (Sciatica) etc.

" Endometriosis

" Removal of uterus and cervix and rectocele repair

" A disability affecting the lower part of the body

" A physical problem causing dyspareunia (painful sex), such as cystitis etc. ( For a complete list of what could cause painful sex, besides vaginismus, please go to the section on dyspareunia ).

Please, if it wasnt listed here, feel free to add your own particular reason for vaginismus and your story, if you think it could benefit other women, by sending us an email or joining or forum. Thank you.

Data from WARD E, OGDEN J. (1994) Experiencing Vaginismus: sufferers beliefs about causes and effects - Sexual and Marital Therapy - Vol. 9, No. 1, pp: 33-45

Reissing E. et al. (1999) Does vaginismus exist? A critical review of the literature The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 187 (5): 261-271

Silverstein JL. (1989) Origins of psychogenic vaginismus. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 52 (4):197-204 (abstract)



Understanding Vaginismus: Questionnaire



According to the New View of Women's sexual problem (which you can read by clicking on the Leonor Tiefer' s New View website here), so called sexual 'dysfunctions' have to be understood in a much wider context than the reductive medical/biological one because sex cannot be disassociated from how we feel about our partners, our sexual history, societal views of what is an ideal or normal sexuality, the relationship with our body etc.

Based on that framework, we therefore created a questionnaire that may help you pin down more reasons for your vaginismus than the more evident ones which are often given.
Take your time answering the questions honestly... Chances are that unless you only answer YES to the questions regarding taking drugs or having operations which may have affected your sexual drive and impaired the functioning of your vagina, reasons for your vaginismus will be much deeper than a gynecologist may tell you.
So you may want to start working on each of these issues and take important decisions too maybe, before trying hard to unlock a vagina which may have really valid reasons for being the way she is. Or at least you may think twice before thinking of yourself as stupid, wrong or dysfunctional...
We bet you'll soon realize you aren't any of those things.. at all...!

SEXUAL INTIMACY and YOUR PARTNER

How freely can you communicate your sexual preferences, sexual past, sexual health etc. to your partner ?

Are you able to disclose your sexual thoughts, preferences, fears to your partner without worrying about:

- embarassment
- shame
- fear of misunderstandings
- fears he will tell it to someone else
- fears he will get upset and his ego hurt

If you don't feel free speaking your mind about your sexual thoughts and preferences to your partner, is it because of:

- perceived cultural expectations which make you ashamed of being open about such preferences?
- lack of trust in your partner to be understanding or discreet?

- something else ? Can you figure out what and why ?

Are you satisfied with your how your partner treats you:

- in bed ?
- in front of other people ?
- when you have conversations or discussions ?

Has your partner ever betrayed you, cheated on you, been to prostitutes, lied about his use of porn or abuse you verbally or in other ways ?
If he has, how do you think that has affected your sex drive or your vaginismus ?

Are you pressured to do sexual things which you are not comfortable doing or experimenting with ?

How does that make you feel ?

Do you trust your partner in all areas of your life ? If not, how do you feel that lack of trust may influence your 'sex life ?

Do you feel that you know your partner well enough to be totally open with him ?

1st TIME SEX

Are you apprehensive about experiencing intercourse for the first time ?

Have you heard or read negative, even scary stories about first-time experiences ?

If you have, what were the aspects of those stories which worried you the most and that you feel contribute to your fears of being sexual for the first time ?

- Tales of blood and pain
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Abuse / Date-Rape
- The boy leaving after sex or devaluing the girl
- Loss of virginity and/or the hymen
- Being gossiped about in the area
- Being then taken for granted sexually
- STI's

PREGNANCY

How do you really feel about the possibility that you may get pregnant through intercourse with your current partner and become a mother ?

Did you discuss the possibility of pregnancy with him and are you satisfied with his attitude ?

Do you have access to contraceptive and information on safe sex (knowing no contraceptive is 100% effective and therefore safe) ?

Are there pressures on you (from family, husband, society) to have children ?

How have you coped with such pressures so far and how do you feel they have affected your sexual response ?

BODY IMAGE

Do you like your body when naked ?

Do you like your genitals or can you at least accept them as they are?

Have you ever seen all parts of them properly and can name all parts of the vulva ?

Do you feel that your partner likes your body ?

Are you sexually attracted to your partner ?
If not, do you feel it matters ? If you do, why do you think sexual attraction is so important in a relationship and should it ?

Do you feel comfortable being naked around him ?

If you don't feel comfortable being naked around a partner or being seen naked while making love, do you feel that something is wrong with you or can you accept that is the way you are and have your partner accept it ?

MODELS OF SEX

Can you bring to mind a recent magazine or newspaper article, TV programme, song or any other media where sex was depicted:

- Was sex a positive and safe for the woman ?
- Was she passive or active ?
- Was it safe, consensual AND really wanted ?
- Was there a loving context between the two before they had sex ?
What messages do you think such portrayal sent you ?

(SEXUAL) HEALTH

Do you feel that you have enough information on STI's, AIDS, pregnancy, contraceptives and abortion ?

Do you have medical conditions or are currently on drugs which could interfere with sexual pleasure and functioning ?

Have you had painful operations or surgery related to the vulva and reproductive organs?

Is the health status of your partner effecting how you feel about sex ?

How comfortable do you feel asking about for your partner's sexual health status, and/or for an AIDS/STI's test ?

Do you know how to deal with yours or your partner's Sexually Transmitted infections so that you can determine a personal range of safe and pleasurable sexual behavious ?

SEXUAL DESIRE, SATISFACTION AND NEEDS

Are you interested in being sexual and/or in sex ?

What is the ideal sexuality or ideal good wife/girlfriend that your society helped you picture in your mind ?

Do you feel unable to meet cultural norms about an ideal sexuality or an ideal marriage (re. sex) ?

What societal assumptions about sex or comments from therapists/friends/partners etc made you feel that low sexual desire or lack of sexual drive is abnormal and that therefore you are dysfunctional ? Do you believe that sex is an emotional must or a physical need in a relationship ? What would you consider "normal sex" and who do you think shaped that view for you in the society where you grew up ?

What do you think can create intimacy between two people who love each other?

When do you consider sexually satisfied? Can a kiss do or does it have to be penetrative sex?
What do you believe satisfies your partner ?

Are you ok about faking pleasure or having sex for someone else's sake ? Would you recommend your daughter to fake her sexual pleasure or her sexual wishes just to keep her husband around ?



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DISCLAIMER: This site is not designed to provide medical advice. All material is gathered from the experience of hundreds of women who experienced vaginismus but it is for information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Please review the information contained on vaginismus-awareness-network.org carefully and confer with a health care professional specialized in vaginismus, as needed.