Something of a rite of passage for most people, there are countless tales of awkward fumbling and underwhelming performances. But for Shelby, she’s still waiting for her moment.
She opened up about her condition, vaginismus, in a 10-minute animated film she made, called Tightly Wound.
In it, she documents her countless trips to the doctors and string of failed relationships.
Speaking to Refinery29, she said: “I want to have sex. I want to do it so badly. I obsess over sex by constantly reading about it in memoirs, magazine articles and novels. I watch TV shows and movies to gobble it all up and learn as much as I can. I fantasize about sex.”
It’s not through choice she’s never had sex; Shelby suffers from vaginismus. It means her pelvic floor muscles, which tighten the entrance to the vagina, spasm uncontrollably, meaning nothing can penetrate it.
She explains: “While some men can’t get it up, I can’t get it in. Vaginismus is why I have never been in a relationship, fallen in love or ever had sex.
“I knew something was wrong when I was 14 and started my period. When I tried using a tampon for the first time, it felt like I was forcing it into a hole that wasn’t there, causing excruciating, stabbing pain.”
For years doctors were seemingly mystified by her condition, or she was told to “just relax” and people even recommended drinking alcohol.
Shelby said: “Some doctors refused to even examine me because I wasn’t sexually active. I was given a lot of bad advice and little empathy.”
Eventually, she found a pelvic floor physical therapy and achieved one of her goals — using a tampon at age 21.
Her next goal is to finally have sex.
But she details how problematic vaginismus is in her previous attempts, and the lack of understanding men had when they found out.
She said: “As soon as we started fooling around I was in pain. I wasn’t ready and he wasn’t right. Here I was – literally, figuratively, completely naked – telling him and trusting him with my deepest, most private and painful secret. He laughed in my face.
“Once our clothes were back on, he told me he didn’t want to see me anymore. There’s nothing worse than being rejected for a part of yourself that you’re working so hard to change. Just because I can’t have sex right now, means I’m not enough for anyone? What if I never will be? Who would want to date someone who can’t have sex?”
But she said that it meant she hasn’t wasted a lot of her time on “jerks.”
Shelby’s poignant film was selected to be shown at the Athens International Film & Video Festival and Nashville Film Festival in May. It will also be shown at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June and Filmets Barcelona Film Festival in October.
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