Katrin is an expert in self-care. After spending 7 years with vaginismus (a body response that makes vaginal penetration nearly impossible), she now helps vulva owners overcome vaginismus. To put vaginismus in her past, Katrin had to find safety in her body and surrender to the unknown. It wasn't easy. Along the way, she developed techniques that help vulva owners conquer vaginismus and renew trust in their own bodies.
- The School of the Heart led by Daniel Mitel and his teacher, Drunvalo Melchizedek
- Spiritual Guru, Michael Singer
- The Body Keeps the Score book by Bessel van der Kolk, MD
- Dame Products
- Controversial NYC subway ad about breast augmentation
- Two short films about Vaginismus: Tightly Wound and Debbie Does Dilators
Rachel: Hello Peaches. Thanks for tuning into part 2 of my conversation with Katrin about life, love, and the pursuit of happy sex. This also happens to be the season finale of season 1 of No Peach left Behind. To be honest, I don't know when or if there will be another episode to this podcast. I hope so but, regardless, I know this podcast is just a drop in the bucket and that many more people are out there having candid discussions about women's bodies and women's health, and the human experience in general. And that makes me happy. Thank you for listening. Without further ado, let's get into it…
Rachel: Ok, so you've tried a few different kinds of therapies, right? So what of the different therapies that you've tried and what do you think has worked the best for you?
Katrin: I did a lot of my personal development in the realm of spirituality and in the realm of finding answers internally and finding that emotional healing through certain teachers that I've met in my life for more of like a spiritual journey perspective. And so I haven't tried anything other than talk therapy and that experience that I mentioned.
Katrin: But I have applied a lot of therapeutic processes I have learned about on my own body as a result of the teachings of different people. So like pleasure exploration, somatic experiencing on the body can be considered a whole form of therapy in body work. And some of those aspects bring a whole lot of deep emotional healing that I've experienced myself with me literally doing a practice and absolutely bawling my eyes out of nowhere, with calling in energies of grief. Right. Experiencing that in different areas of my body as I'm focusing on that in the guided practice. And I have found that to be super releasing like emotionally. I felt so light afterwards. And going back to this practice over and over again with self-pleasure as an example, is a whole way of therapy in itself.
Katrin: But otherwise, I follow a guided emotional healing process from the Tibetan tradition that was taught to me by the leader of what's called The School of the Heart. His name is Daniel Mitel and his teacher, Drunvalo Melchizedek. So in the spiritual community, these are kind of people who are advocating for us to connect with our higher selves, a part of ourselves that, you know, essentially has all the answers and lives in this place of love and acceptance and forgiveness. And that whole journey to forgiveness in that form of therapy has been really, really big for me in particular. So I like to guide people through that sort of therapy, if you want to call it therapy at all.
Rachel: Yeah, I think of it as a form of therapy for sure, because it's like, it's like self-therapy, right? Like you said, like there's a part of you that has all the answers. You just have to find a way to unlock it, you know, and access it.
Katrin: Yeah. Any experience in our life, I feel like is, is a teacher for us. For something that you might want to say or if you choose to believe that we signed up for as an experience in this life, although that's just, you know, one belief system. But if you, let's say, take on that sort of perspective, which I find to be a really empowering perspective, you can start to ask yourself, what is the potential lesson here? What is it that I can learn about myself? And why is it that I am experiencing so much pain that can be so frustrating? Is there any silver lining to this? And what's interesting is that since all of these life experiences are in themselves teachers for us, when the lesson is learned, the teacher no longer has a purpose, and so the teacher disappears, so only when we truly learn and we engage in our healing journey and we learn whatever lesson this vaginismus experience had for us, vaginismus no longer has a purpose to serve and so it doesn't need to exist in our experience and we get to overcome it.
Rachel: Yeah, that must have been great for you, right, because you had vaginismus, I think, for about four years or so?
Katrin: Yeah. Six years.
Rachel: Six years. Yeah, six years. And then it's good to know that it's something that you can overcome. Right. Because there's just so many things that our body goes through that feel like insurmountable. But this is something that you actually have some control over. That's treatable.
Katrin: Yeah, definitely. It, there's a lot of hope there with so many of us who have been able to walk that path and come out on the other side. And I really like to call it a body response as well, as taking a perspective and seeing it as a body response that we can learn to overcome as opposed to the commonly used word of like condition or disease. Right. Because it seems like it's this thing outside of ourselves that we have sort of been labeled with. We have given this label of broken or damaged goods. While seeing vaginismus as a body response is a whole lot more empowering, I think, and it allows us to see it as something for the purpose of trying to protect us. That really is what the body response is all about, is the attempt of the body to protect us from a perceived danger. And when we see it as that we can start to make friends with, OK, well, why is my body trying to protect me right now? What is it that it's seeing as dangerous? And how can we be friends at the end of the day?
