At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we treat a lot of conditions that limit or entirely prevent someone from having sex. One of those conditions is Vaginismus. The frustration and physical toll can be tiring for patients with this condition. One of the sentiments echoed time and time again by different patients, is how isolating the whole experience can be. Not many people talk about their sex life, let alone medical conditions affecting their ability to have sex. Shelby Hadden is looking to break the stigma by making her own film chronicling her experience with vaginismus. You can read her story and support her Kickstarter campaign here to fund her movie.
I was 24 and had never had sex. I had been dating Gadi for a few weeks and I couldn’t play defense to his advances any longer. It was time to tell him about my vaginismus.
Vaginismus was always the big black cloud of a secret looming over me.
But he surprised me. When I told him about it, he said, “I like you a lot, and we can figure this out. I still want to see you.” My heart soared. No guy I had dated up to that point had showed me an ounce of empathy, patience, or understanding. One guy walked out of my apartment, promised to call me, and never spoke to me again. Another laughed in my face and said, “That’s hilarious.” Finally, someone liked me as a whole person, not just the functionality of one body part.
The next day, he texted me this: “I’ve been thinking about what you shared with me the other night. I feel like it may be a bit more than I am ready for in a relationship. Sex is too important to me.”
He couldn’t even bother to consider what else we could do or ask how my progress in physical therapy was going. I couldn’t do it RIGHT THEN so I was “too much” for him – which in reality, in situations like these, it means that I wasn’t enough.
I was angry. I’ve been angry before – at other guys, at my body, at doctors, at Shonda Rhimes shows for making sex look so easy, fast, and fun – but this time I was absolutely furious. He gave me the reaction I had always hoped for, only to take it all back. I was just a vagina to him too. In addition, he never considered how important sex was to me. I had gone to a dozen doctors over the course of seven years. I had been going pelvic floor physical therapy every week for over a year. I had been using dilators every day for three years. No one was working harder to have sex than I was.
I needed to take action. As a filmmaker, the only way I knew how to take control over it was to make a film. So I wrote an essay, which I later turned into a script for a short animated film called, Tightly Wound.
Tightly Wound follows my journey from when I started my period and realized I couldn’t use a tampon. It chronicles the various doctors I saw and treatments I tried, the ways I hid my secret. I delve into my unsuccessful attempts at dating and explore what it means to be a virgin in today’s society.
It’s been a year since Gadi broke up with me. My essay has been published in BUST Magazine and I shared my experience at BedPost Confessions – an Austin, TX based storytelling series on sex, gender, and social change. I’ve assembled an extremely talented team of filmmakers to produce the film.
Animation is the perfect form for this film. It allows me to illustrate my internal thoughts and feelings in a metaphorical way rather than succumbing to the limitations of live-action. However, animation is an extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive process. The fastest my animator, producer, and friend, Sebastian Bisbal, can work is 5 seconds of animation per day!
We are raising $20,000 through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform that allows people to support projects they believe in. Kickstarter is all-or-nothing – so if we don’t raise the $20,000, we don’t get any of it at the end of November.
It is estimated that 6% [ In a study done by the World Health Organization, worldwide prevalence of pelvic pain has been estimated as being as high as 24%] of people with vaginas encounter pelvic pain/sexual dysfunction at some point of their lives. However, this is a difficult number to determine since shame and embarrassment keep so many people from seeking medical care.
Please join me in making this film and shining a light on pelvic pain/sexual dysfunction by donating to the Kickstarter. Thank you so much for your support!
Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2dUTASv
Check out the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/188456092
Latthe P, Latthe M, Say L, et al. WHO systematic review of prevalence of chronic pelvic pain: a neglected reproductive health morbidity. BMB Public Health. 2006