How Porn Excludes Folks With Painful Sex Disorders

If you watch porn, you might notice that it's pretty difficult to find films that don't involve vaginal penetration. Even in lesbian films, there is so much focus on fingering and dildos, as if the female orgasm couldn't occur without them. As someone who finds vaginal penetration very painful, this is supremely difficult to watch.

If there's one thing I've learned in this lifetime, it's that media representation is key. I've learned this in a number of ways, including through watching porn, and observing how women are so often negatively depicted in our sexual culture — and as someone with vaginismus, the problems of cis male-dominated sexual images become further complicated. Porn and many other mediums perpetuate the idea that sex can only happen when a man sticks his dick in a woman’s vagina. And for those who can't or don't want to have this sort of sex, these messages feel incredibly invalidating.

This is not to say that I condemn the use or production of pornography. When consent is clear and present between actors, I don't find anything inherently wrong with these images. I think porn is a wonderful way to play out our sexual fantasies and figure out who we are, and I owe much of my self exploration regarding sexual and gender identities to independent porn artists making delightful queer and trans films. Additionally, it has always been a great tool for masturbation for me, something that I believe is endlessly important to sexual and mental health (if you have the desire, of course).

But while I might receive sexual gratification from these films, I also experience a lot of moments of disgust and guilt — and no, this doesn't originate from any place of prudishness or religion.

Often, while viewing these films for sexual pleasure, watching the actors on my laptop screen transition to vaginal penetration would completely kill my vibe and I'd have to immediately find a new link or rewind to more titillating scenes. Sometimes, I didn't change the video fast enough. Other times, I kept it on because I was just curious to see if the image of a penis entering a vagina would feel more pleasurable to me the more I watched. Either way, whenever I'd observe these scenes, I would feel nauseous. At the very image of a dick entering a vagina, I can feel sharp aches and stings of pain between my legs, as if it was I who was being penetrated. My body would involuntarily tighten up, especially my pelvis, and I would feel a bit sick. 

Penetration is painful to me, and I found that no amount of enticing images could explain away how I experience these sensations in my own body.

But that didn't stop me from trying to train myself to have an aroused reaction to such images. As someone with vaginismus, I have felt considerable pressure in the past from friends and lovers alike to have vaginal sex. So for a while, I tried to change my body in order to accommodate a sort of sexual experience I wasn't even sure I wanted to have. I tried talk therapy, dilator sets & gradually introducing more and more vaginal contact with my fiancée’s help. 

This process took a toll on me — not because I wanted to achieve vaginal sex, but because I felt like I had to want it. I felt like I was depriving my partner of “real sex” by not being able to accommodate their penis inside me. We opened up our relationship — partially because we’re polyamorous and partly because I wanted them to have a chance at a “normal” sex life. But my insecurity about sexual abilities blocked me from being able to agree that my partner could have vaginal sex with others.

So every time I would return to porn, my time of pleasure and release (with some hiccups, of course) became a time of guilt, as I ruminated over my sexual inadequacies while the actors f*cked onscreen without a care in the world. I was reminded that everyone was having vaginal sex but me, and I thought I couldn't scream like the porn stars during sex until I could fit a penis inside of me (I have amazing orgasms without penetration, but I was convinced there was more I was missing out on). These negative ruminations led to many a tearful dilating session, as I cruelly shoved too-big dilators inside of me — a painful but necessary task to cure me once and for all.

It's been at least six months since I stopped waging that silicone war against myself. I learned to love and accept my current sexual abilities, and learned that my trans identity contributed to my intense desire to keep my vagina out of my sex. My attitude has changed, and my dilators are gone. 

But porn has stayed the same. As someone who is earnestly sex positive and enjoys watching porn, I feel pretty resentful over the fact that this media form doesn't take into account that not all people find PIV sex appealing. I wish I could pop any porn video on in a moment of sexual desperation, rather than scour the web for videos not featuring penetration. I yearn to see more porn that focuses on glorifying the wonders of oral sex, clit stimulation and bondage exclusively. Because it doesn't have to end with a bang for the sex to be really, really good. I, for one, can certainly attest to that.


Images: Andrew Zaeh (3)

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