Rachel: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, it's doing a really good job, right. If, like, nothing can get out there, it's like overcompensating, but it's doing its job.
Katrin: Yeah. Like we can give a high five to our pelvic floor at some point and say thank you for protecting me, and, you know, I don't I don't need that protection anymore. You're OK. Like, let's let's take all parts of ourselves that are trying to do their best and keeping us safe and make sure that no part is is having a breakdown, like no part is having a panic attack. That's how we get to a level of safety that we need in overcoming vaginismus.
Rachel: Yeah, especially nowadays where, you know, modern society is just so stressful that your mind is constantly confused, right? Your your brain, your your primal brain just doesn't really know how to react to anything anymore. So it does tend to overcompensate sometimes. It's going to be interesting. I want to I wish I could be around like a hundred years or two or, you know, maybe like 500, because evolution is really slow, and just see what happens, like what this kind of societal pressure does to the human body and how we change.
Katrin: That would be so interesting to see. Yeah. How do we, how do we develop out of all this? Maybe your body parts change because they need to do different things in the future.
Rachel: Yeah, your body's changing. It's just happening at a crazy, like snail pace.
Katrin: Yeah, our bodies really are intelligent things. It's fascinating that and human behavior, like how the mind works, it's a whole lot of chatter going on in there. I like to say if we talked to other people the way that we often talk to ourselves, we would get slapped in the face no less than like ten times a day.
Rachel: Oh, my God. Yes. Yeah, I think about it too, like you are your worst critic. You are your own worst critic. Right. And like the things you're willing to say to yourself that are so shit, it's ridiculous. And I actually I had some good advice. TikTok is bomb. I saw another video by this, I think she's a therapist, I think. And she said like one of the really good tips to help with anxiety, because if you're an anxious person, you have really a lot of overwhelming thoughts and stuff.
Rachel: A good thing to do is to basically start talking to yourself in the third person, you know, instead of being like, oh, I'm such an idiot. Or like when I do that or why am I so weird? You can just be like, why is she so weird? Why is she such an idiot? And then like if you, if you listen to yourself from third person, you know, it puts a little bit of distance and you can, like, take an observer role and you can be a little bit more objective about the situation. Right. And be like, oh, that was, she was being really dumb there. But then you're like, oh, actually she didn't like, know this. Right. So she couldn't have reacted any other way. Then you kind of give yourself some slack. Right. And you don't feel as bad anymore.
Katrin: Yeah. That's a great approach. I love that.
Rachel: Right now was the first time I've ever heard anything like that and I loved that.
Katrin: Yeah. It's like putting yourself in the shoes of talking to another human being as though it's not you. And then you you need to be kind because you're talking to someone else.
Rachel: Yeah. You're talking to someone else about someone else. And that's when you really are like, oh, wait, let me make sure that I'm not saying something like slanderous right now, like too much gossip, like don't gossip about yourself. That's basically what it is. Just don't gossip about yourself. Give yourself a break like you're human. You're doing your best.
Katrin: Exactly. Your best is the most anyone can ever ask for. And we need our love the most. Self-love again, like what the journey is all about. We need that love and morals. And a lot of the healing process is getting that self-awareness of what is it that we tell ourselves on a daily basis. And another wonderful teacher of mine, he said, you know, language creates our reality. Both the language that we speak verbally with our mouth, but also the inner talk. When we think negatively, our reality is at least seen through this negative lens and then obviously, therefore, it's more defined as more negative.
Rachel: Yeah. you're primed to only see the negative. Right. If you only think about the negative, like the good things can happen, but you just don't pay attention to it.
Katrin: Yeah. And he said that's why it's called spelling because it casts spells. Words cast spells. Neat, ey?
Rachel: That's cute. I like that. Yeah, I like that another, another good tip that's like along the same vein is, it's like label your emotions and say them out loud. You know, so if you're feeling sad, just say you are sad, like I am sad. And then that right there kind of helps you because you put it out into the open, you know, and you acknowledge it and then you can let it go and you can just kind of go because, because emotions are like waves technically, like we're not really supposed to hold on to them the way that we do, because that's not really healthy. They're supposed to kind of like, keep coming and going. Coming and going.
Katrin: Yeah, I love that we are vessels and emotions are temporary, it is us that actually hold on to them. We create that resistance. Michael Singer, who's another wonderful guy talking about spiritual, you know, in a sense combining the spiritual learnings with everyday life because everyday life is spiritual at the end of the day, but he says, whenever we have an experience coming towards us like an emotion, for example, all it wants to do is pass through us and exit out on the other side. But it is our own triggers, our own meaning that we associate with that thing that creates the resistance and it has it stuck within us. And then all of a sudden all these physical manifestations start coming into play, physical pain, lower back pain, shoulder tightness and anything else that can build out of that.
