(Warning, this article contains sex-related content which may disturb sensitive readers)
This woman discovered she had vaginismus after almost fainting from trying to take a tampon out…
Former chartered professional accountant, Katrin Maslenkova (27) who lives in Toronto, Canada, experienced pain the first time she tried to put in a tampon. Later in life, after a volleyball tournament, she attempted to take one out, but it was so painful she nearly fainted.
When she was just 18, she tried penetrative sex with her first boyfriend, but was like ‘hitting a wall’. After a few attempts when penetration became impossible, she felt an excruciating stabbing and burning pain.
“Many perfectly good tampons went straight into the bin with my unsuccessful attempts. They were impossible to use; I tried, experienced a sense of hitting a wall, or really intense, sharp pain,” Katrin said. “This was the first sign something was wrong, and I just decided to stick to pads when it came to my period.”
In January 2010, she booked an appointment with her family doctor but he couldn’t get through a PAP test and told her she may be too young; her body wasn’t ‘ready’ for penetrative sex yet and that she just needed to wait. Unsatisfied with this conclusion, Katrin decided to do some research online to figure out what was happening and came across the term ‘vaginismus’.
After a few more disappointing visits to her family doctor and her only referral to a gynaecologist, a sex therapist finally confirmed she was in fact experiencing vaginismus, a physiological response to a perceived danger in the form of an involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles around the opening of the vagina.
“This is where I had a pretty uncomfortable experience with her trying to dig into my life to see what my discomfort with penetration originated from.
“I did remember a childhood injury that may have created my association my private parts being a place of pain and I have since discovered other potential contributors to my body’s response of vaginismus.”
She was recommended to try dilating therapy, where dilators are used to relax the muscles and train the mind to stop associating penetration with pain.
“I felt relieved that at least someone else agreed with the fact that the pain was not in my head and that this is a real thing.
“After the relief, I felt overwhelmed with the road ahead of me overcoming vaginismus, but was motivated to finally live a pain free and intimate life.”
Unfortunately, the dilators lay hidden away in her closet for many months at a time, since she lacked the support in how to use them effectively. To this day, she is surprised by the limited instruction and guidance she received from the medical professionals she first went to.
Her first relationship ended after two years and while still facing the condition and after a period of being single and another long-term relationship, in 2016 she was able to have penetrative sex pain-free.
During her first relationship, Katrin, who is originally from Bulgaria, struggled to feel like a ‘whole and complete woman’ as a result of not being able to have penetrative sex with her boyfriend.
Although he was very understanding of her challenges and supportive throughout the process, their relationship ended for that and other reasons.
Throughout her journey she managed to overcome her obstacles and now happens to be engaged.
“It brought feelings within me that I wasn’t good enough and he just deserved better (the feelings weren’t caused by him – just what I felt for myself),” she said.
“For a long time, we had non-penetrative sex and after some time with seeing no progress (and having disappointing attempts at penis in vagina sex), I started to loathe where intimate touch was leading.
“So, I started to avoid it (or at least not look forward to it as it was always coupled with a sense of not being good enough to give both of us the pleasure of a ‘home run’).
“Overall, my partners showed an incredible level of support, patience, understanding and compassion. They saw me for more than my sexual ‘abilities’ at that moment and of course we also worked through times in which I sensed a level of sadness, hopelessness and disappointment.
“The toughest part was feeling incredibly alone, with no one who seemed to understand. Even though I had a supportive family, friends and partners, unfortunately loving people can’t relate to those with vaginismus fully; they just haven’t experienced the excruciating pain, both physical and emotional.
She started dating the love of her life, Dmitri (33), in March 2017.
They are now engaged to be married and she has since quit her job to help other ‘vulva owners’ with the same painful sexual experiences.
“I went polar dipping with a group of Russian-speaking guys, and my now fiancé was one of them. So, I met him on January 15, 2017 at a parking lot by Lake Ontario in Toronto.
“He hadn’t heard about such a thing before and was really glad that I had worked through it. He felt sorry for me for what I’d gone through, as well as the men in my life prior to him, who also experienced painful emotions and potentially were traumatised in the journey alongside me.
“My current partner has also benefited from my experiences, as through the journey I’ve become more attuned to my sexual desires.
“I now know what I want to get me sexually aroused, I’m able to communicate my desires and also willing to experiment outside of the ’status quo’ in order to create a fulfilling sex life.
“He has also learned how to help me with trigger point release massage, an internal massage practice that is beneficial for anyone feeling some discomfort during intercourse.
“This is a wonderful practice to release the ‘kinks’ in your vagina, as you may get kinks in your neck after an uncomfortable night’s sleep.
“Occasionally, the stresses of life create these internal tight spots even when you’re able to have pleasurable penetrative sex.
“He has been curious, willing to experiment, and has been supportive in my work to bring guidance and support to those experiencing the body response of vaginismus.
“This has been a journey for me, and he has been encouraging through the process of creating my educational materials and getting them out into the world.
“My goal is to create a world where sexuality is something to be celebrated and love is at the forefront of all human interactions.”