By Renée at Sh! Erotic Emporium

Vaginismus is probably the most common sexual dysfunction you’ve never heard of. At Sh! we hear stories from women of all ages who have experienced pain during sex or difficulty with penetration and who are struggling to work out why this could be and what they can do about it.

Vaginismus is a sexual pain disorder where the muscles in and around the vagina tighten and go into spasm -­ the vagina can close up completely. It can make penetration, gynecological and pelvic exams difficult, or even impossible. Some women may actually need anaesthetic before a doctor can examine them.

Vaginismus and menopause

It can be triggered by all sorts of thing, negative attitudes to sex, abuse, fear of penetration. The most common cause of vaginismus in midlife women is experiencing painful sex due to changes caused by the menopause. Falling estrogen levels cause thinning of the vagina as well as vaginal dryness. Additionally the vagina may also shorten and become tighter at the opening, known as vaginal atrophy.

All of these things can cause pain during sex, and once you start experiencing pain during sex you can become anxious about sex and penetration, which then causes the muscular spasms associated with vaginismus. This in turn makes sex more painful or difficult and reinforces a negative cycle.

Vaginismus and menopause

If you’re worried you are experiencing vaginismus you should seek help from a qualified psycho-sexual therapist and a list is available on our vaginismus website.

They may recommend dilation, using a series of insertable dilators to gradually help you become comfortable with penetration again. They may also recommend kegel exercises to increase your pelvic floor control. If you have experienced occasional pain during sex it might be worth investing in an extra thick lube which can help reduce the impact of dryness and vaginal thinning.

Related: The Ultimate Menopause Relief Checklist

Vaginismus and menopause

At Sh! we have heard so many stories of women struggling with this condition that we wanted to do something to help. Firstly we wanted to help people to be more aware of this condition and more comfortable seeking help. Ignoring the problem and trying to ‘power through’ will only reinforce the cycle of pain.

This is why we decided to designate September 15th Vaginismus Awareness Day. If you’d just like to show your support please use the hashtag #PainFreeSex across social media.

The second thing we wanted to help with was dilating kits themselves. Dilators are like a series of dildos, gradually increasing from very small to the size of a slim penis. Dilators are often made of hard plastic so we decided to put our sexpertise to good use by crafting our own range of soft silicone dilators with a Sh! Bullet.

Adding vibration into the mix is helpful because the vibration can help to relax the muscles, as can an orgasm before dilation is attempted!

We hope you find some of these ideas helpful if you’re suffering from this painful condition.


Renée is the award winning Store Manager (Best Store Manager ETO Awards 2014 & 2015) at Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium. She has her fingers in many pies and spends her days talking about G-spots, P-spots and any other spots you may have found in your nether regions. When she is not selling sex toys to the women & couples of London, she can be found at home with a thrilling book and a glass of pink wine, surrounded by her beloved bunnies (of the furry variety). She writes a regular column for Erotic Trade Only magazine and dreams of penning a bestselling sex guide one day.

Last Updated on January 31, 2023 by Editorial Staff

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