It was difficult enough for Lana to make the appointment. She had been denying she had sexual problems for as long as she could. With her relationship in danger of becoming calcified in a sexless state, as she put it, she could not afford to keep telling herself and her partner that her desire would return when the she got more sleep, when her boss retired or when summer came and she could lose the extra chunkiness.
She would never admit to reading woman’s magazines, but she dropped her voice as she told me how she picked one up while waiting at the hairdresser and that night she came home with an edgy cut and a plan of action. A nurse-midwife friend recommended a pelvic floor physiotherapist and she was on her way.
The visit was not simple, Lana recalled. If explaining what bothered her was awkward, admitting how long she had procrastinated in checking it out, made her feel pathetic and unlike the sassy woman that she knew herself to be. And then came the exam. What could be more graceless than having a stranger questioning you chattily while prodding her vulva and inserting fingers into your vagina?
Lana had vestibulitis. A particular area at the vagina had become highly sensitive to touch and pressure. Vaginal sex had become painful a year or two previously, and after various episodes of unpleasant sex, Lana and her partner had experienced a series of interrupted attempts. So they had moved on to oral sex and hand jobs, ultimately about his pleasure and her mere participation. Her desire dried up. His cocktail of guilt and disappointment anaesthetised his will for anything beyond relieving himself in the shower.
Asked where it came from, Lana could not be sure nor when it would pass, but she scanned the web for other women’s stories and learned about a range of therapy choices. Some women with severe vestibulitis find that surgery is their best option, but Lana chose to begin with medicated cream and a nightly regimen of massaging her troubling area with pressure and even vibration.
At the time the physiotherapist produced a simple pocket vibrator from her drawer and demonstrated its use by covering it with a condom and some gel, and running it mostly along the bottom edge of the vaginal entrance. She also handed her a note with the name of a sex toy store where she often sent clients, but the physio admitted the salespeople where apparently over-zealous and the store itself could be overwhelming for clients with serious sexual aversion, such as the friend Lana made over the following visits.
Alexa and Lana had consecutive appointments at the physiotherapist for a few weeks and bonded over their pelvic floor under-achievement. Alexa suffered from vaginismus and unlike her new friend, she knew the source of her problem. She had experienced a series of traumatic attempts at penetration in what she later defined as date rape. On her virgin attempt at sex, her boyfriend had tried to penetrate and incurred failure until he lost his erection. Both mortified, they had continued for three weeks to force his way in, each time being faced with resistance caused by responsive tightness and pain.
Fortunately, he gave up on the sex and on Alexa, but left her with bodily memories that pursued her in and out of future relationships. Finding herself on the physiotherapist’s bench, she was told to purchase a set of dilators to incrementally insert and thereby stretch the scared and traumatized vaginal muscles. As for her attitudes toward sex and men, these she was working through with her psychologist, which was an integrative part of the therapy.
Alexa had laid out a generous wad of cash to acquire a full set of silicone dilators but understanding that they were necessary for her therapy sessions with the physio and for her exercises at home, she obliged.
Sexual dysfunction is not leprosy that maims and effectively outs us from good society. It is more like the flu – painful (sometimes exhaustively so) and unfortunate but everyone has it from time to time.
For many cases of female sexual dysfunction, there are now better tools available than the instruments of purpose that impose discipline without the spirit of pleasure at the heart of sexuality. If physical therapy for sex problems can be handled with greater sensuality, it is foreseeable that it would work on more than the basic physiological aspects of the sexual problem, but could reinvigorate the potentially ailed erotic side too.
In the past few years, manufacturers of high-end vibrators have begun undertaking serious design challenges in the hope of competing in the burgeoning market. Consumers have been presented with possibilities that blow the mind and other anatomical regions. Vibrators have grown into objects of the imagination more than images of genitalia. Their design incorporate the wishes of the sensual body with the ergonomics of the hand and the beauty of the eye.
A thoughtful physiotherapist or sex therapist would be wise to survey the latest products and select options that can offer more to the client than bare functionality, especially when trauma is involved.
The Vanity Vr2 by Jopen is an 8” long (173mm) silicone vibrator that is as much an aesthetic magnet as a therapeutic wizard. A woman with vestibulitis can find a wide range of surface points with which to massage her inflamed area, since 100% of this machine’s surface is smooth, accessible and vibrating. Two separate motors on each end provide delicate to intense vibrations at all points on the shaft. The rechargeable motors give you a cord-free, battery-free device.
A client with vaginismus can enjoy using it for insertion, in place of the mid-range dilators and upwards. Instead of using a particular size and tossing it out when she graduates to the next size, a flowing angle allows a single instrument to be used with completely smooth graduation. When the narrower size can be entered with ease, massage with the wider side can begin. Further, they can both be used in a single session without much hassle.
The Vr2 or similar vibrators are less threatening to women with sexual trauma than a phallic-shaped dilator or vibrator. Silicone is certainly more inviting than glass or hard plastic.
The Vanity Vr9 is a 10” long (225mm) vibrator which is crafted like a curved wand. Its length makes is appear very narrow and therefore unimposing to a woman who experiences the tightness of vaginismus or who needs to reach specific points on the vulva or inside the vagina. The length allows deep penetration without the girth, which is a rare find for those who prefer not to be imposed with thick girth.
If at a later point the user should want to have a wider piece, the wider end has a smartly designed base: by changing the angle of entry it changes the girth up to a significant size. For a woman wanting a wide range of widths, this is one discreet way to find variety in a single vibrator.
Even fruitful sex therapy can be uncomfortable, intrusive and painful on various levels. It is sweet consolation that at the end of the process, instead of leaving with only instructions and what most clients see as instruments of benign torture, a woman can give herself an award: pleasure that is every bit as productive in the post-recovery period as during the struggle to get there.