This article was written by Andrea Bijen about the work she does to get this dialogue started. Find out more about how to join in on this discussion below. Enjoy!
Ok, well, maybe you should explain, in a little more detail, what vaginismus actually is?
Vaginismus is a condition where there is involuntary tightness of the vagina during attempted intercourse. The tightness is actually caused by involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina. The woman does not directly control or ‘will’ the tightness to occur; it is an involuntary pelvic response. She may not even have any awareness that the muscle response is causing the tightness or penetration problem.
Why did you initiate this online film platform by and for women with vaginismus?
Simple, because there is great necessity for it! Talking bout sexuality isn’t that difficult when everything seems happy, pain free and pleasurable, but when things aren’t going the way ‘we think it should’, the talking stops. That worries me because, in the first place, what is normal? What is ‘good sex’? I really want to strike a blow for women (and men) to show that women – who have to deal with vaginismus – aren’t different. They are the same ‘normal’.
In the film portraits I made of them, you see and hear strong women who are open about what they are capable of, while with great bravery they’re not afraid to talk about what they aren’t capable of. They want to break away from this sexual taboo. They have moved beyond shame and suffering. They show us how to deal with vaginismus, how difficult it is, but also they show us what more sex can be when you dare to look further than what’s impossible. They show us that sexuality is more than just intercourse or climaxing. Just because they can’t attempt intercourse they are more creative in the ways they find sexual pleasure.
They learn how their body works and listen to it. Sadly enough a lot of women without vaginismus often have sex, even when it hurts. They think they should, that it’s normal that it hurts or that ‘when I give my partner the sex he wants, it’s off topic for a while.’ To be honest, even communication in bed about what you do and don’t like, what turns you on, etc. is often a big deal for couples. The Calvinistic way of thinking that a woman should ‘give’ pleasure is still something we are dealing with. That idea is a destructive one, and does not encompass the idea of having sex for personal enjoyment.
So why, you ask? Because there are a lot of women who feel ashamed, who feel different, who feel alone, or who don’t dare talk about it with the people they love, and I believe that this platform can open up the conversation. This platform can show real, honest and impactful stories of beautiful women who are free of shame. They inspire me, they inspire others, they inspire men, and they will inspire a new generation. They stand for pain free and pleasurable sex, which sounds logical. But unfortunately, it is not, for a lot of women. Clear.
Why did you choose to make film portraits and create the online film platform www.levenmetvaginisme.nl? Why not a forum or a community based website?
As a filmmaker, it all started four years ago with the idea to make a documentary about vaginismus. I’ve always been interested in sexuality, and the psyche of women. Vaginismus caught my interest, because I realised that it’s not only a somatic ‘limitation’, but has a deeper impact on the lives of these women. Think about dating; having a relationship; think about self-esteem; about loving yourself and your body. So, I started doing research. I got the chance to speak with a lot of women who have a vaginistic reaction, or who react in a similar way as those with vaginistic reactions. The more women I spoke with, the more I realized it should be more than a documentary. A film is just a moment, after it’s been screened the dialogue dies down. What I felt and heard the most from all these women, is that they thought for a long time they were the only one, that they were alone. They didn’t speak about this topic with almost anyone. They feel ashamed, different and are struggling with things in life that seem normal or easy for other women. A lot of women don’t dare see a doctor, and the ones who have didn’t get the answers they need. They’ve encountered many barriers. So that’s why I thought that this story needs to be told, but in a more sustainable way.
I believe in film, it’s transparent, it’s real, it doesn’t cover anything up. Most importantly, however, is that it is not anonymous. That is a the unique thing about this platform. It’s out in the open. You literally look the women in their eyes. They don’t hide behind anonymous nicknames. No, it’s them saying ‘I don’t care what people think of me’, ‘It has nothing to do with who I am’. I want to share their stories to start a dialogue.
Now this platform is growing, it’s moving other women to tell their story as well, to seek help, to talk with their partners, family or friends. Not only with women who suffer from vaginismus, but women in general are responding. We’re all aiming for sexual freedom, for pain-free and pleasurable sex. This platform has impact because this is the firsthand initiative, which shows that the only way to break with taboos is to give it a face. A real face!
Love, Andrea | Leven Met
Have a look at the website: www.levenmetvaginisme.nl
And for the English speakers out there: www.itsastorytobetold.com
If you want to know more about this online videoplatform, do not hesitate and send me
an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leven Met is an initiative by BeeScene Productions.
© Juel McNeilly
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