Whips, chains, leather paddles, masks, gags, ropes, cuffs…
Sex and pain can be a very pleasurable experience for some. I mean, that’s why they have an entire community dedicated to it!
The BDSM community has gained more visibility and acceptance in recent years, making it more accessible to a broader range of individuals, but unfortunately that’s not what today’s article is about (as much as I’d love it to be).
Today, I want to discuss something that I believe to be equally taboo – a challenge many of us face daily:
The pang of wanting to participate in the act of physical sex, but suffering in silence due to chronic discomfort and pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 20.4% of adults in the United States had chronic pain in 2019.
There are many reasons why we develop chronic pain and discomfort. Maybe we suffered an injury, an accident. Maybe we were born with it, or developed it over time. Maybe it was caused by another person, or genetics…regardless, it’s a real epidemic, and it’s one that most people live with in silence…
I was late to the penetrative sex world.
As a teenager I had explored foreplay with my long term high school boyfriend, but that was as far as I was comfortable taking it. I was lucky to have a partner who didn’t pressure me or make me feel negatively for having boundaries, and not being ready.
In November of my final year of high school, I went on a trip with my dance class, and I had my period. It was the worst time for dancing, in my opinion. I was excited to be on this trip, but I knew that my cramps would dominate the day. Ever since I had started menstruating, I had become second in command. I would experience horrible cramps that would bring tears to my eyes and render me unable to get out of bed. The only thing that seemed to work was sleeping it off, which meant taking time away from school and accepting that I would be sleeping away 24-48 hours of my life each month.
What unfolded during this trip would go on to change my life forever. The intensity of my cramps started to escalate, reaching a new level of pain.
I’ve already taken the midol…this should be helping a little…?
But the pain continued to climb.
Concerned, I excused myself to the bathroom. Unless you have the pleasure of possessing a uterus and experiencing the wonders of menstruation, you may not know that severe cramping can make you feel like you have to have a bowel movement (or actually require one). So, sitting there on the toilet, I was in agony – cue Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen – a level I’d never experienced before.
Cutting to the chase here, I eventually released my bowels till nothing was left. I ended up on the bathroom floor, face pressed tightly against the cool tile, trying to relieve my overheating body. But the pain continued to increase to the point of vomiting, and almost passing out. While all this was happening, a friend/fellow student had come in, tried to give me “advice,” then realized they should get a teacher/chaperone. Unsurprising, the handling of this situation was poor, but that’s not what we are here to discuss.
After taking an ambulance to the closest hospital, the medical interrogation began:
“Tell me about your diet.”
“Do you take any drugs?”
“How sexually active are you?”
“No, but really – how long ago did you lose your virginity?”
“Blah blah blah…”
What the doctor really meant was:
Are you pregnant? (rather, I bet you’re pregnant)
Sadly, no tests were run on me, no blood was taken, nothing.
I was shaken, but told them the truth about my history: I’d never had sex, just “mouth and hands.”
The doctors were so certain I was lying and, in fact, had a tubular pregnancy. When I refused to take a pregnancy test (because I knew that wasn’t the problem), they refused to run any tests.
I left the hospital with zero answers, immense amount of shame, and terrified that this, whatever it was, would happen to me again.
My greater fear, however, was that no one believed me, no one would listen; that me and my pain were expendable…
I was seventeen when all that happened to me.
Now in my thirties, I can confirm that my intuition was spot on: the pain did indeed resurface, and it persists to this day.
Over a decade without answers, and every month I fear its return.
Luckily for me, it doesn’t happen every period. Also, luckily for me, it’s happened so often that when an episode presents itself I know:
It only lasts 2 hours. I’ve learned to talk myself through it; make sure I don’t black out. I force myself to remember: this will eventually pass, and that the piss and shit I lay in, waiting for the excruciation to withdraw so I can move once again, is easily cleanable.
No answers, no drugs strong enough, no medical professional with the time or care to dive deep and find out what’s going on…
And that’s just my story.
What does this have to do with sex and pain?
When you’ve experienced pain on a level that causes immobility and potential unconsciousness, the idea of sex can become deeply unsettling.
Sex is meant to be a pleasurable experience, but when fear of encountering that pain creeps in, it’s hard to remain present with your partner. Let’s face it, it can make you feel incredibly tense! And as you can imagine, having a tense body during a sexual experience doesn’t usually lead to a positive outcome. I don’t think I need to explain the importance of relaxation and comfort in that context.
Sometimes, my chronic and undiagnosed pain causes sex to be unbearable, frustrating, calculated – none of which leave me feeling sexy, spontaneous, or able to focus on my partner in the way I want to or think they deserve.
My current partner is a true godsend. I’ve been blessed with an understanding, explorative, communicative person who, regardless of their wants in the moment, knows I am a serf to my pain. We communicate about the kind of sex we wish to have, how often we wish to have it…
Regardless of our communication and his understanding, I feel, simultaneously, the pressure and desire to be intimate, but struggle with the consequences any time I don’t listen to my body.
This is where the convergence of chronic pain and relationship (should you choose to have one) becomes crucial in my perspective. My reality encompasses ongoing pain, necessitating a partner who is supportive and understanding. While empathy and understanding are generally prerequisites for a healthy relationship, they become even more paramount when chronic pain is involved, as it can provide the necessary emotional and physical support, creating a nurturing environment that promotes overall well-being and a sense of safety.
This brings me to the moment I want to shout out to my partner:
He has taught me that intimacy is far more than just the physical act of sex. Although sex is important, and a pleasurable, joyful, creative, and (can be) magickal experience, it isn’t the most important. And, it doesn’t have to look the way we think it should…
So, where does witchcraft come in?
Witchcraft is a form of self preservation, self exploration, self respect, and an understanding of our being as a whole. If anyone you’re intimate with, or are considering being intimate with, doesn’t prioritize your health – physical, mental, emotional – please, please, please question why that might be.
Although witchcraft is not exclusively for women or uterus-owners, witchcraft (and its history) celebrate the feminine and menstruation cycle. Having a partner who supports this aspect of my personality and belief system has provided me with the space to experiment with witchy, natural remedies. These remedies have proven to be helpful in alleviating certain impacts of my chronic pain (will be expanded upon in an upcoming ATW).
Regardless of where your pain comes from, it needs to be respected.
If you’re too stressed from a long day of work, if family drama has pulled on your emotional strings, if your physical body is unwilling and unable…please do not force yourself.
Honor what you need.
Our bodies are speaking to us all the time. Sometimes we need to turn away from external distractions and tune into ourselves in order to receive those messages clearly.
Witches were persecuted when they didn’t follow the leads of authority. They were tortured, they felt excruciating pain at the hands of others, but they didn’t waver from their truth. What that pain brought them was an everlasting place in history, in time, and a movement that continues to evolve to this day.
Which you are now a part of.
Do not waver from your pain, lean into it, listen, and hopefully you’ll hear what is needed. I’m still on this journey twelve plus years later…but I know I will get better, I know someone will want to help me, and in turn I will help someone similarly.
To the Royals in this community, thank you for listening, for creating space for a witch.
You’ve allowed me to be vulnerable, and share a very hard truth today. I hope that this article finds its way to those of you who relate. And even more so, I hope we find ease, release, and health from our pain.
Till next time, stay spooky friends!
Bronté, The Essential Witch
The Whisper Coven
P.S. If you’re loving Bronte’s content and hungry for more, mark your calendars for tonight at 9:30pm EDT, because we’re going live on Facebook (@COTQOfficial). Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to join us for an engaging and personal session!