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VAGINISMUS and VESTIBULITIS
Increasingly, symptoms and conditions of our times.

This piece is explicit and is based on personal experiences.  It is not intended as a self-help manual to the treatment of what is a very real and deep emotional trauma.  Specialist Medical or Psychiatric advice should be sought.  No liability or responsibility is taken or implied for any action taken by a reader in connection with this condition. 

The publication on to the web site is in the spirit of helping those with the condition to understand they are not alone and to put it in to perspective.  Do not proceed to read further or download for any other than personal information. 
Copyright is reserved to Tony Hardiman and the Chi Clinic (1999).  Permission to publication in other websites that offer good advice may be given on application but do ask me first.
 
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In this we look at what is a common disorder that is often shrouded in mystery and falsehood. By definition, it is a pathological fear of being penetrated and any attempt to do so results in pain and distress.  The expectation of intercourse is enough to trigger panic attacks, anxiety syndromes and a constant state of illness to avoid any possibility of contact. 

The standard references to this condition would have us believe that it is uncommon, affecting only a small percentage of the population and some give the figure of 1% and others at 3%.  With a Western World population in excess of 3 billion, that is a vast number of cases and a considerable number of people living with this tremendous affliction. 

I have seen many and discussed this with people in the UK and Europe, America and Canada.
 When we consider that only 10% of such cases are reported and diagnosed, then the problem assumes monstrous proportions. It seems only in the West that such a condition is even recognised and recorded with a possible scenario of diagnosis and recommendation for treatment.  There are no figures that I can find for the rest of the world.  That may well have changed since this piece was written and others may have more information by now.

In the main, the subject is taboo and the investigation of it is shrouded in ’do’s and don’ts’  for the practitioner to observe and  protect his/ her insurance or the risk of a complaint of assault.  Partners may get very agitated that a woman has even discussed the problem with another and somehow, this impinges on his manhood.  The man may demand as his right to have relations and actual force may occur. This has meant that women who suffer do so in silence.  Often they are virgins before marriage and accept it as normal that they are to be hurt during intimacy. Often the man involved knows nothing as the woman hides her pain and anguish leading to despair and sometimes, suicide. 
If the woman were to raise any suggestion of the problem, she is often told that she is frigid, that she is not normal and ‘what the hell did I marry you for ’.

 In a partnership where the couple are not married, the woman will often hide the problem from all but a trusted friend in case the man runs away.  The trusted friend is often the worst one to turn to through ignorance and prejudice.  The lack of understanding the problem is the problem. Often the partnership may proceed well until one partner has a fling with another person.  Quite often, the man is away from home and has what he perceives as a quickie, with no harm done and walks away from the brief dalliance without a second thought.
 

Sometimes, the man will tell all if he thinks that the ‘other woman’ is likely to spill the beans.  He will tell to put the case in his own way first.   What happens after that depends on the response.  If she say’s ‘Oh well, another 6 and you will catch me up’ then they may prefer to carry on with a loose arrangement and be very happy.  If she say’s ‘Get yourself checked out at the VD clinic and wait ten years before you even touch me ever again’ there may be a problem.  If he has had unprotected relations, then the partnership is as good as over from that point.
 

We are all aware that some of these STDs can live in the body with no apparent symptoms and no antibody present for years before erupting.  Chlamydia is common, so is thrush, AIDS, Uretheritis, genital warts and a host of other diseases that are too many to deal with today.  From the point of view of the innocent woman, who may have given up entirely a life of freedom and in love, have committed herself to one man this is betrayal on the most fundamental level.  It hits at the core of her beliefs and trust is gone.  The only real solution here is to part once and for all.  That presupposes that is financially viable.
 

Of course, it is not confined to male infidelity.  There is the aspect that a female may be unfaithful and be so filled with remorse that she will not want to be intimate with anyone ever again. Otherwise, she may find extreme and hitherto unfound pleasures from a considerate alternative partner.  She may then find her own partner boring, out of shape, unattractive or not smelling as good as he could.  These are all turn off’s.  She may simply have lost interest and be blaming the fact on to a condition that does not in reality, exist. 
Her partners personal habits may be unclean, he may fart in bed, he may not wash his hands or backside, he may be embarrassing in company or when drunk, he may not keep appointments when she expects to be taken out to the theatre, he may prefer to wash the car on a Sunday rather than stay in bed for a cuddle.  

She may be simply fed up, on Prozac or tired out from work or the kids and blame a condition that she has heard of which fits the bill.
 It is difficult to believe that anything can be done with counselling for all but a small proportion of cases, whether that is directed to one or both partners and in my experience, it only serves to embed the problem.  My students and clients report this as fact when questioned on the point.  None have reported that any good purpose was served and none completed the course.  Many walked out of the arrangement and many remain single for years after. 