Rachel: Right because the emotion is getting stuck inside of you and it doesn't have anywhere to go because you're not letting it go. Oh, I like that. That is...it reminds me of this book that my therapist recommended to me that I started reading, but then I got distracted. It's called the body takes score or the body takes the score. You've heard of this?
Katrin: Yes. Your Body Keeps the Score, yeah.
Rachel: Yes, Your Body Keeps the Score. And it's awesome. It's really good. It's by this actual doctor who studied people who had PTSD and who experienced trauma. And he he made all these connections to how trauma is stored in the body even years and years after, you know, and how it is basically a vicious cycle. Everything you're saying kind of reminds me of that book, and I'm like, shit, I need to finish the book.
Katrin: I want to share a bit of a story about that, because the impact of it is so real. This has happened at least three times now, but the very first time it happened was pretty intense. My fiancé gave me a massage and especially our psoas muscle, the one that connects our lower spine to our femur bone, essentially the spine to the hips, stores a lot of stress and emotion. And some yoga instructors say, you know, I have seen clients of mine do a stretch of the psoas and burst out into tears because they're actually releasing emotion that was pent up, was stored in that muscle. And I haven't had that experience with the psoas muscle but I did during a massage when my fiancé was massaging my quads. And I just felt in that tension that he was like, I guess moving around and trying to get deep into, all of a sudden I felt this emotional ball of, like, grief come up in my throat in the same way that you might feel when you get emotional. Right. And at that point, we have a choice. We, sometimes we gulp our saliva down and it literally helps the ball come back down and the emotions just get stored in the body again.
Katrin: But in that moment, I'm like, I'm going to release this. And so I just allowed myself. It was such a strong sensation. I allowed myself to let it out and I cried so much like bawling my eyes out, grief as though someone like, as though my sister had died or something like I'm talking like really crazy emotional stuff coming out. And it felt good and it felt good as I was crying and I felt scary to be so vulnerable as well. And a part of me too was thinking, you know, is my fiancé OK? And, you know, he handled it so beautifully, of course, in the massage. But at the end I even told him, as I was starting to calm down, I said, lay on top of me like I really need your weight on me right now. And he did. And that felt incredible as well. But I just say this because it has happened to me, I know exactly in practical terms that my quads were literally holding on to sadness, grief, you know, anger. And loosening them up had that emotion come out of me. And I felt so great after. I felt so light.
Rachel: Wow, that is a beautiful story.
Katrin: Thank you.
Rachel: I love that so much, first of all, because, like, your fiancé is the best. Basically, for like, you know, not freaking out when you started bawling and just went with it. I love when people do that. I also I've had that experience to where, I even told my therapist about this, where it's like I guess I had a lot of experiences as a kid where people told me to, like, not cry, to stop crying, you know. So now as an adult, I have a really hard time crying, especially in front of people. Like I really feel like it's weak, like it feels like a weakness. Right. And I guess I'm afraid to be vulnerable like that in front of people. So I think about that. And I think about like some of the best feelings or like most tension relieving, you know, moments of my life have been when I've been able to cry, like I've just reached that point where you're like so overwhelmed, you can't like keep swallowing it down. You can't hold it back and you just let it out and it's like that where you just feel so good afterwards. It's cathartic.
Katrin: Yeah, totally. And the sign of weakness, right, I can I can relate to that that is so common, unfortunately, in the way that we've been taught that crying is weak. It's a sign of vulnerability and we need to be strong. We need to push through it. We need to just aim for that next thing in life that we need to accomplish. And that's not very healthy.
Rachel: It's not. Because also, if you think about, maybe when we're a kid. Kids cry all the time times, you're like, ughh, just not again, you know. But like as you get older, like the people who do, like, let themselves go and who show that kind of emotion, vulnerability, in public, those people are badasses. Like they command the room, like, have you ever been in a room with somebody who starts crying? You know, like they're just so frustrated where like they just can't handle, like if you're at the store and somebody is like, I don't know, they're just upset something happened, and they just start crying, like everybody looks and they're like, oh, shit, how can we help this person? How can we make this stop? It's a thing like it's a way that we used to communicate with people. Right. And it's necessary to be able to show that side of yourself cry, yell sometimes not all the time, you know, like show those emotions so that people know how to respond to you and how they can help you.
Katrin: Yeah, I love the way you said that.
Rachel: I mean, I think about it a lot now. And I think about that like how we spend so much of our time kind of trying to hide how we feel about things, you know, because we're worried about what other people are going to think. When really, like those people don't really care. They just care about how your feelings affect them, you know, like how your thoughts and opinions affect them. So at the end of the day, like, everyone is just paying attention to their own channel, to their own stuff. So it's like you should be able to, like, express yourself. It's about you, like if you don't express yourself, then nobody knows what's going on on your channel. We're not paying attention.
Katrin: Yeah, we all walk around and it's kind of, I guess you could say, insensitive to say this, but we're all really self-centered as humans.
