No thank you! (Claire)

It all started roughly 16 months ago. Long term relationship, unfaithful partner, and then my completely out of character behaviour in response to that. An unwanted sexual encounter was one of the results. And I felt bruised and aching and dirty. In reality I had a yeast infection, but mentally I still felt disgusting. It took me what felt like forever to get rid of, I was physically exhausted and surprised that this little organ of my body had so much power over me. As a young woman, realising yourself and becoming a sexual being you still don’t necessarily recognise that power, not until an experience makes it blindingly obvious.

And then there was the ulcers.

Oozing, angry, painful, swollen, burning. And once more I felt disgusting, vile and unlovable. And embarrassed, incredibly humiliated. Someone says the word herpes and you think of promiscuity and a very active sex life. And that is not always the case, and it shouldn’t be the stereotype. But due to that, the word alone sounded like some awful brand on me, tattooed forever that will always be recognisable, and disgusting. Like I would be veiwed.

This is now our herpes. Long term partner and I are equally potential recipients of the virus, and fault or blame has no place in our relationship. We both made mistakes but the reality is not as horrific as general knowledge had us believe. Lots of reading later, and it turns out there’s only a 50% chance that after the first flair it recurs, and even if it does, it gets less and less every time it recurs. No one talks about this, no one told us this. No one told me owning a vagina would be a problem, from stabbing period pains and heavy bleeding, to viruses and lesions. You are a woman, you can cope regardless. But I cannot always and I do not have to just ‘cope’. I can do more than manage.

Thank you vagina, but no thank you!

Thrush! A-h! (Bearnice)

One of the most agonizing physically and psychologically is the almighty yeast infection. I can’t imagine a more angrier vagina. Especially when it’s caused by damned antibiotics. There is no greater relief in scratching that burning fire, but doing that just intensifies the pain.

Vagina on strike (Rosemary)

My vagina was satisfactory till I reached about 45. Then it went on strike! Sex became impossible due to pain on penetration. Tampon/finger – OK. Speculum/penis – excruciating. The relationship ended – I had hidden my pain but maybe lack of enthusiasm helped end it. Since then I have not sought another partner. I have been seen by a gynaecologist – nothing wrong…

Then endometrial cancer – a quick op got it all out. But then I needed to have plenty of check-ups! I have learnt to ask for the ‘virginal speculum’. I have learnt to ask that they press down, not up. I wrote a letter of praise to one lady oncologist who actually did NOT hurt me during the check up.

Five years on, no further checks – but now the whole vulval area is intolerably itchy. Wake-up-in-the night itchy. Lidocaine 5% ointment is my pal.

I am debating asking for medical advice – can I face more check-ups?

My vagina the hazard zone (Sarah)

It was an innocent comment. He told me I should realise how much I meant to him because he was willing to sleep with me, even though I have Type 2 HSV (genital herpes). That’s how much he loved me. He referred to himself as “brave”.

It was an innocent comment. He meant well. But something inside of me snapped. If I hadn’t had enough issues with my vagina already (recurrent thrush, vulvodynia, bacterial vaginosis, an overgrowth of cells on my cervix, an embedded IUD), this really took the biscuit: my vagina was no longer just a problem for me but a problem for my sexual partner. In calling himself brave, he had demarcated my vagina as a hazard zone.

A letter to my vagina (Tiffany)

Dear vagina,
Fuck you.
Fuck you.
Fuck you.
It wasn’t bad enough that you made me paranoid about the way you felt,
Made me think that my pubic hairs were too coarse,
Too wirey,
Too aggressive.
It wasn’t bad enough that you made me question if you were pretty enough,
Symmetrical enough,
Tidy enough,
Pink enough.
It wasn’t bad enough that you made me worry that you smelt too strong,
That people would run away in horror with the slightest whiff of you,
And joke to their friends, “her pussy smells”.
It wasn’t bad enough that James **********┬ásaid that you were really hairy,
That he was surprised
Because I didn’t look like a hairy girl.
It wasn’t bad enough that you’ve brought more pain than pleasure
Burning with urine infections
Itching with thrush
Jumping at laser beams
Wincing at wax strips
and prickling with razor burn.
It wasn’t bad enough that you’ve been inspected by a dozen and a half different healthcare professionals
Inserting speculums
Scraping walls
Collecting cells
Collecting fluids
Peering between my legs with head-torches like I’m the latest discovery.
Burning my cervix
And leaving my unconscious body to wake, alone, with a wad of giant sanitary napkins beneath me.
It wasn’t bad enough that you’ve always failed.
Never been good enough in bed
Never been relaxed enough
Never achieved the holy grail of O.
It wasn’t bad enough. You had to go and become dangerous. You had to become infectious. You had to become unsafe territory.
You’ve left me sore and wounded,
And tired.
You fucking prick.