In one of Netflix’s hottest new shows, Unorthodox, a young woman named Esty cannot consummate her marriage for almost a year due to excruciating attempts at coitus. Eventually, she’s given a diagnosis of vaginismus, the condition of having overly tight and weak pelvic floor muscles.
This show transported me back to the ’80s, when I was in college. Like Esty, I tried for months to have intercourse before I was able to, and then, only with pain. I had to wait 30 years for a diagnosis.
During those decades, I endured the following: a belief I was broken, especially because I suspected my problems were tied to childhood sexual abuse; an internet discovery of “vaginismus” right after getting married, which made me burst out laughing (what dumb shmo would burden women with this ridiculous name?); a fraught discussion with my nervous gynecologist, who prescribed the wrong remedy; and a consult with a sex therapist who would not treat me because I had pelvic issues.
That therapist made me feel broken all over again, but at least she recommended the gold standard in repair: pelvic floor physical therapy (PT). At 49, I walked to a rehabilitative office, passing calla lilies that had spring-like blooms in September. My green eyes misted because I was finally going to fix a body part I’d always assumed was incapable of pleasure.
At the PT facility, different tears almost flowed. Sitting in the reception area, I could see massage tables through a glass partition. An old guy was being…