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A girlfriend called me yesterday saying that two of her friends were unable to achieve intercourse. Full penetration was impossible six months into their marriages. Too much pain was the complaint. While virginity on the wedding day may be rarer these days, some couples do enter marriage with little sexual experience or without having complete sexual intercourse.
For all women, regardless of prior experience, becoming fully sexual is a process rather than an event. Although often a sign of strong religious belief, sometimes a lack of consummating the union indicates other problems. For instance, vaginismus could mean a hesitancy to make a complete commitment or a mask for more serious sexual dysfunctions. One specific sexual problem such a situation could indicate is vaginismus. Vaginismus is a sexual pain disorder which shows as recurrent and persistent involuntary spasms of the outer third of the vagina. It makes intercourse painful or impossible.
At Awakenings, women with vaginismus have most often been referred by gynecologists after impossible pelvic exams. Alternatively, if an exam was possible, the patient has told her gynecologist that her marriage is unconsummated even after many months or years. The etiology of vaginismus is often caused by a combination of historical, physical, and emotional problems. It is always caused by anxiety. Culture also appears to play a role. Sometimes, vaginismus has to be differentiated from the natural discomfort of being sexual with someone unknown. Frequently cultural issues are implicated in vaginismus. For instance, we see many Middle eastern couples in arranged marriage and fundamental Christians with little sexual education and vaginismus. Sometimes the cause can be a secondary conditioned response to vestibulitis or dyspareuria and a woman has grit her teeth to “play through the pain”.
Vaginismus absolutely needs the help of sex therapy to be overcome.