Vaginismus: How Does It Affect Sex?

One of the things we like to do here at HO HQ (try saying that 10 times quickly) is explore the ways in which different physical conditions can affect your sex life. It means that when designing products like the PULSE II DUO, we can explore the different ways in which people might want to use the toy.

Vaginismus – what is it?

Vaginismus is a condition which causes the muscles around the entrance of the vagina to tighten when penetration is attempted. This might be during sex, or masturbation, or when putting in a tampon. It can make penetration painful, or impossible, for the people who have it.

The causes of vaginismus can vary, and more research into the condition is needed. But according to the NHS website it can be caused by physical issues such as childbirth or episiotomy, as well as psychological issues such as previous bad experiences with penetration, or fear of pregnancy.

If you think you may have vaginismus, then check out the NHS website and speak to your doctor. Treatment can include pelvic floor exercises or ‘training’ – using small toys to get used to penetration – and it can also include sex therapy.

Vaginismus and penetrative sex

Usually when people talk about vaginismus it’s within the context of treatment or symptoms. Understandably, many people who have it are keen to find out whether there’s anything that their doctor can do.

However, we’re not doctors, so it’s not our job to tell you how to manage your condition. But it is our job to think about all the different ways in which people have sex, and how our toys can enhance that – even for people who find penetrative sex difficult or painful.

As a society, we focus fairly heavily on penetrative sex. There’s an idea that sex only properly ‘counts’ if it involves penetration. Apart from being demonstrably untrue, the obsession with penetration can make life a hell of a lot harder for people who have vaginismus. After all, if you can’t have penetrative sex then the pressure to have penetrative sex can feel even more ostracising.

Laura Parker, who has the condition, explains it movingly in this fantastic Buzzfeed article on vaginismus:

“Being told that your vagina doesn’t work properly is a scary feeling. Part of being a human is that your genitals are supposed to do all of their regular genitalia stuff.”

Non-penetrative sex and vaginismus

A possible option for people who have vaginismus is to explore non-penetrative sex. There are plenty of ways to shag, and not all of them have to involve penetration if that is painful or difficult. Check out our guide to having amazing sex without penetration.

Toys like PULSE II DUO, which have external vibrators that can rest against your clitoris, can be used without any penetration. PULSE II DUO is a couples toy – the silicon wings wrap around a guy’s penis, and the oscillating vibrations on the inside stimulate him to orgasm. Meanwhile, the powerful external vibrator can be controlled via remote. Using PULSE II DUO you can have great sex without penetration, in whichever position is most comfortable for you.

Vaginismus and vulvodynia

If you’re searching for information on vaginismus, you’ll probably come across vulvodynia too. The conditions are often (though not always) diagnosed at the same time. Vulvodynia involves pain across the vulva – a constant burning sensation, or a pain which results from pressure on or around the vulva. Again, like vaginismus, vulvodynia is still not thoroughly understood by doctors, although it could be caused by nerve damage to the vulva.

If you suspect you have either of these conditions, please do speak to your doctor. And whether you have these conditions or not, we hope we’ve given you some idea of the different ways in which couples sex toys can be used, and why we’re so keen to consider different people’s sexual experiences when designing the perfect toy.


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