Can I have anal sex with vaginismus?

A grapefruit half with the tip of a banana pushing into the middle - implying penetration. Photo.
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I’m a sex blogger, but I hesitate to describe myself as a sex educator. I’d like to be a sex educator, but I don’t feel like that’s a title I can claim because I simply don’t know enough. I’m a huge sex nerd, of course, and I spend a lot of time thinking and reading and asking questions about sex, but there’s so much that I don’t know… including some things about my own body, like whether or not I can have anal sex with vaginismus.

Content note for vaginismus and painful sex. 

As someone who writes about hir sex life in explicit detail, it’s embarrassing to admit that I’m ashamed to ask this – and to admit that I don’t know this. But shame perpetuates a sex-negative culture: some folks are too scared to ask ‘is it normal that I don’t get wet?’ and I’m scared to ask if my strong pelvic floor will affect my adventures in anal play.

So I’m breaking the shame cycle and asking my “stupid” question: can I have anal sex with vaginismus?

I’ve simplified that question – because obviously yes, I can have anal sex with vaginismus! I’m still learning about my own body, but I know enough about my vaginismus to understand why it could have an impact on my attempts at anal play. Vaginismus is defined as the involuntary contraction of muscles around the opening of the vagina. The tight muscle contraction makes sexual intercourse, or any sexual activity that involves penetration, painful or impossible.

For me it’s impossible. Vaginismus often has a strong psychological component, and mine stems in part from my religious upbringing and fear of sexual assault. I think that before I can ever have penis in vagina sex, I will have to unpack the sexual shame that I’ve only recently realised I’m still carrying. That said, understanding what’s happening physically – and that my vagina isn’t “broken” – helps too.

Somewhere I have diagrams explaining this, but I think that folks with vaginismus have a super strong pelvic floor – which in afab folks is the ‘sling’ of muscles around the uterus, bladder and colon. Lots of people do exercises to strengthen their pelvic floor – that’s what kegels are – but this is the opposite of what people with vaginismus need to do. Before I even start using dilators, I need to do exercises to loosen and relax my pelvic floor: pelvic floor drops.

I have never put anything in my vagina – not tampons or fingers or more than half an inch of my smallest dilator… but I have put things in my butt.

I’ve used butt plugs and really enjoyed the feeling of something in my ass. I’ve had a partner’s finger inside me and found it uncomfortable but not painful. It doesn’t scare me like vaginal penetration does. No, it doesn’t always feel good, but I don’t have this huge mental block about it – I know that with lube and patience it will usually feel good, and if it doesn’t then we’ll simply take anal play off the menu for today’s fuck.

Then I went to a Vaginismus Network event in January and one of the speakers talked about how to bring up your vaginismus with your partner. She mentioned that sometimes partners, upon learning that they can’t have PIV sex, ask about anal: “and like dude, if my vagina is too tight, do you think you can get your dick in my ass?”

I’m paraphrasing her, but her throwaway comment that had the other attendees laughing left me frozen in shock. In all the conversations I’ve had about the fact I can’t do any kind of vaginal penetration, I never thought to wonder if my strong pelvic floor would also make it harder to do anal penetration. I know that anal play can be really good for folks who can’t do vaginal penetration, but people can struggle with vaginal penetration for a whole host of reasons that aren’t vaginismus.

I’ve tried to find an answer, of course. I may have imposter syndrome about being a sex educator, but I’m definitely allowed to call myself a sex nerd and know how to do my research. The problem is that I’ve found just as many resources that say vaginismus doesn’t affect anal sex as articles that claim vaginismus does affect anal sex. It wasn’t until I mentioned this during a Twitter sex chat (#SexEdUncensored, you should check it out) that I realised how ashamed I was that I don’t know the answer.

Of course, even if I find that a strong pelvic floor does make anal sex more uncomfortable, that doesn’t invalidate the experiences I’ve had with anal play so far. I’m curious about it because I’m trying to overcome my fear of my own vagina, and because I want to understand my own body. I also think that these experiences might also help me feel less scared about picking up my dilators, because my pelvic floor is not quite as tightly wound as I think it is.

