I Think Penetrative Sex is Overrated speech bubble
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen / Unsplash
Confessions

I’m Always Horny, but Hate Having ‘Normal’ Sex

When even your vagina has anxiety, the sexual gratification and pleasure of penetration become your most dreaded nightmare.
May 18, 2020, 8:53am

This article originally appeared on VICE India.

Confessions is a series of essays on personal experiences and intimate issues, many of which have been kept secret for so long. By sharing these previously confidential accounts, we explore our own mental health without judgment and the various ways we cope, with the hope that it makes it a little lighter of a burden for us to carry. It's also a reminder that no matter how odd or unique these experiences can be, someone can relate to it – and we are not alone.

As a former subscriber to the misogynistic mindset, my teenage self genuinely believed that boys, despite all the nasty shit they got up to, were cooler than girls. This meant that my unrefined cultural palate was more than happy feeding off musty, male-gaze movies like American Pie, The Girl Next Door and Van Wilder, the kind all my guy friends drooled over because we had no idea what a sexy lamp test was. So of course, I grew up conditioned to believe that sex was just various versions of the missionary position, where women with overflowing boobs, fluttery eyes and a sensual smile were the only kind capable of holding men’s interest. That sex appeal was a woman’s only superpower.

At the same time I lived in a rigid Indian society that regularly slut-shamed girls into accepting that sex was about propagating bloodlines, and not an act of pleasure. At least not for their gender. I became a product of this mind-muddling juxtaposition, rebelling against these prudish, backward notions simply because I could. Then, I started having sex.

What all those hyper-sexual movies and judgemental aunties failed to tell me was that having “normal” sex kinda sucks for some. Yes, they do tell you not to expect your first time to be a bed of roses. But for me, every time a penis penetrated my vagina, all I felt was the excruciating prick of a thorny object puncturing its way into my delicate fortress. No matter how hard I tried, sex—or at least the penetrative kind—was awfully agonising on most days, and merely unsatisfactory on those rare, better days. The issue wasn’t that I was asexual or felt no carnal desires, because weirdly enough, I was horny all the fucking time. It’s just that my libido kept writing cheques my vagina couldn’t cash.

So for two years, my first sexual partner and I got up to different combinations of penis-enters-pussy, incorporating everything from doggy style to cowgirl to ballet dancer. But nothing seemed to stick, no matter how much lube was involved. And with every failed attempt to enjoy sex, the act itself slowly gained an unbearable association for me. The throbbing pain in my wet but impenetrable vagina even spilt over into the relationship. Sex became this cloud of awkwardness that loomed over our love, rejected by my body and relegated to a tedious bedroom duty that I constantly slotted on my calendar because I didn’t want to be that weird girl who didn’t know how to do it. So I kept my mouth shut, and my legs open, despite the discomfort, because I was too embarrassed to bring up the fact that I hated having sex, at wine nights where my girlfriends would flex about how their fuckbuddies were sooo good at making them come.

I was fortunate enough to have a partner who never pressured me into doing anything I wasn’t comfortable with, but eventually our attempts to achieve orgasms got so annoying that we simply stopped trying to shack up the conventional way. Instead, we settled for other stuff. We dived headfirst into oral sex, going down on each other so we wouldn’t have to give up. We dabbled into scissoring, learning quickly that the act of rubbing your private parts together isn’t only enjoyable if you’re lesbian. Fingering still hurt like crazy, but after trying to hunt down the ultimate orgasm without a body map for so long, we realised that rubbing the clitoris was where it was at.

So, here were two young adults savouring multiple orgasms but never being able to have sex the way porn websites or friends’ anecdotes described it. And it was all my ‘fault’. Riddled by a peer-pressure that only existed in my imagination, I clamped up my mouth along with my vagina, deciding never to discuss this with anyone so I wouldn’t seem like some sort of absurd anomaly. For years, I pretended I really, really enjoyed penetrative sex, regaling my friends with tales of my amazing sex life that were actually excerpts from Literotica. I even visited gynaecologists to figure out what the fuck was wrong with me, but was instead met with misdiagnosis and a conservative doctor shook by the fact that I wanted to enjoy sex, but was unmarried.

A few years and a better-qualified doctor later, I was told I had vaginismus, which is “when muscles in or around the vagina go into spasm, making sexual intercourse painful or impossible.” The thing is, this condition of involuntarily contracting pelvic muscles is shockingly common. But before we had shows like Sex Education teaching us about how vaginismus is more an uncomfortable outcome of wanting total control in the bedroom and in life rather than a physical wall in your vagina that prevents the penis from entering, most people, including me, were completely unaware about it. And this is mainly because most people, including me, are too afraid or ashamed to speak up about it. In most cases, it’s because we live in a country that is constantly telling women their sex lives should stay under the sheets, their sexual desires strangled under a pillow cover so they don’t become “sluts” unworthy of eligible bachelors. Other times, it’s because pop culture and men-directed pornos normalise sexual penetration as an unmatched nirvana, and we’re worried about being ostracised if we argue otherwise.

So for several years, I tried to put up with the piercing pain, feeling obligated to do so for the sake of satisfying whoever I allowed to undress me. For years, I blamed every breakup and fling that didn’t materialise into a relationship on my inability to be conventionally good in bed, even on occasions when the dissolution of the relationship had nothing to do with it. Even when I was able to have orgasms through other means, not being able to enjoy penetrative sex became an insecurity that weighed down on me, destroying my self-esteem and any hope of being comfortable with myself or my body.

It was only after I started a new job in a different city that I first felt I could vent about my sexual frustrations. I owe it all to a bunch of strangers, who have now evolved into supportive friends, because one random day, I overheard them talking about how PCOS had fucked with their reproductive system. While I couldn’t quite relate to their sexual struggles, it was the first time I had seen women around me casually conversing about their sexual health, and not bragging about their conquests or bitching about how they had to fake an orgasm. If I hadn’t butt into this conversation, I probably never would’ve been able to to muster up the courage to say, “Hey, I really hate having normal sex.”

And once I’d said it, it’s like the gag came off, and a new free world had been created for my caged thoughts. Yes, penetrative sex did hurt, but talking about it didn’t have to. So I unleashed my opinions on anyone who would listen—from toxic fuckboys who thought I was making it up to friends going on about their great sex lives. And I’m so glad I did, because once I opened the floodgates, I stopped feeling like a lone ranger guarding my sense of sanity and sexual prowess. I managed to have some heartfelt conversations with friends who were going through the same condition, and also always felt alone, including some who didn’t have vaginismus or any specific issue but still felt like sex wasn’t a good enough “return on the emotional investment it involves”. It created this sense of sexual solidarity even before I was diagnosed by a doctor. Talking about it made me realise that not enjoying “normal” sex was absolutely acceptable, and not something I needed to bury my head in shame and silence for.

Today, I’ve managed to overcome the insecurity and actually enjoy some penetrative sex with my current boyfriend after months of practising with different sized dildos that helped me build up a tolerance to the mental and physical pain. But when I really think about it, the dildos aren’t what helped me come to terms with my condition. Talking about it with friends, partners and even one-night-stands is what really helped propel me over the edge of embarrassment. And the more validation and acceptance I got from these conversations, the more I was able to stop dismissing sex as a painful chore, and steer my mind to give up the desire for constant control. After years of deriding myself for being unable to enjoy the conventional kind of sex, I accepted that sex could be defined on a spectrum, and the only thing that mattered was to figure out where you lay on it rather than trying to emulate the motions that worked in movies. Ultimately, it turned out, candid conversations were my superpower.

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