Monday, 9 January 2012

My first encounter with "a vagiphobe"

Evening vaginistas,

I thought I'd write today about my first experience with what I have termed a "vagiphobe". This is the sort of man who thinks that vaginas are always smiling and willing, happy to see them and gagging for a cock, the sort of man who, when buying sanitary towels for his girlfriend will refer to them as "female nappies" and hide them underneath a jumbo pack of loo-roll on the way to the tills (a friend of mine dated one of these, they really do exist) and who does not know what to do when presented with a vagina that is slightly less easy going and might need a bit of persuasion to let him in. At the time, I thought that vaginismus was all my fault and something to be apologetic about. Now, I know better. 

I met him at a friend's work do, which I had been dragged along to as his "date" for the evening (he being worried that if left to his own devices he would get completely drunk and try and pull his, very stunning, boss). I was introduced to this chap who worked in the finance department, and was cute in a skinny indie boy kind of a way, with a hint of a northern accent and messy hair. After the briefest of chats I was surprised to receive an email from him the next day, in which he very flatteringly admitted he had hunted me down on facebook to ask me out for a drink. I happily accepted. Being the bolshy forward type, it's usually me asking the guys out, so it made a nice change, and besides, I thought, he was pretty cute. 

We arranged to meet at a local museum, which had an exhibition of the Battle of Trafalgar on, which I thought was unusual and potentially fun. I love a museum I do. I was admittedly a little apprehensive, as he had studied History at University, and I was dreading some dreary one man mission to get me into bed by droning on about Napoleon, but I was pleasantly surprised at his lack of pretension, and delighted when he accidentally mispronounced a rather famous naval captain's name. We had a really great time, and went on to a pub afterwards for a drink.

At this point I am ashamed to admit that I contravened the number one rule of a first date – I proceeded to get smashed. Well and truly and horribly smashed. We had a fantastic, alcohol-fuelled conversation about everything, including him being a feminist, the price of a pint in London, and how much use we had respectively got out of our degrees.* Despite this, a rather nice drunken snog, and the alcohol boiling in my blood, I managed to politely decline his invitation to go back to his for a “coffee” (which surely by it’s over-usage as a euphemism is now just as forward as outright asking someone to go back for sex? Thinking about it, that was probably the point...)

After the designated few days of demure and ladylike silence (which, being someone who likes being in control, and a feminist, I thoroughly resent, and never really bother with) I felt victorious to receive a text from Mr Finance asking me out for another drink.

This time, I was determined to stick to the two drink rule.

This time, as the time before, I failed, miserably and abominably.

After a fun night of constant conversation and far too much alcohol (again) he asked me back to his (again) for coffee. Apparently he really, really likes coffee. I decided that this moment was the absolutely perfect one to tell him about the vaginismus. Better he knows now, I thought through the fug of red wine, than think I'm playing some waiting game with him.

Stumblingly, incoherently, I stammered out some semblance of an explanation and was greeted with -

Utter silence. 

Nervously, I waited while he gathered his thoughts together. Poor man, my brain slurringly thought to itself, it is a bit of a shock to hear, after all. I gave him a few minutes, until he eventually said, quietly:

"I think it's time we left."

Dumbstruck, confused, a little lost, I quietly followed him out of the pub, said goodbye at the tube, and went home.

The next day, I woke feeling slightly hungover and very much ashamed of myself. What a dreadful way to tell the poor man, I thought to myself, and what a brilliant and effective way to ruin a date. I sent him an email apologising, and giving him a much better, rational and comprehensive explanation of the issue, assuring him that I was being treated and well on the way to recovery. I went over it a hundred times, making sure it came across as unscary and clinical as possible. A few days later, after hearing absolutely nothing, I finally received a reply. He was sorry, he wrote, for not getting back to me before, but had been really busy. In fact, his life was very busy at the moment, too busy really to be seeing anyone. He thanked me for telling him, and that was that. 

I felt awful. Humiliated, and disgusted with myself for ruining a perfectly lovely evening, and so thoroughly ending what had started off as a nice little affair. If he had never heard of vaginismus before it was bound to come as a shock, and he had just met me so how could he really be expected to be understanding? After a short amount of time wallowing in this feeling of self-loathing, I stopped. 

Because why would I want to feel sad at scaring off someone who, so far from being a "feminist", had tossed me aside the second he realised he wasn't going to get his end away? I realised, with a little breath of relief and a smile, that what had happened was not an awful and humiliating rejection, but actually a lucky escape from a bit of an arsehole. Feminist? Bollocks was he! A feminist isn't a man who's afraid of a woman's body and it's quirks, but someone brave enough to take it all in his stride. A feminist doesn't value someone only so far as their ability to provide them with sexual gratification, and a feminist doesn't use "feminism" as a way to get someone into bed. Well, maybe they do a little bit, but to the mutual enjoyment and gratification of both.

Really, I'm lucky that I haven't encountered this sort of a reaction more. Previous boyfriends could not have been more supportive about the whole thing, and not in any sort of mimsy, patronising "there, there darling, don't you worry" sort of a way, nor in a hero-complex desire to be my cure sort of a way, but in a genuine, "if it hurts of course we won't, let's order pizza and watch Sherlock", sort of a way. There are no doubt lots of women who he would have invited back who would have been able and willing to oblige, but that's not my lot and actually not someone I would want to be. In some ways, vaginismus has made me stronger. It really separates the wheat from the chaff. I will never let a man make me feel that moment of disgust and self-loathing for something so beyond my control again.

*1 We should all call ourselves feminists, 2 HOW MUCH?! and 3 Not a whole titting lot.


  1. Hey Keeks, a friend recommended your blog to me, and I'm so glad. It's great, such fun and so refreshing! I can completely relate to all that you say, especially the dealing with doctors, and the feelings of sexual inadequacies. Vaginismis has been an often all-consuming crazy ride for me, and something that I have now learnt to live with. Keep them coming, and good on you :)

  2. hey kt,
    thanks so much for your comment, it's so nice to already be hearing from other women going through the same thing and encouraging that people are reading! Thanks again for your lovely comment and good luck with the journey x

  3. I wish I'd read this years ago. Back in the early nineties (I'm getting on a bit now), I met a charming woman and we ended up, somewhat drunk, back at her place. She didn't say anything and I wouldn't have known what she meant anyway but, from what you've described, I'm fairly sure that vaginismus is what she had. I'm only realising this now, today, after reading this far into your blog, and I'm kicking myself because I would have been (I hope) understanding, instead of which it was awkward for her, she got embarrassed and she asked me to leave. I'm guessing she was undiagnosed and frightened and I'm kicking myself that early-twenties me didn't have the information or the insight to be the decent bloke that I should have been.

    1. Julian, you should not in any way be kicking yourself because you sound like an absolute GEM, and I'm only sorry that you hadn't heard of vaginismus (and why would you have?! As I've said a million times on this blog, it is never spoken about! JOIN THE REVOLUTION JULIAN!)

      Thanks for your lovely messages.