This week we are excited to welcome back Quinn Rhodes (Ze/hir/he/him) with the second in a two part series of posts about vaginismus. This time ze is talking about the conversations you should have with someone with vaginismus before you fuck them or as ze says in the title, how to fuck someone with vaginismus. If you have not already done so then check out the first post in the series: Vaginismus: sex is not supposed to hurt which was published here back in July.
I have vaginismus, which means before I fuck someone for the first time I need to sit them down and warn them that they can’t put their dick or their fingers or their glittery purple dildo inside me. I’m always here for more communication, consent, and de-centring penis in vagina (PIV) sex, so today I’m going to talk about the pre-fuck conversations that become necessary when you have vaginismus – but really everyone should be having, because they lead to good sex.
I don’t think I should have to tell anyone, before I have sex with them, that I can’t put anything in my vagina. I don’t think I owe anyone any information about my body unless I’m asking them for medical help or about to fuck them, but I don’t view my vaginismus in the same way as my STI status or my preference for thuddy butt punching over a stingy hand spanking. But if I don’t disclose my vaginismus, then the person I’m about to fuck will assume that some sort of vaginal penetration will feature in the smorgasbord of sex we enjoy together.
In many situations it feels presumptuous to tell a potential partner that I have vaginismus: if you’re meeting someone for a date then can you really lead with the fact that their dick, fingers, or dildo will never get inside your vag? At the same time, especially as an afab person* who has sex with cis guys, PIV sex is often expected and I have no intention of getting into a situation where someone calls me a cock-tease or says that I’ve been leading them on because they can’t fuck me.
I haven’t always got it right, but I’m getting pretty good at navigating these necessary pre-fuck conversations. I don’t want to tell anyone with vaginismus how they should have sex, but I do have some tips for if your partner tells you that they have vaginismus:
DO ask them what vaginismus is if you don’t know
There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that you haven’t heard of vaginismus – like other conditions that affect people with vaginas (e.g. endometriosis) it is rarely talked about and under-researched. We also live in a society that is very bad at talking about sex: we’re supposed to instinctively know how to be “good” at sex without ever being taught or having conversations about it. It might feel embarrassing but admitting that you don’t know something and asking your partner about their body can only lead to better sex.
In case you still don’t know, vaginismus is defined as the involuntary contraction of muscles around the opening of the vagina. The tight muscle contraction makes sexual intercourse, or any sexual activity that involves penetration, painful or impossible. (For me, it’s impossible.)
DON’T assume that you know what impact it has on their sex life
If you have heard of vaginismus, it’s not a good idea to assume that you know the extent to which it can impact someone. There are many different forms of vaginismus, different reasons why someone might have vaginismus, and different levels of pain that they might experience. Some people can (and will) have sex even though it hurts, some people will not even be able to enjoy oral sex if their partner’s tongue moves more than half an inch south of their clitoris. It’s not helpful to tell your potential partner “oh, my friend had vaginismus, but they could still have sex” – instead you should listen to them talk about their experiences.
I’ve never used a tampon and even when I’m super turned on and using bucket-loads of lube I can’t get my littlest finger inside me. Some people with vaginismus won’t find STI tests painful… but I screw my face up and try not to cry while someone else administers my vaginal swab.
DO talk about what they’d like sex to look like
We need to normalise asking our potential partners “what would you like to be on the table if we fucked?” – this is an act of ‘queering up’ sex and it’s something that I wish more people did. It’s also assumed that people with vaginismus don’t have any kind of sex, and that desexualisation can be harmful too. Lots of people with vaginismus have active and adventurous sex lives. Oral sex, hand sex, spanking while lying on top of a wand vibrator… there are so many ways to have sex that don’t involve PIV. Kinksters are often already good at this, because we will often do a Yes No Maybe list before we play together. I firmly believe that talking about how you want to fuck to do beforehand means that you’ll have even more fun exploring your sexual smorgasbord (smorgasmbord?) together.
Sometimes I forget that I don’t have to “work harder” to compensate for my vaginismus. I do love giving blow jobs, but even though I can’t have PIV sex I still deserve pleasure and for my partner to do things that make me feel good too. My body is not broken, and I am not “less” of a sexual partner than someone who does enjoy vaginal penetration.
DON’T ask if you can do anal instead
If someone tells you that you can’t fuck their vagina, you should not ask if you can fuck their arse instead. You might think that this is obvious, but many people with vaginismus have told their partner that they can’t do vaginal penetration only to be asked if they’re down for anal sex instead. To me, this question suggests that you value sticking your dick into one of my holes to get off more than you value my comfort. People with vaginas are taught that our self-worth depends on whether people would fuck us, so folks often worry that they’ll lose their partners if they can’t have PIV sex. This puts them in situations where they feel like they have to say ‘yes’ to anal, because (cis men, in particular) are “owed” penetrative sex.
Being reduced to a fuck-hole can definitely be hot, but that’s a power dynamic that needs to be negotiated. Asking about anal sex right after I’ve told you how painful I find vaginal penetration is not a sign that you will respect me, so why would I want to play with that power exchange with you?
DO check in with them when you’re having sex
In the same way that disabilities or chronic pain might vary over time, people feel different about their vaginismus from day to day. Maybe sometimes they find PIV sex uncomfortable but still enjoy the intimacy and connection, but there might be times when they want to keep their underwear on so there’s no chance that your fingers can brush against their vagina. Even if you’ve talked about what sex is going to look like before you get naked together, you need to keep talking about it while you’re fucking. You should keep an eye on your partner’s reactions as well. Are they tense and gritting their teeth because you have two fingers inside them and they’re only feeling up for one, or are they relaxed and moaning as you tell them how wet they are around your finger?
My best sex happens when people check in lots – I think my biggest kink is talking about sex, before, during and after the fucking itself. Nothing is hotter than being asked “is this ok?” when a partner moves their hand further up my inner thigh, or “can I touch your junk?” before their hand strokes my labia.
While I’ve branded these ‘dos and don’ts’ as part of necessary pre-fuck conversations if you want to fuck someone with vaginismus, they’re not the extent of what you might need to talk about. They also definitely shouldn’t be limited to things you discuss with people who have vaginismus – get out there and talk about sex!
*An afab person is someone who was assigned female at birth.
Quinn Rhodes (he/him) is a queer, trans, disabled sex writer. He’s a sex nerd with vaginismus who writes about his vagina anxiety, mental illness, and adventures in learning to fuck without fucking up. Quinn can usually be found wearing stomp-on-the-patriarchy boots while falling in love every time he fucks. He blogs about sex at onqueerstreet.com and creates educational content about trans inclusivity at whatsinyourpants.co.