My vagina is incredibly fickle.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the gynecologist for the second time ever, the first occurring nearly four years prior before I was even borderline sexually active. But now, as someone who is regularly coming into contact with a penis–even if it’s not in my vagina–I figured I should try to squeeze in an appointment while I was home for the holidays (by that I mean that my parents forced me into getting every regular checkup I’m supposed to get while I was in their clutches).

I’ll admit, as I stripped down and threw on the bland, floral hospital gown, I felt a little nervous. I’ve been experiencing semi-regular lower abdominal pain for ages (uterine fibroids or life threatening cancer?), I was convinced that I was a pregnant virgin a few weeks earlier, I suspected I might have a yeast infection, and I wasn’t looking forward to having a speculum shoved up my cooch. I took a seemingly carefree selfie to take the edge off a little bit, but the detailed illustration of a baby inside of its mother’s womb and all of the complementary organs didn’t exactly put me at ease.

The one thing I felt confident about was my theory that I have vaginismus, a condition marked by the inability to have penetrative sex due to psychological hang ups or physical issues. I’ve read the Wikipedia entry repeatedly, I’ve written about it a couple of times, and the symptoms reflected my sex life, so it must be true, right?

Well, according to my very matter-of-fact gynecologist, maybe not.

(Related: Accidental Virgin: Do I Have Vaginismus?)

Right after a pap smear and an ultra sound concluding that I didn’t have uterine fibroids, I decided to launch into my sexual woes: I’m unable to have penetrative sex, it’s starting to frustrate the hell out of me, I think I have vaginismus.

I imagined my gynecologist would latch onto my self-diagnosis in rapt attention, prying into my past with questions about trauma, abuse, general anxiety, and other instances of sexual dysfunction. Instead, she skipped all of that, cut through the apparent bullshit, and asked me what I’m using for birth control.

“Er, uh, I guess condoms? But we don’t even try to–”

“Are you two doing any foreplay?”

“Yeah? I mean–”

“You need more foreplay. Caressing, fingering, clitoral stimulation, lube…You should be using lube.”

“Oh, I have lube!”

“You need to use lube. A lot of it. Put a large amount of lube at your vaginal opening so that when he goes inside–” She did some hand movements at this point. “–He’ll bring the lube along, which will make penetration a lot easier.”

“Yeah, I have lube.”

I hesitantly asked about dilators, an option that has been recommended to me countless times. Her response could be summed up as a noncommittal “eh.” She agreed that that was an option that worked for some and I was welcome to give it a go, but the fact that she didn’t mention this as a possible option in the first place leads me to believe that she’s not convinced that’s what I need.

(Related: Accidental Virgin: I Tried To Have Sex And It Was A Disaster)

I don’t think many doctors have great bedside manner. While she was generally pleasant, she wasn’t an exception. Our conversation felt rushed and unenlightening. She didn’t even seem to think that vaginismus was an issue, it was all just a matter of foreplay and lube. I mean, she’s the doctor, so she has a lot more knowledge about this kind of stuff than I do, but is…that really it? I get it, a dry vag and a penis is a match made in hell. I’ve read enough progressive takes on p in v sex to have a general understanding of weak dick game, and a lack of interest in foreplay and general cluelessness about the way the clitoris works is part of it. But my entire sex life right now is basically just foreplay, so it’s not an unfamiliar concept. Is a little more boob grabbing and lube really the solution to making the excruciating pain go away?

I’m willing to give it a shot, but I’m still a little skeptical. I managed to handle a speculum literally wrenching my vaginal walls apart, and I could handle the sudden intrusion of a transvaginal ultrasound…but I can’t handle some good ol’ American dick in the comfort of my own bed? This is all quickly becoming a tragic comedy.

Sex is a lot more complicated than I thought it would be, but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. Aside from comments of support from strangers online, I’ve had friends come out of the woodwork to admit that they’ve also had penetration problems. A surprising PM from a woman I haven’t seen since 2012, a text from a friend I see all the time, all sent in the same furtive nature of a note passed in class: “Psst, try this, it really worked for me.”

I’m admittedly so worried about going through another painful sex attempt that I’ve been holding off from any advice I’ve received, from both friends and doctors. But maybe it’s finally time to bite the bullet and give it another–or several more–goes.


Read more Accidental Virgin here.