Rachel: Yeah. If you think about it, there's no other way that we could be, right? Because we can't feel what other people are feeling. We can't really see the world through other people's eyes. Like I can only experience the world through my, you know, senses, through my worldview, through my perception. So if somebody doesn't tell me, like, explicitly, I'm just going to imagine and make up whatever I think they think. You know, like if you don't tell me that, like you hate potatoes, I'm just going to think, like, she's just not in the mood to have potatoes today or like, you know, she loves potatoes, but she doesn't like them mashed. I don't know, like, you know, you make up your own stories. Right? So that's, it's normal. I think, I think that's the lie we have to stop telling ourselves that, like, being self-centered is selfish or bad somehow because it's like you literally can't not be self-centered. Like that's where people become unhealthy, right. When they take their self [their needs] out of the equation, basically.
Katrin: Yeah. And I love the way so that we create stories. Right, where we're meaning making machines, as I learned from this weekend workshop, which was wonderful. And we just make meaning about everything. We just assume things. And unfortunately, that creates a whole lot of misunderstandings between people.
Rachel: Yes, I also love this idea that we're rationalizes, that we're really good rationalizes. Like humans are very irrational beings, but we're good at making up excuses and like reasons for the way that we behave. Even though we had no, like when you did the thing, you had no idea what you were doing. You just did it because you felt like it. And then later you're like, oh, I was, you know, I wanted that sandwich. That's why I ate it. It's like, no, you ate the sandwich because it was there. Just be honest.
Katrin: Or, you know, I ate that because it is healthy or because it was the perfect size, all these logical reasons. And I think we're raised like this as well is to have a good reason to be doing what we're doing. And good defined as in good of the person who's judging you, who you look up to or who you want to impress as opposed to good because that is what you want. In the realm of intimacy that goes deep too because we start to learn to really listen to what is it that we actually want. You know, people may be able to relate to this if they're in a partnered sex scenario and they're laying in bed and they're experiencing a touch on their body, and then they're thinking, you know, is this, like who is touch for? Something Brian Gibney talked about as well. Who is this touch for? Is this touch for me or is it for them? Because if they're thinking this touch is for me, well, I don't really want it. But, you know, if that touch is for them, then maybe I can be there for them so that they can experience this pleasure. Yeah, understanding who the touch is for and then being able to communicate whether you like the touch or don't like the touch, can absolutely turn a sex life around between two individuals.
Rachel: Yeah, right, because I feel like often in that kind of situation, the touch is for neither of you, because the person touching you thinks that he's doing it for you or she or whatever, and then you actually don't want to touch it. But you're like, oh, but this is what that person wants to do right now. And that's how they want to show their affection or whatever. So ok, fine. But neither of you is actually enjoying it.
Katrin: Mmhmm, mmhmm.
Rachel: Communication is really important. I love that idea, actually, because I feel like it happens so much in everything that we do. I know I do it. I do it all the time. Where I just go along with something because I just like harmony and I don't like conflict, you know? And I'll just go along with, like, OK, let's go hang out and let's go to this restaurant because you picked it, fine, if that's what you want to do. But then the other person was like, oh, I actually didn't even want to go out. And I'm like, I don't want to go out. Like, why did we go out? Why are you doing this to each other?
Katrin: Yeah. And we're beings that want to nurture, right? Like we want to nurture other people and want to make sure they're comfortable, especially, I would say you know vulva owners or people who have more Omega energy versus Alpha energy, you might call it like feminine energy versus masculine energy. We want to nurture and often we just give, give, give, give, give, because we're trying to nurture. We're trying to satisfy this other person and we become people pleasers, from all the good intentions. But unfortunately, that puts us at the lowest end of the priority list. And all of a sudden we're starving for meaningful, intimate connection. We're starving for that deep intimacy, for attention, for love. Thinking that, you know, now that I've given so much, shouldn't this person want to give back? It doesn't always work that way. So we need to actually learn how to self-source in ourselves, through self-care practice, through self-pleasure practice and in the process, learn what we actually want and what we don't want.
Rachel: Yes, I love that so much. And you reminded me of something else that my therapist said, and I realize I've quoted that therapist a lot, but basically she says that like when you're, you know, doing something, whatever you're doing, you have to ask yourself, like, who am I doing this for? And if the answer is like, oh, I'm doing it for my mom or I'm doing it because my dad wanted this, then you need to kind of take a step back and re-evaluate, because at the end of the day, the answer to that question should always be, I'm doing it for myself. You know, I'm doing it because I want to. I’m doing it because I want to be in this moment. Maybe I want to nurture this person at this moment, like I'm doing it for myself. And that has been like huge for me for like rethinking how I do everything because in the past I've always felt selfish for, like, just wanting to do my own thing or like not wanting to do what other people wanted to do. Now, I just don't care as much, you know, because it's like at the end of the day, if it makes me happy, even if it comes off as anti-social, you know, rude or like maybe in this moment I come off as like, I don't know, bitchy or something, then that's OK. Right. Because at the end of the day, like, you're the one who's living your life. So if you're not happy. Then it doesn't matter if everyone else is happy. Right?
