After fifteen months with Catfish, I still have trouble moving beyond my pain and connecting during sex. But it's getting better. Here are some tactics I've come up with that help me focus on sex, and Catfish, and the pleasure I do feel alongside the pain.
1. Visualize people having sex
These people can be you and your partner or other people. Sometimes I visualize what Catfish and I look like from above. Sometimes I imagine us in erotic positions that aren't available to me right now. Sometimes I imagine other people doing things I can't do with vulvodynia, faceless people with nice bodies. All of these boost my libido and the good feelings in my vajayjay.
It does feel weird to imagine other people having sex while you're having sex, or even you and your partner in other positions. Maybe what happens here has something to do with mirror neurons -- you extract from another person's posture what they're thinking and feeling. If you see someone break an arm, your arm shrieks with pain. If you see someone having enjoyable sex, you intuit and maybe even feel their pleasure. This is probably why porn is so popular, and why it leads to tragically fast orgasms for me.
2. Write a romance novel
Narrate everything you and your partner are doing as if you're in a romance novel. "He brushed her hip lightly while his tongue" blah blah blah. This one focuses you on the act of sex and reminds you of all the things going on that don't involve your hooha. It can also remind you of how fascinating penetration can be from a flesh-on-flesh, living-being perspective and encourage you to remember the pleasurable part of sex. Plus it's super-fun. "She shivered as he rubbed his throbbing" etc.
3. Watch it through the other person's eyes
Focus on what the other person is focusing on. For a long time, every time Catfish and I had sex, my thoughts were centered on my body, specifically on monitoring my pain. How bad was it? Was this position okay? Did I need to take a break? Would I have a bad flare the next morning?
Connecting during sex like I had in the past seemed impossible. There was a pain barrier between me and Catfish -- between me and sex. But recently, I started jumping from my perspective to Catfish's, and suddenly I am there again.
I figure that back in the day, making out in my family's minivan and all the encounters that followed up to vulvodynia, the other person's experience played a big role in my own sexual experience. With pain, I started focusing only on my own body, which turned sex into a coochie gamble. Now, when I focus on Catfish and all his movements and signals and grunts, sex is sex, a way of bonding with someone I love.
I wrote a post about how vulvodynia dampens my experience of music. I think the same thing happens with sex: I have trouble connecting during sex because the pain dampens my mental and physical experience, like a finger on a bell. I still don't have a solution for this problem. In fact, I don't even remember what sensing was like before vulvodynia. I just know in a factual way that my sensory experiences are different now.
I also wrote a post about why I keep having sex despite the pain. Basically, sex is important to me. I love it, and before vulvodynia, I had an unstoppable sex drive. If I didn't have vulvodynia, I'd be knocking Catfish down right and left, every day.
Sex is also important to me because it's part of how I work at conquering my vulvodynia. Having gone years avoiding sex out of fear and defeat, I am empowered by knowing the pain is not stronger than I am, and that I can have a real-live sex life. I've gone through some serious sex-averting flares lately, and it's made me cherish the times of lesser pain when I can embrace sex and reacquaint myself with my body and all its power.