When most women try to have sex with a guy for the first time, their hymen stretches. Mine tore into several pieces and formed scar tissue. On top of that, my first time was so awkward that I ended up forming a defect—a small span of skin across the base of my vagina—that would rip every time I subsequently had sex. This wasn’t discomfort, it was excruciating.
The two friends I talked to about the pain during sex told me that it was normal for it to hurt at the start. So I continued to have sex regularly even though the pain didn’t go away. I never actively went to the doctor. Partly because I didn’t want to discuss sex with a relative stranger, but mainly because I assumed that the pain was permanent, or at least that there was nothing I could do about it.
I didn’t realise that what was happening to me was unusual until I went to a GP for a routine pap smear in early 2014, over a year after I lost my virginity, and screamed and cried throughout the entire thing. I paid my bill at reception with a tear stained, red face.
Pap smears are not supposed to hurt at all.
My GP referred me to a gynaecologist, who wore a necklace and earring set with a matching ovary design. She told me that each of my defects were fixable. A hymenectomy could remove the scar tissue remnants of my shattered hymen, and a Fenton’s procedure could remove the tiny piece of excess skin. I had both procedures done.
I couldn’t have sex for eight weeks after surgery, and my boyfriend was conspicuously absent during those weeks. We had an ill-timed, but necessary, break up, the real tragedy of which was that I didn’t have anyone I knew or trusted to try sex with after I healed.
While the procedures went well, fear wasn’t so easily excised. Even though the obstructions weren’t there anymore, I still expected pain. This meant that when I tried to have sex, my muscles tightened up, causing pain—a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I was referred to a sex therapist, whose solution was to make me insert a sequence of glass, penis-shaped cylinders in front of her. Maybe sex therapists are supposed to make people feel more open, but I’ve never felt more discomfort or shame in my life. Predictably, I couldn’t get past number three.
After eight months of agony and awkwardness, I finally feel absolutely safe and comfortable with my current boyfriend. I am certain he won’t hurt me or push me beyond my limits, and I can now stay calm enough, and consciously relax my muscles enough, to have sex without pain. But it has to be regular. If not, I lose my confidence, my muscles seize up and I have to start from scratch.
I keep on asking myself why I consented to sexual experiences, knowing that they were going to be agonizing. I would often find myself bleeding after sex, with no explanation. Even wearing jeans exacerbated a constant post-sex pain, and I’d wince whenever I sat down. But I never said no.
I did feel some pleasure in tandem with the pain, but that wasn’t it. I said yes in the past because I didn’t want to be a disappointment, I didn’t want to be a bad girlfriend and I didn’t want to be dumped. I thought that this was what sex was, and so I should get used to it, because men don’t love frigid women, and I didn’t want to be alone.
I know for a fact I would not have felt obligated to just ‘deal with it’ if I had known there was another possibility. But my entire sexual life had been pain, and without a comparative, how could I make a choice with any integrity?
Now that I know what I was missing, I am deeply angry that it took me so long to seek treatment. I am angry I never said no, and that my silence apparently always meant a wholehearted ‘yes’. I am angry, and I am sad, because no one told me I could do anything about my situation.
If you ever have pain during sex, go to the doctor and don’t settle for the first medical opinion you hear. And to be honest? If all of those medical experts fail, the best treatment you can have is a partner who you can speak to, who listens, who wipes your tears away, and adopts your burdens as their own.
If you have to maintain the façade of being a perfect woman attached to a flawless, perpetually ready vagina in order for your partner to love you, he or she is not worth it.
Image credit: http://hellopoetry.com/icriedoverspilledmilk/