Communication is like a muscle…
So divulging my sexy little secret is a strenuous workout, or at least it was at first.
For the purposes of this conversation, I will be talking about cisgendered straight men. This is because people I have had sex with in the queer community have not been phased by my lack of penetrative sex.
Cis men have consistently had more interesting interactions!
I feared I would be rejected and all my insecurities would be confirmed to be true.
The more often I divulged the easier it became…
But that was only half the battle!
The rest came after my partner would respond, I had to learn how to process and make meaning out of different responses.
To put it simply the three most common responses are…
- The apathetic
- The deserter
- The mind opener
Like any other attempt at categorization, there will be outliers; not to mention the fact that these are the meanings I have assigned to their behaviours. I cannot actually know what anyone feels about the way I have sex.
What they all have in common are their questions.
What is vaginismus? Why do you have it? How do you have sex? When will you be able to have sex?
If I choose to dive into my experience with vaginismus their questions will be answered, and I will assume the role of teacher.
Don’t get excited.
I’m not talking about a steamy role play.
I am talking about recounting trauma and years of vaginismus frustration naked in my bedroom when all I was looking for was a little physical touch and connection.
Divulging can be challenging in and of itself. Though, the scariest part remains, what will they say? How will they feel? And my go-to question when it’s all said and done; So do you think you will come back?
Upon reflection, all of my energy is going into their emotional response and what they might be thinking of me. Nowhere in this process am I taking care of myself or questioning whether not I want them to come back!
The thought of vaginismus being a barrier has consumed me to the point where I stopped recognizing any other barrier or feeling.
The focus was always on the possibility of rejection.
Like many I fear rejection. I found myself so afraid of its effects that I prevented it from ever occurring.
If I don’t make myself vulnerable I can never be rejected.
But after experiencing it flat out and picking myself back up I learned it’s not so terrible after all. If approached with resilience and self-confidence (easier said than done of course) then the rejecter or deserter doesn’t affect me or my self-image.
I assign meaning to my experience, and I can choose whether or not to assign meaning to someone’s rejection.
What I still struggle with is the why?
I am always prepared to be rejected because I don’t have penetrative sex but it often is not spelled out so plainly to me. Except of course with the tinder guy (see casual sex and vaginismus article). Just like any other rejection, there is often no concrete explanation.
The apathetic or indifferent response…
Has always been a strange one to process. He may ask a few questions but otherwise he’s uninterested. Typically the questions he chooses to ask will give his indifference away. So do you just give head? The objective has been identified.
As long as they are being fulfilled sexually they don’t seem to care if it’s oral or penetrative, the goal is orgasm and that I can give.
They are usually predictable, they’ll keep you around for a bit but eventually, they get bored. I imagine they’d rather find someone to have penetrative sex with but that’s probably just a projection of my insecurities. These are some of the most common responses I have received in a hookup/casual sex encounter. Just like the title I gave them I usually feel indifferent as well in the scenarios.
It is hard to feel passionate about someone who is clearly so indiffierent towards you.
Then theres the deserter…
The most difficult to predict and process.
They typically are not around very long. The quickest was revealed in a matter of hours. The longest took weeks to finally own up to their departure. They are the ones that leave thus contributing fantastically to any abandonment issues.
I am always left wondering if it is because I don’t have penetrative sex… or something else entirely.
They will rarely outright name a reason… if the reason is because of the way I engage in sex they will look like a jerk for saying it. This often leaves me spiraling, brainstorming a million different reasons in hopes it’s not the one I dread the most.
The answer will never be given, the only absolute is that I am left again searching for someone to see how much I am worth.
In the past, after a less than satisfactory encounter it has been hard to pick myself back up and keep chugging along in the hopes of meeting someone who can have casual sex that is non-penetrative.
Knowing my worth and gaining confidence have helped me to not only pick myself back up when I have experienced rejection but also to not fall down in the first place.
Finally the open-minded.
These are the folks that remind me I don’t need to engage in sex with the deserter or even the apathetic. In my experience, they are often within the queer community, BDSM community, or are an accepting and open-minded person.
I often have asked all three categories of men questions like: does it bother you? Are you disappointed? Are you satisfied with the sex we are having?
The deserter will either give unconvincing reassurance or none at all.
The apathetic will predictably give an indifferent response, sure I’m having fun (for the time being).
The open-minded will be truthful, “I would love to do that with you but only if it’s going to be comfortable or pleasurable for you, are you satisfied?” Even in their response, they show me that we are mutually prioritizing one another’s pleasure.
I was often motivated to have sex on the first date.
Partially because I wanted to have sex in general. But… I also liked to do this on the first date because I could circumvent any hurt feelings if non-penetrative sex was a deal-breaker. I wasn’t that invested in this person in the first place so I could cut my losses.
This was treating vaginismus as if it was a disability, something that my partner needed to be warned about. I largely felt this way due to some of the responses I received, sympathy, concern, disappointment, indifference, acceptance.
Even the way in which I framed a date’s response showed how my approach to vaginismus was hurting me. I was testing them to see “how they dealt with the bad news:” As if I was divulging some major deal-breaker.
My therapist and a single positive sexual encounter shook me awake from my misguided way of thinking about sex and relationships.
Ah, the power of therapy!
I went on a date with the guy, we had a drink, and I took him back to mine. I told him I didn’t have penetrative sex, I didn’t explain much past that.
He seemed un-phased and said that wasn’t a big deal. He was open-minded. He came over again and we had sex.
The third time we hung out he asked if I wanted to get drinks first. My immediate thought was he just wants to have a drink before we have sex. We had three drinks and a lovely conversation. When we went back to mine he said something that shook me….
“You know we don’t have to have sex every time we hang out?”
This was news to me. I genuinely did not know that was an option.
My assumption was that most men are only interested in me for my sexual potential.
The thought of a man wanting to get to know me felt rare, foreign, and basically downright impossible. But here was one. Who wanted to have sex but was also interested in what I had to say. Having a penis in my vagina seemed less pressing than ever.
From this experience (and a heck of a lot of processing in therapy) I gained more autonomy over my body and less concern for how others may respond to it.
– Cayley G.
P.S. In writing this article I reflected some more. While I constantly want to emotionally prepare for what the world will throw at me… I cannot. Trying to do so is a futile attempt to remain in control of something I cannot control. I hoped to write this post to share with others what to expect when becoming sexual with new people. That way they can feel prepared.
The conclusion I have come to while writing this post is that whether your partner is apathetic, open-minded, or desert you altogether it doesn’t matter. Their response only has meaning if you give it meaning in your life. I have learned and grown through each encounter I have had, but they don’t define me.
I can’t control how people will respond, but I can control how I feel about it. If they want to leave, I want them to leave. If they want to fuck, then we fuck.
P.S. If you’d like to get in touch, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.