Snoop Dogg was about to perform in the main quad at Columbia University. I was in class and could hear music pumping from the speakers outside, preparing for his arrival. The left side of my stomach had been cramping all morning. An hour into class, I couldn’t handle it anymore — I bolted for the hospital near campus.
Where Does Vaginismus Come From?
The vaginismus studies of Irving Binik, PhD, show that phobia — a fear of vaginal penetration and pain — is what causes the involuntary spasm. Some people are afraid of dogs, or heights, or open spaces; some are afraid of vaginal penetration, explains Monique ter Kuile, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Dr. ter Kuile writes in her study, Therapist-Aided Exposure for Women With Lifelong Vaginismus: A Replicated Single-Case Design, “we reformulated vaginismus from a sexual problem to a penetration phobia.”
Vaginismus was first written about by James Marion Sims, MD, in 1859: “I attempted to make a vaginal examination, but failed completely. The slightest touch at the mouth of the vagina producing most intense suffering... She shrieked aloud, her eyes glaring widly, while tears rolled down her cheeks and she presented the most pitiable appearance of terror and agony.” Dr. Sims concluded that “the only rational treatment would be surgical, i.e. that of dividing the muscle and the nerves of the vulva opening… I now saw that the hymen itself was the focus of the excessive irritability, and I then proposed to cut it out entirely.”