The beginning

It started with that paper cut sensation. By the time I was diagnosed, I had known that it was vulvar vestibulitis. I had a long distance boyfriend at the time in an open relationship and I remember his being unsurprised by the fact that sex had become painful to me; he’d noticed the difference on the last couple visits we’d had. He was sympathetic. We didn’t see each other often but when we did, had oral sex and did a lot of 69ing with no penetration.

My first penetrative partner after my diagnosis was not long after I’d been diagnosed. I met him at a party. We spent a long time locked in a bathroom together; I think we were mostly just making out. I went to his house about a week later.

I was terrified of how to tell him about my vaginal issues. He and I talked for a while, on his bed with trip-hop playing in background. There might have been candles, was probably some wine. I kept meaning to tell him, and then, he started kissing me, and the clothes started coming off. I wasn’t going to have any penetration, I had already decided.

He started fingering me roughly. I half froze, afraid to say anything, bothered by the beginnings of the burning pain.

Then he was inside me, without a condom. I was half paralyzed with fear: of what he’d say if I told him about my pain, of how to stop this without offending him since I’d already let it go too far, of the possibility of pregnancy and STDs since he hadn’t put a condom on first.

I stayed the night. He fucked me again the next morning; I remember lying half off his bed, face up and largely unmoving. I felt passive. He took me home after.

I felt devastated inside. My vagina burned like mad. I felt both numb and defeated. Not necessarily a believer in reincarnation, I nonetheless considered the idea of slitting my wrists so maybe I could come back as a woman with a healthy vagina. I was in a haze of dark place the entire day. I remember sitting on the couch, doing very little.

I also remember a very clear sense, almost a voice, a glimmer: You will not always have this.

It took another date or two before I finally told him. “You have to tell me these things,” he said. Occasionally when the pain got too bad, I’d apologetically tell him I’d had enough. Mostly, I just endured the burning. I was fairly uncommunicative about it and he didn’t ask.

It ended badly some months later due to agreements he’d made with another partner of his and broken with me, without having told me he’d made them. I spent the duration feeling afraid of the pain, dealing with a lot of jealousy alone, and feeling terribly guilty that I was fucking this guy who didn’t invest much in me or notice how hard or painful it was, while I wasn’t fucking the boyfriend who loved me, and whom I loved.

I didn’t allow or attempt penetration with anyone else until I had started capsaicin, two-and-a-half years later.

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