The Vaginismus Gift Guide
By Emma McGowan
Sleigh bells ring, menorahs appear, and the weather gets chilly. That’s right: It's the holiday season! And we all know that holiday season means gift-giving season for many of us. But while some people give socks, you’re going to show up with a thoughtful, helpful, lovely gift this year–for the person in your life who’s suffering from vaginismus.
Vaginismus is the involuntary contraction of pelvic floor muscles around the vagina when someone (or something) tries penetration. People with vaginismus often can’t have penetrative sex, find pelvic exams difficult or impossible, and sometimes can’t even use a tampon. In combination with dyspareunia (which is a fancy way of saying pain with intercourse), it’s sometimes called Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder (GPPD).
So what’s the deal? What’s causing this clenching? Medical professionals aren’t 100% sure, but the general belief is that it’s likely a combination of physical and psychological factors. Many people with vaginismus are carrying a high level of shame about sex due to a sex-negative upbringing and/or have suffered from a previous trauma, like sexual assault or a traumatic childbirth.
Vaginismus often starts with a fear or anxiety about penetration that translates into a physical response in the form of vaginal clenching. People with vaginismus usually experience sharp pain around the entrance to the vagina any time something tries to get in there. Many people describe it as feeling like “hitting a wall.”
Over time, those acute reactions can lead to chronic issues, like shortened pelvic floor muscles, that further exacerbate a person’s inability to accommodate penetration. Vaginismus can also lead to constipation, cramping, back pain, and even incontinence.
But now to the fun stuff! Since the factors that contribute to someone experiencing vaginismus are vast and complicated, the gifts for someone with vaginismus are varied too! They’re also much more fun—we promise.
1. A vaginal dilator
Perhaps the number one thing doctors recommend for treating vaginismus is a vaginal dilator set. Vaginal dilators help people with vaginismus get used to penetration by gradually increasing in size. We love Soul Source and Intimate Rose if you’re having trouble getting started
You’ve probably heard of vibrators, but have you heard of suction toys? These toys created a focused suction-like feeling on the head of the clitoris, providing direct stimulation that’s excellent for someone suffering from vulvar pain or pain with entry. The Puff from Unbound is an affordable option that promises to provide continuous pleasure way past the new year.
3. Lelo Liv 2
Slow and gradual penetration is usually recommended for treating vaginismus—that’s why dilators are at the top of the list. But for someone who has gotten used to the process of dilation, adding a little vibration can help ease pain even further. Lelo Liv 2 is a great option for someone who’s looking to up their dilation game, providing a range of vibrations and pulses to help increase sexual pleasure with penetration. It’s also a nice, slim size and has a tapered end, making it easier for people who are wary of penetration.
4. Oh Naturale Aloe-Based Lube
While we’re huge fans of pretty much all lubes, Oh Naturale consistently makes the top of our list because it’s long-lasting, scent-free, and can be used with vaginas, Ohnut, and silicone toys. Also, fun fact: it’s great for taming flyaways! Now that’s what we call a multi use product.
Vaginismus makes it really difficult to have penetrative sex. But with Ohnut, you can ease your way into it, even if you’re not ready to go all the way. That's because Ohnut is specifically designed to be worn on a penis or toy to help control depth of penetration. It’s a great gift for anyone who’s struggling with vaginismus but feels like maybe they’re ready to start taking things to the next level.
6. Sili Saddle
Vulvar pain is a major problem for people with vaginismus and the Sili Saddle was built specifically to address it. It can be used as a bumper for a strap-on or it can be worn inside your underwear to protect the vulva throughout the day. It can even be warmed up or cooled down for extra relief!
7. AH! Yes Vaginal Moisturizer
Another product for keeping the vulva nice and comfortable throughout the day is AH! Yes Vaginal Moisturizer. It’s organic, water-based, and is formulated specifically to reduce irritation. Grab one or two to use as a vaginismus-friendly stocking stuffer.
Since one of the potential causes of vaginismus is shame from growing up in a heavily sex-negative community, getting comfortable with healthy desire and sexuality can help a lot. With that in mind, a subscription to Dipsea–which is audio erotica for women, by women–is an awesome holiday gift. It’s sexy, discreet, and gives anyone who listens permission to dig deeper into their sexual interests.
9. Pelvic Gym Membership
Pelvic floor physical therapy is almost always recommended for people suffering from vaginismus. But it can be financially out of reach for a lot of people, even if they have insurance. That’s where the Pelvic Gym comes in. For just $90 a year, people have access to a professional team of pelvic specialists to help guide them down the path away from pain. It’s an excellent gift for anyone in your life who’s dealing with vaginismus on a daily basis.
Vaginismus is hard–really hard. But one thing that certainly helps is being surrounded by people who truly care. And that’s your cue: Get something extra thoughtful this holiday season and support the person in your life who’s suffering from vaginismus.