Saturday, February 18, 2012

Vaginismus in Deborah Feldman's Memoir!

Everyone's talking about that book that's been in the New York Post, on The View, etc, called Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman.

Honestly, the story itself isn't what interested me. What interested me is that this woman was brave enough to put her entire sex life (or lack thereof) on display for all her readers to see. Her sex life meaning her lack of knowledge about sex and her VAGINISMUS.


She did that.

She wrote about her vaginismus in her memoir.

I would put all the quotes from the book online except I think that would be a disservice. I think women suffering from sexual pain should buy the book and read it. So I'll just put some teasers up for you:

P.168- Finally he pokes, I think, in the right area, and I lift up to meet him and wait for the obligatory thrust and deposit. Nothing happens. He pushes and pushes, grunts with the effort, but nothing seems to give way. And in fact, I can't see what should. What is expected to happen here?

P. 172- The days after my wedding, which should be the happiest of my life, become consumed by the effort to consummate my marriage. But as each effort results in failure, Eli becomes more and more anxious, and as a result, his family exerts more and more pressure on us to be finished with it. By the third try, Eli can no longer muster any eagerness from his own body, and I cannot submit to something that isn't there.

(Then there's this weird part where it seems like she has a septum - you know how sometimes people are born with an imperforate hymen or a septum?- which the doctor explains to her as having "two hymens." The other doctor she talks to tells her she has some scarring, which I don't get, because I thought you could only get scarring from having been penetrated and cut/ bruised/ hurt. Maybe someone can explain this?)

P. 179- My feelings are such fragile, scared creatures; they must be coaxed out slowly, and by the time they get comfortable, they are sent into hiding again. Soon I cannot bring myself to reach out to my husband at all, because I dread the day when he will once again reject me...My own body becomes detached from me as well, and I can make it do things without feeling as if I am present.

I really did not like her description of vaginismus, because I think it gives the wrong impression of what is going on and that you can control it, because she describes it as being all in your head- but nevertheless, here goes:

P. 184- The therapist says she can tell from the way I squirm on the table that it's in my head. My head, she says, has more power over my body than I give it credit for. My vagina closes up if my mind wants it to, and no matter how much I convince myself I want it to open, my subconscious knows best, and it is in control. It's called vaginismus. She gives me a book to read about it. I read that the condition is most common in women who grow up in repressive religious environments.

She also talks about how she wrote about her struggle to consummate her marriage on her blog, Hasidic Feminist and how she felt like that was freeing. And she also talks about how she developed major anxiety because of the unconsummated issue and starting throwing up all the time.

Anyway, I'm really glad that someone has written about this in a mainstream and popular book. Hopefully that will raise awareness of the issue, although I'm worried people will think it only happens to people raised in very repressive environments (like the Hasidic community) when it happens to people like me, too, who was not raised in that way.

What I think was really helpful was how she showed her vaginismus connected to everything else. It caused her anxiety panic attacks, it deeply strained (and eventually broke) her marriage and it was also one of the main causes for why she moved out of one city and transferred to Upstate New York. So she showed how this condition can actually impact your whole life, not just the bedroom.

You go, girl! You're giving the whole world a wake-up call and making them a little more aware of what sexual pain means. You rock.


Anonymous said...

yes! i came across your blog somehow in the summer and hadn't visited it for a while but i read deborah feldman's book today and thought of you right away, that her experience when she got married seemed similar to yours. the reminder sent me back here! i wish you the best of luck and good news to share with your readers.

Anonymous said...

Hi sometime ago I had visited ur blog and had left a comment. Not sure u would remember me... I also suffered from vaginismus and belong to a country where its very very hard to get good therapists. I had ordered dialators online and has been working by my own. My husband was a great support. Wanted to share with u that I managed to over come vaginismus and we made love. It was emotional... Extremely emotional than anything... Dialators and great urge to overcome the difficulty and my husbands understanding helped me overcome the monster :-) I hope and pray that you would will over the situation soon. Keep going ... Love and prayers K

Anonymous said...

Don't know if I would have the energy to read the book. Seems very emotional!

Congrats to you, Anon 2/19 4:37am!


Erin said...

Are there laws against mutual oral sex? There are many ways to be intimate, then just penitration. Have you tried that? It is about your pleasure as much as his.

My other suggestion is to take a sex vacation. Obviously there is an enourmous amount of pressure on you to make this sounds like you have some serious anxiety. My suggestion is you need to remove that pressure from your life, and chill. Take sex, or intercourse competly off the table for an extended period of time...and focus on relaxing. Do yoga, mediate, try acupuncture....for me all of these things have helped when I had serious anxiety issues. Then once you get your head together...start small...and work your way into it. Eventually you will be able to have sexual intercourse. But just remember, there are more things to sex then just penetration...that is only one way.

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I too did not consummate my marriage and to my disbelief got pregnant. Giving birth took care of the consummation, but did not help with vaginismus. Eventually, it was passion and relaxation that helped overcome it, and convincing myself that the pain was really pleasure.
Please keep posting!

Anonymous said...

I've just emailed you again, hope that's ok.

Anonymous said...

I can explain the scarring issue, since this is a condition I have:

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book, but from your excerpts it doesn't sound like vaginismus, more like lack of experience and lack of attraction/passion. Women who are sexually inexperienced, don't use tampons, don't use vibrators, etc. are likely to be unfamiliar and uncomfortable with their vaginal area and will squirm on a gynecologist's table. It doesn't mean she has any medical condition. If she can tolerate a pelvic exam she is fine anatomically.