A piece of common treatment advice for women who struggle with vaginismus is to get sexually aroused for penetration training. What a misleading approach!
- The vagina is built to accommodate penetration without arousal: finger, tampon, gyno exam and vaginal ultrasound, dilator/dildo, even intercourse when the woman is not ‘into it’ or already had her orgasm. Associating the need to get aroused in order to treat her vaginismus is putting the suffering woman under undue pressure, not to mention medicalizing a non-issue.
- Neurophysiologically speaking, getting aroused is under the influence of the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that is also responsible for rest and repose (and digestion). The anxiety associated with vaginismus & penetration is under the control of the sympathetic nervous system, our Fight-or-Flight mechanism. The two work in opposition: when one is active, the other is inactive. So, how can the woman get aroused and keep it going while treating her vaginismus at the same time? Does not work.
- The vagina is a passageway and not the female’s sexual organ. See our post Treatment & arousal for more details.
- Add a partner to the mix and it complicates matters even more: not only is she feeling anxious about penetration with vaginismus, and not only is she struggling to get aroused knowing she has ‘homework’ to do while she is ‘turned on’, but now she also has to perform, to please the partner, to not feel inadequate about her vaginismus but rather sexy and desired. A failure by definition.
The above is not to say that women with vaginismus are not sexually active; quite to the contrary. They can have a satisfying sexual life even without penetration. Read our Blog Vaginismus & orgasm.
The message: separate sexual arousal from vaginismus treatment. Help us spread the word!