Katrin: Yes, totally. I love that. We may, and many people do, live most of our lives and then realize we've been living that life for someone else, trying to meet someone else's expectations, trying to be good enough in someone else's eyes. And I feel like that's when people have a lot of the life crises, right? Like the quarter life or, is realizing I actually don't want to be this career and like I'm only in this career because I thought I would be good enough in this career for my dad or for my mom or because I was taught that money is the way to be happy. So, yeah, I love that. Asking who this is for and it's got to be for you. That's the only sustainable way of living.
Rachel: Yeah. And I like that you brought up the crises too because, I mean, I've definitely had those and I know people who've had those and it's... I think the main thing with those too is that people once they have that realization like, oh, shit, I did this thing, but like, I don't want to do the thing anymore. This is terrible. I went to four years of college and now I just don't even want to look at this resume or anything ever again, like, I don't want to do anything in this realm. They freak out because they think like, oh, I wasted so much time. I invested so much in that. And now that's going to go to waste. And you think, oh, you know, all that time that I wasted could have gone to whatever else. But that, I think is a crazy thought because every moment that you've experienced before now has led you up to this. You know, so every decision that you've made, everything that you've done has made you who you are today. So like you couldn't even have had that realization, you know, that you didn't like this thing or didn't want to do this thing or whatever, unless you had done the thing.
Rachel: And you, of course, have more time, like nobody knows when they're going to die, unfortunately. So as far as you know, you have more than enough time to do anything. You could die tomorrow, but you'll never know. Right. So I always think that, like, I think that all the time, especially to myself. I'm like, you know what? Don't freak out about not being able to do this right this second, because COVID and like quarantine. Because, you know what? If you're still alive next year, you can do it next year. And that's fine. You have time.
Katrin: Yeah. And thinking about the flipside of that, too, which can also be an empowering thought, is that there's no time. The only time that exists is now. And often we live our lives thinking about the past, reflecting on what we could have done better should have done or like, you know, something. Or we live in the future, planning for the future, planning for what we're going to do tomorrow, and we waste the current moment. And by waste, I just mean that our consciousness is like somewhere else, it's not present. So really, you couldn't have wasted anything because you just experienced every moment of now in the way that your world appeared to you in that moment of time with all of the information that you had available to you and you just simply made the best choice for you in that now moment. And then you get to live the next now moment and the next now moment.
Rachel: Yeah, I love, I love that you said that because that is so hard. It is so hard as somebody like I've tried meditation, I've even done like a retreat and I love it. But I find it so hard to be in the moment and I constantly have to remind myself, this whatever you're experiencing right now, this is your reality. You know, like take full advantage of it, even if it's just like you want to take a nap, because sometimes I'm like that. Like, I'm tired and I don't let myself be tired, you know, because you feel like, oh, no, no, no, I always have to be doing something. I have to be doing this because, like, I just have to have to have to have to and like, prepare for this for tomorrow and prepare for that. And it's like, no, no, no. You in this moment just need to sit down and just lay down and just be with yourself and be calm. Then just do that, because that is who you are in this moment.
Katrin: Yeah, beautifully said. It's following our intuition of what we actually need in that moment. And that is the most high spiritual practice is presence, which is something a lot of people who experience vaginismus might struggle with because in the experience of pain in our bodies, what we actually learn to do is disassociate from the current moment. Is to not be present because being present is too painful. And so the journey back to our bodies, the journey back to ourselves in overcoming pain and creating a potential for pleasure really is a journey of presence. And it is exactly that, like learning what is it that you need in that current moment and also from a practical perspective, is learning that self care and rest is in fact, productive. Productivity doesn't necessarily need to be an action. It doesn't have to be doing something. Some of the best ideas are born out of nap time. Think about Einstein, for example.
Rachel: Yes, or in the shower they say. You're just like standing there under the water.
Rachel: Yeah, I love. Thank you for bringing the conversation back to vaginismus because I feel like I'm getting a little off track. But that actually leads me to another question I had. So if somebody does think, especially after listening to this podcast, that they maybe have vaginismus, what would you recommend that they do? What would be the first few steps that they would take to start down the healing journey?
