What is Vaginismus?

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  • Jennifer, 28, saw a sex surrogate to help treat her vaginismus, a condition in which the vaginal muscles involuntarily tighten when penetration is attempted, making sex painful and often impossible...

    ‘I’d known something was wrong with my vagina since my teenage years. Trying to use tampons was like jabbing at a solid wall of flesh and when a boy attempted fingering me, he couldn’t even manage to get his little finger inside. And it hurt so much I screamed.

    ‘At 23, I burst into tears when my GP tried to insert a speculum during a cervical smear. She diagnosed vaginismus, and prescribed vaginal dilators – mini dildos that were supposed to get me used to the feeling of penetration. They were mildly useful but did little to help.

    ‘I spent the first half of my twenties desperate for a boyfriend, but anxiety about my “broken vagina” stopped me from dating. I knew men would want sex and I couldn’t face the petrifying pain and thought I had no choice but to stay lonely.
    ‘I heard about sex surrogates through a vaginismus support group. The concept of losing my virginity to a patient, trained man who wouldn’t push me was really appealing.

    ‘On my first visit to John * we did exercises like eye-gazing to help me acclimatise to being close to him, in the “clinic room” of his house – in order to maintain professional distance, surrogates never come to your home. He was 51 and I didn’t fancy him, but that actually helped me relax, as I wasn’t worried about impressing him. I viewed him like a doctor; my “vaginal physiotherapist”.

    ‘I saw John every two weeks for eight months, paying £160 per session, attending psychotherapy appointments in-between. The effects were priceless.

    My therapist helped me work through traumatic events from my childhood; I had been inappropriately touched by a family friend, which had been subconsciously making me clench up. Meanwhile, John allowed me to slowly practise penetration.

    ‘We spent several sessions with me on top, guiding his penis inside me only a centimetre or two; he stayed still so I could absorb the feeling.

    Being in control gave me confidence to gradually take more of his length, and finally to let him move inside me.

    ‘Three years on, I have a long-term boyfriend and we have gentle, lovely sex. I was nervous the first time we slept together, but knowing I’d managed it with my surrogate gave me faith that I could do it. It’s an unorthodox treatment, but it worked for me – I have no regrets.’

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