With most people I have dated over the years, we never reached the stage where I had to encounter penetration of any sorts. Some were always looking for personal gratification, so it was never anything but blowjobs. I told myself that my resistance was probably because I just wasn't sure of the guy. But I too yearned for sexual pleasure, for myself, which wasn't just limited to masturbation. I wanted to be touched, to be appreciated, to be desired.
So when I met my partner, and most of the time we spent together he was making me feel sexually attractive and desired, my first reaction wasn't that of excitement, or happiness. I was worried, because I might have to face my fear afterall. We dated casually for a while, before one day, we were both passionate and eager. He loved me delicately, with passion yet warmth, constantly communicating to know what I wanted. He asked me if he should proceed, and I was filled with thousands of emotions, that of anxiety, fear, curiosity, vulnerability. He read my face and immediately stopped. We spent the rest of the time watching YouTube videos on different types of pasta! I didn't wanna talk, he kept his arms around me and kissed my cheek before I left.
We went on several dates after that, and he would look at me before every step we took, always looking out for any nonverbal cues. I started feeling all the things that I had wanted to feel for long; I was touched and desired in the most incredible ways. I orgasmed in the presence of another human for the first time, and goodness! My body kept longing for more. I finally thought that maybe I should talk to my partner about how I feel at the thought of penetration, and maybe, just maybe, we could give it a try. He listened to me and assured me multiple times, as he has done over the years till today, that a sexual relationship between us need not be bound to vaginal penetration. It need not involve it at all.
But as I said, I wanted to give it a shot. When I reached his place, it looked like he had given this a lot of thought. There were scented candles, soothing music and lights, everything that helped me relax. After an intense hour, I looked at him and nodded. He made sure that I was completely okay before trying to penetrate. It was probably 20 seconds, when I internally struggled to enjoy the process, and I asked him to stop. I was in pain. But I was also angry at myself for not being able to do it. He held me close, wrapped me in a blanket and asked if I wanted ice cream. I started crying and probably did so for half an hour. He let me cry. He got me ice cream. He asked if I wanted to talk, while assuring that I didn't need to. I told him that I'm sorry, he said he didn't think there was anything I had to apologise for.
For a month after that, I was unable to engage in any form of sexual intimacy with him, and we would just go on movie dates, have our favourite street food, and call it a day. We enjoyed a lot, holding hands while crossing the road. We were getting comfortable with the pace of things, getting to know each other better.
One day, we decided to binge-watch Sex Education on Netflix. With all its flaws and possible scope of improvement at multiple fronts, what really struck us was the character of Lily, someone with a supposed condition called 'vaginismus'. After finishing the episode, we both started researching it, and I'm so glad we did.
Currently, I'm a part of 3 vaginismus support groups and to know that there are so many people who are dealing with this condition, a constant dilemma, has been comforting to an extent. My partner is also part of a circle for people who want to have a healthy sex life with their own, who are either medically diagnosed with vaginismus, or face similar issues and difficulties.
I am not sure if what I experience are symptoms of vaginismus. For years I have wondered what could be the reason for my discomfort, the pain, the inability. Was it because of the intense pornographic depictions that always made the process look painful and violent? Was it because of the utter lack of sex education at my home, at school? Could it be due to the trauma I have of being assaulted, of having my body violated multiple times in childhood? Or was I simply looking for external reasons so that I don't end up feeling incomplete, or incapable somehow?
What being part of the online community did for me was extraordinary. I could interact with people around the world who felt the same way I did, who had the same dilemmas, but did not feel sorry or incomplete in any way. It helped me feel good and happy in my own body.
However, what was even more satisfying for me personally were the incredible conversations I had with my partner, about what we both desired, how much time we needed, and how it was possible to feel the most intimate sexual connection without succumbing to the narrow definition of sex. We never looked out to 'cure' the condition, it rather broadened our horizons further. Exploring different ways to please the other, finding out our own kinks, trying out positions that we didn't know existed...the journey has been incredible!
I wrote this piece, sharing some of my personal experiences, to elicit that it was possible to be sexually active and to desire for sexual pleasure while also being averse of any sort of penetration. It is possible to be in any varying-term relationship with one or multiple partners, and feel no less excitement or fulfillment. All it requires at the very basic is communication with the partner and together exploring ways of intimacy, sexual or otherwise. It needs a redefining of sex, and not restricting oneself to social categories, like the one I mentioned in the start.