Katrin: Great question. And again, there's no right or wrong answer. So if anyone listening didn't take this first step as a first step, it's all good. I think one of the most important things at first is to feel heard and to feel like there's somebody out there who understands. Because vaginismus is such a private pain. Many of us live asking ourselves the question of why me? Why me, over and over and over again, thinking we're the only person in the world that's experiencing this. When in fact, there are communities out there, online groups, people who understand. There's some people sharing their vaginismus journey, going through the vaginismus journey at the same time, which I think is the highest level of bravery. I didn't do that at the time I was going through vaginismus. So speaking to somebody who has been through vaginismus or is in the process of overcoming vaginismus would probably be the most helpful thing as a first step. Even before going to see a medical professional, just because sometimes seeing a medical professional who's not quite educated in the body response of vaginismus might create additional doubts in our mind of like, ok, what is going on, like, am I just making this up? And then that leads down a deep, dark hole.
Rachel: I like that. Yeah, like don't get trapped in the hole of experiencing the pain and then being like, oh, this is the problem. But then, oh no, it's just me. And then kind of going down that cycle over and over again. Yeah. Yeah, that'd be really, really frustrating. And you reminded me of something that I read, I don't know if I read it on your blog, actually, but I was reading up on vaginismus and somebody compared it to erectile dysfunction in men and kind of how it's a little bit similar in the scenario where it's like somebody can't perform or whatever. And I thought that was really interesting, especially because I know what erectile dysfunction is. Like everyone knows what that is. I'm not even a guy. I don't have a penis and I know what that is. And I know kind of what causes it and why it could happen. And it's getting really pervasive in society. And I'm only just now hearing about vaginismus. I'm twenty-six. I'm only just now hearing about it. I knew about erectile dysfunction when I was like 15. This is crazy.
Katrin: It really is. And that reminds me of a campaign that a company called Dame Products did around educating society about the role of pleasure in humans, both men and women, and particularly they design toys for vulva owners, sex toys. And they tried to put up an ad about the benefits of pleasure in a really subtle way in the New York subway system. And they were turned down because that subway system committee said your ads are not in line with our advertising standards because they are against our I don't remember exactly what it was, but a policy of promoting anything related to sexuality. So they're like, all right, but how about these ads over here? And they show ads that were approved around medicine to help men with erectile dysfunction. And on top of that, the ads weren't as subtle as the ones that Dame products were putting on the table. There was, you know like, a cactus in the shape of a penis. Very obvious visual things.
Rachel: Yes, I know exactly what you're talking about. I've ridden the subway a shit ton of times, too many times. And they have all kinds of ads on there. There, I remember for a while they had ones promoting like plastic surgery or something, not even in a subtle way, like the words were like explicitly there with the phone number to call and everything. This is the kind of messaging that they're sending to people who ride the subway every day. And I did I think I saw that article, too. And I saw the image that you put up comparing like the one for the men's product and the one for Dame that they were trying to set up and that there's nothing explicit about that image. I was so frustrated about that. I think it's something that's a little bit it's pervasive, actually, because I know that, I don't know if you've seen our Instagram account at all. It's @just.peachyness. Marine tried to put up some kind of sponsored ad to promote Peachyness and it was just like, you know, the kind of imagery that we have on there's fruit basically that like insinuates the vulva and stuff like that. You know, that's kind of risqué, but like it's still at the end of the day. And so she's trying to put one of those images in the ad and Instagram said no, like they rejected her ad because it was too explicit or sexual contenty. And I think that happens a lot with women's things. And I don't get why.
Katrin: Yeah, it is so unfortunate. And I don't fully understand why. I have a bit of a theory as to why I feel like in the grand scheme of things, our sexual energy, our sexual power is actually so powerful in creating people that, you know, are inspired to be creative, to to make shifts in society, to make changes. It really is a bit of a superpower, in my opinion. And I think in the way that our society is structured, there are ways that, you know, ways in which things have been done that certain people in power don't want to be changed. And so what better way to avoid any resistance than to keep us small? And that's a whole other topic for a whole other podcast. But that's, I think that's part of the reason. And unfortunately, there's a very big mismatch between male-oriented advertising and female-oriented advertising. I got flagged by Instagram as my account was growing bigger and bigger, or maybe just because they wanted to do like a full-fledged clean up or something, where two photos of people, like vulva owners, with lingerie on like nothing showing, just like one was sitting by a bed looking to the side with no nipple showing, like nothing of those lines, they were flagged down as being inappropriate. And unfortunately, a lot of sex educators even get shut down on Instagram's platform as a result of, quote unquote, "violating their guidelines".
Rachel: But that's crazy, it's like how do they make those decisions, you know, is it that they have some algorithm that's just flawed, that's like flagging things that really shouldn't be flagged? Or is it somebody's job who actually goes through the profiles and like, you know what, according to this, you know, rubric or whatever that they gave me, this is not allowed, even though it's it's just barely insinuating anything. Right, because a woman or a female laying on a bed in lingerie doesn't mean anything like she could be going to sleep. People sleep in lingerie like that doesn't mean anything.