The commonly suggested treatment is the insertion of gradually increasing plastic expanders into the vagina and tell the woman to relax.  As she does so, all the problem miraculously disappear and the couple are re-united in blissful harmony, with all forgiven.   I have talked with hundreds of women with this condition over the last 50  years and each has said that this approach is hopeless and does not work.  However, they do not go back to complain to the practitioner who writes it up as though it is successful as the couple do not return.  In each case that I have examined, the damage does not go away, the woman and the man may come to an agreement that does not involve penetration or for the sake of the children, stay together and abstain altogether. 
 
People are quite happy to lie about the outcome as they cannot afford to keep going to a counsellor with no improvement.

Let’s look at what is going on from a different aspect now, that of the fear without betrayal as a cause. 

Case A.  A girl aged 11 years and approaching puberty.  Obvious signs are hair under the arms, pubic hair and small amount of breast tissue.  Who does she talk to first?  Is it her Mum, her Dad or a kid at school.   Does she get good education at school or read it from a magazine.  Does she learn from novels, the TV or films.  Does she get out from the video store a porno movie or does she go on to the internet.  Does she live in an enlightened household or in the midst of fear, distrust and religious dogma. 
Does the girl have any pre-warning of what is to happen from an older sister or friend?  Does she overhear stupid comments made by stupid people.  Is she the victim of prejudice and absolute idiocy on the part of a teacher or another parent. 

Whatever you put in to the child below the age of 3 and a half is pure emotion and as such is not recalled except as unconscious trauma.  After 4 and a half, there is a mixture of emotion and learned reaction of appraisal ability.  Easier then to deal with and more able to be recalled.  However good you are as a parent, the child is exposed to remarks that could well damage them for life. 
 

The comments made to boys by their fathers may be fundamentally flawed by embarrassment, ignorance and quite often a male view that is hopelessly wrong.  ‘Don’t touch a woman in that week, you will catch the pox and die’ as well as other such but unprintable comments. These are crude, obscene and do nothing for the understanding that gets passed on to the young girl.  The attitudes that give rise to these comments are difficult to understand.
 

Children as young as 3 experiment, especially where there is an older sibling or access to others in a situation where they can play unattended.  The child may see nothing wrong in this and, in the main, these things are forgotten. Even where same sex experiments last into junior school, they are dealt with as part of growing up and dismissed that a lot of kids did it.   Children are exposed to horrific video games and TV where rape, torture and violence are the norm and the vigilante is hailed as a saviour.  The act is portrayed as the epitome of a relationship and expected.  Love does not seem to enter the frame unless it is from jealousy and unrequited. 
If the experiment act is discovered, teachers have a duty to inform the parent.  Then the Social services get involved.  Then the family history is examined. Then sanctions are imposed and threats. 

Suddenly, the whole thing is a major concern and the child becomes fascinated by the effect.  The child then seeks to use the act or even the mention of it to shock or dismay.  There may be animosity between the two families and this leads to violence.  Each case must be dealt with on it’s own merit but tact and diplomacy are the key words.  If a child is not dealt with correctly, often they will repeat the act.
 In schools, mixed class education has in many instances led to a lowering of standards of respect.  Girls are not now taught the niceties or the facts of life from a womanly point of view.  The subject education is reported to me as neutral and factual without the finesse or compassion that was the case in previous generations. 

Teachers who try to imbue any other sort of sensibility seem to be open to criticism that they are getting too close to the youngsters. I have sympathy for parents who do not want their 8 year old told the facts. Women’s groups in their search for equality have denied women the respect that was once the case.  If a chap offers his seat to a woman on the tube, he may be the victim of outrage and abuse.  It does not help matters at all and such an attitude often has repercussions in the way the man then treats other women.
 

Fear has taken over in the mind of many parents who tell the girl, if you come home pregnant, then pack your bags and go.   The financial burdens of looking after a daughter’s child are too much to bear for many and cannot be done.  Abortion and adoption are suggested and there are now more terminations in Britain that at any time.  The exact figures will never be known, but since the legislation of the 1960’s millions have been dealt with in this way. It is against this background that the young child tries to learn what is right and wrong.  What is learned now will determine their attitudes forever.
 

The movements who watch for the second coming of the Messiah fear that the foetus will be destroyed.  Who knows what has been lost to the world or what setbacks mankind has suffered by the loss of one mind.  
The case for total monogamy and absolute trust in one’s partner is now far more important than ever.  The risks of multi partner relationships are now too great.  How then is a person to gain experience?  Only with good education, careful practices and a code of ethics with absolute adherence to the good conduct code that says ‘never take risks‘. 

Too easy to blame it on the drink, drugs or I was feeling unwanted.  Take responsibility for your own actions and stop blaming others.
 What if this young girl is told that touching is against the tenets of her religious upbringing and that all men are dirty, only seeking one thing and she is never to offend God? Does she then disobey at the risk of her eternal soul?   Does she then become a total man hater?  Does she then become a celibate nun?  What is she to do? What catastrophic apparent sin may inadvertently be committed by even the most simple and innocent act of touching or playfulness. What innocent act of touching on the arm may be seen as an assault.

