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V-Card Diaries: A. "Because I have vaginismus, I often say I'm in Virgin Limbo"

Tell us about yourself:  

I'm a 24-year-old heterosexual female living in the US.

How do you define virginity?

I’m currently rethinking how I define virginity. I used to think the loss of virginity was a clear milestone for heterosexual females like myself-- the first time one willingly engages in penetrative vaginal sex-- but now it doesn’t seem so simple. As someone who made the deliberate decision to have vaginal sex but was physically unable to do so, I don’t know whether or not to call myself a virgin or not. Which matters more, the intention or the act itself?

It also seems a little ridiculous to claim the label “virgin" when I have an active sex life of oral and outercourse and orgasm more frequently than some of my friends who lost their vaginal virginity years ago, but the cultural significance of vaginal virginity is pervasive and hard to just throw away or ignore, especially when it's the standard by which so many other people define it.

I often say I'm in "Virgin Limbo"; I don’t feel right identifying as a virgin OR not a virgin. I think the definition of virginity needs tweaking to account for situations like this.

Tell us your story

Until I was 22 I was a virgin because I was waiting for the right person. My first kiss was at 18 and my first boyfriend at 19, but in college I never dated anyone long enough to feel the comfort and trust I considered a prerequisite. However, just shy of my 22nd birthday, I met him. We had been dating a few months when I decided that our relationship-- and, most importantly, I personally!-- was ready.

The night leading up to it was perfect. There was a rooftop sunset, spontaneous fireworks display in the distance, and making out in the rain; if it had been in a movie, you'd have rolled your eyes at how “unrealistic” it was. We went back to his room with some condoms and went for it.

Except . . . "it" didn't happen. I was more than ready when he tried to enter me, but it felt like he was like he was trying to thrust against a wall-- a wall that felt sharp stabs of pain every time it was hit! I normally have a very high tolerance for pain, so I couldn't believe this was supposedly what every girl feels her first time, especially since he hadn’t even entered me more than a half-inch. I tried loosening things up more with more lube and orgasming first but it didn’t make a difference. I was so frustrated I was ready to force through the pain, but my partner had been with a virgin before and knew it wasn't supposed to be so difficult or painful, so we stopped.

In the following months we sought advice from trusted friends and the Internet alike and were given suggestions from extra lube to getting drunk. But the only thing that actually helped was a name we discovered: vaginismus, a condition in which the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles at the opening of the vagina involuntarily close and painfully resist the entry of foreign objects, from tampons to penises. It explained everything: why I'd always hated using tampons, why I'd cried in pain during my one and only pelvic exam, and why I couldn't have sex. I wasn’t “unusually tight” as I’d once believed; penetration objectively hurt me in ways it doesn’t hurt most people, thanks to muscle spasms I can't control. It’s still a mystery why I have vaginismus, but knowing what it is has lead to information on how to fix it.

Fast forward two years later. I'm still with the same partner and thanks to open minds and a few compatible kinks our sex life is plenty satisfying, but vaginal sex is still a distant dream. I've seen a doctor and gotten advice on relaxation techniques, Kegel exercises, vaginal dilation, and insight on what muscles to move and how, but while things seem to be progressing, it’s slow-going. It’s frustrating that what is so natural and pleasurable for most people is painful and a chore for me, something I have to “work on” in an unsexy clinical way. There’s enough promise in what we have achieved that we haven’t given up and eagerly await the day we can have vaginal sex, but for now, I’m still stuck in "Virgin Limbo."

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