Katrin: Yeah, I think it's a combination of both the algorithm and then the human involvement. And again, it's just that body shaming culture that just drives the same message home. Right. Like you're not OK to be feeling comfortable in your body being covered up or not being covered up, whatever. It's your body, right? It's unfortunate.
Rachel: It is super frustrating and driving me insane, but I do feel a little bit optimistic, I do feel like things are getting better. You know, I do feel like there's a lot of, more representation for things like vaginismus that back in the day people had never heard of and would never talk about. It is just very hush hush. Right? So we get to talk about like endometriosis. We get to talk about like fibroids and cysts and periods, and we can say like tampons and things like that in public now. So, yeah. So I actually found out about vaginismus through, you know, I don't really remember the very first time I heard the term, but I remember the first time I like actually paid attention to the term, was in this show called Sex Education on Netflix. You told me you haven't watched yet, right?
Rachel: Yeah, definitely watch it. It's so cute. It's a really good show. It has two seasons now and it's this British show and it's basically like this kid, he's like 15, 16, and his mom is like a sex therapist. So he's been exposed to sex his whole life and like thinking about it in like a very objective kind of way. And his parents are divorced and they're like kind of a lot of their own issues that kind of messed him up. But whatever. He's a teenager. All teenagers are a little bit messed up. And so he ends up giving sex education to the students at his school. And there's this one episode where he's treating this girl and she's like obsessed with sex, like she wants to have sex, but she can't. And in speaking to her, realizes like, oh, maybe you have vaginismus. He tells her about dilators and she starts doing her dilations and she starts on the journey. And it's really cool, too, because it wasn't like a one-off episode. Right. Like, she's she's a minor character. But you do see her again. She's a recurring character. She's a really good character. And you kind of get to follow her along on, like her journey to sexuality. She has other stuff going on with herself as well, not just vaginismus. I really love that the characters are very full, like very fleshed out. They're not one dimensional. And yeah. So that was really the first time I paid attention to it and like really thought about it and I was like, oh my God, this is a thing that can happen to vulva owners. Like I didn't know that. Right?
Katrin: Yeah, I absolutely love that there're more creations out there in the media to actually talk about these topics and vaginismus in particular, as being such an underground thing, or having been. So I'm really happy to hear that there's new TV series out now. I've heard from many people that they absolutely love the shows and that they've given them a source of hope and sense of understanding, that they've just never got from anyone else in their life. So it's fantastic. Another few that anyone listening might want to check out. The Tightly Wound, it's a short film specifically about vaginismus. It's fantastic. And the other one is Debbie Does Dilators. I interviewed the filmmaker, Savannah, have a bit of a back story on our blog. It's it's a fantastic story of how it came to be. But, yeah, both of those short films are great for anyone looking to have something they can watch that they can actually relate to. Aside from some of the shows out there.
Rachel: Yeah, it's like a lot of people, you know, that complain about Hollywood and big media and stuff. It's really we're all saying the same thing. It's like we need more representation, right? Because you have maybe like five or six, like, big stereotypes that are portrayed constantly. But there's so many things that people go through and so many different types of people. You know, you could literally never run out of stories. And yet in Hollywood, you kind of see the same kind of stories portrayed over and over again.
Rachel: But yeah, it's really cool to see them moving into more interesting directions, in my opinion.
Katrin: Have you watched This is Us, by chance? That is one of the shows that I have watched.
Rachel: Oooh, This is Us. No, but I keep hearing about that show, like it's a really good slice of life show.
Katrin: Yeah, it is. It does have quite a few characters that represent, you know, different things that people go through. And of course, some of the main topics, but definitely more so than any other show I've seen, like depression, eating challenges, you name it, like panic attacks, anxiety. It's it's very, very good.
Rachel: Yeah. I need to, I need to get on that. And that shows a few seasons now, too, right. It's been going on for a bit. Yeah. I need to get on that because once it gets to like season ten, there's no way I'm gonna watch it. It's too intimidating.
Katrin: When it comes to the wedding night, though, it's the experience of so many people where, you know, they wait until marriage and then they are so excited for the first time and they're also going to be leaving to their honeymoon. Right? Or maybe they try for the first time on their honeymoon as opposed to their wedding night. And it is literally the most confusion that they could have ever imagined would exist in their honeymoon. You're going away to another country for an all-inclusive vacation, let's say, and then you're faced with this problem that you actually have to wait for seven days to go see someone who can help. So I really. I can only imagine what people in that scenario go through, it must be incredibly, incredibly frustrating and, you know, women that I've talked to in my space. A lot of them have that experience, and it also goes to show how important it is to have a supportive partner as well, that can help.
Rachel: Yeah, that's something you'd want to know about your partner before you got married too, right? If they can handle these kind of things.
Rachel: Also because you build so many expectations around sex. I think that's the problem, too. Like we have just so many...We just think it's like going to be the most amazing thing and then for most people, apparently, it's really not. It's just, like, it just is, I guess.
