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September 15, 2021
Interview with freelance writer Taylor Richardson.
Ah yes, another reason to dread a Hinge date.
We’re pretty lucky when it comes to period/sex/cycle-adjacent reading material in the Aussie lifestyle landscape right now. There’s a vanguard of clever and quippy 20-something writers out there that compose thought-pieces to process their own personal musings and experiences. And when they’re people that bleed, or people with vulva, these pieces can explore unspoken genres of intimate challenges the rest of us may never have heard about before.
For some readers, their words can be the validation so desperately needed to say “okay, this is a valid thing that’s happening to me and happens to other people like me. It’s normal. It’s a real thing.” Someone who’s done just that is riotous raconteur Taylor Richardson. She shared her story on Fashion Journal around an oft-misunderstood (and overlooked) condition called vaginismus. It’s basically something that cause pain during sex for someone with a vagina due to involuntary muscle seizing (but more on that down the page).
Taylor’s no stranger to sacrilegious PMS days, a marish cycle and the throes of vaginismus. But she’s also a modern heroine when it comes to talking about all of the above in order to generate a sense of normality for others dreading sex or Hinge dates or tampon-insertion for frustrating biological reasons.
We caught up with Taylor to chat about the intersection between periods and vaginismus, navigating the romantic battlefield that is one’s 20s when single-as-a-pringle, as well as how good it can feel (and make others feel) to have the seemingly ‘hard’ convos. We are all mammals, after all. When shit happens, there may as well be some unity and communal laughter in it.
MOXIE: Tell us about your period. How would you describe it in a few words/a sentence?
TAYLOR RICHARSON: In a few words, I’d describe my period as a bloated, crampy, aching, uncomfortable shenanigan. She is an absolute pain – I suffer with pretty debilitating cramps, not to mention the gnarly PMS leading up to the main event, but it’s notallbad. I do appreciate that my period is a Type A kind of gal who is always on time, pretty much to the minute. She’s painful, but she’s also punctual.
M: How has your relo with your period changed over the years?
T: Over the years as I’ve really gotten to know my cycle and understand the symptoms, my relationship with my period has definitely improved.
As someone living with mental illness, PMS has always been an absolute nightmare for me. In the week prior to my period, I am prone to an intense drop in mood and an increase in anxiety – a real bag of fun on all accounts. Being able to identify my PMS symptoms as a separate entity from my mental illness has been huge in helping me navigate my periods and keep me sane.
I think that’s definitely been the biggest game-changer – just getting well acquainted with my cycle and all its antics. I also think as I enter my mid-twenties, I’ve come to appreciate what a weapon the female body is and what it can do, and that trumps any grievances I may have about bloating or hormonal back acne.
M: We've read some of your extremely insightful musings on vaginismus. Can you give us a debrief on what it is and what it's meant for you as a 20-something gal?
T: Vaginismus is a condition in which the vaginal muscles involuntarily contract in response to (attempted) penetration. It’s one of the leading causes for painful sex in women, and in some cases, they aren’t able to use tampons or achieve penetration at all.
I think the most obvious hindrance of having vaginismus in your twenties is how it overtly complicates your love life - dating is tough enough as it is, add an invisible chastity belt and things getreal tricky. I’m not able to have steamy one-night stands or entertain the idea of casual dating – sex is not something that is able to be synonymous with spontaneity. For me, sex requires an innate level of trust, unsexy breathing techniques, gritted teeth and a disclaimer that entry to my nether regions is not guaranteed.
Beyond the undertone of awkwardness regarding any potential love interests, it can also be super isolating in a social context. I mentioned in my article that I despise the hen’s party cult classic ‘Never Have I Ever’ – and I meant it. Conversations regarding sex are almost never fun for me, because sex is almost never fun for me, so I tend to smoke-bomb when the topic turns saucy, which as a 20-something year old gal, is often. It can be super alienating to not be able to relate to your peers on something so intrinsic to our youth.
M: Does vaginismus impact the products you use during your period?
T: Absolutely - in fact, for many women with vaginismus, a negative first experience with tampons is where it all began. Personally, I’ve been lucky in that tampons haven’t been ahuge issue for me, but it was absolutely something I had to work at. I was pro pad for as long as I could, but there’s only so crafty you can get with a pad and a G-string.
In an ideal, vaginismus-free world, I’d make the move to menstrual cups. I’m not there yet, but here’s to hoping!
M: Why don't more people talk about vaginismus? How did you come to terms with talking about it on the internet so openly?
T: Ooph, where do I start? I suppose the why varies depending on who you ask – for me, I kept it to myself purely because I wasn’t educated on the condition. None of my friends had ever experienced anything like it, my Sex Ed class had been run by a senior citizen and my GP was stumped with my symptoms.
It wasn’t until I fell down an online rabbit hole that I first encountered the term vaginismus. Even then, I wasn’t able to find an accurate statistic on the condition, with many health experts claiming shame keeps women from seeking help.
There is still such a stigma around talking openly about sexual conditions like vaginismus, so instead, women suffer in silence with what is, a truly treatable condition.
Ultimately, my decision to divulge my vagina’s happenings on the internet came from the fact that had it not been for women before me doing the same, I’d probably have fallen into that cycle of shame and embarrassment.
I know how incredibly lonely it can be when no one can relate to what you’re going through, so I just hope girls turning to the internet for answers finds solace in the fact that there are very open conversations being had online about vaginismus and it’s so much more common than they may think.
M: What's your go-to way to calm down a racing mind on a diabolical PMS day?
T: It’s easy to want to stay in bed when I’m feeling grumpy, crampy and generally icky - I struggle with fatigue when I’m PMS-ing so the temptation to sleep the day away is real. But I find pushing myself to do a little light exercise and get some fresh air always does the trick.
M: And the best treat to soothe a gruesomely heavy flow?
T: Call me cliché but there truly is no beating good ol’ chocolate. Dipped, filled, flavoured – if it is cocoa bean adjacent, I’ll take 10.
August 15, 2021
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