It's feels like a very long time since I last logged on to Hey Vaginismus! to post an update. Mainly because, it has been. Four and a half years actually. My final post, in 2018, claimed to be my last ever. But a girl can change her mind. And I have some stuff to say!
Firstly, when I logged on to Hey Vag! last week, just to dip my toe back in, I was amazed to look at the stats and see that people still actually read it. For anyone who has stumbled across it recently, HI!!! It's so nice to have you here. I hope it's helpful.
However, I have to say, I am a pretty different person to the Hey Vaginismus! of 2015. Some of things that I say, do, think and feel are quite alien to me now. I am in a much better place of acceptance with vaginismus, and have a much stronger understanding of what's important to me- in life and in the bedroom. I have also redefined what 'sex' means to me, and my partner, and that is extremely liberating and joyful! Yes, I did get a penis in my vagina. The gold standard of vaginismus was achieved... (I say that with a heavy dose of eye rolling). However, what has been even more golden for me, is learning that sex isn't all about getting a penis in your vag. It's important to some people, but not all. There are lots of other things to do, and some of them feel better than penetration, to some people. Basically, do whatever you want as long as it feels good. And don't feel pressured to aim for the 'gold standard'. Unless you want it, of course. But you might not.
In the last few years, I have been doing a LOT of talking about this kinda thing. I wont ramble on any further here, but if you are interested in hearing me saying a lot of stuff about sex, vaginas, vaginismus etc, as well as more on how my own vagina is getting on, here are some podcasts, if that's your kinda thing:
- Standard Issue Podcast: https://play.acast.com/s/standardissuespodcast/simep283chops126-thevaginismusnetwork
- Sex Unshackled: https://sexunshackled.podbean.com/e/vaginismus-and-us/
- V&Me Podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1570303/7009747-opening-up-with-kat-no-pun-intended
- Bitesize Feminism: https://anchor.fm/bitesizefeminismpodcast/episodes/Opening-up-about-vaginismus-e1cnrf6
If you've read the blog, you'll know that one of my biggest frustrations in life is bad sex education. It was most likely responsible for me ending up with vaginismus, and it's a common thread in many people's vaginismus story. I was always super cagey when writing the blog, and was careful not to share any details of my actual life. However, things are different now, and I want to tell you what I do.
I work with people. All people, but mostly young people. I am a participatory artist, workshop facilitator and project manager, and I regularly deliver projects in schools and communities that use creativity, drama and discussion to explore topics. Since starting the Vaginismus Network, I have dreamed of developing and delivering sex education based projects, but was also wary that my knowledge on the topic is pretty biased and skewed towards my own experience and interests. So, I was DELIGHTED when I stumbled across ACET's Teaching Relationships and Sex Education online course.
I completed the course last month, and loved every minute of it. I now have the skills and knowledge to discuss and teach ALL areas of relationship and sex education (not just the areas that I had become a self-taught expert in eg. vaginismus) I delivered my first project a couple of weeks ago, exploring sexual health and consent with a group of 16 year olds, and was IN MY ELEMENT! I loved it. The young people were ridiculously switched on, mature and open, which made my job easier, but they were, like me, disgusted by the lack of proper sex education that they had received at school (nothings changed apparently). The project ended with them writing a manifesto for change, detailing all the things that they feel they weren't taught at school, but should have been. It has now been handed to the headteacher and there will be a meeting about it after summer. PROGRESS!
So, as I said, a lot has changed!
I am super keen to continue developing work in this area, and also super keen to do more talking and awareness raising, so if you think we could collaborate or want a workshop or a speaker, give me a shout! My old blog email is no longer in use. Here's the new one: firstname.lastname@example.org
More important than all of the stuff mentioned above though- my vaginismus rollercoaster ride has led me to some of the most incredible, strong, amazing people that I am now lucky enough to call friends. Finding one other person with vaginismus was my main goal when I started this blog in 2015. I have found so many.
I really hope this update gives a bit of hope that things do get better. Like SO much better. I'm not saying everyone with vaginismus has to go out and train as educators and go on podcasts, but I do hope everyone can reach a place of acceptance. Nobody can pretend having vaginismus is fun. It's not. It bloody hurts (physically and emotionally). But, having it has changed my life. In a really good way.
And it all started here. Hey Vaginismus- it's going to be ok!
If you're looking for support or advice about having vaginismus- contact the amazing Vaginismus Network. Lisa, Natalie and Rosie are incredible, please speak to them! You can contact them via the website www.thevaginismusnetwork.com or on Instagram @thevagnetwork