I know that if I go into dilation expecting it to hurt, I will tense up. Which will, in turn, make it hurt more, which will make me tense more… and soon I’m in a self-fulfilling cycle that ends with me feeling too scared to take my underwear off during sex. I really struggle to put that vagina anxiety aside because I know I have a strong pelvic floor… but I don’t approach anal play with that same anxiety, because I don’t approach it expecting it to hurt.

I want to get to a point where I don’t tense up in anticipation of pain every time I think about putting things in my vagina, and understanding my body is part of that.

Our role as sex educators – according to Submissive Feminist who runs Sex Ed Uncensored  – is to open the dialogue. This would mean that being vulnerable enough to admit that I don’t know something and start a conversation about vaginismus and anal sex is the act of a sex educator. So, this is me brave and asking a question that actually isn’t stupid at all: does the strength of you pelvic floor affect your experiences with anal play? Other folks with vaginismus, do you have anal sex?

I’m going to learn more by booking a long-overdue gynaecology appointment when lockdown is over, but for now it feels good to admit that I don’t know.

Vulnerability is hard, y’all, and it would mean a lot if you could support my so I can keep talking about my vaginismus and my vagina anxiety. If you liked this post, please consider leaving me a tip so I can keep bringing you my confessions about how little I know my own genitals in 2020. 

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  1. So I’m just going to “think aloud” and share here a bit if you don’t mind, because while my painful vaginal penetrative experiences differ from yours, I *have* experienced that pain – which muscle tensing/freezing has contributed to, for me – and I *do* believe my tightening tendencies have had an impact on the enjoyability of (receptive) anal sex.

    I am currently peri-menopausal. This comes with its own set of symptoms and difficulties, but the fact that I am approaching menopause after a lifetime of PCOS makes a difference. Because with my PCOS, one of the things I dealt with was having an excess of testosterone in my system. Testosterone is required for orgasm, and the fact that I had so much meant I had HARD orgasms. Holding them off (or intentionally making them more intense) often meant clenching my pelvic muscles, especially during intercourse. For years, this felt GOOD.

    On the rare occasions I was on the receiving end of anal sex during my PCOS days, I would do deep breathing and focused relaxation for initial entry, but once things got going, I would do the same thing as with vaginal penetration — tightening up ultimately meant stronger orgasms. (Think: contracting the coccyx.)

    Enter menopause.

    I’m not tightening up on purpose. I’m just TIGHT.

    All over.

    Uncomfortably so.

    That “sling of muscles” (great description!) you referred to in your post is *always* tight. So penetrating against that kind of tight? Oh hell no.

    Add to that the fact that years of sexual self-conditioning have me on autopilot when it comes to tightening with the expectation of pleasure…


    Penetration hurts, and when it *does* work at the beginning, it *starts* hurting in a minute because my reflex action is to tighten.

    Both vaginally and anally.

    Because those muscles are all connected.

    And because I have no idea how to un-train a lifetime of habit. (Especially since tightening still works beautifully when I’m orgasming *without* penetration.)

    Again: I’m just “thinking aloud” about my experience with this issue – and I can only speak to my own experience; others may feel differently! – but when pondering the question of whether anal sex is impacted by a tight pelvic floor, my recent experiments with this have yielded an answer of YES.

    For what it’s worth. 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing so much, so readily. Vaginismus is not a condition I’m very familiar with (beyond your posts) but it’s quite interesting to me because I *have* had my vagina “lock up” during consensual intercourse and frankly, never took the time to look at the physiology to understand how/why it happened (beyond being an emotional/fear response). Thank you for the candid way you talk about bodies; it’s inspiring.

  3. “Before I even start using dilators, I need to do exercises to loosen and relax my pelvic floor: pelvic floor drops.” That’s exactly my experience. For me, dilating my anus is a bit easier than dilating my vagina.
    I’ve been fighting my vaginismus all my life. Finally I told my experience in my book Overcoming my vaginismus: A definite guide to cure vaginismus without using dilators, which seems to be helping many women.
    Thank you for discussing this taboo topic. It makes one feels less alone.

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