This child is damaged and may be beyond repair, created by the very society that is designed to protect her interests.  They may meet the one person who can help them purely by chance.
 

Case B A girl aged 12 having been assaulted by a family member, constantly abused throughout childhood from the age of 3 and being aware that her mother has condoned the abuse and actually participated.
 

You may think that this is an overstatement and not possible.  Be assured that it happens regularly, often and is the subject of numerous Social Worker enquiries and Court actions.  Let’s hope that you never come across it.  I have done so, many times.
 

In this case the mental abuse is as bad as the physical and the girl will have been told to keep her mouth shut, that this is normal and not to talk about it, every body does it and that is what she was born for. She will be an underachiever at school, mentally disturbed and suddenly, a social worker twigs what is going on.  Both parents are hauled into court and sentenced for 5 years.  They co-operate with the Police and are deemed to be of diminished responsibility and get a light sentence after psychiatric reports.   She is now left totally alone, in a world of foster care and regulations with no prospect of ever seeing her parents again for the next 5 year (or three with probation for good behaviour) and having to adjust to new values and to keep her past from common knowledge.  Her name is changed and she is moved to another town. What is her attitude likely to be?
 

How do you tell her to stick a plastic thing inside herself and all will be well? How could you possibly help that person? How could you begin to understand what it feels like to be that person?
 

Case C A girl, aged 19-20 and in a constant relationship with a good and trustworthy bloke who is also a virgin, an attractive, good looking virgin maiden who is healthy and well adjusted in her attitudes, well brought up in a liberal middle class atmosphere, University educated to graduate 2:1, in a good job and happy. 
Unknown to her, she has a bladder infection and is has spread with the consequence that she is too dry.  The usual stimulus does not release the oxytocin and vaginal fluids. 

The first time she tries, it hurts her.  The boy does not have any prior knowledge and fails when he realises that she is hurt.  He feels unworthy and she feels let down, big time.  All her imagined expectations have come to naught.
 This is vaginitis and it is very common.  If not dealt with, it will often lead to vaginismus. They try again and the same thing happens. 

They talk to friends and ‘ No, that has never happened to me’  ‘ Don’t you fancy him?’ ‘He’s a boy, go and get a man’ ‘You are a virgin? How unusual’.
 Worse still for many is the thought that they may actually prefer a same gender relationship.   Having no experience, what trauma will they go through before someone actually tells them the truth and how to deal with the problem.  Others may face that as a truth and be very happy for the awakening. The road to ruin is paved with good intents. 

Against these extremes and within the whole picture, there are a heck of a lot of well-adjusted people who are sufficiently experienced and strong enough to cope with all of this and get joy and fun from intimacy.  They, if asked will give good answers when approached by any of the cases above and do an excellent job of guiding the young and inexperienced through the traumas. These people do more good than all the professionals who have never experienced it for themselves, do not know what it feels like and are too concerned with saving their face and protecting their insurance to deal with the matter or earning money from another’s suffering.
 

The only therapist, male or female who can deal with this problem is one who has been there and read the book, got the Tee shirt and survived.  Deemed to failure are the self important, smug, pretentious do-gooders that see this as a means of promoting their own importance.  The attitude of ‘Poor dears’ is prevalent and so too is the expression ‘ How can anyone understand what they are feeling? What an awful problem.  Let’s have another sherry and imagine what it is like.’  
 

How on earth can they understand or begin to think that they have the knowledge and humility to deal with this.  It is such attitudes that prevent any recovery.  90% of the problem is lack of trust.  A therapist who has the ability to inspire trust is more likely to succeed than one who does not have that gift. Language and the words used are crucial to this and a certain amount of base realism is called for.   This condition must be faced for what it is and it must not be obscured in a load of platitudes, protocols and so- called finesse. It is a problem at the base roots of who we are, how we react and our attitudes. When the trust is there, the patient will sometimes ask the therapist to open up the entrance.  The release might be achieved with acupressure points or acupuncture.  If the woman is then able to insert her finger, that is a first step.
 

At this point, and that may be a year after the first consultation, there must be no mistakes.  The occasion must be accompanied with humour and gentleness, as a friend in spirit.  Remove all unwanted thoughts from the equation and there is no cause for trauma. The woman has her confidence restored and will never again think that there is anything wrong with her.  The scene is set for a fulfilling and happy life ahead.  Freedom is the key, freedom from the oppression that this condition inspires and freedom from conditioning.
 

The psychological basis of this piece is applicable to all situations where acts done in the past give rise to trauma in the present.  Face things for what they are and treat them with good common sense and genuine love of all being.   Often those who have been through this will be of immense help to others.  In trying to deal with this, all is positive and all adversity turned to advantage and good use Know yourself well and thereby know others.
 

Do not attempt to treat this condition without appropriate training and full informed consent.                
c The Chi Clinic 1999 Revised August 2011

Your views will be appreciated.  Just e mail me or talk to me when you come to see me.