A woman claims her agonising vaginal condition makes intercourse feel ‘like sandpaper rubbing the internal skin’ and has ruined her sex life.
Victoria Johnston, 26, from Mishawaka, Indiana, suffers from vaginismus.
This causes the vaginal muscles to involuntarily tighten up whenever penetration is attempted and can make sex impossible.
After years of unsupportive boyfriends blaming her for her disorder, Miss Johnston is finally in a loving relationship with her fiancé Duncan Finlay, 26, but admits their sex life is ‘non-existent’.
She even struggles to cuddle or kiss Mr Finlay over fears of where it might lead.
Miss Johnston’s condition, which she blames on her strict Catholic upbringing and emotional abuse from past boyfriends, has also left her battling depression and anxiety.
Speaking of the discomfort, Miss Johnston said: ‘The pain during penetration is a burning sensation
‘Sometimes there is also a scraping feeling, like sandpaper rubbing the internal skin.
‘It’s excruciatingly painful and sometimes the muscles won’t even allow anything to penetrate. They simply blockade anything from entering.’
As well as causing her agonising pain, Miss Johnston’s condition has also had a big impact on her relationships.
‘Many guys used to make me feel guilty for having this condition,’ she said.
‘They would say hurtful words like I simply lie there during sex, unable to see the emotional and physical pain in my eyes.
‘Many would force themselves on me for their own pleasure, disregarding my own feelings.
‘I have been told I don’t try hard enough, despite my constant efforts to get better for the both of us.
‘I have been bullied, blamed and emotionally wrecked by unkind partners.’
Although Miss’ Johnston’s fiancé is understanding, she admits her inability to have sex can try his patience.
‘Even though I am in a committed, long-term relationship, our sex life is non-existent,’ she said.
‘Because I also struggle from past emotional and physical abuse, any form of intimacy makes me nervous and uncomfortable.
‘Non-penetrative sex, cuddling and kissing are also difficult and something I have a hard time doing.
‘Instead of forcing me to perform any type of sexual activity, my fiancé allows me to initiate at my own pace.’
Miss Johnston’s symptoms appeared the first time she tried to have sex.
‘I first became aware I had vaginismus after continually having painful sex,’ she said.
‘I searched for “painful sex” on the internet and realised I hit all the signs and symptoms for having vaginismus.
‘At first, I was in denial and simply thought all I needed was practice.
‘However my therapist recommended I seek medical help when I eventually told her about my struggles.’
Miss Johnston, who has written a book about vaginismus, has also been psychologically affected by the disorder.
‘I am always nervous and depressed,’ she said.
‘Because I have become more emotional, I have had to seek psychological help as part of my treatment for vaginismus.
‘This includes talking with a therapist and taking medication for my anxiety and depression.
‘The condition often brings me down or makes me feel guilty, like developing this condition was my fault in some way.
She added: ‘I also have to be more mindful of triggers. For instance, I try to avoid talking with friends about sex and watching movies or TV shows that centre around romance and sex.
‘On the positive side, it has helped me to grow more patient and develop a deeper bond with my fiancé.’
Although vaginismus can be overcome with the right treatment, Miss Johnston has never felt properly supported by doctors.
‘Even when I was diagnosed and visited my gynaecologist, I was simply given dilators and never told how to use them,’ she said.
‘Most doctors I have seen have told me that they don’t know how to help me.
‘I find this incredibly frustrating and have discovered that this is a common problem all over the world.’
She is speaking out to raise awareness of vaginismus and to help other sufferers feel less alone.
‘I would like people to understand that this condition is out there and it is real,’ Miss Johnston said.
‘It is not a condition that one can simply “get over”.
‘Those who suffer from vaginismus are dealing with a variety of traumas and we should not shame them from talking about it.
‘Partners should especially understand that the woman is not at fault.
‘They should help to create a positive and supportive atmosphere for their loved ones who suffer from this condition.’
According to the Women’s Therapy Center in London, vaginismus is a largely hidden problem due to many women suffering in silence and cases often being missed by doctors.
This is despite previous research suggesting that of those who check into sex therapy clinics, up to 17 per cent have the condition.
In her book, Living with Vaginismus: Dealing with the World’s Most Painful Pleasure, Miss Johnston gives a first-hand account of life with the condition.
‘I hope that by bringing my story forward, more women will get the courage to do the same,’ she said.