Katrin: Yeah. On that note, I mean for you, right, and creating the most pleasurable and most smooth experience in your own exploration of your body. You mentioned the menstrual cup. And if you want, you know, I invite you to explore penetration with yourself, if you would like that, so as to remove some of that potentially building up anxiety of oh, am I experiencing vaginismus or am I not experiencing vaginismus? Because it is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Where our attention goes like energy flows and then that's the reality that gets created, essentially.
Rachel: Right. The self-fulfilling prophecy. Yeah, I've heard this. I'm going to, I'll keep that in mind.
Katrin: Yeah, and all in due time. It's important that you get there, if you want to get there, at a point that you feel like it. Right. Coming from the inner truth, that inner intuition.
Rachel: Yeah, I also read somewhere that, you know, people who've had, like P in V sex before can actually experience vaginismus, you know like it can crop up at any time in your life. Right? I think that's something that definitely needs to be stated, because some people will be like, oh, it's just because they never had sex but then once you do it, you're fine. Like, no, it is something that can crop up at any time in your life, not just, you know, before you have sex.
Katrin: Yeah, that's right. Primary vaginismus is what we refer to the experience of never being able to have been penetrated in your life. That's primary vaginismus, comfortably penetrated. While secondary vaginismus is when you may have been having penetrative sex for years and loving it and enjoying it. But then all of a sudden something changed in your life that created the body response, the pelvic floor tightening in the attempt to protect you from something. And it can be a threat, you know, a real threat in your life. It could be your nervous system being in a lot of stress for another reason or changing jobs or moving homes or countries and just being thrown in this whole lot of uncertainty where your nervous system doesn't feel like it can surrender in the same way that it used to. Or it could be as a result of trauma from giving birth, for example, like physical injury. It can be hormonal changes. There really is a lot of different ways that vaginismus can come about.
Rachel: Yeah, that's crazy, and then, yeah, like going back to what you said, if you like, freak out because you're stressed out and you can't have sex right now because your walls have tightened up because of whatever stress is going on with your life, the more you kind of stress out about it, the more attention you give to it, maybe the harder it even is to get out of it.
Katrin: It's the cycle of pain. We experience pain for one reason or another. Then we expect to experience pain again. So we brace for another painful experience, creating that tightness even further, or we avoid that experience altogether. And then the experience happens again and it just goes deeper and deeper and deeper. We brace more each time. We tighten more each time. That's why one of the golden rules with overcoming vaginismus is to make sure to take the pain out of the equation. So any experience of pain, to pause, readjust and retry whatever you might be doing, or to simply stop and approach things in a different way at a different time, at a different pace. Because with each experience of pain, we only strengthen the cycle of pain. Slow is what creates safety. Safety and slow go hand-in-hand. Pain is the worst enemy in the experience of vaginismus because it just feeds the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Rachel: Yes. So be patient with yourself.
Yeah. Be kind, be patient, have compassion for what your body is trying to do on your behalf and do your best to understand it. And also, it's not necessary to understand the source of it, to be able to heal from it, too. So sometimes we think, you know, we need to know the story of why it happened to be able to overcome it. But that's not the case. It's very possible to heal from something without needing to know why it happened. The example is like if you're going to a burning building, you wouldn't ask yourself and spend the time wondering like, well, why is this building burning? I wonder. You would put out the fire and then figure out the story afterwards.
Rachel: Right. Or make up the story afterwards. Right? You'll find a reason whether it exists or not.
Katrin: I like how we came full circle. That was perfect.
Rachel: Yes. Oh, my gosh. Well, OK. So I think we should probably wrap up. Is there anything else that you'd like to share, though, or to promote?
Katrin: I guess to tell people that they're not alone. You're not alone. There is someone out there who understands what you're going through. And there's always hope. Also to remind people to celebrate how far they have come in the journey so far. Like everything they've been through, all of that resilience, that bravery, that courage that they had in the midst of the uncertainty, the confusion. The sadness, the grief, the beliefs and that little voice in my head saying, like, you suck, your broken, like nobody wants you. To know that they are doing a fantastic job in their journey so far. And they're exactly at the place that is perfect for taking the next step forward. So having that kindness and compassion really does go a long way.
Rachel: I love that. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us.
Katrin: You are so welcome. Thank you for having me.
Rachel: Thank you so so much for listening to the season finale of the very first season of No Peach Left Behind. Visit Peachyness.com for the full transcript and links to references from my convo with Katrin. If you like this podcast, please like it on Apple Podcasts and share it with anyone you think will appreciate it. Many thanks to Marine, the founder of Peachyness and my podcasting partner. Without her this podcast would never be possible. I've learned so much while creating this podcast, and I want to keep talking about things that effect people every day, things like vaginismus, endometriosis, or even menopause. If you feel the same, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Instagram @just.peachyness. We look forward to hearing from you. All the best.