This is the most nervous I’ve been about releasing a podcast episode, but I want to push past the fear because I know how important it is to talk about. This week I’m sharing my experience of painful sex and why we need to be open with subjects like this.
Listen wherever you get your podcasts or here:
Links and further reading
- Vulva Pain Society
- Sex therapy
- Support me on Ko-fi and help me get past episodes transcribed
This week I’m talking about a subject I’ve never talked openly about before – sex. And specifically, painful sex and why we need to talk more about it. I will therefore be talking about sex and vaginas so if this kind of thing isn’t for you, please feel free to skip this episode. Also if my parents are listening, well, you’ve been warned.
Hello everyone, how are you doing? Hope you’ve all had a good couple of weeks. Today is a first for the podcast and a first for me because we’re going to be talking about sex, and my experience of painful sex, and to say I’m nervous about it is an understatement. But I want to push through that fear because it’s a topic I think we need to be more open about and I know I’m not alone with this thought.
When I first mentioned the topic of painful sex, it was on Instagram. I was telling my followers that I had written an article for Happiful magazine on the subject and how cathartic it had been to finally open up about the subject. I was surprised at how many responses I got from people saying how much they wish it was spoken about more and one person even asked if I would be willing to do a podcast episode on the subject – so, here we are!
Now the article I was talking about hasn’t actually been published yet, but hopefully it will be in an upcoming issue, potentially January I think. This article looks at the subject from a couple of perspectives, not just mine and it includes advice from a sex therapist, so I would definitely recommend reading it when it’s published, I’ll keep you updated on when that happens on Instagram.
Today though, I just wanted to share my experience. And unlike usual episodes, there won’t be a neat ‘how to overcome this’ section, because, in all honesty – it isn’t something I’ve truly overcome. Instead, I guess my hope in sharing this is that it will help others feel less alone because my god, it can be lonely experiencing this.
So much of mainstream media represents sex as this incredible, easy thing where couples magically orgasm at the same time, so when your experience doesn’t match that it’s easy to think you’re the only person in the world going through it.
Penetrative sex has always been painful for me and for a long time, I just… kinda pretended it wasn’t. I remember when I was younger I thought all heterosexual women were doing the same as me, pretending, but after talking to friends I realised it wasn’t painful for them.
I kept quiet though and in all honesty several of my early sexual encounters were fuelled by alcohol (hopefully you can relate!) which is a pretty good numbing agent. It wasn’t until my first, serious relationship when I realised it was a problem. Instead of being honest though I didn’t say anything. It turned out there was a lot we weren’t saying to each other and for a whole host of reasons, that relationship ended.
In my next relationship, for some reason I again stayed quiet for a long time. It’s difficult right? when is the right time to tell someone that it hurts when you have sex? It’s a tough thing to drop in. After a while though it got to the point where I couldn’t not say anything. Even then, it still took me a long time to finally go to the doctor about it, but I got there in the end.
They sent me to hospital where I had lots of tests and I was diagnosed with vestibulodynia. So let me break down what this is – the vestibule is where the vulva meets with the vagina and vestibulodynia is when there’s pain there. It’s thought to be caused by an excessive sensitivity of the nerve fibres and possibly even overgrowth of the nerve fibres in this area.
I just remember feeling a huge sense of relief when they told me this. It was a real thing, It was something tangible that was happening in my body. Of course there’s also a psychological element at play, when you relate sex with pain, it’s difficult to really relax and enjoy it and this has an effect on how your body tenses up and well, experiences more pain.
I was given some vagina trainers which look like, well, plastic dildos that come in a set of various sizes and some numbing gel. The aim was to help my body get used to the feeling without it causing pain. I was told I could also go on medication if this didn’t work and that couples counselling could be useful too.
While I was in the hospital examination room being told this however, I was actually thinking about ending things with my boyfriend. Sex issues aside, things weren’t working and the next time we saw each other we broke up.
After trying the vagina trainers a few times whilst navigating the break up I realised it was too much to bear and they ended up forgotten in the drawer under my bed. Having sex was pretty far from my mind for a long time.
I’m lucky that the relationship I’m in now is one with communication at its core. There was no hiding this time but even still, I would be lying if I said things were a-OK because I still have vestibulodynia and I’m still figuring it out. There aren’t any quick or easy fixes for issues like this and everyone’s unique, but what I do know is that nothing improves if you don’t talk about it.
I wish I had gone to my doctor earlier. I wish I hadn’t just accepted that this pain was part of me. So if you’re listening and you can relate to any of this, the only advice I have for you is to talk about it. Talk to a doctor, talk to a sex therapist, talk to whoever you’re having sex with, talk to other people who are going through what you’re going through. It’s the only way you’ll be able to find a way forward, whatever that looks like for you.
I’ll add some links to the show notes to help you learn more and find support, but please know that you’re not alone, I see you. And the more we let ourselves be seen the more others will have courage to be seen and we can find support together.
So, there we go, a slightly shorter episode than usual but that’s all I really have on the subject, I hope it was interesting and if you have any thoughts I’d love for you to come over and chat to me over @katbluejay on Instagram for a chat and you can read all of the show notes and links for this episode at bluejayofhappiness.com/podcast.
Before I go I just wanted to give you a quick reminder that any money donated to my Ko-fi account this month will go towards the cost of getting episodes transcribed, so if you have a couple of pounds to spare and want to support this podcast, visit ko-fi.com/katbluejay.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with an episode all about separating your worth from your productivity – which is a meaty one and I have a lot to say on the subject, but yeah, until then – please take care of yourselves.