It’s hard to have something wrong with you that’s invisible. It's even harder when it involves your vagina. It just invites sexism and disbelief. Doctors roll their eyes, ignore me and berate me. I’ve been told that everything would be solved if I got my cherry popped. As if it’s my hymen that’s the problem, not the low pelvic floor. They sigh heavily at me as the speculum can’t spear pass the muscle. They turn virginity, a social construct, into a medical abnormality.
May is National Pelvic Pain Awareness month and I have pelvic floor dysfunction. This means the muscles in my hips do the opposite of what they are supposed to. It means that my pelvic floor has dropped; it’s closer to the surface. I can’t be examined like a normal woman. It causes extreme pain with my periods and it causes issues with bowel movements.
It also means I can’t have sex — something that astounds my friends.
My friends are beautiful women who are confident and love sex (with the exception of one asexual friend). They don’t shy away from talking about it. I smile when they tell each other stories. I sit quietly and listen, hoping they forget about me. I don’t want them to look at me with sad eyes or ask a bunch of questions. They don’t seem to understand why I haven’t fixed my issue right away.
In fact, a lot of people ask that same question. I’m now finally seeing a specialist for it. There are lot of factors that most people won’t think about. One of the biggest is the financial aspect. I already had so many doctors that for my vagina and pelvis alone, this would be my fourth doctor. Plus, knowing that it wasn’t a quick fix, I have to plan to see this doctor once a month for a year at least. I have to think about the fact that even then, there might not be any results. Another factor: mentally and emotionally preparing myself to go down the rabbit hole. It’s exhausting.
My friends tease me all the time about how awkward I am around men (true). They ask me what I would do if a man flirted with me (first instinct: run), and they think I’m too innocent or naive. They think they are making me feel normal by teasing me. They are so considerate when it comes to so many things about my illnesses, but they don’t see my sensitivity to this. They don’t understand.
Even though it shouldn’t, even though it kills every feminist fiber in my body, I feel like I’ve lost my femaleness. I know that a vagina doesn’t make a female, but it’s hard to shake the patriarchal ideal I grew up with. It’s hard to ignore those voices that say I can’t be sexy if I can’t have sex. It’s such bullshit, but damn if it doesn’t stick to you. My friends constantly ask why I don’t even have a drive for sex. The answer? I don’t have to freedom to. Everything hurts down there so much that I have grown to resent my vagina. I don’t want anything to do with it because anything can cause it to become painful.
So no, I can’t have sex, and no one can seem to understand why that doesn’t bother me. For me, it’s a matter of priorities. I focused on getting healthier when this started at 13, going to college and working at 19, and now at 23, I’m focused on my career. I want to bring attention to these issues, speak up for those who can’t, and the best way to do that is to write my story.
As much as my hips hurt, especially around my period, I took some aspirin and ignored it. I had more important things to do.
I want people to instead focus on the fact that I have something wrong with my muscles in my hips that causes me not to be able to have sex. One third of women in the U.S. have pelvic floor disorders, and that number is only going to rise.
Maybe everyone should focus on that.